“These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation (Acts 16:17).”
The natural man is a terribly proud creature—selfish, self-confident, self-important, and self-sufficient. He lives in bondage to sin, Satan, and self; worships and serves the creature more than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). He cringes at the very thought of serving any master other than himself and finds the thought of serving God especially distasteful; however, there are some people in this world whom God delivers from the bondage of self-service. They, and they alone, have been, are being, and will be, delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Speaking of the deliverance of God’s elect, the apostle Paul says, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness…for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. But now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom. 6:16-22).” By believing the gospel chosen sinners are liberated from the rigorous slavery of self-service. Through the ministry of the gospel God gives his redeemed people hearts of surrender that yield to the mastership of Jesus Christ. Saved sinners are transformed sinners—“servants of the most high God!” What an honor! What a wonder that self-serving rebels are freed from sin and allowed to serve the highest of all beings—THE MOST HIGH GOD!
A Needful Reminder
Children of God, we need to be continually reminded that we are servants—unprofitable and sinful—and that the Most High God is our tender, gracious, loving, Master. His purpose, cause, and interest, are, and ought to be, our purpose, cause, and interest. His glory is, and ought to be, the essence of our lives, the goal of our existence. We serve God, not only on Sunday, but every day, with our lives, and all that we possess. If we would be faithful to our Master we must be faithful, obedient, and submissive to his will in all things, ever seeking the things of Christ, and never seeking great things for ourselves. If we would honor him we must walk before him in faith, humility, complete surrender, never murmuring, ever rejoicing.
Though all of God’s people are his servants there are some who are given the glorious privilege of being public servants. They are men (never women) who have been gifted, called, and sent by God to preach the gospel of his grace. They serve God by bringing glad tidings of good things to God’s elect scattered throughout the four corners of the world. They show all men everywhere “the way of salvation.” They point sinners to “Jesus only” because he is, to the exclusion of all other ways, the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by him (Jn.14:6). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).” God’s servants, every last one of them, direct the hearts of men to Christ alone for righteousness, pardon, life, and acceptance with God. They show immortal souls that righteousness was brought in and established by Christ’s obedience unto death (Rom. 3:20-22), and that salvation from sin has been procured, for all who believe, through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ that was shed at Calvary (Col. 1:14). God’s servants show sinners everywhere, from the Scriptures, that salvation is not them doing for God, but God doing for them what they could never do for themselves (Jonah 2:9). God’s servants have just one message, one subject, one point of focus—Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Servants of the Most High God impress upon men and women bound for eternity that Jesus Christ—the sinless, all-sufficient, all powerful Son of God—is the only Savior, only Redeemer, and only Mediator between God and men, and if anyone desires to be right with God in heaven, then they must do business with Christ himself on this earth. God’s servants today preach the same, sweet, jubilee message of salvation that the apostles did—that salvation is by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone.
A Sad Testament
Acts 16:17 is not the faithful witness of one who had experienced God’s amazing grace, but the striking testimony of “a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination…which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying (Acts 16:16).” I find that fact utterly fascinating. This damsel understood, by Satan’s influence no doubt, what few understood in her day, and what very few people understand in our day—that Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke were indeed servants of the Most High God. What a sad testament it is to the depravity of man’s fallen nature when the unclean spirits of hell acknowledge what so many desperately lost men deny! And though this damsel’s satanic witness certainly reproves the ignorance and sin of humanity, there is more to be seen here than a mere reproof.
This event and those that follow teach us something of Satan’s incessant devilry and deceit. By God’s grace we see something of his devices, by which he hopes to ensnare the souls of men in wickedness and gain an advantage over the servants of God (2 Cor. 2:11). This damsel’s witness is not what it appears to be. Though certainly true, it is not honest, but satanic and deceitful. She was under the influence of the devil, “walking according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). Her words were spoken, not out of love for the truth, but as an attempt by Satan to associate his work with the work of God, to blur the line of distinction between truth and error, to broaden the borders of his kingdom by duplicitously using gospel preachers for his own end. Take note of this important fact child of God and beware! When the serpent speaks, contrary to what most people think, he does not use profanity and he does not speak of sexual filth. When Satan speaks he speaks of the Most High God, the servants of God, service to God, the glory of God, and the salvation of God! This girl was under Satan’s power, yet, she still told the truth! (Just chew on that for a little bit.) To the servants of the Most High God the truth is the means by which they glorify Jesus Christ and deliver the souls of men from going down into the pit, but to the devil God’s truth is the means to a far more dastardly end—an end that ensnares fallen, ignorant, stupid men in sin, and ruins their souls in everlasting perdition! How crafty, how subtle, how deceitful then, is the devil? Would you recognize him if you saw him? Paul did. If he were to take aim at your soul with one of his fiery darts would you see his lies for what they really are—religious in character, plausible, and seemingly true—or would you fall prey to his diabolical chicanery?
Without question most men would have failed to notice the hook beneath the bait, but Paul was not most men; he was taught of God, and being taught of God, he knew that things were not as they appeared. Paul, unlike most people, knew the devil’s handiwork when he saw it. He was fully aware that this “certain damsel” was but a puppet, and that the slippery fiend of hell was the puppeteer. Luke tells us that this “certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination…followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul being grieved (seeing the serpent’s slimy hand no doubt), turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour (Acts 16:17-18).”
Satan would have gained a tremendous advantage over the minds of men had he succeeded in his ploy to gain “the right hands of fellowship (Gal.2:9)” from these faithful servants of the Most High God. If God’s servants would have associated themselves with this seemingly honest damsel, not only would they have sealed the sin of her greedy masters with God’s endorsement and foolishly stamped God’s approval on Satan’s work, they would have compromised the gospel of God’s grace and done great harm to the cause of Christ in this world, “for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:14-18).”
“Watch and pray” children of God, and may our God graciously fix our hearts upon Jesus, make us faithful servants, show us our need of his constant protection, preserve us from all evil, and deliver us from the wiles and snares of the devil.
Via email : Bulletin for Sovereign Grace Assembly, NC; Jan. 4th, 2015 (Pastor Frank Hall)