False Spirits

(Acts 16:16-18)

Do not believe everything you see and hear! That is the warning we get from this section of scripture.

Be careful what you believe, it may be false.
Be careful what you believe, it may be false.

There is truth and then there are words and teachings that sound like truth but are not. Paul discovered this when he was in Philippi and was being followed by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination. She followed Paul and the disciples proclaiming these words,

She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

So what was wrong with that you may ask? What she was saying was absolutely correct. Paul, Silas and the others with them were indeed servants of God and they were proclaiming the way of salvation. But if that is so, why was Paul so annoyed with her that he turned and rebuked the spirit in her telling it to come out of her and leave. That is what we need to assess for it will help us to also sort out truth from error.


When The Lord walked the earth He did not go about “self-marketing” or “blowing his own trumpet” as some do in the world today. In fact on many occasions after He had performed a healing or miracle He specifically told the person NOT to tell others or to spread the word. Jesus was humble and his example is one that we too should follow.

Paul knew this too. I am sure when the slave girl first began following them he may have been uncomfortable with her speaking out and announcing who they were and what they were doing as she did. But initially may have written it off as enthusiasm by a young believer.

However when this behaviour continued for some days, Paul became annoyed for he was not seeking to be made a spectacle of, nor was he seeking the praise of men or to be looked up to as something special. But what this girl was doing in her words and actions was to set the disciples apart from the rest of the people. She was setting them up as being something superior to other men, and that was not what Paul wanted, nor is it the way of God.

Paul, Silas and the other were servants of The Lord. That is all. They were not to be looked up to as anybody important but were teaching the people to look to The Lord. Their words would have been for the people to praise God and look to Jesus as the saviour of all mankind. That was what there basic message would have been.

But the spirit in this girl was attempting to put them up as something more and to make them appear like they were men of great importance and thus should be followed, or revered. The false spirit was appearing to make them out as men to be served rather than servants. And that is wrong.hat was a lie of the devil to try and trick the disciples as well as the people.

Be Careful What You Listen To

This is also why we all must be careful what and who we listen to. What may sound quite plausible and truthful may in fact be a trick and a trap of the devil.

Jesus tells us to beware of wolves in sheeps clothing. They look like the real thing but inside are seeking destruction and devastation.

False prophets and false teachers will arise among the people of God. We have been told as much in the bible in a number of places. So to have the situation that Paul faced was not a rarity but will be typical of the path all Christians will walk. All of us at some time will come across some teaching that will seem quite feasible and acceptable on the surface, but when we scratch beneath the surface it is a deception that leads to bondage, slavery or some other issue that will take us away from the true path in Jesus Christ.

Jesus also said the following in parable form in Matthew 6:22-23.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

What he was saying in this is that if we are filling our mind with the truth we are in the light and we can clearly see and discern truth from error. However if we are looking for the things of darkness, the knowledge of what is evil and we take this into our minds and hearts, then it will cloud our insight so that we cannot and do not see clearly. And if we have this cloud over our minds and hearts, how bad is it already and how will we ever be able to see clearly when looking through the darkness we have allowed to come in by looking at the wrong things.

Thus we must be careful who and what we listen to so as to ensure we only take in the truth and we reject the darkness, especially the lies and half truths that sound so plausible on the surface, just as Paul rejected the words from the spirit of divination in the slave girl following him.

Action Taken

Look at what Paul did when he realised the source of the words. He turned to the girl and cast out the evil spirit from her.

But note this one thing first, and it is something we should remember also. Did he immediately cast out the spirit when the girl started following them and crying out these things? No he did not. Technically there was nothing incorrect with what she was saying. It was only when he worked out, or was warned in the spirit perhaps, the reasons why she was saying these things that Paul discerned it was not for a good purpose.

Instead Paul waited until he knew what was going on before acting. There are two pieces of advice he followed that we too can take and learn from this.

Firstly, we need to follow The Lord's advice where He said in Matthew 7:15-20,

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

The fruits of a person will be seen in their actions and behaviours. It will show the motivations that underlie the words they are speaking. What they say and the reason they say it may be two very different things. The spirit in the slave girl was saying things that were accurate and true, but the motivation was to capture the disciples in pride and to lead people to think of them in a different way.g

And secondly the advice given to us in the letter of James where he told the people In James 1:19-20,

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Paul did not jump in immediately and challenge the slave girl over what she was saying, but instead he listened and weighed it up over some days. Once he understood what was going on, it was then that he acted.

This is a lesson we all need to hold onto as well. Listen carefully to what is said (be quick to hear). Weigh up what is being said in the context of the situation before speaking (be slow to speak). And then act accordingly with a cool head (be slow to anger). Anger is emotion and when we are led by our emotions we often are not in full control of our faculties to do the right or the best thing. As it says, the anger of man does not work or produce the righteousness of God.

Read Your Bible

This is a good example of how to deal with false spirits, false teaching and false prophets.

Especially today where the abundance of teachings in Christianity are so great they cannot be easily numbered, it is critical for ALL Christians to seek out the truth for themselves. The truth can be found. God and Jesus Christ made certain that we could find the truth for He ensured it would be available to all.

How? He gave us the bible to read and to learn from. Read it. Learn it. Immerse your mind, heart, spirit and soul in it. And when you don't understand, pray about it. The Lord has promised that we can and will understand what is there for us when he said in Luke 11:9-10,

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Ask is what He said and then he promised, “It WILL be given.” What a fantastic promise! And He also gives us the Holy Spirit when we ask whose job it is to teach us what the words of the bible mean so that we can learn, understand and grow into maturity in Jesus Christ.

So I ask you these questions now. What are you listening to? Who are you listening to to find the truth? Are you going into your bible to ensure that what you are hearing is indeed the truth? Or are you accepting what someone else says at face value in the hope that it is correct?

On the day of judgement we will all stand before God to give account of ourselves and our lives and we will not be permitted to say we accepted something “because “_______” (fill in the blank) said it was so and I just believed them.”

No. We have to find out the truth for ourself and not rely on ANYONE else. I say this here and now, don't rely on me either. What I know and understand I believe is correct, but hey, I'm a fallible human being and I know I don't know everything. Anything I say in this blog or elsewhere, you need to confirm and check in your bible to ensure it is correct.

Oh…and if you do find things where you think I have blundered, then let me know so we can all learn. I know what I know, but I don't know what I don't know and if I am wrong, I need to know that too. The best advice I can give you is to read your bible. That way you are going back to the source and as you read the Holy Spirit will guide your mind into all the truth.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Brandon W. Mosley)

You might also like:

Sheep In The Midst Of Wolves
Take Heed That No One Leads You Astray
Beware The Leaven Of The Pharisees
Warning For The Servants Of God
The Coming Of The Lord
Beware Of The Scribes
Do Not Be Led Astray

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