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Are you appalled as I am at the amount of profiteering surrounding false religion in our day? Just look at the false teachers who tickle the ears of their vast followers on TV or radio broadcasts. Follow the money stream; examine their extravagant lifestyles and you will see that they have nothing in common with those who offer the unadulterated gospel message free of charge and from pure motives of serving the Lord.


Go back in history and look at Martin Luther’s complaints against the Roman Catholic Church; he exposed how the church took advantage of its people’s faith for monetary gain – the practice of the selling of indulgences, etc. Even today the Vatican doesn’t lack for money – you have these sex charge scandals involving the priests and huge payouts of cash settlements – no lack of funds

Rev. Sun Myung Moon – Unification Church – at one time a robust, diverse business — especially in the Washington area, where the movement controlled more than $300 million in commercial, political and cultural enterprises – including ownership of the Washington Times

Ministry of Joel Osteen – get closer to the truth of the gospel – just that much more deceptive

an American author, televangelist, and the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His ministry reaches over seven million broadcast media viewers weekly in over 100 nations around the world; preaches the prosperity gospel, a belief that wealth and power are rewards for pious Christians

Certainly there is a ton of money involved today in occult practices and fortunetelling, etc. – I don’t even want to get close enough to these demonic inspired pursuits to examine them

There can be no peaceful co-existing with false religions and their greedy exploitation;

No tolerance of demonic religious superstitions with their false promises and false hopes


Last week we saw the gospel impacting a different segment of society – the rich and influential represented by Lydia as the Lord opened her heart to understand the message and liberated her from the bondage of her sin; Today we see a woman from a different social and economic class – a young slave-girl – exploited by a number of masters or pimps – someone who is in desperate bondage to a demon who is using her as a mouthpiece

Brock: Bruce notes that in Philippi [in Acts 16] three very different kinds of individuals are singled out: religious women, a possessed woman from the “dark side” and a simple “secular soldier.” Williams argues that they are the three groups held in contempt by Jews: women, slaves, and Gentiles – so all gender, ethnic, and social barriers are crossed.

Simple Outline: Action and Reaction


A. (:16) Contrast Between Prayer and Profiteering – Between Evangelism and Exploitation – Between Ministry and Money-Making

“And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling.”

Paul and the missionary team had this awkward encounter in the course of their normal day of ministry – they weren’t looking for a confrontation with satanic forces; the devil in the form of his henchmen found them

Sad case of this poor young slave-girl; being used as a mouthpiece for the evil one; in bondage in so many respects; but apparently she was very effective from a business standpoint – bringing in a ton of profit – what a business model – no costs – just profits dropping right to the bottom line

Python spirit – name of a dragon that guarded the oracles of Delphi – associated with the worship of their false gods; she had the fortunetelling power – very valuable commodity to her owners who were making a ton of money off her pronouncements

Peter Loughman: What they had was a portable Delphi oracle. Instead of people having to travel all the way to Delphi to hear what the god Apollo has to say about their particular situation, folks could just come to them. The slave girl functions like a fortune teller. Customers pay a fee, and the slave girl would give an utterance concerning the customer’s situation. You can imagine, people would pay a hefty price to hear the voice of Apollo. Remember, they voice they heard from this slave girl, they attributed to the god Apollo.

We understand from this passage that the fortune telling was inspired by an indwelling demon – raises the question of the nature of demonic activity today?

– Certainly there is still much fortune telling; astrology; occult practices

– Liberals would dismiss this story as a misinformed myth – wanting to characterize all bizarre behavior from strictly a psychological framework; or due to chemical imbalances – but denying the supernatural element

– Some people would understate the level of demonic activity in the church age – just associated with an outbreak at the time when Jesus was physically on earth … but this was after that time

– Some people would overstate the level of demonic activity today and ascribe everything sinful to direct demonic involvement

– Probably the balanced perspective is to recognize that we are right now involved in serious spiritual warfare:

Ephes. 4:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” So we need the full armor of God

One distinguishing mark between genuine gospel ministry and demonic inspired false teachers will be the motivation factor – if you detect any type of mercenary spirit – trying to get rich from ministry pursuits – that is a huge red flag

Contrast Between Prayer and Profiteering – Between Evangelism and Exploitation – Between Ministry and Money-Making

B. (:17) Confusion/Contamination Over Religious Pluralism vs Uniqueness of Jesus Christ

“Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, ‘These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.’”

Imperfect tense – kept crying out

Perhaps: a way of salvation – no definite article – further confusing the issue

MacArthur: “Most High God” was an ancient title used by both Jews and Gentiles to identify the one, true, and living God of Israel and distinguish Him from all false idol gods (cf. Ge 14:18-20; Nu 24:16; Dt 32:8; Pss 18:13; 21:7; Is 14:14; Da 3:26; Lk 1:32; Heb 7:1).

