I want you to open your Bible to the 8th chapter of Acts because we’re going to look at the history of a man by the name of Simon, not Simon Peter. Simon was a common name. We’re going to look at the man Simon who was a dweller in Samaria, and we’re going to see in him an illustration that is very important and telling and far-reaching, because Simon illustrates for us the faith that does not save, the faith that does not save. Now once we’ve looked at Simon, we are then immediately going to look at a man from Ethiopia. And when we see the man from Ethiopia, we are also going to see the faith that does save.
So here in the 8th chapter of the book of Acts, we’re going to have a very important contrast between the nature and character of saving faith and that of a false faith. And we’re going to be looking in particular at verses 9 through 25 and the story of Simon. Let me read it to you.
“There was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’ And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magical arts. But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip. And as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.
“Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying hands on them and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.
“Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.’ But Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’”
Fascinating encounter. But let’s back up a little bit. This is a very important chapter in the history of the church for reasons which we noted last time because this chapter begins with the great general persecution of the early church led by a man named Saul who was in hearty agreement with the murder of Stephen; and on that very day that Stephen was murdered, crushed beneath the bloody stones, Saul led a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. It was a fierce enough persecution that believers were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria; the apostles remaining in the city. Verse 3 says, “Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
We saw how the church was born back in chapter 2. We saw how the believers on that day when the church was born were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to declare the wonderful works of God in many languages. And then the apostles began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church began to grow. On that very day, three-thousand were saved; and then more were added every day. In chapter 4, on one day, five-thousand men were added to the church.
The church began to grow by leaps and bounds. The gospel began to fill Jerusalem. They literally turn Jerusalem upside-down, if not the world upside-down with the gospel because of the massive growth the church, because of the rapid explosion of the gospel. And, particularly, the declaration that Jesus had risen from the dead, the very Jesus that the elite of Jerusalem had murdered, persecution had broke out against this exploding church. That persecution began by jailing the apostles and threatening them against preaching, threatening them that if they preached anymore, the would be beaten. They preached and they were beaten.
And then, finally, we have Stephen in chapter 7: Stephen, the first Christian preacher to die as a martyr, stoned to death; a stoning, no doubt, led by the man named Saul who started the persecution and who later became the apostle Paul. However, neither the persecution of the apostles, threats against the apostles, abuse of the apostles, or even the murder of Stephen, or the other persecution that came out of that murder could stop the church. It couldn’t stop the church.
Verse 4 of chapter 8 says, “The ones who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” And we know the apostles stayed in Jerusalem and did the very same thing. They continued to preach the Word in Jerusalem while believers scattered. This was the Holy Spirit using persecution to fulfill the promise of chapter 1 and verse 8 where our Lord had said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, even to the remotest part of the earth.” That began to be fulfilled by persecution.
I told you last week, it wasn’t that the gospel was so winsome, so popular that it expanded by its popularity; not so. It expanded through persecution. Persecution was the catalyst, and it went from Jerusalem, through Judea, and into the next area, Samaria. Samaria becomes a bridge to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles will actually be reached in chapter 10. Persecution led to preaching, as we saw last time. Preaching led to productivity, fruitful ministry in Jerusalem, in Judea, and beyond.
Now last week also, in verse 5, we were introduced to one of the early preachers who the deacon in the church, so introduced in chapter 6 by the name of Philip, not to be confused with the apostle Philip. This is a different Philip. He went down from Jerusalem because Jerusalem is high. He went down to the city of Samaria, that’s going north, and began proclaiming Christ to them.
Philip now becomes the key character. As Stephen dominated chapter 7, Philip dominates chapter 8. It is Philip who encounters Simon the magician. It is Philip who encounters the Ethiopian. It is Philip then who confronts the reality of false faith as well as the reality of true faith. Philip confronts Simon and the Ethiopian eunuch. These two stories are vital for us, in particular to show the difference between a non-saving faith and a saving faith.
