Summary: We’re set free to serve.
The year was approximately A.D. 52. Paul was on his second missionary journey and the Holy Spirit had called him and those traveling with him to Macedonea; located just East of Italy and North of the Mediterranean.
Their travels took them to Philippi, a Roman colony and one of the leading cities of Macedonea.
On the Sabbath, Paul, Luke (who wrote the book of Acts) and Silas, were walking by the river outside of the city gates, seeking a peaceful place for prayer.
As they were going, a female slave who was demon possessed and being used by her masters to earn money for them as a fortune-teller, was following the group and yelling,
“These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”
While her words were true, God does not need Satan to speak for Him, and a true servant of God does not revel in the flattery of men to gain attention.
Now verse 18 of this chapter tells us that she had been following them around and doing this for many days. So Paul finally had enough of it, and turned and cast the demon out of her.
Anyone who has ever had a younger brother or sister knows what it’s like to have someone following you around, pestering you, wanting to be in on the action when you’re with your friends, just generally being irritating.
Just recently we were talking about when Brittany and Jacquelynn were very young, and Jacquelynn would be in Brittany’s bedroom uninvited so Brittany would kick her out. Jacq would stand with her toes literally on the threshold of Brit’s room and just smile. So we’d hear Brittany yell, “Get out of my room!” then Jacq’s voice would drift quietly up the hallway saying, “I am out”. So Brit would yell louder. “Get out!” And then would come Jacq’s soft, “I am”. Then the scream. “GET OUT!” “I am out”.
If you have children you know the routine. You all have your own stories, just as we have many more than the one I’ve illustrated with.
Now Luke says in verse 12 of this chapter that they had been in Philippi for ‘some days’, when they went down to the riverside for prayer and met Lydia and company.
Then it talks about baptizing her household and her invitation to stay at her house, then in verse 16 it says they were going to a place of prayer again.
So we’re rather vague on the time element here, but down in verse 18 it says this demon-possessed girl had been following them around for ‘many days’. So again, we don’t know what Luke would call ‘many days’, but Paul must have been exercising a great deal of patience. What this girl was doing and saying would have been much more vexing in spirit than just an irritating kid standing at the threshold of your door.
Paul wasn’t being irrationally impatient. He’d just had enough. So he turns and casts out the demon.
There went Paul’s frustration, and there went her masters’ profit. If a man’s god is his money, when you touch his purse you touch his god. It makes him angry.
So they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities.
A little side note here; If you read this chapter carefully you’ll observe that these missionaries apparently had gone about in Philippi relatively unnoticed until now. It was by this incident and the anger of the merchants, that Paul and Silas came to the attention of the authorities, and thus into the public’s attention.
God often uses methods that to us would seem strange, to make His heralds heard.
At any rate, the end result of this confrontation is that Paul and Silas are beaten, thrown in prison and secured in stocks.
And we come to the focus of our study today.
Let’s read together, Acts 16, verses 16-30
So here’s the picture in brief. Paul has a dream of a man calling to him, “Come over to Macedonea and help us!” He understands that it is direction from the Holy Spirit, so he changes his travel plans and goes there in obedience to God.
Let me just toss in another nugget for thought here. If you read chapter 16, verses 6 through 10, you will see that Paul had his direction changed by the Holy Spirit several times before He gave him the vision from Macedonia. It is as important to know when the Lord is saying ‘no’ to a ministry idea, as to know when He is calling us to one.
Well, they come to Philippi and receive no great welcome, no gracious invitations to dinner, no introductions to the mayor; they are apparently ignored except by this small group of women who meet down by the river to pray.