Melchizedek identified as priest of the Most High God = possessor of heaven and earth; Satan aspired to be like the Most High God and to possess all things

Confusing for Gentiles to hear this identification – could have been thinking in terms of Zeus and their hierarchy of mythical gods – they would not necessarily make the connection to the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ; something can be true and yet not explained fully so that there is still confusion and misrepresentation

Slave-girl must have made quite a scene with this advertising – somehow she was making money each day for her masters as well – this was part of their overall business strategy – get attention for their agenda and offer their fortune telling services

Paul certainly was not comfortable with this type of publicity – not the type of herald he would have wanted; did not want his gospel message introduced by a demonic spirit

[how different from John the Baptist, a man filled with the Holy Spirit, serving as a forerunner to Jesus – Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world]

C. (:18a) Conflict Escalating by Repeated Association

“And she continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed,”

When do you see Paul getting annoyed … in fact, greatly annoyed?? Disturbed; burdened

How could Paul let this go on for so many days?

Lenski: We may venture to say that the Lord let it continue as long as he did because he wanted Paul to finish the work in Philippi; for after he drove out the spirit Paul had to leave the city (v. 39, 40).

This Exorcism is not something that we should expect men to be gifted in today; seems very much like an apostolic experience that was rooted in divine revelation in a prophetic sense so that Paul knew when to engage the demonic spirit; not to say that we would not encounter demonic activity and need to pray for deliverance – but not have the same dynamic involved as the apostolic experience

What enraged the Lord Jesus? Seeing religious profiteers contaminating the temple (which should be a house of prayer) with their money-making exploitation of the people

2 Cor. 2:17 “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.”

MacArthur: From a Gr. Verb that means: “to corrupt;” this word came to refer to corrupt hucksters, or con men who by their cleverness and deception were able to sell as genuine an inferior product that was only a cheap imitation. The false teachers in the church were coming with clever, deceptive rhetoric to offer a degraded, adulterated message that mixed paganism and Jewish tradition. They were dishonest men seeking personal profit and prestige at the expense of gospel truth and people’s souls.

Titus 1:11 “teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain”

1 Tim. 6:5 “who suppose that godliness is a means of gain”

D. (:18b) Confrontation Between Authority of Jesus Christ and Impotence of Demons

“and turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out at that very moment.”

Not much of a fight put up by the demon; immediate conquest

Mark 5:1-20 casting legion of demons out of man and into herd of swine

Where did the spirit go in this instance??

What happened to the slave-girl – just assumed that she was converted and knit into the church with Lydia, but we don’t know that to be true – not the emphasis in the story

Look at the power of Jesus Christ over Satan and his demonic forces

Look at the separation we must maintain from any association with false teaching that would compromise the distinctiveness of the gospel message


5 Characteristics of these enraged deceivers:

A. (:19a) They Increase Their Wealth by Exploitation and Greed

“But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone,”

same Greek word used here for “gone out” as in vs. 18 for the demonic spirit departing

Contrast the futile hopes of the world vs the certain hope of believers – are our affections set on things of this world or on the kingdom of God and our heavenly citizenship?

B. (:19b) They Intimidate the Righteous with Strong Arm Tactics

“they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities,”

Brock: Money is more important to them than salvation, not to mention the woman’s welfare and dignity.

Bruce: Paul and Silas the most Jewish in appearance (vs. Luke and Timothy)

C. (:20-21) They Invent Malicious Lies and False Charges

1. (:20) Assassinate Their Character – Causing a Riot, political unrest

“and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews,’”

Lenski: The emperor Claudius had recently expelled all Jews from Rome (18:2), and it was the pride of every colonial city to become more or less a replica of Rome. . . . Philippi had scarcely any Jews in it, not enough even to maintain the smallest kind of a synagogue.

2. (:21) Attack Their Message and Lifestyle – Introducing destructive religious cult

“and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

Brock: charging them with bringing a destructive foreign cult – not consistent with religious tolerance

Ironic: Paul because of his stance of not insisting upon circumcision had been accused of being too Gentile; here he is accused of being too Jewish

Stott: The slave owners were very clever. They not only concealed the real reason for their anger, which was economic, but also presented their legal charge against the missionaries “in terms that appealed to the latent anti-Semitism of the people (’these men are Jews’) and their racial pride (‘us Romans’) and so ignited the flames of bigotry.” – Longenecker

D. (:22-23a) They Inflict Cruelty from the Protection of a Mob Mentality

“And the crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them, and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them,”

sounds more like the Ku Klux Klan than a judicial proceeding in a sophisticated city

Lenski: And all this was wholly illegal according to Roman law, was inflicted on innocent men without process of law to satisfy a few greedy men and a wholly ignorant mob.

E. (:23b-24) They Inflate Their Egotistical Sense of Power and Jurisdiction

“they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.”


Why does the world hate the gospel message? Because of its exclusivity – cannot co-exist peacefully with false religions

Remember our spiritual warfare: 2 Cor. 10:3-5