And, by the way, from what I read, you could tell that Simon looked like a true believer. We read that he believed. In verse 13, he believed. We read that he was baptized and that he continued. And you might say that someone who believes and is obedient to baptism and continues to follow fits all qualifications of a true believer. He believed, he was obedient to baptism, and he continued. It looked good on the surface.
Philip himself was even convinced. Philip had no reason to be suspicious. He continued on, verse 13 says, “With Philip.” Philip didn’t really discern that this was not a true believer. That only became apparent when the apostles Peter and John showed up – and we’ll look at that in just a moment.
Now our Lord said back in Matthew 13 that there would be people who would respond initially, but would have no depth, and they would eventually die out because of not wanting to suffer tribulation, or because of the love of the world and riches. They would fruitlessly die away. He also said that the true and the false would grow together and it would be hard to tell them apart. He also said that the kingdom was like a big net thrown out that drags in all kinds of things, good, bad, and indifferent.
Simon, with all his possibility, Simon, with all that looked good, lost out on salvation. And as we look at his life and see the narrative that the Spirit of God has given us through Luke, we can see four characteristics of false faith manifest in this man, Simon. He had a wrong view of self, he had a wrong view of salvation, he had a wrong view of the Spirit, and he had a wrong view of sin. His view of self was egotistical, his view of salvation was external, his view of the Spirit was economic, and his view of sin was evasive; all wrong views. And, by the way, he is no solitary tragedy, he is simply an illustration of a tragedy that goes on all the time.
So let’s meet him and start out with the wrong view of self, a wrong view of self: egotistical you might say. This is a common reality that keeps men from faith that saves. Egotism, pride – they think they’re good, they think they’re important – that was Simon. He had far too high a view of himself. That faulty view keeps many out of heaven. Simon is introduced in verse 9.
“Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city,” the city of Samaria which, of course, is mentioned back in verse 5, “and he was astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great.” He was practicing magic, mageun in the Greek. Magic: To be skilled in the art of the magi.
You remember the magi who came to visit the Christ child? They were sorcerers; they were star gazers; they were magicians. That’s what the magi means. They were the ones who, with their arts and magic, tried to discern the times and discern reality, and understand the purposes of the divine mind. They were pseudoscientists whose superstitions basically were very influential in the Medo-Persian realm. They were like priests, but not priests of God and not priests of the true revelation of God. They were priests who didn’t know God, and who conjured up their superstitions and their magical arts.
In fact, the term magi, or magic, came eventually to refer to more than just the magi themselves, it came to refer to all practice of magical arts of any kind: astrologers, soothsayers, sorcerers – any pagans who dealt in incantations, charms, spells, divinations, horoscopes. They could pull off some amazing things, as magicians can today, by slide of hand, by deception, by trickery; and also were aided and abetted by demonic power.
The Samaritan people were generally superstitious. Now, remember, the Samaritans had long since been cut off from the true religion of Israel. When they were taken into captivity 700 years before this, they were destroyed at that point as the kingdom – they were the northern kingdom, capital city Samaria. And then they were repopulated – the Jews that were left – with pagan nations, with whom they intermarried and created a half-breed kind of nation; and they had a kind of an eclectic, syncretistic form of religion. They mixed some parts of the Old Testament with superstition and magic. They had fallen under the spell of this man, Simon, and his magical powers. So here we meet really the first false teacher to sort of infiltrate the church with his heresy. He is, for sure, the first false teacher to propagate what later became known as gnostic ideas.
Gnosticism, as sort of a philosophy of religion, didn’t really come into shape until much later than this. But the seeds of Gnosticism are already in the New Testament. They’re in some of the writings of the apostles in the New Testament, and you can see them here in Simon.
What is Gnosticism? It’s from the Greek word gnosis which means people in the know; people who have the secret knowledge; people who have the elevated knowledge; people who feel that they have ascended beyond the hoi polloi, the masses, and they somehow commune with God or gods. The Gnostics were those who are the only ones who had access to the divine secrets.
