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Acts 16:6-16 by Robert Dean
Dreams and visions sometimes gave the Apostle Paul his marching orders on his second missionary journey. Can we depend on them to give us a helping hand? Listen to this lesson to learn how direct revelation has ceased but how the Bible has all the answers we need now. See how the Holy Spirit made it possible for a wealthy businesswoman to understand the good news of the gospel. Find out about Paul's run-in with a slave girl and a demon and how demon influence can impact all of us today.
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 49 secs

The Gospel Goes to Europe: Demonism and Fortune telling. Acts 16:6

Acts 16:6 NASB "They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." Asia was the region in the far west of Turkey. The Holy Spirit stops them but we don't know how He stopped them. Did He give them direct revelation? Was it because every time they tried to make a right turn somebody had a donkey cart that was turned over and they just couldn't go down that road anymore? We don't know, although Paul as an apostle was receptive to direct divine guidance, as we are not because revelation has ceased. But we are not told, so it is wrong to read into the text what is not made clear.

What is interesting is that Asia is where all of the cities were that were the recipients of the seven letters to the churches at the beginning of Revelation. In two years Paul is going to come back into Asia at Ephesus and establish a school, and he is going to send out his students to take the gospel and establish churches throughout Asia. But here we have merely an issue of the Holy Spirit saying He has a priority and they were going to go to Europe, not into Asia yet. 

Acts 16:7 NASB "and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them." Two words here: koluo, which means to hinder or to prevent, to stop; and eao, which means to permit, to allow or to pass over—two different ways to express the fact that the Holy Spirit stopped them from going in that direction. [8] "and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. [9] A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'" Troas is a name for ancient Troy of the Trojan wars and the Odyssey and the Illiad, but it was built 25 miles south of the ancient site of Troy. From there God gave Paul directions in a vision at night, one of the numerous ways in which God reveals Himself. It is specific.

A man appears to him, but the first convert once he gets into Greece is a woman. So why doesn't a woman appear? Because this is just a generalized appearance, it is not indicating a specific individual identity. A man appears just as a representative of a population. Acts 16:10 NASB "When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." We know of this same event in Troas by the apostle Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians. In 2:12 he says, "Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord." The way in which this door was opened was through this vision. [13] "I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia."

Acts 16:11 NASB "So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis." Samothrace was the site of a mystery religion that worshipped twin gods. That was their pagan background. It is a very mountainous island. They spend a brief time in Neapolis before heading on to Phillipi which was called by Luke a "leading city." [12] "and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a {Roman} colony; and we were staying in this city for some days." Paul picks significant cities. What we will learn about Philippi is that is was also a Roman colony, and so when they go there they are going to have a significant audience of people. Paul's strategy is that he seems to go to these significant towns that are on trade routes. When he establishes a congregation then those congregations are going to send out missionaries to the surrounding areas. 

We are told of three incidences in this section of Acts dealing with their visit. The first has to do with the conversion of Lydia, the second with casting out the demon from the slave girl, and then after the riot occurs as a result of that and some other things Paul and Silas are thrown in jail. There is an earthquake, God rescues them, and the jailer asks the famous question: What must I do to be saved?

Acts 16:13 NASB "And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled." On a Sabbath day there would be expected to have a group of Jews that would gather together for the reading of the Torah and for prayer. In a Jewish community there had to be ten men in order to have what they called a minion. They had to have a minion in order to form a synagogue. There were not ten men and so there was not apparently a synagogue in Philippi, so these God-fearing women (the same term as used to describe Cornelius) had come to study the Torah, seeking the truth from God. Paul on a Sabbath day decides the best place to go is outside the city which is where he would expect a group of Jews, if there wasn't a synagogue, to meet for prayer. He is not disappointed. There was a group of women who met by the riverside and were engaged in prayer and so they sat down and spoke with the women.

Acts 16:14 NASB "A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening …" A seller of purple cloth means that Lydia had a business. It was a rare and expensive cloth made from a shellfish that would be crushed and that would be used to form the purple dye. It was rare and very expensive because it took a lot of the shellfish to make very much dye. This was what was generally worn for royal purples in the ancient world. Lydia was actually from Thyatira which was over in what was then the province of Asia, across the Aegean Sea in what we would call Turkey.

The word used here for worshipping God is sebo, and this is where we get the word eusebeia, which is often translated "spiritual life." The root has to do with one's relationship to God, their reverence or worship to God. It is not the word proskuneo, which means to bow down and worship, emphasizing submission. sebo is a word that emphasizes reverence for God.

