I am writing a third devotional from Acts 16. Today we will look at the question of freedom. Freedom is one of the key words that describes America, but many who live in this land of freedom are not truly free. We will look at three types of slavery (bondage), physical, spiritual, and emotional.
We see first the case of the slave woman. She was following Paul and company around and had become an irritant to Paul. Who was she? The NASB describes her: “a slave woman who had a spirit of divination … who was bringing great profit to her masters by fortune-telling.” She was obviously a physical slave. The Expanded Bible explains her spiritual bondage: “She had a special spirit [spirit/demon of divination/prediction; Python spirit; Python was the serpent god that guarded the Delphic oracle; the term came to be used of the ability to predict the future].”
According to Greek mythology, the god Apollo came to Delphi from Crete. There he killed a dragon named Python who guarded the area. He became Apollo the Pythian and was worshiped at Delphi. Since he was the god of prophecy, he established the Oracle of Delphi to tell the future to his followers. If this only confuses you, then you get my point! What is obvious is this woman was a spiritual slave to a demonic spirit, to whom Paul said: “‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out at that very moment” (16:18). Jesus, Himself the only true God, has power over all the spiritual powers of darkness!
What this evil spirit was saying about Paul indicates another form of spiritual slavery: “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation” (16:17). The word rendered “bond-servant” by the NASB is in reality “douloi” in Greek, or “slave.” This spirit, a slave of darkness, recognized that Paul was a slave of “the Most High God.” Paul described this divine slavery in Romans 6:17-18: “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and after being freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.”
Paul and Silas experienced physical bondage when they were put into the Philippi prison. They would be liberated by God’s miracle through an earthquake, but even before Paul was physically freed, he proved that he was no slave of darkness. The jailer had “put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” They spent a long night in darkness bemoaning their unjust fate—NOT! Luke gave proof of their spiritual and emotional freedom even in the face of their physical bondage: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (16:24-25).
Our last case study is the jailer. He was physically free, on the outside of the prison. But when he saw that the earthquake had opened all the prison doors, he proved his emotional bondage to a corrupt Roman system. He was ready to kill himself rather than face those who would hold him accountable. Then Paul and Silas spoke these words and his life was changed forever: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (16:31). He exchanged his spiritual and emotional bondage for this truth: there is a “freedom” (in sin) that enslaves, and there is a slavery (in Christ) that sets one free! Hear it in Jesus’s own words: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free … if the Son sets you free, you really will be free” (Jn. 8: 32, 36).