In acts 15, we read of the triumph of the gospel of grace in the church: one doesn’t have to be circumcised – or to follow all the Jewish laws, rituals and regulations – in order to be saved. Isn’t it interesting, then, that here in Acts 16, one of the first things we find is Paul arranging for his new offsider, Timothy, to be circumcised! What a wonderful example to us. The gospel sets us free, and yet in that freedom we can freely choose to be all things to all people, so that we might save some. Timothy, we’re told, was the child of a Jewish believer and a Greek father. Timothy was saved. Luke tells us that he was a young disciple. He was a Christian. And as a Christian he willingly subjected himself to the rite of circumcision so that he could have an entrance into conversation with the Jews of the region.
Timothy’s being circumcised didn’t save him, but it just might have meant that someone else heard and accepted the gospel of salvation.
Timothy, Paul and Luke (note the change to us here!) are guided by the Spirit to Macedonia. And one of the things that happens is that they are followed around by a girl with an evil spirit in her. She keeps crying out, telling all who would hear that they should listen to the message of salvation that Paul and his company were preaching.
Why on earth would a demon do that? It’s like someone from Coles going on and on and on about how everyone should be shopping at Woolworths! I don’t know. Perhaps it was an attempt on Satan’s part to take control of the church. To follow Jesus on the advice of an evil spirit… are you trusting the evil spirit rather than the Spirit of God?
Paul casts out the demon out of exasperation with her. So how come Paul is happy for Timothy to be circumcised for the sake of the gospel, but is unhappy for the gospel to be proclaimed by this demon-possessed slave? I suspect it’s because Timothy was giving up his rights for the sake of the gospel, and the evil spirit was trying to undermine the gospel; trying to keep people hooked to old beliefs and trust-systems even if they dabbled in the message of Jesus. There is a world of difference.
Lord, thank you for saving me. Thank you that you have set us free. Thank you that there is nothing more that I need to do to be saved. You’ve done it all. All I have done is to accept on the basis of your witnesses that you are the Lord; that you are King of Kings, God incarnate, our Saviour. Help me, I pray, to be like Timothy: willing to do whatever it takes so that others might hear the good news. I know that, like Timothy, I’m often reticent to let go of the freedom that I have in you. Please change me in that.