Then we are told " … and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul." A while back we spoke about the Calvinistic doctrine of efficacious grace. If that is the mentality that one has, if that is how one is predisposed to handle passages like that, then they would look at that and say she is elect and because she is elect God opens up her heart so she can understand the gospel. For many Calvinists who believe regeneration precedes faith they would also be tempted to see that opening of her heart as regeneration. But we would point out that opening the heart is not regeneration, it just simply means preparing the mind because she has to hear the gospel.

We need to look at two passages to help us think through this topic. The first is in John 16. John 16:7 NASB "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." When He has come, what is the Holy Spirit going to do? [8] "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin …" That word "convict" is elencho, and it means to make an indisputable, irrefutable case for something. The Holy Spirit is going to be the one—not you; not I –who closes the deal. It is the Holy Spirit who is going to take from what we say (we say a lot of stuff that is not relevant) and convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. He is not going to tell them that they need to invite Jesus into their heart, He is not going to make them feel anything; He is going to take a rational case for something. What He is going to use to do this is what you and I communicate when we give the gospel to somebody. There are folk who don't give the Holy Spirit much to work with but because He is omnipotent He is able to get the point across anyway. We should recognize that this is what the Holy Spirit is emphasizing in an evangelistic thing.

Who is He convicting? He is convicting the world. And it is not a selective concept here. He will convict the inhabited world, the same world that God loved in such a way that He sent His only begotten Son. He will convict the world of sin. There are some folk who get a little upset if you think that in communicating the gospel you need to talk about sin. There are two ways to talk about sin when communicating the gospel: a right way and a wrong way. The wrong way is to make sin the issue—you are a liar, a homosexual, a murderer, a gossip, and you have to feel sorry for your sin, you have to repent of your sin. That is the wrong way. In a gospel presentation the focus isn't on what the person has done as a sinner. Condemnation is not because of their personal sins; their condemnation is because of Adam's original sin. Adam's sin is what was transmitted to us. We received the imputation of Adam's original sin; that is the foundation of our condemnation. But sin means we are spiritually dead, and until a person recognizes that they are lost they are not going to realize that they have to be saved. They have to understand their condition of being spiritually dead, and that brings sin into the topic. But you are not bringing it into the topic to condemn them for their personal sins, you are bringing it in so that they understand that we are all in a condition of spiritual death and therefore have to have someone else save us.

Unless a person recognizes that they have already gone under the water two times and the third time means they have drowned they are not going to grab for that life preserver if they still think in arrogance they are going to be able to survive even if they don't know how to swim. You have to recognize that you are lost and in total, desperate need of salvation before you are going to say you want to trust in Christ as savior. But that is the limited role of presenting sin in the gospel.

So the first thing that the Holy Spirit is going to do is convict the world of sin. We are incapable of saving ourselves because we are under condemnation. Second. He is going to convict the world of righteousness. The contrast there is between those two elements. The opposite of sin is righteousness, that which conforms to the righteous standard of God. So in the Holy Spirit's ministry He is going to convict the unbeliever that they are spiritually dead ad that the only way to have spiritual life is to have righteousness. The third thing He is going to convict them of is judgment: that the sin penalty has been paid.

John goes on to explain this. John 16:9 NASB "concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me." The focus there is not on personal sin, the focus is on the one thing that they have not done in order to be saved, which is to believe. They haven't believed in Christ so therefore they are still spiritually dead. [10] "and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me." What that refers to is that with the ascension Christ is able to ascend to the Father because He has completed the payment for sin on the cross. It is Christ's righteousness that is imputed to us for justification. During the time on the cross our sin, our unrighteousness, was imputed to Him so that He paid that penalty.

That leads to the third aspect of the Holy Spirit's conviction [11] "and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged." This is a perfect tense verb; it is completed in the past on the cross. The ruler of this world is another title for Satan. And so what we see here is that the one who convicts/convinces somebody of the need for salvation, who makes that irrefutable, indisputable case is the Holy Spirit.   

But the unbeliever doesn't have the Holy Spirit in any way, shape or form. The unbeliever is spiritually dead, which refers to the fact that that immaterial component of his nature that enabled the soul to have a relationship with God is not present. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him …"

The high point is understanding what it means when it refers to the things of the Spirit of God. Verse 9 is a paraphrase from two Old Testament passages out of Isaiah. 1 Corinthians 2:9 "but just as it is written, 'THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN …' That means that whatever Paul is talking about here in terms of "these things" it is information that can't be gained through eyesight or hearing. In other words, empirical data doesn't get you the things of God. '… AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND {which} HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN …' That is man's own autonomous thinking ability—rationalism. '… ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." What is the "all"? That is defined in the next verse [10] "For to us God revealed {them} through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.'" What has He revealed through the Holy Spirit? He has revealed the content of the Bible, revelation. The deep things of God is related to the thinking of God.  

