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It is written:
Acts 16:16-18-Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.
Here the Bible teaches us about the exorcism of a young woman who was following after Paul. This young woman had a spirit of divination.
What does this mean?
“The spirit of divination associated with this girl, puthon in the Greek, is directly linked in translation to an area in Greece known as Delphi, where the Oracle or Pythia answered wealthy pilgrims’ questions about their futures (fortune-telling). 11 “Having a spirit of Python, or of Apollo. Pytho was, according to fable, a huge serpent, that had an oracle at Mount Parnassus, famous for predicting future events; Apollo slew this serpent, and hence, he was called Pythius, and became celebrated as the foreteller of future events; and all those, who either could or pretended to predict future events, were influenced by the spirit of Apollo Pythius.” 12 This slave girl possessed a spirit of divination associated with the Delphic spirit, and through her powers she brought much gain to the people who utilized her services. It is important to note here that she followed Paul. Satan is quite pious; he clothes all forms of deviltry in the most pious terminology. Here, he announced to the world: “Paul is a servant of the Most High God. They are showing you a way of salvation.” The King James Bible translates “the way of salvation” but in the Greek, the definite article “the” is not in the text. The Greek says it is “a way of salvation.” Satan does not recommend Jesus Christ’s gospel; he distorts it. Under no circumstances will Satan acknowledge that Jesus Christ is eternal God, the incarnate way, truth, and life. Instead, Satan presents Jesus as one of many equally good ways; he is an aspect of the truth; he is a fragment of the life. This young girl walking behind Paul cried out “these men are servants,” but she was not doing the talking. She did not say this to them once or twice; she shouted it for “many days.” Finally, Paul became annoyed, and he said to the spirit in the girl (not to the girl), “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” The demon came out in the same hour, and when her masters saw that all their hope of profit was gone, they became angry (v. 19). The Holy Spirit is very bad for the demonic business of divination. This is why occultism fears the presence of the Spirit. They do not fear other spirits, but they do fear Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit. They want no part of Spirit-filled Christians, who have power from God to overcome them. Some Christians are afraid of demons, and they do not need to be. It is demons who are afraid of Christians. They are afraid because “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4: 4). The Church should not be afraid of the doctrines of the demons or of the demons themselves. Instead, let them be warned to be afraid of the Church, for it is the Church that represents Jesus Christ, and against it the gates of hell will not prevail (Matt. 16: 18). That is Christ’s promise, and they know it. Therefore, Christians mistakenly back up from something they could march into victoriously, with the Cross before them, bringing deliverance to the souls of those imprisoned.” (Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, Kurt Van Gorden, The Kingdom of the Occult, 1385-1408 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson)
Notice several things with me.
First, the Bible makes a clear distinction here between the spirit that was possessing this girl, and the girl herself. While many believe that demonic spirits are simply some kind of splinter or fragment personality of an individual, the Bible is clear that demons are a separate entity from the person. This is not to be confused with medical conditions such as schizophrenia.
Second, please notice that the Apostle may have been distressed with this reason for several reasons.
“Since the first time that the psychic slave girl met Paul (v. 16), she follows him and his associates around whenever he walks through the city. As she does so, she shouts in a prophecy that “these men are slaves of the Most High God who proclaim to you a way to salvation.” Inspired by the spirit of divination, her prophecy is ambiguous at least in three respects. (1) While the term “the Most High God” (ὁ θεὸς ὁ ὕψιστος) may refer to Israel’s God, 20 it could also refer to Zeus as the highest deity of the Greek pantheon, the god on the highest mountain (Mount Olympus), who is the lord of heaven. Numerous inscriptions document that the worship of Zeus as Zeus Hypsistos (Ζεὺς ὕψιστος) and Theos Hypsistos (Θεὸς ὕψιστος) was alive and well. 21 Of particular interest are inscriptions that link the “Most High God” with the epithet “listening” (ἐπήκοος), which was virtually the same as “savior” (σωτήρ), since “the god who hears was great or the greatest, and vice versa.” 22 Note that Luke uses the expression “the Most High God” elsewhere only as the appellation from a demon-possessed man (Luke 8: 28). While the Jews living in Philippi would think of the God of Israel as the only true God, the Greek and Roman citizens of Philippi would take the reference to refer to Zeus or another “listening god” whom they already worship and from whom they expect salvation. 23 (2) While the term “slaves” (δοῦλοι) is also used in nonbiblical Greek for the relationship of human beings to a god in the sense of being subservient to that god, 24 the early Christian notion of being “slaves of God” 25 has nothing to do with “cringing servility, fear of displeasing the master and particularly fear of the punishment that may follow,” 26 but has everything to do with total devotion to God, who has given his Son to die for the sins of the world. (3) The phrase “way to salvation” (ὁδὸς σωτηρίας), with no definite article, could be understood by pagans in Philippi in terms of Paul proclaiming one path to salvation among many possibilities of finding salvation. 27” (Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Book 5), 1198-1199 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)
Indeed, is likely that the reason why this demon was so dangerous is because it was telling the people that Christianity was “a” way of salvation, instead of “the” way of salvation.
“The anar. phrase ὁδόν (acc. sg. fem. of ὁδός,-οῦ, ἡ; dir. obj.) σωτηρίας (gen. sg. fem. of σωτηρία,-άς, ἡ; descr.) is likely indef., “a way of salvation” (Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 361; Schnabel 683). Thus, the “endorsement” implicitly allows for other ways of salvation; something Christianity would never accept (cf. 4: 12; see Robertson, Pictures, 255).” (L. Scott Kellum, Acts (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament), 191 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Academic)
The kingdom of Satan is not threatened when the message of professing Christians is that all religions are equally valid. It is only when the exclusive nature of the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed that Satan’s forces are thrown into a frenzy. This should be a wake-up call to those professing disciples of Christ who proclaim that all religions and belief systems are equally valid.