You see some of this still lingering in things like the Masonic movement. They claimed actually not only to commune with gods, but they claim to be gods, they claim deity in some form; and that’s what we find with Simon. He had been placed in Samaria by Satan to gain the confidence of the people, to keep them in bondage, to counterfeit power – literally, a satanic power – and to oppose the truth. And he applied his trade for a long time with measures of success.
In fact, verse 9 says, “He had astonished the people.” You might translate that, “He had bewitched them,” or, “He had duped them,” or, “He had put them under his spell, claiming to be someone great, a megastar in the world of sorcery and magic.” This indicates his wrong view of himself; he thought he was someone great.
Now if you think you’re someone great, if you think you’re someone who’s transcended the hoi polloi, if you think you’re an elevated person, if you think you have inside connections to the deities, you’re far from the necessary humility that is required to come to true salvation. He announced that he was a great miracle worker from God.
Notice verse 10: “And they all,” meaning the people of Samaria, “from smallest to greatest,” not size, but influence, power, prestige, “from the smallest, most insignificant people to those who were in leadership, they were giving attention to him saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’”
That is a pretty elevated accolade. Simon seems to have taught, along with the practice of magic, that sort of pseudo philosophy, which we find later developed in Gnosticism, that he was an elevated being. The idea was that God had disclosed Himself in a series of emanations, a series of descending or ascending – depending on perspective you take – emanations from himself. These emanations were called powers; and there were lower powers, and there were middle powers, and there were higher powers, descending all the way down to man, so that somewhere between man and God were these levels of divine emanation and divine power. The Samaritans were convinced by Simon himself that he was the Great Power of God, the chief of one of these powers, a very elevated emanation close to God Himself, almost a sort of god in human form.
By the way, this is precisely how the Mormons see Jesus. Jesus is not God; He is an emanation from God. He is a great power of God, elevated above man, but below God. The Mormons also believe that Satan is the same. He is the spirit brother of Jesus, who is also a created emanation. Well, Satan used this man to counterfeit divine power and hold the people captive. That’s the business Satan is in.
So the first thing we see here is that there is an immediate barrier between Simon and true salvation, and that is pride – an inordinate, bizarre pride; an elevated pride that most people wouldn’t ever have. They would never claim such identity for themselves. He saw himself as Gnostics saw themselves as an emanation from God far above everyone else. By the way, that phrase, “The Great Power of God,” is used by later theologians to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now by the way, he was no unusual person in the ancient world as if there were not more magicians. There were astrologers everywhere, soothsayers everywhere, there were magicians everywhere; and in a credulous age, they had great influence in an age without the benefit of modern science. They made a very comfortable living with their trickery and their demonic power. Many of them believed in their powers. Many of them were conscious frauds, convinced that the reality was just a show, and very adept at pulling it off. There were all kinds. Pride, however, was the barrier in the case of Simon, a real hindrance to anyone to come to Christ.
He’s a classic example. He made great claims for himself, saw himself in an elevated way, and so this cuts him off from the hope of salvation. Such pride in any form – maybe not as extreme as his – but such pride in any form is a weed springing up in every heart that literally cuts off the growth of true faith. Such pride in the heart is like a robber who conceals himself in the dark recesses of some cave and waits to seize the plunder in the darkness. This is pride. It is a robber. It robs the heart of the possibility of genuine brokenness, repentance, humility, which is necessary for salvation.
He had no sense of the fear of judgment. He had no sense of his own wretchedness, his own lowliness, his own sinfulness. It seems as though he had initially no fear of the reality of guilt and sin and the penalty that could follow. Pride dominates sinners.
In Herod, it wore the mask of conscience and beheaded John the Baptist. In the Jews, it wore the mask of tender regard for the honor of God and it killed the Son of God. In the Pharisees, it wore the mask of purity of life, when in reality they were vile and filthy inside. Pride is the deadly sin that cost Nebuchadnezzar his reason; it cost Hezekiah his kingdom; it cost Peter almost his life. It cost man Eden; it doomed Sodom. It sprang up in angels hearts; it cost them heaven. It cost Haman his life; it gave Uzziah leprosy. Pride damns men.