1 Corinthians 2:11 NASB "For who among men knows the {thoughts} of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the {thoughts} of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." Here the "things of God" goes back to the content of biblical revelation.

All through here when we look at the word "things" (neuter plural in the Greek) it all goes back to the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. That is the Word of God in context. What cannot be learned from rationalism or empiricism is revealed objectively through the Scriptures through God the Holy Spirit.

Verse 14 says that the natural man does not receive these things. The "natural" man is the Greek word psuchikos from the noun psuche which means soul. It is given an adjectival ending, which means it is talking about a certain kind of man. So it is a 'soulish' man. But what he is lacking is supplied in context, and that is something that is also defined here as "spirit." The word "spirit" [pneuma] can mean a lot of different things. Where it is used here it indicates this component of man's immaterial makeup that enables his soul—made up of his self-consciousness, mentality, conscience, volition—to relate to God. When man sinned and became spiritually dead he lost that component, it died, it disappeared, it was no longer functional. His soul became independent of God. And it wasn't until he was regenerate, born-again, and something was positively given (the spirit) that it once again enabled him to think in relation to God, choose in relation to God, have values of right and wrong in relation to God, and to focus on that element in his soul that was related to God: God consciousness rather than just self-consciousness.

And so what we see here is that the natural man can't understand the things of the Spirit of God; he can't understand the gospel. When we put that together with John chapter 16 what we realize is that the only way the unbeliever can com e to understand the things of the Spirit is if God the Holy Spirit functions like a human spirit to open up the mind of the individual with positive volition so that they are enabled to understand the gospel. But the Holy Spirit doesn't believe it for them. He doesn't regenerate them apart from faith. They have to understand the gospel first. It is the Holy Spirit who acts as the one who makes it clear.

Someone may say that is clear and then continue to reject it. They continue to be spiritually dead. Another person may say it is wonderful. Some people have a perfect understanding of the gospel but they just don't want to believe it. They have heard it so much that they can articulate it so clearly it is surprising.

So that is what was going on when it says of Lydia, "the Lord opened up her heart." The heart is the thinking part of the soul. She could understand, and her response with her volition is that she is going to heed or respond to the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.  

Acts 16:15 NASB "And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay' …" Once again we see the apostle Paul baptizing right away. He is not waiting. Notice how Luke doesn't beat anybody over the head with it; he just states it as this is the normal course of events for someone after they are saved. "And she prevailed [persuaded] upon us." There is a little controversy that has come up among some on the free grace camp. It is that belief [pisteuo] etymologically derives from the same root as peitho, the word for "persuade" and that they really mean the same thing, that faith is just being persuaded. Faith is more than being persuaded. When we read, "she persuaded us," it can't be read, "she believed us," or "she believed in us." Belief is something that is subsequent to persuasion. Persuasion is when you are presented with facts and you exercise your volition and decided you are going to be persuaded; the facts convince you. 

Acts 16:16 NASB "It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling." This is one of several key passages in the New Testament related to demon possession. The slave girl was making a lot of money for them and she would tell people's fortunes. We are not sure how she did that, but she had this skill of telling the future.

Note: Just because someone is involved in some activity doesn't necessarily mean they are demon possessed. But if a person is an unbeliever and is operating on carnality, that person is under demon influence. It is very important to understand the differenced between demon influence and demon possession. Demon influence simply describes the fact that a person's thought systems are affected and directed by the views and ideas of demons. And demons have the same ideas and values as Satan. What is Satan's primary orientation? Arrogance. Human viewpoint is just another way of talking about satanic viewpoint or demonic viewpoint; it is all just cosmic thinking. To the degree that any of us are thinking in the way of the world's system we are operating on demon influence. We have to be careful to understand what demon influence is. In one sense we are all demon influenced to the degree that we operate on cosmic thinking.

Demon possession is something else. Demon possession is when a demon takes residence inside the body of someone and controls them from within. When we see this word "possess" there is no equivalent word in the Greek. There is not a single word in the Greek New Testament or the Hebrew Old Testament that can be conceivably translated possess. What is the primary meaning you think of when you think of the word "possess." Ownership. Ownership is one meaning to possession. Another meaning for possession is to be indwelt. But demons don't own even the people they "possess." That is a false concept. So possession is really a poor English word to use in translation. The word in the Greek doesn't have anything to do with ownership; it has to do with an indwelling spirit.