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
Here is the compilation of your questions:
- 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?
Since giving you the list of questions that have come to me a couple of you have commented on the fact that I have a headache from it all. It’s a figurative headache not a real one. During Deeper Bible in Indonesia people would often tell me the depth of Deeper Bible gave them a headache; a headache they appreciated. It seems in grappling with hard questions, you make the most progress.
This encounter was used by Luke to contrast the Gospel with the evil world of satan. It reminded me so much of the encounter with the Gerasene demoniac in Luke 8. You will find the Gems on this part of the story in Gem 886 and 887. There are some similarities between the events. As in this account by Luke in Acts 16 the same elements are present in Luke as in the account with the demoniac. The healing of the demoniac was met with opposition because of the economic loss involved and the demoniac was silenced for calling out and telling who Jesus is. I conclude it’s because those who follow satan are liars like the father of lies and are not to be trusted. The mere fact that those influenced by the evil world may give voice to the truth of Christ and His power is not a good reason to allow them to bear witness to the fact. Any witness they may give is tainted by the fact that it comes from the pit of hell.
This again is a power encounter between Jesus and the demons and the satanic world. Whenever that happens the appropriate response is not to give the demons voice. As I have said before, if demon spirits are liars then why allow them voice. From the point of view of the servant of God or the hearer it is a lose – lose situation. Hence Paul silences the girl. But admittedly it is after a period of time. It seems this girl plagued them day after day. It is almost as though this girl becomes Paul and Silas’ own personal shadow and keeps calling out everywhere they go, shouting out who they are and what they are on about. Luke is telling us this story to highlight the fact that whenever the gospel is preached there is opposition. That will always be the case. Get used to it, but don’t let that stop you from speaking out your testimony.
As many of you picked up by your questions there is an interesting link between divination, soothsaying, prophesying, “familiar spirits” and ventriloquism. But don’t misunderstand my comment. I am not saying all ventriloquists are demon possessed or of the devil. I am sure there are ventriloquists who are simply practiced at throwing their voice and not connected with the demon world at all. Then there are those who have either sold their soul to the devil to gain a greater power or those who have been taken over by a familiar spirit. This is not hocus-pocus and something to be written off as wacky, weird and flakey. I have had encounters with the demonic world which have been hair raising (I am speaking of the hair on the back of my neck, not the hair on my head – that would be a miracle). We in the west tend to place this kind of experience in the realm of not-to-be-believed- rubbish. Just because we can’t explain it doesn’t make a thing any less real. Having lived in Indonesian villages brings opportunities to deal with the questions that arise from encounters with the demonic world.
This slave girl clearly had a familiar spirit. What is a familiar spirit you ask? A familiar spirit is an evil spirit that keeps coming back and manifesting itself. Often a familiar spirit has been invited into your life by some action you have taken. I have come across young people in this modern era who have been encouraged to seek a “spirit guide” in order to tap into things other worldly. Be careful, you don’t tap into God and spiritual things when you ask for a “spirit guide”. What happens is you are given a familiar spirit to be your spirit friend. Oh familiar spirits are no less real but like all spirits from the demon world they are liars from the father of lies. God tells us to steer clear of all spirits that are not of Him. The word in the text before us is [pneuma puthon], some “experts” these days term it the “python spirit”. But in Paul’s day this spirit manifestation was called divination or believed to the linked to ventriloquism. There is practiced ventriloquism in which the person learned to project their voice to pull off a “magic” stunt and then there is ventriloquism which emanates from a spirit connection and most often is associated with eerie unnatural voices often high pitched and other worldly. I have encountered such voices on three different occasions. Each time it has been associated with the presence of a demonic spirits posing as someone human. There is a continuum to these things: ventriloquism > magic > familiar spirits > divination > soothsaying > demonic oppression > demonic possession. God tells us to stay away from such things. (Isaiah 8:19-20 and following) It is clear that the various terms used in the translations for this slave girl were interpretive of the degree of connection with the spirit world she had. Luke himself doesn’t use the word [propheteuein – to prophesy] for what this girl was doing. Instead he used the word [manteuomene – soothsay] which comes from divination – the wrong spirit source. That alone tells you the source of what this girl was doing. Learn to discern.
The issue at heart here is that this girl who is controlled in some way by a familiar spirit is proclaiming who these men are and what they were there to do. “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” A spirit possessed or oppressed slave girl knows nothing of the wonder of the Most High God nor salvation. (Notice Jerry: it’s Most High God not most high God). What does a slave girl with a familiar spirit know of the Presence of the Most High God? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The wonder of this account told by Luke, who was there at the time, was that Paul didn’t deal with her before he did. It appears that she had been following them each day shouting out the same thing over and over. Almost like a town cryer announcing the Good News, only she wasn’t. She was being a distraction not enhancing the message. So why let her continue? Deal with her. It’s a wonder Paul didn’t act before then. Finally he comes to the end of his patience and turns and commands the spirit to come out of her. You will have to ask him why he waited so long. Maybe, just maybe, that was the moment the Holy Spirit who indwelled Paul told him to act. No, it wasn’t Paul having a bad day. It was the patience and long suffering of God coming to an end and ending the suffering for all within earshot. Now that you have this background to it all I will leave you to work out why the difference between Moses and Paul in this regard.
Don’t leave it to the demons, who don’t know the majestic nature of the Most High God, to tell about Him. You do it! Assuming that YOU know Him.Ian Vail
Are you a servant who knows your Master? If not take time to get to know Him. You will never regret it. IanIan Vail
I’d rather be rebuked by demons because I testified to His greatness than to be rebuked by God because I didn’t.Ian Vail
You don’t know how much of a servant you are until you’re treated like one.Anon
If you stand up for the King of Kings anywhere and everywhere you can, you will soon encounter the reality of the unseen demonic world.Ian Vail
Above all, learn to discern so you can tell the difference between the real and the false for yourself.Ian Vail