Acts 8: 9-25Written by kathleen on Apr 19, 2015 in - No Comments
The Sorcerer’s Sin
9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.
Previous to Philip’s arrival, a certain Simon had practiced magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry. He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him “the Great Wizard.” He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him. They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic
Simon’s description indicates that he was some type of a magi. In the ancient world there was a class of astronomers and scientists known as magi (Matthew 2:1), but local wizards and sorcerers also took the title. They used it to prey on the ignorance and superstitions of the common people.
Remember in the Bible sorcery always has the connection with the occult and with drug taking. Whatever power Simon had, it was from Satan, not God.
The question may be — was Simon simply a clever magician? Or was he a pawn of demonic power? Whether it was magic, trickery, or demonic activity, we don’t know. But we do know that Satan used Simon to keep people away from God.
There is a lesson in this for us today and that is; we need to keep ourselves and our kids away from crystals, spirit guides,Horoscopes, and anything else that resembles the occult including books and movies that glorify demonic powers or fantasies. The fact is Satan can, empower individuals to do signs, wonders, and impressive miracles. But in the long run; he can and will only make things worse. In Exodus 7, when Pharaoh demanded a sign from Moses,
12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.
When Philip began to preach Jesus Christ and the Good News of the kingdom; suddenly, people realized there was hope, joy, removal of guilt, and a reason for living; they responded to his preaching.
This is the same hope and reason for living we have today!
Simon is convinced by Philip’s preaching and amazing miracles, to the point where he declares belief, is baptized, and became a follower of Philip and his ministry.
Interestingly enough church tradition has it that Simon went off the deep end, and became a dangerous false teacher among the early Christians and was a founder of a sect known as “Gnosticism” which believed there was a series of intellectual steps of understanding to be achieved called powers in reaching to god. John wrote his first epistle rejecting this heresy.
Simon believed, but most believe he was not a born-again believer. There is a difference! James 2:19 says that even the devils believe in God and they tremble. But they’re not saved.
Did you know you can miss heaven by eighteen inches? You can believe in your head intellectually. You can affirm the theology mentally. But if faith is not in your heart, you are in no better shape than the demons in hell.
There is not one demon who doubts the reality of hell. That is why James points out the fallacy of intellectual faith.
“Your heart must be touched,” he says. “Your faith must affect the way you live, for faith without works is dead” James 2:17
Someone may say. “I thought salvation was by faith.” It is. It’s not faith and works. It’s not faith or works. It’s faith that works.
That’s where baptism comes in; by demonstrating the faith in trusting Jesus for salvation!
Baptism is an outward sign of an inward belief of a believer as an act of demonstrating faith & obedience with a picture of being buried in the death of your old life and being raised to the new life in Christ.
14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus gave Peter and the other apostles the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:19; it was really for this purpose.
Previously there had been a separation of Jews and Samaritans and now Peter and John are officially welcoming the Samaritans who had previously been excluded from the people of God into the kingdom of God.
Obviously, according to these scriptures there was an experience with the Holy Spirit that these Samaritan believers did not know until the apostles came and ministered to them.
They laid hands on them: Often, the empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit is received as hands are laid on a person and prayer is offered for them (Acts 9:17, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6). We should always be ready to receive whatever special graces and gifts God has to give us through the laying on of hands.
We don’t know exactly how this was evident. Perhaps certain spiritual gifts were manifested described in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10.
The fact that these Christians received the Holy Spirit in what seems to be a subsequent experience to their salvation has caused much controversy; there have been different explanations offered.
#1. Some say they were never saved to begin with under Philip’s preaching. When Peter and John came, they really trusted in Jesus and then received the Holy Spirit.
#2. Some say they were really saved, and then in a subsequent experience, they received the Holy Spirit in a pattern that believers should follow today.
#3. Some say they were really saved at Philip’s preaching, yet God, in a unique move, withheld the gift of the Holy Spirit until it could be bestowed on them by Peter and John. God’s purpose in this was to ensure continuity between the church in Jerusalem and the new church in Samaria, guarding against division.
