One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods.Acts 16:16-22
When I suggest you ask your questions I can never predict the direction they will take. Two questions arose from the pericope concerning Lydia’s conversion that I need to address. They didn’t just come from one person they were asked by multiple people. So I will address those two questions before we move on to the demon possessed slave girl. If three or four of you readers are asking the same questions then there are likely to be more behind the scenes who are thinking it but won’t ask.
The first question concerns why I linked Lydia with Judaism. Was it just because they were meeting on the Sabbath? That was not the only reason. The prime reason was Luke’s use of the words God fearer. That is his standard term used to describe a Gentile who has attached themselves to Judaism and is seeking to know more. That added to the fact that she was joining the prayer meeting on the Sabbath is strong evidence to suggest she was seeking to know more about the Jewish Messiah.
The other question that has come through three of you concerns infant baptism. I suspect all three of you come from a church tradition which practices the sprinkling of infants in the name of baptism. No, this incident of Lydia and her household being baptized is not support for infant baptism. Luke’s use of the word [oikos] does not refer to her and her immediate family. If we translated the term [oikos] literally we choose her and her “house”. It is not a term related to her family – i.e. her and her children. It refers to those who were part of her house(hold). As a wealthy woman she would have had maids, other servants and staff to run the household for her. There is every likelihood that Paul and the team stayed with Lydia for the time they were in Philippi. Don’t worry Lydia would not have had to do all the work. She would have left it to her servants and staff and made use of the opportunity to learn more. Would that we had the record of the discussion that went on at Lydia’s house and not just on the road. There I have cleared up those two specific points and can more on to their encounter with the slave girl.
Firstly, notice as I indicated above, it is likely that Paul and the team stayed with Lydia as long as they were in Philippi. Even during the time Paul and Silas moved to other accommodation, namely the prison. It is likely the rest of the team were with Lydia. It is quite likely that Luke was not with them after verse 17. That is when the “we” pronoun disappears and doesn’t return until they are back in Troas after 20:5. Who knows, maybe Luke wasn’t comfortable staying at Lydia’s if Paul and Silas were not there. Merely conjecture.
This short little passage sparked many questions or ponderings among you. Here are the questions that have come to me so far:
- Why does a demon possessed girl proclaim salvation?
- How come a fortune teller is explaining how to be saved?
- Why did Paul stop the girl proclaiming salvation?
- Was Paul just being petulant, finicky? Was this an example of Paul having a bad hair day?
- Did Paul overstep the mark here? After all Paul did write he was pleased if the gospel was preached by whatever means or motivation.
- Why was there no trial for Paul and Silas?
- Why didn’t Paul and Silas claim their Roman citizenship at the beginning and not after they were beaten? I am sure I would have to get out of a beating.
- Where were the rest of the team while this is happening?
- Where were the team when Paul and Silas were in prison?
- What sort of prison was it?
- How is demon possession linked to fortune telling? I looked up the versions here Ian and found divination, soothsaying and prophecying. I also looked up a commentary and read “had a familiar spirit” and “ventriloquist”. Just what does this all mean? I am confused. I hope you will clear up my confusion.
- What is so wrong if the servant girl told the people they were servants of the most high God?
- This went on day after day! Really? Is that right?
- Moses got exasperated and he got in trouble with God. Paul got exasperated and he didn’t get in trouble. Why not?
- I can’t work out why this case should be about religion when it seems to be about the loss of earnings. It should just have gone to the small claims court Ian.
- What does “dragged them before the authorities at the market place” mean?
- Shouldn’t they be at the courthouse and not in the market place?
- The one verse later the reference is to city officials. Why is that?
- Man when you really look at the details it gets confusing. Perhaps it is wise not to look after all.
- What customs were they teaching that were illegal?
- Well you have all given me headache with all your questions.
So I will leave the collection of questions with you all until the next Gem. Do some of your own digging.
The quality of your life is set by the questions you ask yourself. The more honest & brave the questions, the further you’ll go.Rick Warren
Life is less a matter of getting the right answers and more a matter of asking the right questions.Anon
You can learn more from the Bible by asking wise questions.Anon
It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.Albert Einstein
More important than the answers I give you are the questions I stir you to ask.Ian Vail
You can learn from anyone and any situation if you ask the right questions.Ian Vail