The Pagan World Rewards a Godly Do-Gooder
The ancient world was a world in which paganism was the air people breathed; that is, those who were Jews or belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ and worshiped the true God made up a miniscule of the world’s population. I imagine that better than 99% of the world worshiped false gods, which is to say demons, who always demanded sexual immorality and often child sacrifice of their devotees. As the gospel conquered much of the world over the centuries through missionary activity, paganism, which is the default religion of fallen man, was beaten back. But as the Book of Revelation teaches, paganism will make a tremendous comeback in the end times and demon activity will again be ubiquitous. We see this happening already in the West (Europe and America).
So here we have a pathetic slave girl possessed of a demon whose owners made money off of her from fortune-telling. We must be careful what powers we say that demons have; knowing the future with certainty is one of the marks of a prophet, and only because it has been revealed to him or her by God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). No doubt some chicanery was going on, but the demon apparently did possess some other-worldly powers. Demons also know when they are in the presence of God or of one of his disciples, and so the demon drove the poor girl to call out the apostolic band as they walked about and preached in Philippi. As to why a demon would do this, we remember that the demons often rightly identified Jesus as the Christ (not in saving faith, of course), the idea being that identifying or naming someone gave one power over that person (Mark 1:23-24, 34), a superstition even dumb demons believe.
So Paul, annoyed and perhaps distracted by this nuisance, called upon the demon to come out of her and in doing so delivered this girl from her wretched condition. Luke does not say but one would hope the girl came to saving faith upon her release. Whatever the case, the girl’s masters did not come to saving faith and were quite wroth over the whole matter. Seizing Paul and Silas, they falsely accused them of seditious activity, denied them a hearing, and had them beaten with rods and imprisoned, fastened with their feet in stocks. I am reminded that on one occasion when the people were picking up stones, Jesus answered, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me” (John 10:32)? Paul and Silas could have said the same. May we be able to say the same when the time comes that we are so treated.