Job 35:12-13, “The pride of evil men: Surely God will not bear vanity.” Psalm 10:4, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God. God is not at all in his thoughts.” Psalm 12:3, “The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks proud things.” Psalm 101:5, “A proud heart will I not tolerate.” Proverbs 6: “These does the Lord hate, an abomination to Him, a proud look.”
Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Pride and arrogance and the evil way do I hate.” Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction.” Proverbs 21:4, “A high look and a proud heart are sin.” And so the sum of it is in James 4:6, “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, to the humble.”
Remember in Luke 18, the Pharisee, “I thank you that I’m not like other men, even as this publican.” And the publican is pounding his chest, not even looking up and says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And Jesus said, “That man went home justified rather than the other.” The only people who can be saved are those who are broken over their sin.
But Simon sees himself as someone great. He sees himself as the Great Power of God. This is a damning self-perception. Job 22:29 says, “When men are cast down, then shall thou say, ‘There is lifting up and He shall save the humble man.’”
Job 25:5-6, “Behold, even to the moon and it shines not. Yea, the stars are not pure in His sight; how much less man.” Even the universe, celestial bodies, are not pure in God’s eyes. They are stained with the curse. How much less man. Man needs to humble himself. Simon was proud.
Justin Martyr, one of the early church fathers, in his Apology says, “Simon was honored. He was so famous that he was honored with a statue in Rome, in Rome, and the statue said, ‘Semoni Sanco deo.’” What is that? “To Simon, Holy God.” Well you can’t get more pride than that.
In John 5:44 Jesus said this: “How can you believe who receive honor, one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God alone?”
Also according to Justin Martyr, if you look at verse 11, “They were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.” Justin Martyr writes that, “This man, Simon, was not only famous outside of Samaria so that he had a statue in Rome,” at least Justin says that, “but,” Justin Martyr says, “his birthplace was in the land of Samaria, and he had lived there all his life, and he had kept the people long under satanic bondage.”
They were duped. They followed a satanic false miracle worker. Still works today, doesn’t it? Still works. They had been long in bondage. Now Simon is extreme, but he illustrates the fact that pride, God hates.
Secondly, Simon had a wrong view of salvation; he had a wrong view of salvation. His view of salvation was external. Pick it up at verse 12: “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God in the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.”
I mean that all sounds so good. But we know there’s a fatal flaw that keeps him from true salvation, and it’s pride. Here we find out that Simon, when he was exposed to the preaching of the good news about the kingdom of God – that’s the gospel of entering the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ – the kingdom of God is the general term for the realm of salvation. Philip is preaching the gospel, telling people how to enter the kingdom of God by faith in the name of Jesus Christ. People were believing. They were being baptized, men and women alike.
So we know now that Acts 1:8 is being fulfilled. The gospel has been preached in Jerusalem Judea, and in Samaria. As this happens, Simon’s hold on people begins to dwindle and he falls in line. Even Simon believes and is baptized, continues on with Philip. And why? Because he’s watching the signs and miracles taking place and he is amazed, absolutely amazed. He is attracted to the miracle power. That’s his business; that’s what he does; that’s what he’s into. Instead of being humble, his pride causes him to follow because he wants in on that power.
He knows, as any false healer knows. false miracle worker knows, the difference between what he does and what is real. He knew that. He saw that before his eyes. He knew the difference between demonic deception, and between craft and artistic deception, which he was very accomplished at.
He was impressed with the power of Philip. It was a real power as opposed to his counterfeit power. And if he could get that power, then he could mix his power with that power and elevate himself even more. He saw this miracle power as a commodity to be added to his arsenal, so he decided to join the movement.
And this is a wily approach. This is a satanic approach. Satan always wants to join the church. Satan always wants to talk like, act like a believer, a Christian, a true preacher. So in Simon, we see the first example of one who, having been baptized in the name of Christ, enters into the church with the sole purpose of corrupting the faith he professed.
Why is he continuing? Because he loves Christ, because he is praising God for the forgiveness of sin? No. He continues on with Philip for the reason that he sees the signs and great miracles taking place, and he is constantly amazed. He believes.
