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Confronting evil is costly

Walking through the Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Confronting evil is costly

Confronting evil is costly
, “As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
Confronting evil is costly, but you must call it out
As Paul and Silas are continuing in their missionary work of preaching and teaching the gospel, they run into yet another women. But this time she is not in search of a relationship with God by the Holy Spirit, but on a satanic mission for an unclean spirit. So, an unnamed female slave, with an ‘ unclean spirit’ by which she told fortunes, recognized the Paul and Silas as ‘servants of the Most High God’. Moreover, she perceived that they were offering ‘a way of salvation’. ‘Unlike Lydia, who was a businesswoman in control of a successful business, being a seller of purple; this woman is in control of nothing. Instead of being a businesswoman, she was a business. She was a slave, being used to make money for her owners. Unlike Lydia, she earns money, but it belongs to someone else.’ There is no indication that she became a Christian; only that the evil spirit in her was exorcised out by Paul. Being released from such spiritual bondage must have been a blessing for her, but Luke leaves her story there and places the emphasis on the outcome for Paul and Silas rather than completing the story of the slave girl.
Her owners were clearly angered and annoyed by the consequent loss of income. Because of this they brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates, who ordered them to be flogged and thrown into prison. The charge ignores the economic reason for their opposition, but they focus on religious and socio-political issues. This is Paul’s second encounter with demonic forces and their impact on popular religion. Remember in , “When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”
In both cases, the encounter leads to a significant demonstration of the power of Christ, though here with negative consequences for the missionaries.
Let us pray...
Confronting evil is costly but you must call it out!
The link between this event and the preceding event with Lydia is the fact that the missionaries had their next significant encounter while going to the place of prayer. Remember to form a synagogue, required the presence of ten Jewish men who were heads of a household. Evidently Philippi’s Jewish community was too small to form a synagogue, so in such a place they would have instead a place of prayer. A place of prayer, under the open sky and near a river of a sea
Paul went first to a ‘place of prayer’ on the Sabbath, where he shared the gospel with the Jewish women and others who gathered there outside to the riverside. They were intent on winning someone else from the gathering of Jews and God-fearers by the river when they met a Gentile slave girl she is being, described as having a spirit by which she predicted the future (, ‘a pythonic spirit’ or ‘a pythian spirit’ ‘a spirit of divination’]). Luke assumes that his readers are familiar with such terminology and pagan modes of divination. Unlike the demonic beings in Luke’s Gospel, who made their victims impure and ill this spirit in the present story is characterized chiefly by its routine inspiration of wise pronouncements’. With this gift, she earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune telling. Most of the girl’s contemporaries would have considered this spirit beneficial or neutral, but Luke indicates its evil nature in two ways.
First, the term he uses “Python” which is the word for divination here, was a serpent or a dragon in Greek Mythology that dwelt on the in the region of Phyto and was said to guard the oracle of Delphi. Phthia was the high priestess of the temple of Apollo. ‘by giving oracles’) crying out points to something prohibited in Scripture
, “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.”
, So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” But Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”
, “For there shall be no more any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the LORD; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord GOD.”
Second, as in 8:4–24, there is Simon the Magician and later in the sons of Sceva who in 19:11–41 reek havoc.
Look at , And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying,"I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims."14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?"16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.”
Luke shows a close connection between ‘magic, pagan or false religion, and the profit motive of humans who practice it’.
The girl followed Paul and the rest of his team, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”
Such clear and compelling insight recalls the fact of the recognition of Jesus by the demon-possessed people through -out the course of his ministry. Isn’t it interesting that demon always can identity the Holy One or the Son of the Most High God.”
, And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
, When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.”
Indeed, as James says in , “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
God is one. This affirmation of monotheism stems from the core Jewish creed called the Shema (; see ; ). But James stresses its inadequacy, since even the demons believe this, and they shudder. Mere mental assent to the Christian faith does not save anyone. The faith that saves, as both Paul and James affirm, embraces the truth of the gospel and acts accordingly. Luke suggests that the girl is portraying Paul as ‘a legitimate and very loyal follower’ of Jesus.
The evil spirit within the slave girl enabled her to acknowledge the true identity of the travellers (these men are servants of the Most High God) and the true nature of their mission (is to proclaim to you the way of salvation. Although the designation the Most High God (ho hypsistos) was common in the time and was also used in pagan literature, so that ‘a resident in Philippi, with no first-hand knowledge of Judaism, might well identify the one Jewish God with the highest god in his own pantheon’. Salvation in material and spiritual ways was the object of vows and prayers to many gods in the Greco-Roman world, and it was ‘the desired object set before initiates in various mystery cults’.
But, salvation in Luke’s understanding involved the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit through trusting in Israel’s Messiah, with the ultimate blessing of sharing in God’s eternal kingdom through resurrection.
What the slave girl was saying was true at one level, but because it lacked the shining clarity of the true gospel perspectives the light of her message was severely dimmed and seem false.
Her message was false because she was someone who did not really know what she was talking about. She did not know God and, even the assertion that there was ‘a way of salvation’ could so easily have been misinterpreted in a polytheistic and pagan fashion. If she did not know the true and living God who is the way of salvation, then how could she direct others to Him?
