The first victory for God in Philippi is followed by what seems to be a victory for Satan: men are exploiting a demon-possessed girl. She was following Paul and crying out the truth that these men were indeed servants of Jesus. This is Satan’s method of antagonism—of testing the disciples. Truth told by demons cause people to doubt the validity of truth told by Spirit-filled men and women. So Paul rebuked the evil spirit within her and set her free. Paul was troubled (v. 18), not because she wasn’t telling the truth, but because he knew the source of her knowledge. This is the Gift of Discernment that Paul later wrote about. (Read I Corinthians 12:10.) Only the Holy Spirit can discern people’s motives for what they say and do. If we permit the testimony of demons at first, they will want us to accept their lies later. Satan and his legions are not to be trusted. Read what Jesus called Satan in John 8:44. Why did He say that?
Satan’s ways are crafty and subtle. Sometimes he attacks directly and physically. Paul could handle shipwrecks, beatings, stoning and snakebite, but he was intolerant of demons testifying about Jesus. Persecution was not Paul’s problem, for he expected that. The danger was in compromise, in toleration, in not allowing the Holy Spirit to bring out this girl’s real problem. Had he allowed it, it would have ruined their ministry in Philippi, for it would have confused people. What is a testimony worth when it is given by someone living in sin? It is worthless, for it compromises the Word of God. We must make sure our own hands are clean when we handle the God’s Word. We must pray that those who give out the Word are living a life worthy of this sacred trust. Paul and Silas were. The Spirit of God revealed to Paul this girl’s problem and he freed her to live a life that was truthful and free from demonic forces – and the exploitation of men.
But there is a second lesson in this passage. Note the reaction of the slave girl’s masters in verse 19. Somehow they had found a way to exploit the demonic forces within her. After she was freed from the demon, she was useless to them.
When they saw that any further exploitation of this girl was no longer possible, there was a violent reaction from them. In verse 20, the owners complained that Paul and Silas “troubled” the city of Philippi. But had they cared about the city, would they have promoted demon possession? If the peace of Philippi was their concern, why did they not mind that this girl was shouting up and down the streets? Read the story concerning the silversmiths in Ephesus in Acts 19:24-41 and note the similarities.
The point is that these evil men hid behind the laws of the city (in this case the law of disturbing the peace) in order to see Paul and Silas punished. This type of man is still around in the 21st century. He is the man that hides behind the laws of “freedom of expression” while exploiting young girls caught in his porno-net. A pimp is not a happy man when one of his prostitutes gets saved. All he considers is his loss of income. Paul was accountable to a higher law than the civil law—and he set this girl free.
Let us pray today that young women will be freed from the demonic grip of men who would enslave them. Jesus came to set the captive free.