Paul and Barnabas continued their mission trip for about a year and a half (Acts 13:13 – 14:28). Wherever they went the gospel spread and people, Jews and Gentiles, came to Jesus for salvation. In fact, so many Gentiles were coming that the leaders of the Jewish Christian church met in Jerusalem to consider if Gentiles would have to become Jews also in order to be Christians (Acts 15). The clear answer was no. Paul then went back to the churches he had started on his first missionary journey, taking Silas and later Timothy with him (Acts 16:1-1-5). God led them through Asia Minor and across the sea to Philippi which was in Europe (Acts 16:6-12). They established a small church there in the home of Lydia (Acts 16:13-15). This sets the background for the next power encounter between Satan’s forces and God’s people, about two years after the previous encounter with Bar-Jesus.
When gong to the place of prayer in Philippi, Paul and those with him were met by a young slave girl who “had a spirit by which she predicted the future” (Acts 16:16). The Greek word translated “spirit by which she predicted the future” is “python.” Thus she was a “pyhthoness,” a named used to refer to those indwelt by a spirit from the Greek god Apollo who gave oracles. This is the name of the dragon/snake, Apollo, killed at Delphi who guarded the priestess there and gave her oracles. Apollo was worshipped as the python god at the shrine of Delphia in central Greece. This Apollo spirit was the spirit by which the ‘god’ spoke to the person he indwelt, enabling them to pronounce oracles. The people thought Apollo was speaking through this young slave girl, especially since it was probably a male voice they heard coming out of her. While there are many explanations to what some today call ‘speaking in tongues’ (see with 1 Corinthians 11-13), there are those who feel that at least some of what was happening in Corinth, and even today, is done by these types of demons. Paul knew the true source of the slave girl’s oracles was a demon. The girl was just their medium.
A medium is someone through whom a demon speaks (Isaiah 8:19; Leviticus 19:31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Acts 16:16-18). For many days she followed them shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17). This shows us that the demons immediately recognized Jesus as God and couldn’t deny who He was and is. Perhaps some of this has to do with the girl herself knowing who He is through the demons and wanting to be free from them.
Whatever the cause of her continual comments, Paul became very troubled. It wasn’t what she was saying, but knowing that she was demonized that bothered him. The Greek word for ‘troubled’, disponeou, has the idea of grief, pain and anger all together. It describes how the Jewish leaders felt when they heard John and Peter were still preaching (Acts 4:2). Paul was upset because the young girl was being victimized by the demons as well as her owner. Therefore he turned and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her (Acts 16:18).
LESSON FOR TODAY: Paul didn’t go out of his way to track down demonic activity, but when it was there he dealt with it. When demons interfered with his ministry or the lives of those he was ministering to, he expelled them. We can and must do the same thing. We don’t have to go searching for demons to attack, we are to go about our daily lives and ministry. But when demons interfere with us or those we are ministering to, then we are to remove them.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)