Matthew 7:13-14-Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
John 14:6-Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Acts 4:12-Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Third, notice that Satan does not always try to stand in the way of the preaching of the Gospel. Instead, as this passage demonstrates, he can accomplish his work by perverting the Gospel.
Galatians 1:6-9-I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
The demons are well-aware of the saving power of Jesus Christ. I am reminded of a former Buddhist monk named Tenzin Lahkpa. During his time learning about Jesus Christ, he was warned of the power of Christ by another monk. Consider the following conversation between the two:
““Have you ever met any Christians during your time in America?” Silence. “Have you ever met any Christians?” he finally responded after a time of pondering my question. “I have, Teacher. I have met one.” “What did this Christian say to you?” “He did not say much. He just told me that the name of their God is Jesus and He can visit us in dreams.” Again there was silence. “Did he say anything more about Jesus to you?” “No.” “Does that person live here among us?” “No,” I said, instinctively knowing that I somehow needed to protect Peema’s identity. “Never speak to the Christians. They will suck the prana, the energy source that flows through all living things, from your soul. In Tibet, prana flows like streams of living water over the mountains and saturates every living being with internal channels of power. Prana is the life force of the body and the wind in the mind found in all living creatures. Prana carries us from origin to our destination. Prana gives us breath from karma to karma. Prana allows us to visit loka in the underworld or obtain the advice of the gods. Those who harness the power of prana are able to levitate, fly, or do other superhuman acts. “Prana isn’t just a power that gives life—it is the breath of life. It feeds off of our mantras. It grows from our prayers. It has its foundation in the reading aloud of holy texts. As your master, I pass on my prana to you and you pass it on to others, but Christians have a mystical power source that interrupts the flow of prana. Christians take away your power and strip you of your prana. Stay away from them and do not listen to their words.” “Couldn’t we expose the fallacy with a simple debate?” The teacher’s head whipped around, and he glared at me. “Do not play with Jesus, boy! He is more deadly than Mara and will keep you from enlightenment. Mara only has the power to trick you out of your prana, but Jesus can take it away. Mara can conquer you with darkness, but Jesus will conquer you with light. Unlike Mara, Jesus can control the life force of your jiva. I have seen it. I have seen the power of those who follow Jesus.” Chills shivered down my spine at the thought of a force more intimidating than Mara. “Jesus and his followers destroy the entire order of all that we know,” he continued. “How?” I asked. He puffed at me as if my question annoyed him. He seemed a bit miffed that I didn’t know exactly what he was talking about, but I didn’t. I honestly didn’t know how one god—one that I had never heard of—could disrupt the entire order of heaven and earth. “The loka of the underworld do not trifle with Jesus. We should not even be discussing him. Talking about him gives him power. He disrupts the entire order of all that we know, because he can overpower the loka of the underworld and the gods that lead us to enlightenment. He destroys the Middle Way. Even Yama, the lord of death, leaves him alone, because Jesus would release the spirits from their bondage and turn them loose! If a spirit escapes the bondage of Yama before their time to be released, they can go in between the different realms and wreak havoc on us all.” I was dumbfounded at what he was telling me. “If Jesus is so dangerous, Teacher, why have I never heard about him before? Wouldn’t it be better to warn others about his danger so that we can better prepare against him?” The teacher laughed. “You don’t prevent the spread of a virus by bringing it to your home and evaluating it. You keep it as far from you and your family as possible. And you don’t bring Jesus to your temple to evaluate his dangers! You keep his name as far from your students as possible. You lock him out. Unlike the other gods, Jesus is given power through sharing about him. He is like a deadly virus—by the time you realize how deadly he is, he has already infected everyone in your home. “Why did you come here?” he asked. “I came here to find the ultimate dharma—to find enlightenment.” “If dharma is what you seek, then you must cleanse your mind of everything that you have heard about Jesus. No matter how little of a place you give him, he can use it to destroy everything—just as a virus that you cannot see with your naked eye has the power to destroy the health of a well, strong body. “Stay away,” he said again with emphasis. “Stay far, far away.” I bowed in the darkness, acknowledging his command to me. As I walked away, he added, “Do not tell anyone here about our conversation. You must contain this virus or else…. “Remember, this very temple that gives you shelter was built as a reflection of perfect order,” he said, referring to the name Thiksay, which means “perfect order.” “You will destroy that perfect order for eternity if Jesus is allowed to infect the minds of those who have come here to find enlightenment.” I bowed again and walked away toward my room, running my fingers over the smooth edges of my prayer beads and praying for strength and wisdom. I couldn’t help but think of Peema and his words to me. He and his family must have known about the dangers of Jesus. Why had he considered it so important to tell me about something so dangerous? Peema didn’t look like he had been suffering from any pain or spiritual torment. In fact, he looked and acted as if he had a peace and calmness to him. After I returned to my room, I was still unable to sleep. There were so many questions running through my mind. I wanted to know more about Jesus. I think that my newly found desire to learn more sprang from the fact that I now knew I was not supposed to know anything about him! My curiosity was itching, and now I wanted nothing more than to scratch it.” (Tenzin Lahkpa with Eugene Bach, Leaving Buddha: A Tibetan Monk’s Encounter with the Living God, 2228-2284 (Kindle Edition); New Kensington, PA; Whitaker House)
There are many lessons that we can learn from Paul’s encounter with the spirit of divination.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.