Sermon title:

Paul Silenced a Preacher—Why?

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, April 11, 2021

 

During the Apostle Paul’s 2nd missionary journey,

he took the unusual step of silencing someone

who was preaching salvation.

 

This person was publicly recommending Paul’s ministry

and was announcing that Paul and his co-workers

were serving God and proclaiming salvation.

Why would the Apostle silence someone

who joined him

in calling people to get saved?

 

Let’s take a look at what happened.

 

This 2nd missionary trip

took Paul back to the same area

of what is now modern Turkey today,

to visit the churches he had established there

on his 1st trip to the area.

And, while traveling there, at the town of Lystra,

Paul met a young believer named Timothy,

who joined him in his travels.

 

Timothy would prove to be a loyal and faithful helper.

 

And Paul would later address

2 of his New Testament lettersto this young man.

As they headed farther westward, the Holy Spirit led Paul

out of the land we call Turkey today,

across the water into Macedonia,

an area above northern Greece today.

 

That crossover was significant, because it meant

Paul was entering Europe for the first time,

and taking the Gospel message into new territory.

 

The account in Acts tells us

how the Holy Spirit directed these missionaries

as to which cities and towns they should visit.

 

So, they ended up stopping at a place Acts 16:12 calls,

“Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the foremost of the district, a Roman colony.”

 

The Gospel writer Luke, who also wrote the Book of Acts,

had joined Paul by this time, traveling with him,

so he switches from using the pronoun “they”

and starts saying “we”

in reference to Paul & his companions.

For example, at Acts 16:12, he writes,

We were staying some days

in this city.

 

And then he goes on, in Verse 14, to tell

how they were invited to stay at the large home of

a business woman named Lydia,

who specialized in selling the purple dye

that wealthy dignitaries used

to dye their robes purple.

He writes,

14 A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.” So she persuaded us.

 

Lydia’s home then became Paul’s base of operations

as he preached in that Roman colony of Philippi.

 

And Luke, now travelling with Paul,

was one of those staying with him at Lydia’s home,

so Luke was an eye-witness of what went on there.

 

That includes what Luke describes as happening next.

 

He says,

16 As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. 17 Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” 18 She was doing this for many days.

 

But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour.

 

Notice that it says this girl “brought her masters

much gain.”

 

She was evidently a slave girl, owned by the men

referred to as “her masters.”

 

She was not a clever woman operating her own business,

telling people’s fortunes.

 

She was just a slave, who was possessed by a spirit,

one of Satan’s demons.

 

It was not the girl herself

who had the ability to tell fortunes.

 

It was the demonic spirit that lived in her.

 

And, when Paul cast out that demon,

the girl lost her special ability.

 

That’s why the next Verse says,

19 . . .her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone”

after Paul cast out the demon.

 

They still owned the slave girl,

but now she would be useful only to cook meals,

make beds, and sweep floors.

 

She would no longer be a tool

for those men to rake in the cash

that people had been paying

to have their fortunes told.

----------------------------------------

 

That’s an interesting story,

but does it have any relevance today?

 

Yes, because that very same spirit of divination

that possessed that slave girl is still around today,

either possessing someone else in our day

or causing other mischief.

 

God’s holy angels are spirits,

and so are the demon angels—

they are all spirit creatures,

rather than flesh-and-blood creatures like us.

 

The demons are rebellious angels who turned against God

and followed Satan the devil—

himself a fallen angel in rebellion against God.

----------------------------------------

 

It’s not popular today to believe in the existence of demons

or the existence of Satan, the prince of demons.

 

Or, at least it’s not popular to admit it.

 

The liberal news media scoff at the idea, of course,

as do the elite in the world of science, medicine

and academics.

 

But confidential public opinion polls reveal

that more than half of Americans

believe the devil and demons exist.

 

Of course, a popular saying is that

the devil’s greatest trick

is convincing people he doesn’t exist.

 

Bible believers, of course,  know for sure

that the devil and demons

are just as real as you and I are—

only we can’t see them.

 

We can’t see them,

but the Bible pulls back the curtain on the spirit world,

just enough to warn us about them

and protect us from them.