But, listen, James 2 says, “The devils believe,” right, “and tremble.” He believes superficially. He wants miracle power. He came not on God’s terms, but on his terms. Salvation, to him, is a commodity to be added to his arsenal. He sees it as something external, not at all internal. He is already the Great Power of God, and he will use this power if he can gain access to it. If he can find out how Philip does what he does, he will capture this. This is reminiscent of areas that we are familiar with: he believed; he was baptized.
In Roman Catholic theology, a book written by Ludwig Ott, the Roman Catholic theologian, we read this: “Baptism confers the grace of salvation.” Really? “Baptism confers the grace of salvation.” Simon was baptized. Didn’t confer the grace of salvation on him.
In the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic said this, and I quote, “If anyone denies that by the grace our Lord Jesus Christ which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; let him be damned.” Oh. So if you say baptism doesn’t confer the grace of salvation, you are damned? Simon was baptized.
More quotes: “Baptism has the power both of eradicating sin and affecting inner sanctification.” Another quote: “Baptism affects the remission of all punishments of sin, both the eternal and the temporal.” Another quote from Ludwig Ott: “Even if it be unworthily received, valid baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark. And a final quote: “Baptism by water is necessary for all men, without exception, for salvation.”
But Simon believed; Simon was baptized. He was never saved; he received no grace. He saw salvation as an external thing. “I’ll do the ceremony. I’ll go through the right. I’ll be baptized.”
It was an external thing to him. He had a wrong view of self and a wrong view of salvation. He thought that by being baptized, he’d be in; and now he could tap into the power. And that leads me to say, thirdly, that he had a wrong view of the Spirit, a wrong view of the Spirit. He had a wrong view of himself – egotistical. He had a wrong view of salvation – external. He had a wrong view of the Spirit – economic, I guess you could say if you want an E word.
Verse 14: “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.”
Now this is a very important thing for us to understand. What is going on here? Well, in verse 14, we see the news about the marvelous response to Philip’s preaching in Samaria reached Jerusalem, okay, it reached Jerusalem. Peter and John, the leading apostles, the ones who dominate the opening chapters of the book of Acts, the ones who were together – Peter, the main preacher; John, always with him.
These two leading apostles, part of the inner circle of our Lord, were sent to inspect the work. They were going to go see if this was genuine, if it was real. The evangelization of this hybrid, quasi, semi, Gentile, schismatic people called Samaritans; was it real, was it legitimate?
Peter and John, still together, together since they were – long before when they were with Jesus, a great team. Peter was ardent; Peter was bold; Peter was zealous. John was the perfect strong-willed, faithful, loyal companion. Why did they come? To assess the work; to look at the harvest; to maybe give some help to Philip; to give the sanction of the apostles on what was going on; and, thirdly, to confer the Holy Spirit.
And this then brings up the issue, because in verse 15 it says, “They came and prayed for the people who had believed and been baptized,” the genuine believers, “that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for He had not yet fallen upon any of them. They had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
You say, “Well, wait a minute. I thought that when you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit came immediately.” That’s true now; that’s true. But the book of Acts is a historically critical time for transition; very, very important.
Why didn’t the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit at the very instant they believed as believers do now? I’ll tell you why; because the Jews needed apostolic testimony and apostolic evidence that they were to be included in the one church. Why? Because the Jews basically hated the Samaritans. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans.
For 500 years, they had worshipped in Mount Gerizim on their own. The Jews in the south and the Samaritans in the north each claimed in their own way to be God’s chosen people; there was intense rivalry between them. Jews didn’t even go through Samaria. It would have been very difficult for the Jews in Jerusalem and in Judea, who had come to faith in Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit, to believe that the Samaritans were in the one church, the one body, baptized into the one body, as 1 Corinthians 12 says.
Strife between the two, the Jews and the Samaritans, would have been perpetuated, unless the apostles came, identified the fact that they were true believers, and that they were there when the Holy Spirit came upon them, that they were thus placed by the Holy Spirit into the same body as the Jews. There was always the danger of two churches, separation. There had to be Jews present.
