16 May 2010

Acts 16:16-34

"But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, 'These men are disturbing our city, they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.'" (v.19-21)


This story takes place when Paul and Silas are travelling on one of their missionary journeys to the city of Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia, to the north of Greece. They come upon a young girl who has some sort of ability to see into the future. Paul calls it a "spirit of divination". This was quite a common phenomenon in the ancient world and people used to travel long distances to ask such people for advice about their lives. But this young girl was controlled by 'minders' who made money out of her.

When the girl saw Paul she recognised him and called out, "These men are slaves of the Most High God". This probably meant that she saw Paul and Silas as special - not that she was referring to the god of the Jews - but probably to Zeus or one of the Greek pantheon of gods. When the girl kept calling after Paul, day after day, he got fed up and cast the spirit out of her. In doing that he robbed the minders of their source of income with the result that they got Paul and Silas thrown into prison.

Paul and Silas had unwittingly walked into an area where all sorts of forces were at work and when they tried to stand against those forces they found themselves meeting tough opposition. Indeed, but for the earthquake that happened that night (Acts 16:25-40), that might have been the end of Paul and Silas' ministry.

To Ponder

When, in your experience, has the proclamation of the gospel (the good news of Jesus) come up against 'vested interests' in your community? What happened?

What are your feelings about how the Church or faith communities acting together should tackle social and economic evils in the area where they are set?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.