#4. . Some say they were really saved and did really receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion, but were given special gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit at the laying on of hands by Peter and John. #5. The last option seems to best explain what happened. Whatever the Samaritans experienced, it seems to have been more than the “regular” giving or indwelling of the Holy Spirit at salvation. This is a filling of the Holy Spirit we should always desire and seek as was described in Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Simon did not really desire the Holy Spirit for himself, but Essentially, Simon wanted to be “in charge” of the Holy Spirit! He regarded the Holy Spirit as a “power” he could use as he wanted instead of a Person who would rule his life. ” With the ability to impart the power of the Holy Spirit to others at his will, would give him spiritual power for manipulation or control. The sin was a desire to possess spiritual power for personal ends.
20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!
To this day, magicians buy tricks from each other, which leads one to believe Simon was operating through magic and not necessarily through demonic power.
The practice of purchasing offices of influence or recognition in the church became known as Simony, because it is done in the same spirit as this Simon.
21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
J.B.Phillips Bible translates the phrase your money perish with you like this: To hell with you and your money.
This may offensive to some, but it is an accurate translation of Peter’s discernment and his willingness to tell Simon the truth in love, though it was hard for Simon and those standing by to hear it.
24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
Peter was aware of Simon’s heart/mind was definitely poisoned by bitterness and jealousy and bound up by wickedness.
Yet Peter doesn’t attempt to cast a demon of bitterness or iniquity out of him.
Instead, Peter calls him to repentance (stop those actions and control his thought life) through prayer asking God to forgive the thoughts of his heart and fill him with righteousness.
2 Cor 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Instead of actually humbling his own heart before God, Simon asks Peter to pray he would be spared the consequences of his sin.
“Pray that my heart will be changed.” “Pray that these things won’t happen to me.” He wasn’t interested in having his life corrected. He just wanted to be protected from the consequences of his sin.
Simon felt a true conviction of the Holy Spirit, but had not yet been willing to humble his own heart before God. Peter couldn’t humble Simon’s heart for him!
Simon gave every outward evidence to being saved. He expressed a belief in the preaching of Philip and was baptized V.13.
I don’t think that Philip would have baptized Simon if he didn’t think he really wanted to follow Jesus. Simon also continued with Philip and attended meetings of the church V.18.
But when Peter says, You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God V:21, it is a pretty clear indication that Simon’s belief was superficial and his baptism was just a ceremony.
Peter had discernment to see in “Simon’s words” or “in his message” that he had shown that he had no part, portion, or idea of the message of who Jesus was and what He did to save us.
Peter also made it clear that Simon was headed to hell for that is exactly what is meant by the phrase Your money perish with you.
So many people come so close to salvation; they may be intellectually convinced of the supremacy of Jesus; they may even decide that they will adopt His ethical ideals; they may go so far as to determine that they will try and imitate His example. But these things do not make people Christians. “They may be good works; but not saving works!”
What prevented Simon from coming to a genuine belief in Jesus was probably pride. Before the coming of Philip and the gospel, Simon was an admired holy man in the region, and had been admired for a long time (Acts 8:11), so much so that people declared, This man is the great power of God (Acts 8:10).
A proud person might give an outward display of faith because it is the “right” thing to do in the eyes of others, but in the secret place of their heart, they may fail to submit to Jesus Christ.
To put pride aside and have our heart right in the sight of God we must trust in Jesus; in who He is; and what He has done to save us! This is a decision that can only be done with our heart.
It is a private transaction, something no one can do for you, but you must do with God yourself. As bad as Simon’s case was, he could still Repent! The door of repentance and getting the heart right with God was open to Simon if he would only take it.
The offer still stands today; of a right relationship with God through forgiveness provided by Jesus Christ’ sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It is available for all who are willing to humble themselves (repent) before God and ask !