Did the Gospel make a huge leap forward in its quest to reach all nations by going to Europe? Well that is a question others wiser than I will have to answer, for it is true both sides of the Aegean Sea shared many similarities, including a common language, similar political governments and religious traditions. Nevertheless Paul and company were called through a vision to specifically preach the Gospel to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10).
The missionary team sailed across the Aegean in two days to Neapolis, the port of the city of Philippi. After spending a few days in the city, on the Sabbath they went outside the gates near the river to find a place of prayer. Apparently, there were not enough practicing Jews to hold a synagogue, so in such cases the few Jews present would seek a quiet place outside the city, usually near water, to pray and worship God. Here Paul and Silas found some devout women worshiping God. One named Lydia was a successful businesswoman, dealing in purple cloth, used by royalty and the very wealthy.
Luke has been showing the similarities of the missions of Peter and Paul, and he does so here as well using three cameo figures out of the Philippians who came to Jesus through Paul’s gospel. The first two are women Lydia and the slave girl and they represent the places of Barnabas and Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 4 & 5. Just as Barnabas set his wealth at the Apostles feet, so did Lydia by persuading the missionary team (however many there were) to use her facilities as a base for their mission (Acts 16:15). Indeed, her home was probably the first house-church in Philippi.
Luke’s second choice, the slave girl was the property of a business partnership (cp. Acts 16:19; cp. masters/owners), possibly a husband and wife team, just as Ananias and Sapphira. In any event, the partners no doubt began to follow Paul, but with ulterior motives. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira they desired to bring the nascent church under the control of the Pharisees and/or Sadducees at Jerusalem, but in this case the owners of the slave girl had their own profit in mind. Assuming that the Jewish influence at Philippi was meager at best, both the slave girl and they knew quite a lot about the missionary team and the Gospel. First of all, they knew they were Jews when Paul and Silas were not representing Judaism (Acts 16:20). Secondly, the slave girl spoke of the Most High God—a Jewish term for one God and seldom used in polytheism. Finally, she knew about the Gospel message of salvation.
Apart from giving the slave girl a lot of hocus-pocus, ‘spiritual’ and magical gifts, how did she and her masters come by this knowledge, unless they were privy to Paul’s message? The narrative seems to lend credence to the idea that they had become a part of the new Christian community at Philippi. The owners of the slave girl had her go with Paul and the others to aid in the spreading of the Gospel, not with pure motives, but for personal gain later. Paul endured the dubious ‘help’ for awhile, perhaps waiting for the owners to understand through the Spirit of God that this was not how things should be done. Nevertheless, after his patience came to an end, Paul turned and called the ‘demon’ out of the girl, placing her in her right mind. Once the owners realized what was done and their financial plans had come to an end, they turned on Paul and Silas, taking them before the magistrates, just as was done to Peter and the other Apostles in Acts 5:17-18.