I hesitate to bring this subject up, but I feel I must. I believe there is much misunderstanding within Christian circles when we come to the subject of demons. I don’t believe there is one behind every tree to try to cause men to sin. I believe some things attributed to them have to do with something going wrong at birth or some such thing and are perfectly understandable in the natural realm. Most of the evil committed by men result from our own captivity to the flesh. We cannot pass the buck and say: “The devil made me do it!” It just isn’t so. However, there are some things that cannot easily be explained in this manner and one of those matters has to do with territorial expansion as it pertains to the Gospel. Jesus encountered this when he decided to enter into the Decapolis and the one called Legion met him. After he was rebuked the territory welcomed the Gospel, but not immediately. It was after Jesus returned there at a later time.
Another instance occurred on Paul’s first missionary journey when he had to confront the sorcerer in Cyprus. This man was a close advisor to the ruler there, and afterward the governor was very open to Paul’s message. The problem arises in that after the soldier in Christ attacks the enemy, the inevitable counterattack may hurt the Christian workers more than anticipated. In this case Mark left the team not long afterward and returned to Jerusalem. His return evidently sparked a planned effort on the part of the “party of the circumcision” to attack Paul’s ministry. Not everyone involved with helping the enemy is aware of the consequences of his actions. Certainly Mark was not aware of anything he had done would be used against the work of Christ. Indeed, some of the Pharisees involved in the plot would not have acted as they had, if they had known what was transpiring in the spiritual realm.
In the case of his attack against the territorial spirit that possessed the young Philippian woman in Acts 16, Paul was aware of the fact repercussions would follow, but in this case he prepared himself and the team so that the work would not incur a heavy loss. Notice that up until they met the spirit, Paul and company acted as a single group (Acts 16:11-16). The personal pronouns we and us imply Paul and company acted as a single unit, while preaching the Gospel to Lydia and the other women.
When Paul and the mission team went out again to the place of prayer, they were met by the young woman possessed of the spirit. In verse-16 the text says we went out to prayer, and the spirit met us, but notice how Luke uses the personal pronouns after their meeting in Acts 16:17. The woman followed… Paul; and the woman followed… us! This implies Paul had split the party into two groups. Paul had met the enemy and prepared for the inevitable attack.
For several days the spirit had been going before them announcing that Paul and company had the good news of salvation for everyone. Although speaking the truth, the ultimate strategy was to maintain its authority over the people in that part of Macedonia. If the young woman could be perceived as a Christian supporter and prophet, the spirit would retain its authority over the people there. However, Paul recognized what was occurring and took measures to protect his team. Timothy, Luke and any others there made up one group (us), while the veterans, Paul and Silas made up the second group. After several days Paul lashed out at the spirit and caused him in Jesus name to come out of the woman. When it was done, he braced for the expected retaliation.
Paul and Silas were seized and beaten by the local authorities, the ignorant tools of the enemy spirit. They were both cast into prison, but the battle had just begun. About the time of midnight when Paul and Silas were worshiping, God caused the prison to shake in such a manner that all the prison doors opened and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The jailor awoke from his sleep and was about to kill himself, thinking everyone had escaped, when Paul shouted out to show everyone was still in their cells. Long-story-short, the jailor and his household became believers and were baptized that evening. He also fed Paul and Silas and nursed their wounds. When the magistrates sent the sergeants to the prison to free Paul and Silas privately, Paul declared he and Silas were Roman citizens, were publically beaten and jailed unlawfully, and now demanded a public apology. This struck fear into the authorities’ hearts and would have been the cause of great embarrassment. In other words, they would not be apt to treat the church Paul had founded in Philippi in the same manner. In this way—i.e. through the power of God together with men willing to pay the price—the grip the spirit had upon that community was completely loosed. Praise God!