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Paul Confronts Evil Spirits. AG Sunday School Teachers

Memory Verse: Acts 16:18
Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And hcame out the same hour (KJV).

Central Truth

Every evil spirit is subject to the power and authority of Jesus Christ.


The Lesson Outline

*1. Encounter With a Sorcerer*
A. Sent out by the Holy Spirit–Acts 13:25
B. Empowered by the Spirit– Acts 13:6-12


*2. Confrontation With a Fortune-Teller*
A. Encountering Supernatural Opposition– Acts 16:13-17
B. Distinguishing Real from Counterfeit– Acts 16:18

3. Christ Exalted Through Supernatural Manifestations*
A. Failure to Duplicale
Miracles– Acts 19:11-16
B. Seized with Fear– Acts 19:17-20



Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
1. Affirm the reality of evil spirits and the spiritual realm.


2. Develop a Scriptural view of evil spirits, recognising that they are subject to the power and authority of Christ.


3. Recognise the need to seek God for help in spiritual battles.

Introducing the Lesson

The supernatural encounters found in today’s Scripture passages occurred over the course of Paul’s three missionary journeys, with one encounter during each journey. While there are different characters involved, these events hold one common theme: the Christian’s activity in and response to the supernatural realm. For many, even within the church, the Supernatural realm seems out of reach for the believer.


However, as we will see, the powers of darkness are real, and they will clash with the people of God. As such, we must be prepared to respond accordingly, by calling upon the power and authority of Jesus Christ.


The Holy Scriptures

Acts 13:8-12
[8]But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
[9]Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
[10]And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
[11]And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
[12]Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
Acts 16:16-18
[16]And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
[17]The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
[18]And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, 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 19:11-14
[11]And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:
[12]So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
[13]Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
[14]And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.

Commentary and Application

1. Encounter with a Sorcerer

A. Sent out by the Holy Spirit–Acts 13:25
Acts 13 opens as Barnabas and Paul (then called Saul) were about to begin their first missionary journey. It is worthwhile to note that the phrase “have called” in 13:2 indicates God had already been speaking to Barnabas and Paul. Earlier, God had told Paul that he would minister for Him (Acts 9:15-16), and He had also revealed this to Ananias in order to confirm the call He had already placed on Paul.


Then, the church in Antioch sensed it was God’s plan for Barnabas and Paul to go out (see Acts 13:3). As a body of believers, they had confirmation from the Holy Spirit. The church continued to fast and pray for God’s direction, and they Commissioned these two men by laying hands on them and sending them out. Thus, we can observe that this was a Spirit-led process. Any time we move out in ministry, or send others out, it must be an occasion that follows the leading of the Spirit. As we will see, ministry often involves spiritual battles, and in those moments, we must be empowered by the Spirit for wisdom and direction, following the example of Barnabas and Paul as they embarked on their missionary journey.


Luke emphasised that the Holy Spirit sent them; it was not just the church at Antioch (verse 4). First, these two missionaries went to Seleucia, which was sixteen miles to the west of Antioch. From there they sailed to Cyprus, and landed at Salamis, a port on the northeast side of the island (verses 4-5). Cyprus was the home of Barnabas (see Acts 4:36), and others had already proclaimed the gospel in Cyprus to the Jews only (see Acts 11:19). Barnabas and Paul may have wanted to strengthen these believers as well as evangelise in the area.


Since there was a large Jewish community at Salamis, Barnabas and Paul first went to the synagogue (Acts 13:5), as was their normal practice. Jews knew the promises of the coming Messiah. It was likely they might be receptive to the gospel.

Questions for Application

*How can Christians ensure that their ministry plans are led by the Spirit?*

*What are some examples of how the Church sends out ministers and missionaries today?*


B. Empowered by the Spirit– Acts 13:6-12

There were several cities along the 112-mile route from Salamis to Paphos, and Paul and Barnabas likely spent time in each city (Acts 13:6). When they arrived at Paphos, in the southwestern area of Cyprus, they met with opposition- a false prophet and sorcerer named Bar- Jesus (verses 6-7). This man used magic to deceive and gain power over people.