Now, remember, Philip was sort of a non-Judean Jew. He was a Hellenistic Jew, as were the deacons in Acts 6. Now the rest of the people are Samaritans. They need Jews there to witness this unity; and not just any Jews, but the most trustworthy witnesses, Peter and John, so that everybody knows that the Holy Spirit came in the same way on the Samaritans that He did on the Jews at the Day of Pentecost. And I believe that’s exactly what happened because verse 17 says, “These apostles began laying their hands on these believers, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit, and Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands.”
How did he see that? How did he know that? That’s invisible; the Holy Spirit is invisible. How did he know that? It’s my conviction, conviction of most Bible students, that the same manifestation that occurred at the Day of Pentecost occurred here again. What was that manifestation? The speaking in multiple languages, that there was the very same manifestation, so that they would know the same thing happened to them.
Let me show you chapter 10, verse 44. In chapter 10, the gospel goes to the Gentiles. It reaches the Gentiles. And Peter is there again.
Peter is speaking to the Gentiles in Caesarea: “Opening his mouth,” in verse 34, he preaches, and people are responding: “Everyone who believes in Him – ” verse 43 “ – receives forgiveness of sins. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers, the Jews, who came with Peter were amazed.”
Why were they amazed? Because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. I mean the Jews were very, very narrow. Go back to Jonah. They didn’t like the idea of alien people coming into their covenant, so God had to repeat the phenomena of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the apostles, not only to the Samaritans, but even when it happened at first to the Gentiles.
And look at verse 46. How did they know the Holy Spirit had come? How did these circumcised believers, Jewish believers, know this? They were hearing them speaking with languages and exalting God; and that’s exactly what they had done on the Day of Pentecost. So we can assume that that also happened in chapter 8 in Samaria, and that’s what Simon saw, that phenomenon.
If you look at chapter 19 of the book of Acts, chapter 19, here are some sort of wandering Jews this far into the book of Acts, and they’re literally followers, disciples. And Paul says to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” and they said, “Well, we haven’t even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
“Well,” he said, “into what then were you baptized?” and they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him. That is in Jesus.” “Oh. So we’re supposed to move from John to Jesus?”
These were people – look, there was no Internet. They’re floating around somewhere. They haven’t even transferred from the forerunner to the Messiah. So Paul says, “You need to believe in Jesus,” and so when they heard the gospel, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and then Paul, who is the apostle, laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began doing,” what, “speaking with languages and proclaiming the wonderful works of God.”
And there were just 12 of them. They’re sort of the last little group. The Samaritans were declared to be believers, true believers placed into the body. The Spirit comes, they have the same phenomenon as on the Day of Pentecost. The Gentiles have the same phenomena as the Spirit comes under the presence of the apostle Peter, under the presence of the apostle Paul. These sort of wandering followers of John the Baptist are also to be included in the one body, the one Spirit. That’s why the apostles had to come for the laying on of hands of these true believers in Samaria so that all would always know that they were one with the Jews in Christ; and so with the Gentiles.
Look at chapter 11 of Acts. Peter is giving his testimony about what happened when he went to Joppa, and he basically says, “The Spirit told me to go and I went,” and if you just come down to verse 15, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, upon them, in the same way, just as He did upon us at the beginning, just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you’ll be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if God gave to them, the Gentiles, the same gift He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
I mean this is Peter saying, “I would liked to have prevented the Gentiles from being one with us; I couldn’t do it.” When they heard this, they quieted down, they glorified God, and said, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” God granted it to the Gentiles also.
Chapter 15, verses 8 and 9: “And God who knows the heart testified to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their heart by faith.” That’s what Peter said.
Now go back to chapter 8. So the Holy Spirit comes when the apostles arrive in order that everyone will know the same salvation. The same Holy Spirit has created one church: Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, and a few loose followers of John the Baptist – all included. Well, “When Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money.” Hmm, he offered them money.
