“The same [a demon-possessed servant girl] followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” (Acts 16:17)
Paul and Luke first witnessed to European unbelievers in Philippi and saw them wonderfully converted (v. 14), but a young “soothsayer” continually interrupted them, mocking and interfering. Paul cast out the controlling spirit of divination (v. 18), denying her owners their source of income. In retribution, they convinced the city leaders to have them brutally flogged and thrown into the innermost prison (v. 24).
But God had other plans. A mighty earthquake seemingly freed them, causing the jailer to prefer suicide rather than face capital charges for his “offense.” Paul intervened, and the jailer desperately pled, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30).
What would cause a Roman official in a decidedly pagan culture, who had heard little (if anything) of the truth, to abruptly turn to God for salvation? Certainly the earthquake had captured his attention, as had Paul’s behavior through his trial and abuse, but what made him think the truth was with Paul? Why did he ask for salvation from an incarcerated prisoner?
Perhaps during the trial he had heard of the slave girl’s testimony. In our text she had exclaimed, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Was this ringing testimony, given in derision but heard nonetheless, involved in his decision?
We can’t know for sure, but we do know that this was the introduction of the gospel to Europe. Surely God’s ultimate plan can be seen in the events at Philippi that day. Even the unknowing truth from a demonic soothsayer contained lasting truth. Christians should never hesitate to declare gospel truth, for God will not allow it to go unheeded (Isaiah 55:11). JDM