Greetings to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, angels and saints in Christ. On Sunday morning, the Lord woke me about 2 am and began speaking with me about the reasons why Paul was so hard in his judgment of the false prophet Elymas (Acts 13: 6-13). I learnt from the text that Elymas tried to prevent Sergius Paulus from believing the gospel by using the power of the occult as a show of strength. It is important that we pay attention to Paul’s example, because he was confronted again by the power of the occult on his mission to confirm the churches that he and Barnabas had established on their first journey. After embarking on this mission, he had a vision in which a man requested him to come to Macedonia to preach the gospel (Acts 16: 9-12). He obeyed the call and went to Philippi, one of the main cities. God confirmed the vision, because on the Sabbath, he went to the river side where women would meet to pray. One of these women was Lydia, a worshipper of God. She received the truth and was baptized, along with her household. Lydia’s home then formed the center of what later became a thriving church in Phillipi, a power base for the advancement of the gospel in the area.

THE DEVIL REACTED WHEN PAUL STEPPED ON HIS TERRITORY

When the gospel is preached in new territory, or in any territory, the enemy will counteract. We need to understand that Elymas resisted Paul at the embryonic stage of the ministry that would spread the gospel deeply into the then known world. Here, the kingdom of light advanced to dispel the darkness in Philippi, so obviously the enemy tried to retain or reclaim territory lost. Satan used a girl who was possessed with a fortune telling spirit to do so. She functioned in the role of a false prophet and like modern day fortune tellers, psychics etc, this power was used to obtain much wealth. Rather than resisting the gospel that Paul and Silas preached, the devil used a different strategy because he did not want to inadvertently exterminate his power base in the city, as in the case of Elymas. The enemy’s strategy was to align the demon possessed girl with Paul and Silas by
having the demon cry out, “these men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16: 17). This was done for many days, with the girl following Paul and Silas everywhere they went to preach the gospel. Now this was free advertisement for the ministers of the gospel, but what was the deception here? The message was true, but the source and motives were false. The enemy was actually reinforcing his own power base by telling the truth, but the intent was to reinforce the power base of the demons. Of course, every one would be amazed and exclaim about the power in the girl and remain in bondage to her demonic power. Think of this in modern day terms. If a psychic releases a public announcement about certain events that would take place, how would you respond? Furthermore, how would you respond if these events actually take place? How would the public respond? Wouldn’t they hurry to get him or her to give them a “prophecy”? This is exactly the scenario that Paul and Silas faced.

THE POWER PLAY – GOD IS REALLY “BAD”.

Paul did not play with the devil, but responded to the aggravation by becoming grieved in the spirit and casting out the devil in the name of Jesus (Acts 16: 18). Now this was done publicly and the trade that the girl plied as she followed them about was gone. No one could get any “prophecies” out of her because her power source was gone. Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and imprisoned by her bosses because they cast out the demon and ended their lucrative trade. If you operate in this dimension of ministry, it is possible that you could be faced with severe opposition from the kingdom of hell, but fear not, for no weapon formed will prosper against you. Paul’s reaction to the girl shows that he had compassion for her, recognizing that she was under demonic control. He dealt with the source of the problem and not the agent. This is why we are adjured to cast down strongholds. What was the difference between his reaction to her and his reaction to Elymas? Well, Elymas must have been “barefaced” and shameless in his opposition to the gospel and needed a severe rebuke. The effect was still the same, anyway, because the kingdom of darkness was put to shame in both events.

PRAISE BREAKS UP THE KINGDOM OF HELL

Paul and Silas reacted to their imprisonment by “taking it out on the devil” by singing praises and praying at midnight, the darkest hour of experience. In the realm of the spirit, prayer and praise release warring angels/the armies of heaven and shake the very foundation of hell, causing it to quake and release prisoners from captivity. This was manifested suddenly in the natural realm as a great earthquake, the shaking of the foundations of the prison, opening of its doors and breaking of the chains from the prisoners. This is the same kind of praise that Jesus shouted as He descended into hell when He gave up the ghost, calling forth angelic help. As He shouted His praise and died, the vail of the temple rent from top to bottom, there was an earthquake and the rocks split, graves were opened and many dead saints resurrected. His praise was so powerful that it caused the foundations of hell to shake and the bands of death to loose its captives (Mt 27: 50-53). The Holy Spirit told me that Jesus shouted praise when He gave up the ghost. This is what Mark meant when he reported that the Roman centurion confessed that He was the Son of God when He “so cried out”, then died (Mk 15: 39).

Paul and Silas pulled down a major stronghold that had reigned over Philippi. This is the praise that delivered Jehoshaphat from invasion by a million man army (2 Chron 20) and the praise that caused the walls of Jericho to fall (Josh 6). This is the praise that would execute vengeance upon the heathen and punishments upon the people. It is the praise that will bind the princes and nobles of darkness in chains and fetters of iron (Ps 149: 5-9). Paul and Silas bound the devil in prayer and praise. They deliberately used a strategic weapon to pull down the strongholds that obstructed the preaching of the gospel. Therefore, we learn from theirs and other examples in scriptures, that we must take an aggressive approach to the work of the kingdom of darkness. The outcome of prayer and praise was manifested then as the undeniable demonstration of the power of God and the salvation of the jailer as he believed God and was baptized along with his household. He did not wait for the magistrates to pass a new law, but took the law into his own hands and freed the men of God from captivity. When God moves with our prayer and praises, He will change decrees on our behalf. Your praise has the power to move hell out of its place even when the devil thinks we have lost.

Let’s be encouraged, the enemy will oppose us vigorously when we are doing the work of the Lord. I am instructed to share this experience which I had in December last year. I had gone to JFK to do some business when I was confronted by a witch, although I did not know that initially. She tried to kill me with her occultic powers, but the Lord told me what to do. One of the things I did was to hold my bible up in front of me. She moved away to another area of the airport, keeping her eyes on me. I started to plead the blood and pray. When she realized that her power was inactive, she came closer. I continued to pray (in my spirit) and heard when the stronghold broke. The demons literally flew away from her, chattering and chirping like birds. I know because I had heard this kind of sound before in another setting. She was apparently controlling a whole empire of witches in a geographic area, because they came out of their houses and got unto the bus in amazement, some of them riding for only one block. I had to preach the gospel to them that day so they would come into deliverance. This is just one of the many encounters that I have had with the occult over the years and I must tell you that it is no fun. God had to train me to the point where I can counteract them even in sleep. The issue is, some of them you treat like Elymas and others like the girl in this experience in Acts 16. Whatever the method used, the believer has to totally depend on the power of God and come to the place of spiritual revelation, like Paul, where the devil develops a healthy respect for you as we will learn next time from Acts 19. God bless, until.

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