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Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Girl with an Evil Spirit

16:16-22

v16 One day we were going to the place where people prayed. A girl who was a slave met us. She had an evil spirit in her. It gave to her the power to know the future. She told people what would happen to them in the future. So, she earned a lot of money for her owners. v17 She followed Paul and the rest of us. And she was shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to receive salvation.’ v18 She did this for several days. At last, Paul got very upset. So, he turned round and he spoke to the spirit. He said, ‘In Jesus Christ’s name, I order you to come out of her!’ Immediately, the evil spirit left her.

v19 The girl’s owners realized that she could not earn money for them in the future. So, they seized Paul and Silas. The girl’s owners dragged Paul and Silas into the market-place. There, the girl’s owners met the people who had authority. v20 Her owners brought Paul and Silas in front of the Roman officials. They said, ‘These men are Jews. They are making trouble in our city. v21 They are teaching customs that are against Roman law. We are Roman citizens and we cannot allow these customs.’

v22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes from the two men and they ordered people to whip Paul and Silas.

Verse 16 Luke chose to write about three people in Philippi. Their lives changed completely because of the gospel.

The first person was Lydia. She was a rich lady and she had her own business.

The second person was very different. She was a slave girl and she had a big problem. An evil spirit was controlling her. It gave to her the power to see a person’s future. Luke uses a special Greek word for this power. This word is not anywhere else in the New Testament. But it is in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. There, the writers use this word to describe false prophets. God does not allow us to use this kind of power. It is very wrong (Deuteronomy 18:10). It seems that the slave girl could really see into the future. Her owners earned money from her. But the power came from Satan, by an evil spirit.

Verse 17 Paul and his companions often went to the place where people prayed. The slave girl continued to follow them. The evil spirit in her recognized that they were God’s servants.

Luke writes about two similar situations in his Gospel. Both times, the evil spirits recognized who Jesus is (Luke 4:33-34, 41; 8:27-28).

Verse 18 The girl followed them for several days. The Greek word that Luke uses for ‘very upset’ is ‘diaponeomai’. It also means ‘angry’ and ‘sad’. The girl’s words were true. But Paul did not want people to link God’s message with an evil spirit. Also, he was sad and angry that the girl was suffering. But her owners did not care about it.

In the end, Paul had to do something. He ordered the evil spirit to leave. It left immediately. Paul did this ‘in Jesus Christ’s name’. That means that he did it with Jesus’ power and authority. (Look also at Acts 3:6, 9, 10.)

Verse 19 The girl’s owners were very angry with Paul and Silas. This was because the evil spirit had gone. This meant that the girl did not have the power to see into the future any longer. The owners’ way to make money had gone too! They blamed Paul and Silas for that. Here Luke does not mention himself, nor does he mention Timothy. The first passage where Luke uses the word ‘we’ has ended already, at verse 17. So, perhaps Luke and Timothy were not there now.

The girl’s owners dragged Paul and Silas into the market-place. This was not only a place where people sold things. In a Roman colony, it was the center of public life. Everything important happened there, for everyone to see.

Verses 20-21 A Roman colony had two officials who were like judges. They decided whether a person was guilty of a crime. The girl’s owners did not tell the officials why they were angry. Instead, they said that Paul and Silas had not obeyed Roman law. They said that the missionaries had caused trouble. The missionaries had introduced a new religion that was not legal. These were serious crimes against Roman law.

Also, many Romans did not like the Jews. The girl’s owners reminded the officials that they (the owners) were Roman citizens (verse 21). People in a Roman colony were proud of that. The girl’s owners said that Paul and Silas had done bad things. They wanted the officials to hate Paul and Silas, because Paul and Silas were Jews.

Verse 22 The people in the crowd were angry with Paul and Silas. This was because the people did not like foreigners. The officials ordered people to punish Paul and Silas. People whipped the missionaries. Roman whips caused a lot of pain and injuries.

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