 

At 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, the Apostle Paul wrote,

“The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.”

 

And the Apostle Peter wrote at 1 Peter 5:8,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

 

Before the Apostle Paul cast out that fortune-telling demon,

that poor servant girl was under that demon’s control.

 

We have very limited understanding of how that works,

but apparently demons are able to possess humans—

to live inside them and control them.

 

Our Lord Jesus described the process when he said

at Luke 11:24

24”When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25On its return, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and dwell there. And the final plight of that man is worse than the first.”

 

That fortune-telling slave girl had an unclean spirit

—a demon—living in her

before the Apostle Paul cast it out.

Being possessed by an unclean spirit—a demon—

can put a person into a pitiful condition,

as we can see from the condition of a pagan

our Lord Jesus set free from such enslavement.

 

At Mark 5:2, it says,

2As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, He was met by a man with an unclean spirit, who was coming from the tombs. 3This man had been living in the tombs and could no longer be restrained, even with chains. 4Though he was often bound with chains and shackles, he had broken the chains and shattered the shackles. Now there was no one with the strength to subdue him. 5Night and day in the tombs and in the mountains he kept crying out and cutting himself with stones.

 

No one would willingly invite a demon

to possess him and put him into such a condition.

 

But people fall into the trap because, like Satan himself,

the demons pretend to be angels of light.

 

There are many practices in the world today

that bring people into contact with demon spirits

that could end up possessing them.

 

One of the most obvious is intoxication

through drunkenness and drug abuse.

A person who is intoxicated

is not in proper control of their own mind,

and lays themself open—

weak and defenseless.

 

The Apostle Peter wrote at 1 Peter 5:8,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

 

A person who is drunk or high on drugs

is notalert and of sober mind.

 

They are weak, open and defenseless

against the dark spirit forces of Satan the devil.

 

Drug abusers sometimes turn to the Bardo Thodol,

otherwise known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead—

an ancient Buddhist text

that guides them in their psychedelic experiences

and introduces them to the so-called “Lord of Death”

--who is really Satan the devil.

---------------------------

 

But people don’t have to be drunk or drugged

to come under demonic influence.

 

Witchcraft and sorcery are more popular now in America

than ever before,

and are practiced openly, rather than in secret.

 

The underlying principle of witchcraft and sorcery

is the believe that various charms and incantations

give the witch or sorcerer supernatural power—

power over invisible spirit forces.

 

They really expect the demons to do their bidding

by repeating a string of magic words.

 

But how foolish that notion really is!

 

The demons are rebellious angels

who have been around for thousands of years,

and they know every trick in the book.

 

They are much more powerful than humans,

much more experienced,

and much more devious

than the worst criminal mind.

 

For a human witch or sorcerer to try to control them

is like a person hoping to gain more power

by joining the Mafia or joining a street gang.

 

Instead of gaining more power for themselves,

a person who does that soon becomes a slave

to the Mafia bosses or to the gang leaders.

 

And the demons are just like that.

 

They sucker people into thinking

that the spirits will give them power,

when, instead, the evil spirits

take control over their human victims.

---------------------------------

Witchcraft and sorcery make it fairly obvious, of course,

that they are reaching out to

dark forces in the spirit realm.

But there are many other practices popular today

that go by different names,

but that also bring people under demonic influence

or into direct contact with demons.

 

Yoga and New Age meditation classes

may teach that you will be contacted

by a “spirit guide”

after you succeed in emptying your mind—

and that you will then build a relationship

with that “spirit guide.”

 

The term “spirit guide” is not always used,

as they may be called "ascended masters"

or "unseen helpers" or “angels” or “archangels.”

 

The sort of meditation the Bible recommends

is to think deeply about the things of God—

actively using your mind.

 

Philippians 4:8 says in the King James Version,

“whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

 

“Meditate on these things”—many modern translations

render that “think about these things.”

 

This means to actively use your mind

to think deeply about good things.

 

But the New Age Eastern meditation

of Buddhism & Hinduismis quite different—

actually the exact opposite.

 

Eastern meditation involves emptying your mind—

clearing your mind of all thought,

so you are not thinking at all.