The ministry of Barnabas and Paul reached the ears of Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor of the area. This governor wisely took care to observe all that went on in his area, and so he met with Paul and Barnabas. However, Bar-Jesus knew that if the governor accepted the gospel, he would lose his influence over this governor. As a result, Bar-Jesus tried to hinder Barnabas and Paul’s ministry. But his magical arts had no power against the Holy Spirit. Paul revealed who this sorcerer was and what he was trying to do, and pronounced God’s judgment on him. Immediately, Bar-Jesus was stricken with blindness– a testimony to the genuine nature of the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, as well as to the power of the Spirit over all evil forces (verses 8-11).


The governor was moved by the power of the Holy Spirit working through Paul. But more than that, the governor was “astonished at the teaching about the Lord” (Acts 13:12, NLT). He was moved by the gospel not because of the miracle, but as a result of hearing the message of Jesus.


While supernatural gifts confirm the gospel, people need to hear the good news articulated, in order to grasp its message and thereby accept Christ as Saviour (Romans 10:9-10,14-17). We must believe God for miracles and to be used in all of the gifts of the Spirit, but our primary commission is to tell others about Jesus.

Questions for Application

Why is it important to focus on the gospel rather than on miracles or supernatural gifts?

*What are some ways you are helping to tell the world about Jesus?*

2. Confrontation with a Fortune Teller

*A. Encountering Supernatural Opposition–Acts 16:13-17
Acts 16 records part of the travels of Paul and Silas during Paul’s second missionary journey. More specifically, as this encounter begins, they are in Philippi. It was important because it was the place where Paul met Lydia, who became an important partner in his ministry. She is also regarded by many as the first specifically documented convert to Christianity in Europe (Acts 16:13-15).


In Philippi, Paul made a practice of meeting by the river, as it had become an ongoing opportunity for Paul and his co-laborers to present the gospel to a number of God-fearing Gentiles. It was not uncommon to find individuals who worshipped the God of the Jews the Mediterranean world. These came to believe in the Jewish God but did not convert to Judaism. Paul, then, was able to relate to them in familiar terms while proclaiming the Messiah.


During one of these occasions, however, Paul encountered a demon-possessed slave (Acts 16:16–17). At first glance, it appeared that she was doing Paul and Silas a favour. She traveled around with them for several days, announcing that they were servants of God with a message of salvation from God. However, it becomes clear that the evil spirit within her had far different intentions- and these very intentions prompted Paul to act, confronting evil in the spiritual realm.


Questions for Application
What are some opportunities to share Christ that you encounter
on a regular basis?


How can we prepare ourselves for spiritual encounters that will involve souls that need Jesus- and may even lead to spiritual battles?*

B. Distinguishing Real from Counterfeit–Acts 16:18

The words of the slave, though seemingly complimentary of Paul and Silas, greatly disturbed Paul (Acts 16:18). After several days of her shouting, Paul discerned that this hindered the work of the Lord and provided a poor testimony of his message. Ultimately, her words had their source in an evil spirit, and Paul recognized that.


Paul dealt with this problem by confronting the girl. Notice, however, that he did not speak to her. Rather, Paul addressed the demon: “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (NLT). This command, given in the name of Jesus, was backed by the authority of Jesus. What happened next, then, was not Paul’s doing: The demon left the girl immediately.


Paul’s actions in this account remind us of the ministry of Jesus (see Matthew 8:16; 9:33; 17:18, etal.). Deliverance from demonic powers was a regular Component of Jesus’ ministry. And because the spiritual battle against evil forces continues today, we do well to pray for discernment and wisdom, then seek the guidance and power of the Spirit in the ministry of deliverance and healing.


*Questions for Application*
*To what extent do you depend upon the wisdom and power of the Spirit in your endeavours? Explain.


How might you become more dependent upon the Spirit?

*3. Christ Exalted Through Supernatural Manifestations*
*A. Failure to Duplicate Miracles–Acts 19:11-16


The events of Acts 19 took place during Paul’s third missionary journey. More specifically, this chapter records Paul’s ministry in Ephesus.