Isaiah 55, where the invitation has come, without price, without cost, without money. Simon wanted to buy the true Holy Spirit. What’s going on today is that false teachers are trying to sell the false spirits. They’ve inverted it. Simon says, “Give this authority to me – ” verse 19 “ – as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. I want this power; I need this power; I’ll buy it.”
You ever the word simony? You know that word? Look it up in the dictionary. This man gave us that word in English. What is simony? It is the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices. It is the buying and selling of ecclesiastical power. If you will, it is the buying and selling of indulgences. It is the buying and selling of church offices, papacies.
Simon had a very high view of himself and a very low view of God. He did not understand the glory of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t know that nothing that God has is for sell. All that He offers is free, but it’s to the broken, contrite heart, repentant and truly believing in Christ. So Simon has exposed himself on the spot and Peter pounces.
Verse 20: “But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!’” This is holy indignation. This is pretty salty, fishermen pros, by the way. One commentator said, “Peter told Simon to go to hell.”
It’s where you can go with that request: perish, apleia, destruction. He didn’t coddle that false teacher, he shot him down fast and hard. “You,” he said in verse 21, “have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.”
Philip didn’t see that at first. Peter saw it for what it is: “You have no part in the grace of God. You have no part in salvation. You have no part in Christianity. You have no part in the church. You are not a Christian because your heart is not right. Your heart is defiled. You can’t buy the Holy Spirit.” He had a wrong view of self, he had a wrong view of salvation, he had a wrong view of the Spirit; and, finally, he had a wrong view of sin.
Verse 22, Peter hit him hard, unmasked him as a wolf and false Christian, a dangerous Christian; but he called him to repent. “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intension of your heart may be forgiven you. Pray for your forgiveness; repent; turn 180 degrees. Go the exact opposite direction; renounce your sin; turn to God. Lay down your sin; lay hold of Christ. You are,” very strong language, “in the gall of bitterness.” That’s a Greek word for bile. “You are in the bile of wickedness, and the bondage of iniquity. You are a slave to your sin. You must repent.”
This is the kind of bold evangelism that the early church did, that the apostles did. Sin is a bitter, poisonous thing; it is ruinous. It has to be confronted in this way.
What did Simon do? Verse 24: “Simon answered and said,” and I think there’s even some sarcasm here, “‘Pray to the Lord for me yourselves so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’” Kind of a mockery.
Was he frightened? Was he terrified? Was he guild-ridden? Was he shaken? Was he trembling? I don’t know; I don’t know.
There are some other texts that indicate he was crying, but that is extra-biblical text. There’s no confession; there’s no self-judgment; there’s no acknowledging of sin. There’s no exhibit of confidence in the Lord; there’s no asking for forgiveness; there’s no repentance, nothing, but a kind of scornful comment, “Why don’t you pray for me yourselves, so that what you’ve said doesn’t happen to me.”
Sort of cynical statement about those who were preaching the gospel of grace and love. Here is a man who starts out and looks so good, ends up so horribly because he had the wrong view of everything.
Lord, it’s been a wonderful day to be together and to look at Your truth, Your Word, which is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The Word is so pure, so powerful, so penetrating.
I pray for those who may be here who have a superficial faith, who are looking only for the miracle power in one way or another, who may be not as extreme as Simon, but are caught up in a wrong view of themselves: proud, self-willed, self-protective, self-promoting, and don’t know what true brokenness and sorrow over sin really is. I pray, Lord, that You would convict them of sin. Show them a true picture of themselves, a true picture of salvation and the Savior, a true picture of the Holy Spirit who comes to the one who is humbled, repentant, and forgiven, a true picture of the deadliness and the damnation of sin.
Lord, we know that this is an ongoing problem. There are still people who have captured audiences, captured towns and cities with their trickery and their deception, and led them to false faith that cannot stand in judgment. Lord, we pray that You will expose the false and elevate the true preachers of Your gospel.
Thank You, again, for the insights we’ve gained out of Your Word, and we ask that it might be useful to us for Your glory we pray, in Christ’s name. Amen.
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