Artwork by Douglas Kallerson
Friday, 28 April 2023
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.” Acts 16:17
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
In the previous verse, the girl with the spirit of Python was introduced. Of her, Luke now continues with, “This girl followed Paul and us.”
Depending on the Greek text, the verb is either an aorist or a present participle – “having followed” or “following.” The narrative is being carefully described by Luke to show the action as if it is occurring while being read.
In his words, Luke continues with the first person, including himself with the others. It is apparent that he wasn’t just with the group, but that they were often together as they headed out for prayer and evangelism. As they went, the girl had followed them, “and cried out, saying.”
Now, the verb is imperfect. She cried out and kept crying out. One can imagine how annoying it would be to have someone constantly following behind and yelling out the same thing as they continued along. In this case, Luke says that she was crying out, “These men are the servants of the Most High God.”
Luke doesn’t give the reason for her constant crying out. Nor can we infer from the words where the emphasis of them was. Placing the stress on various words within the statement changes the meaning and intent of what was being said –
* THESE men are the servants of the Most High God. This might be the girl’s way of ridiculing the men.
* These MEN are the servants of the Most High God. As everyone around was probably aware of her spirit of Python, she may be comparing her known abilities to the unproven abilities of the men, as if the feminine had proven itself whereas they had not.
* These men are the SERVANTS of the Most High God. In this, she could contrast the authority she supposedly possessed in herself with the lowly nature of being a servant to someone else, even if it is the Most High God.
* These men are the servants of the MOST HIGH God. Such a statement would contrast her proven abilities to a supposed God above all gods, challenging Him to prove himself.
One of these, or any other of such stresses can change our perception of the intent of what is being conveyed. Without hearing the words or having a suitable description, it is hard to be dogmatic. Likewise, the overall purpose for her calling these things out cannot be known for sure. Albert Barnes gives several possible reasons –
(1) That as she prophesied for gain, she supposed that Paul and Silas would reward her if she publicly proclaimed that they were the servants of God. Or,
(2) Because she was conscious that an evil spirit possessed her, and she feared that Paul and Silas would expel that spirit, and by proclaiming them to be the servants of God she hoped to conciliate their favor. Or,
(3) More probably it was because she saw evident tokens of their being sent from God, and that their doctrine would prevail; and by proclaiming this she hoped to acquire more authority, and a higher reputation for being herself inspired. Compare Mark 5:7.
A fourth reason could be that a war waged within her and, unlike Barnes’ second reason, she may actually have been hoping that Paul and Silas would expel it from her. No matter what, she annoyingly followed after them repeatedly crying out her message.
As for the message itself, she was calling out that they were servants of the Most High God “who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”
Again, this could be mocking, provoking, being dismissive, etc. Without knowing the emphasis in the words and in her voice, it is very hard to know exactly what her intent was. No matter what, the message she proclaimed was the truth regardless of how she presented it in her crying out.
It is of note that in the Greek, there is no article before “way.” More rightly, it says “a way of salvation.” It appears that the spirit within her does not want it to be known that there is a single avenue to salvation.
Life application: It is often asked if a believer can be possessed by a demon. Although the Bible does not directly answer the question, the answer still seems obvious. If a person is in Christ, that person cannot be possessed by a demon. The thoughts are incompatible. Having said that, believers can certainly be afflicted by the devil and his demons. That is made clear in many verses, two are –
“…give no place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:27
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11
Such verses would be pointless if we could not be afflicted by the devil. In order to keep from being so afflicted, it is our responsibility to apply the word of God to our lives. In doing this, we will be prepared and protected against him and his demons. But we cannot do this without knowing the Bible.
KNOW YOUR BIBLE.
Glorious God Almighty, thank You for the surety of our salvation in Christ. And thank You that we are secure from being possessed by the enemy because of that. And thank You for Your word that can keep us from even being afflicted by him when we apply its precepts to our lives. How grateful we are to You. Amen.