 

The goal is to put you into

an altered state of consciousness,

where your mind is empty.

 

And, with your mind empty of all thought,

that’s where the expectation is

that you will make contact with the spirit world.

 

Just like drunkenness or being high on psychedelic drugs,

that empty mind is an open invitation

to demonic invasion.

 

But the Eastern meditation instructors

teach you to expect so-called “friendly” spirits.

 

One ancient Yoga text says you will release

a goddess from the base of your spine.

 

That Yoga text says,

“Kundalini” is “lying "coiled" at the base of the spine, represented as either a goddess or sleeping serpent waiting to be awakened.”

 

A spirit guide encountered during meditation

may appear to be an animal, such as a rabbit,

or it may even introduce itself as “Jesus.”

 

But these are actually demons, angels of Satan,

pretending to be angels of light.

 

Automatic writing,   dream states,

hypnotism, and meditation are all practices

that may introduce people to spirit guides.

 

Some fads within the churches today

are actually demonic programs

to introduce “spirit guides” and demonic possession.

 

One of those fads is called “centering prayer”

or “listening prayer” or “contemplative prayer.”

 

A Christian apologetics web site describes it as

“the practice of relaxing, emptying the mind, and letting one’s self find the presence of God within.”

 

This same web site goes on to warn against

such emptying of the mind,

and adds,

“This is one of the hallmarks of occult practices and it opens the person to demonic contact.”

 

Another Christian website warns,

“It is clearly possible that

when one does Centering prayer,

they could be communing with the demons.”

 

So, it pays to be cautious about any such practices

that masquerade as “Christian.”

--------------------------------------------

 

And that brings us back to

that servant girl in Acts Chapter 16,

who the Apostle Paul drove a demon out of.

 

Acts 16:17 says that

when she wasn’t telling people’s fortunes

she was following Paul and his team thru the streets,

crying out,

17...“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” 18 She was doing this for many days.

So, to casual observers, it might have appeared

that she was part of Paul’s missionary team.

 

Or, at least, it would have appeared

that she was a Christian,

proclaiming the Good News of salvation in Christ.

 

But she was not.

 

She was a demon-possessed fortune teller,

falsely associating herself with Christianity.

 

Why did the demon inside her

make her walk along with the Apostle Paul

shouting this message to the crowds in the streets?

 

It was for the same reason that Satan the devil

masquerades as an angel of light—to deceive people,

and lead people to share his fate

in the Lake of Fire.

 

1 Timothy 4:1 explains it, when it says,

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.

 

Associating herself with the Apostle Paul,

and appearing to be part of his team,

would give this demon-possessed fortune teller

additional credibility and free advertising.

 

Paul put a stop to it,

by casting out the demon,

so it could no longer use this poor girl

for its evil purposes.

 

And, when our Lord Jesus returns in power,

he will put a stop to

the demon-inspired false teachers in churches today

—those who

turn away from the true faith; [and]... follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.

 

The false teachers will join the demons in the Lake of Fire.

At Matthew 25:41 our Lord Jesus refers to it as

“the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

 

The devil and his angels are not in charge there.

 

The devil and his angels are punished in the eternal fire.

 

They are not running the place.

 

No the eternal fire is the place where

the devil and his angels receive their punishment,

and where their followers get the same punishment.

 

The devil and his demon angels

are having their heyday in this world today.

 

But Christ will soon bring punishment

upon them and their followers.

 

In the meantime, we need to pay attention

to that warning Paul wrote.

 

We need to watch out for the false teachers

online and on TV and in churches,

who—like that servant girl—proclaim salvation,

 but who

follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.

 

And how do we identify those false preachers,

to avoid being deceived by them?

 

By knowing the Bible ourselves,

knowing what the Bible itself teaches,

and knowing the Bible’s standards of right and wrong.

 

If we keep away from spiritistic practices & false teachers,

we have nothing to fear from the demons.

 

If you have the Holy Spirit living in you,

you are not “empty” or open to demonic spirits.

 

1 John 4:4 says,

"the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

 

When we are “born again,” Christ comes to live in us

by his Holy Spirit,

and we belong to him.

 

At John 10:27 Jesus says,

27My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.