The bold preaching, persuasive teaching, and accompanying miracles through the ministry of Paul and his associates led to the rapid growth of the church in that city. Paul performed signs and wonders through the Spirit’s power, so much so that people sought to acquire handkerchiefs and aprons touched by Paul to take to the sick for healing. So great was the power working through him that mere contact with these garments brought healings and the release of evil spirits from individuals (Acts 19:11-12).



The amazing demonstrations of power through the ministry of Paul led certain Jewish exorcists to attempt to imitate his methods. Verses 13-16 describe an attempt by seven sons of Sceva (a Jewish chief priest) to cast out demonic spirits “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches” (verse 13, NLT), This attempt led to unexpected consequences. Through the demon-possessed man, the demonic spirit overpowered them, leaving them bruised, beaten, and running naked from the house.


Their unfortunate experience offers us an important reminder: Divine miracles are not achieved through a magic formula. They are never the result of an incantation or a prescribed choice of words, nor do they come through the efforts of men or women. They take place when people who are filled with the Holy Spirit surrender to the direction and wisdom of the Spirit.


Signs and wonders are not restricted to Paul and the apostles in the first century. They accompany the preaching of the gospel today, and are meant to demonstrate and authenticate the message. We must remember that God’s power has not diminished, just as His desire to manifest His power has not
diminished. His power will follow those who passionately depend upon the Spirit and are determined to bring the message of salvation to those in need of salvation.

Questions for Application

What are some ways people might try to mimic the power of God, and why might they do so?


How can Christians know that a ministry, including signs and wonders, is legitimate?

B. Seized with Fear– Acts 19:17-20

Not surprisingly, the dramatic story of the seven sons of Sceva spread quickly in the city, and as a result many were seized with a sense of solemn fear, recognising the power demonstrated by the missionaries. To better understand this sense of fear, we note that the name of Jesus began to be held in high regard (verse 17). Wherever
Paul and his followers went in the city, people listened to the message
he proclaimed.


The response of the people was by no means superficial. Verse 18 reports that many who believed confessed their sins openly. Their conversions were life-changing events.


Many of the new Ephesian believers reacted in extraordinary ways to their new faith. Some who had previously practiced witchcraft and sorcery brought their books of magic and publicly burned them. These books were of great monetary value. Luke, the writer of Acts, noted that the total value of those items was fifty thousand pieces of silver (verse 19, KJV). If these were drachmas, as is widely believed, the amount was equivalent to two years wages for two hundred labourers or soldiers. Today, this would amount to more than ten million dollars.


While it is important to remember that we are not saved by our works, our works do provide evidence that our faith is authentic (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Just as the Ephesian believers demonstrated that their faith was authentic by their rejection of their old ways, believers ought to do the same today. We should not proclaim a false gospel that leaves out a life-changing response. We must also remember that life-change takes place through the power of the Spirit, who is at work within us as we seek to follow the Lord more closely and grow in relationship with Him.


The ministry of Paul and his companions was effective for many reasons. They were bold in their proclamation. They were dependent upon the Spirit for the power to preach in the midst of hostile circumstances. Signs and wonders accompanied their ministry, drawing attention to their life-changing message. And, as a result, the name of the Lord was praised.


Questions for Application
What are some specific ways your life is different because of your salvation?

What does it mean to depend upon the Spirit to help you share the gospel?


Call to Discipleship

The gospel has the ability to change lives. But this gospel is only proclaimed effectively when those who preach it do so while remaining dependent upon the Holy Spirit.


We must recognise that people respond to the gospel when the Holy Spirit works through us and within their hearts- not just when we are able to articulate the gospel with great skill or charisma. And so, we can and must trust the Spirit to help us in the natural components of ministry, even as we believe for signs and wonders to follow, for the glory of


Ministry in Action

Challenge students to believe for Spirit-empowered ministry and service, as well as for supernatural signs to follow such ministry.


Help students prepare themselves spiritually for opposition from unbelievers as they proclaim their faith.


Remind students that as they convey the Word to others, people will respond to the gospel and experience the life-altering power of the Spirit.


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