Originally posted on July 23, 2011
First of all, I want to challenge what we’ve always thought and seen in this passage of Scripture. We know that, in Acts 16:9-10, Paul received, and accepted, a vision to help a man in Macedonia. We understand this man was their purpose for the trip. And typically, was see what happened to them to get them to the place where they were able to help this man was required for the end result.
Let’s look at it again.
Acts 16:16-24 (NKJ) – 16 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. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. 20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Ignore for a minute what comes next. Think about this section. We have a slave girl influenced by a spirit that is confessing and confirming what Paul and Silas are saying. Look at what she is loudly proclaiming; “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” This was not a hateful, condemning, or negative spirit. In fact, she acknowledged God, and His messengers, and even included herself in the statement that the way of salvation was being brought to them in that city.
So what happens? Does it say the Holy Spirit got annoyed? Does it say that Jesus told Paul to cast out the “demon”? There is no indication that Paul was supposed to cast out that spirit.
Automatically, we think, “Hey. Wait a minute, they were sent there to save the jailer. Of course they were supposed to go to prison.” Really? Do you really believe that the only way to see a jailer is to go to jail? I’m thinking that the Spirit of God wasn’t necessarily thinking, “Hey, I’m going to have my beloved servants go to a city where they infuriate everyone to the point of being beaten with rods and thrown into the inner most prison, where only the hardest criminals inhabit, just so they have an opportunity to witness to this one dude there.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we shouldn’t be willing to be beaten and jailed for His name’s sake. I’m not saying that we are above flipping the whole city upside down and causing uproar for what we believe. I’m not saying that freedom should be free to us, or that this calling is a cakewalk. And I am certainly not saying that everything they endured wasn’t worth the soul of just one man; I understand had this jailer been the only sinner, Jesus would have died just for him.
The point I am trying to make here is that God calls us to do something. Typically the task is not that difficult, but we end getting in the way, making it more difficult than it needs to be.
Simply put, because of what they did, what kind of influence would they have in that city?
As soon as their task was finished, they had to leave.
But what could have happened had it gone differently? What kind of influence could they have wielded?
So, I’m trying to think how I would have responded in that situation. Granted, it’s impossible to know what you would do in any given situation without actually being in that particular situation, but I’m thinking if some chick was confirming everything I was saying, even if she annoyed me greatly, I’d just keep doing what I’m doing. Why? Because I realize that if she has a spirit of divination, such that she makes her masters great profit by predicting the future, then most likely this chick wields considerable influence in that region. People listen to her in regard to future events, to the point of paying her masters to hear what she has to say. That type of influence is not easily obtained. If I started talking about Christ’s return and she is confirming everything I was saying, then my influence would expand to include her influence as well, and in no time the entire city would be listening, believing, and repenting. And that would include the jailer and his family.
It’s just something to think about.
Now I understand the flip side too. Had Paul not cast out the spirit and got beaten and put in prison, several things might not have happened. Let’s look at the rest of the story.
Acts 16:25-33 – 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
Verse twenty-five speaks volumes of our need to focus on our purpose and vision, not our current circumstances. We must know, and have faith, that the God who called us will also lead us, direct us, and deliver us.
Verse twenty-six is another instance where the supernatural occurs, and although most of us that are mature in the faith do not need proof of the supernatural to reinforce our faith in God, this is a testimony to those who may need it to see that God is in fact a supernatural God. The last part of twenty-six also testifies of the fact that those around us are positively affected by the anointing on our lives when we determine to walk by faith rather than by sight.
Verse twenty-seven is a strong argument that, had the prisoner’s not been loosed, the jailer may not have been in a state to receive Christ, for he may have thought he was in a nice, comfy position, depending on his own ability or the position he held, rather than on God. Had that situation not arose, where he was no longer in control, then perhaps he would not have been concerned about being saved.
Finally, verse thirty-one is a Scripture many use for encouragement, that an entire family can be brought to salvation based on the efforts of one family member believing and interceding on their behalf.
With all these things in mind, I can see the point of both sides of the discussion. I believe ultimately, though, that God’s will is going to be accomplished, but we have more influence on the how it comes to fruition than we realize. Perhaps God’s plan didn’t include beating and jail time, and all the positive that did come from it could have manifested in a different way.
Either way it’s just something to think about.
Paul may very well be the second most influential person in the New Testament, but he was still human. I do not intend at all to speak less of him or anything like that, but as a human, he was prone to error. It would be a disservice to him, and to us all, to think that every decision he ever make was the correct decision, or God-inspired. As humans, especially leaders who are believers, it is important to be willing to learn from each other’s mistakes. If we think everything Paul did was right, then we are prone to make the same mistakes he made.