We’ve been studying Acts 16 for several weeks now… in Tentmakers, that is. I know that it has been a few weeks since I’ve posted. Thanks for the reminders Chad and Jason. We have witnessed Paul and Silas pick up Timothy in Lystra (vs. 1-3) and allow themselves to be directed – through a series of closed doors – to Troas(vs. 6-8), where Luke (the inspired writer of Acts) joined them (vs. 10). Together the group confidently and purposefully went through the door God had opened for them in Macedonia – Philippi, in particular (vs. 12).
The rest of Acts 16 – both what we’ve studied and what is to come – is set around three households. In each of the three, a person in a different position brings the knowledge/awareness of Christ (through Paul’s message) to the household. First, we meet Lydia in Acts 16:13. As she herself was a “dealer of fabrics dyed in purple” – the color of royalty – Lydia is thought to have been wealthy in her own right (i.e. apart from any husband she may have had). God opened Lydia’s heart to receive and respond to Paul’s message, and then “she was baptized along with her household” (Acts 16:14-15). A household that I believe would have included a staff and possibly a family.
As I said before, it was God who opened Lydia’s heart to receive Paul’s message. In return, Lydia opened her home to Paul and his missionary friends. Verses 16-19 introduce us to the next household to be highlighted by Luke in Acts 16. Knowledge and awareness of Paul’s mission in Philippi was brought to this household by a slave girl. Unlike Lydia, we are not told that God opened her heart. Rather Luke tells us that she “was possessed by a spirit of divination, and she brought her owners much gain by her soothsaying.” (vs. 16, Amplified).
This girl followed Paul and his friends … for days, Scripture says (vs. 17). Her owners – the head of this second household – didn’t seem to mind … until, that is, Paul cast out the demon out of the girl. Verse 19 describes the demon as “their hope of profit.” This idea – a demon being a hope of profit – is what led to the most conversation in yesterday’s lesson. Isn’t it true that sometimes we hold onto demons (either in us or in ourselves) because of what we hope to profit from them. Whether it is an illness or condition that profits some attention … or bitterness/resentment/unforgiveness that profits a feeling of justification for wrong attitudes/behavior. Maybe it is guilt or an addiction that profits motivation for self-hatred and a downward spiral. Is it public opinion or ungodly ambition…? I could go on. I’m sure you could to, but the important thing is that any demon we do not cast out of our hearts or our lives – casting it out in the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ – will only lead to loss … not profit.
I have thought about this slave girl continually this week. Scripture does not mention her after beyond verse 18 – when Paul cast out the spirit within her. I wonder what happened to her. Did she receive the Holy Spirit? Did her owners – like Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:18-20 – attempt to profit from the Holy Spirit? We don’t know, but what I do know … and did get out of my current study of this girl is this:
Acts 16:16 says that she “was possessed by a spirit of divination.” Those of us who have accepted Christ have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). (Yes, that’s another layer to our identity in Christ.) How often, when we speak of the Holy Spirit, do we talk in terms of our having possession of Him? I don’t want to have the Holy Spirit. I want the Holy Spirit to have complete possession of me!
Now what? … Father God, I ask today in Jesus’ name that like Lydia You open our hearts to receive Your Word so that we can bring life into our households. Lord, where there are (or have been) demons, I ask that you remind us of who we are in Christ – no longer condemned (Rom 8:1) … “set free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2)! Let our lives show a boldness that can only come from clean heart and a freedom that inspires others to want to know You. Amen.