The text tells us in 18a, that “And she kept doing this for many days, this implies, daily and regular contact with her as the Paul and Silas sought opportunities for teaching and preaching. There is no suggestion that she was hostile to them, no suggestion that she was harassing them and even her haunting cries may not have seemed offensive at first. But finally, however, after displaying much patience with her, Paul having become greatly annoyed, becoming ‘deeply disturbed’, and the work here in the Greek literally means being ‘worked over.’ Turned and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ Paul’s concern was that she was saying these things under the influence of an evil spirit and was confusing his pagan audience. On her lips, this claim could have been easily misunderstood. Moreover, bystanders could have imagined that similar spirits from the underworld possessed Paul and Silas. So Paul acted as an exorcist, with authority to command demonic spirits in the name of Jesus Christ. There is power in the name of Jesus!”
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,”
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" -
Look here at Paul’s effectiveness, without elaborate ritual or repetition of the command, but with a small declarative and emphatic statement. Paul simply says, “ I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of here.” And the text tells us with these words, ‘And it came out that very hour.’
Whether or not the slave girl turned to Christ and received the salvation proclaimed in his name remains an open question. Luke does not give us enough information to be sure. But she clearly experienced the benefits that came from being in the presence of a prophetic figure like Paul and being liberated from the powers of evil by his authoritative command. The kingdom of God drew near to her in this way, and she had the opportunity to turn to the one in whose name she was released from the power of darkness. Though she was truly called out, she was seemly not called to Christ.
Confronting evil is costly, but you must stand even when falsely accused.
As with many of the healing stories seen in ; , ‘the intervention by God’s healing power through His servants causes a public reaction with consequences for the those who were serving Him.
, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
When you confront evil there will always be some blowback, some opposition, and some cost. In this context, the economic and social implications of the girl’s liberation from the powers of evil come immediately into focus.
, But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.”
This is what you called in theology and bald face lie, there concerns here are not about customs that are not lawful for Romans to practice this is solely about the money.
There is a humorous play on words in vv. 18–19, revealing the economic reason for the attack on Paul and Silas. It was when the spirit left the slave girl that her owners’ hope of making money from her was. However when the businessmen came, before the magistrates, they stated their case in religious and political terms: ‘These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice’. These businessmen sought to ‘ “broaden the respectability” of their claim by enlisting the support of other “agents of censure”, both legal (magistrates) and popular (crowds)’. They used labeling to ‘heighten social boundaries’, appealing to the prejudices and the anti-Semitism of the people, and justifying their opposition to this new religious teaching by an apparent concern to maintain peace and social cohesion in the city. The Philippians were proud of their Roman citizenship and customs, and it was easy to present this new teaching as a threat to the existing social order. Judaism, however, was a ‘legal religion’ in the Roman Empire at this time, and no objection was made in Rome itself to religions that did not offend against public order and morality. Anti-Jewish feeling on the part of some Roman officials is suggested elsewhere (18:2, 12–17), but ‘it is perhaps characteristic that it is in an isolated Roman community in the Greek half of the Roman Empire that the basic principle of Roman “otherness” should be affirmed, whereas in Italy the usual custom prevailed of treating alien cults on their merits’. Paul and Silas did not have an explicit social agenda, yet Luke shows that the preaching of salvation and the practice of healing in the name of Jesus had profound economic and political implications.
Look at , And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Look at , For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
We must understand that there must be similar effects in any culture where the gospel begins to make its impact on individuals, transforming their relationships, ambitions, and values. If you desired to sit back and watch the world go to hell, you have joined the wrong church! We are going to go all in, preaching and teaching the gospel, standing up for what is right while others walk away, and we are trusting in God to protect us and shame those who falsely accused us.
Confronting evil is costly but you must be faithful even when it leads to suffering.
, The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods.”
Responding to the unruly crowd, the magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped and gave orders to beat them with rods. The magistrates in Roman cities were served by attendants who carried bundles of wooden rods bound together as symbols of the magistrates’ authority and their right to inflict corporal punishment. Paul and Silas were severely beaten with these wooden rods. The entire process was a miscarriage of justice, since there was no fair hearing to ascertain the facts or to allow Paul and Silas to speak in their own defense. In , Paul says he was “shamefully treated at Philippi.”
Being beaten with rods was a Roman form of punishment, which differed from the lashing Paul received in Jewish contexts (cf. ). However, it was not a form of punishment that should have been inflicted on Roman citizens such as Paul and Silas (v. 37 note). ‘In a Roman colony it appears that arrest, beating, and imprisonment were normal for aliens, but that it was potentially dangerous to give citizens the same treatment.’ They were severely flogged, ‘they laid many stripes on them’), and were thrown into prison, apparently without a genuine trial. The jailer was commanded to guard them carefully, perhaps because the magistrates feared that ‘such prisoners, who had displayed supernatural powers, needed to be guarded especially carefully’. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks, ‘stock’, could be used as a means of extra security or as an instrument of torture).
This summary justice assumed their guilt and was an attempt to restore order in the city. The accused were apparently considered wrongdoers ‘entirely lacking legal and social merit’
When an unbeliever world treats us unjustly, punishes us without cause and delivers us over to death, what are we to do?
When who believer in the one and only true God and His Son Jesus Christ our Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit have but only one choice; while suffering we must seek the only antidote for our pain, the future glory promised to us.
Walk with me through , known as the greatest chapter in the Bible.
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