What’s one of the easiest ways to discredit the truth? With a false witness.
Look at Acts 16:16-18:
As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and a brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
Paul, Silas and Luke are in Philippi spreading the gospel. They’ve met a wealthy woman, Lydia, “a seller of purple goods and a worshipper of God” (Acts 16:14). When she hears Paul proclaim the gospel, the Lord opens her heart and she comes to faith in Jesus. This is pretty fantastic—she’s wealthy, influential and she’s giving it all to follow Jesus. That’s the fruit we all want to see, isn’t it?
And then we meet this slave girl. She’s got a “spirit of divination.” She’s a demon possessed fortune-teller. And she starts following Paul and his crew, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”
What’s interesting here is she’s telling the truth.
They are servants of the Most High God, and they are there to proclaim to the Philippians the way of salvation.
And what does Paul do? “Greatly annoyed”—which may be one of the greatest understatements in all Scripture—Paul turns and commands the spirit to get out. This phrase, “greatly annoyed” only appears one other time in Acts, in chapter four verse two. There it’s the priests and religious leaders in Jerusalem who are greatly annoyed.
At who? Peter and John, “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2).
(But I digress.)
So Paul sees this demon-possessed girl, who has made her owners rich with her fortune-telling abilities. She’s following them around, telling the truth about who they are… so why does this greatly annoy Paul?
Because he doesn’t want people assuming she’s one of his partners in ministry. And it’s entirely possible that this was the very reason the girl was following after them in the first place! She was known for being accurate (otherwise her owners would hardly have become wealthy, no?), and she’s there telling the truth, specifically to discredit Paul’s ministry.