Sermons

Summary: This continues in my expository series through the book of Acts.

I’m old enough to remember the 1973 debut of “The Exorcist”, starring Linda Blair as a demon-possessed girl delivered from her haunting by a pair of priests. The film earned 10 Academy Award nominations, and the image of the possessed girl with her head turned backwards on her body has undoubtedly stayed in the minds of many a moviegoer. Looks scary to me, and I’ve never seen the film!

But in Philippi, Paul and Silas and their friends encountered a real-life demon-possessed girl, the first of five encounters we’ll consider today.

5 Encounters

Encounter 1: A Slave Girl

She received deliverance, but did she ever receive Christ?

:16-18

This girl was demon-possessed; in the original language, Luke describes her as “pneuma pythona”, or having the “spirit of the Python”. In mythology, the Python guarded the temple and oracle of Apollo, and for our practical purposes, the term that describes her is “demon-possessed”. Those who knew her regarded her, not as a fraud nor a lunatic, but as one who had a real power to foretell the future, a power granted her by demons. But curiously enough, she employs her “skill” to herald, day after day, the fact that Paul and the missionaries are preaching the truth of the gospel. Strike you as a little odd? Me too.

Table Talk

Why do you think Paul got annoyed with the slave girl? Was she not speaking the truth, and providing “free publicity” for the gospel message?

Why would Paul not welcome the free publicity? Because when it comes to the gospel, not all publicity is good publicity. This girl was unconverted, known to be possessed, and these superstitious people could easily confuse the means by which the gospel was coming to them. Why would a demon cooperate in evangelism, if not for the purpose of distorting or hindering the gospel in some way? Further, the gospel takes center stage, not some sideshow, no matter how entertaining. So, an “annoyed” Paul casts out the demon—wouldn’t you think that this miracle of God would have been a relief to Paul, so that he could get on with the work? But the end of that scenario is beating and imprisonment. What they get for their trouble is more grief than they’d have imagined!

We are left to only imagine what happened to the poor little slave girl afterward.

She received deliverance, but did she ever receive Christ?

She was delivered from one bondage, to a demon spirit, but did she ever receive her freedom from her owners? And more importantly, did she ever receive deliverance from sin? We can only speculate on these points. But we should be sure of this: to be delivered from demon possession would pale in comparison with being delivered from sin!

Encounter 2: The Slave Girl’s Owners

They were within the hearing of the gospel, but their only concern was money.

:19-24

This was, from the perspective of the slave-owners, an attack on their property rights, and on their ability to profit. No one easily suffers the loss of his livelihood, regardless of how sordid the affair might be, and so these men were livid.

The charge laid against the missionaries was that they were teaching and advocating on behalf of an illegal religious faith, and such was a threat to the Pax Romana, the “Roman peace”. And with the words, “these men are Jews”, the fuel was added to the fire. There was a latent bigotry against Jews that lay just below the surface of Roman society, and the slave-girl’s owners, furious that their source of income had been neutralized, played upon this hatred of Jews in order to turn the crowd quickly against Paul and Silas. Remember: to us, these guys are the founders of the early church, heroes of the faith; to these men, these were just some Jewish vagabonds hawking their own peculiar brand of religion, and were no heroes at all. FF Bruce says, “There was great indignation that Roman citizens should be molested by strolling peddlers of an outlandish religion”, and that’s exactly what the crowd must have come to think of Paul and Silas.

What followed was an illegal display of punishment, incited by the frenzied mob and inflicted on Paul and Silas by the magistrates. I say “illegal” because, as Roman citizens, Paul and Silas were exempt from such rough treatment, but here the crowd’s wicked zeal won the day, and the missionaries, after being whipped, were placed in the innermost prison and bound with stocks. Some might wonder how Timothy and Luke escaped this persecution, but remember that Timothy was half-Gentile and Luke full, while Paul and Silas both looked Jewish.

Think about the owners of the slave girl:

They were within the hearing of the gospel, but their only concern was money.

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