Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were do…(Acts 8:13)
It must have been heartening to Phillip, and to the new Christians of Samaria, on the day when the notable Simon the Sorcerer was converted. What a testimony!Think of what kind of impact this man will have on the community for Christ!
It was the “signs and wonders” of Phillip that got his attention, the dramatic deliverances from demonic possession, the undeniable physical healings, and of course the changed lives. He would attach himself to Phillip as a learner, and grow in his new faith.Perhaps he would be the one ministering in this power someday.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:15Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:(Acts 8:13-14)
Phillip had been teaching the new Christians about the enduement with power from on high, “a baptism in the Holy Ghost” as an equipping for the service of ministry, such as Jesus spoke of when he said ,
You shall recieve power when the Holy Ghost comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Judea, and Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.(Acts 1:8)
The new converts were eager to accept anything God had for them, so Phillip sent for two of the Lord’s own apostles, Peter and John to come to Samaria to pray for them to receive the blessing. Simon was amazed, having heard the stories of Peter and John in the preaching of the gospel by Phillip.
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.(Acts8:17-19)
As Soon as the Apostles came , Simon attached himself to them,following their ministry to the people observing every detail and inflection, amazed at the power and bearing of the servants of Christ.As the Apostles laid hands on the Samaritans, manifestations of the Holy Spirit made it evident that the Spirit had been poured out upon the new church.
Simon could contain his enthusiasm no longer, He had to have this same power! He could just see himself ministering in this power and authority! “How much money do I have to pay for this gift? Name me a price”!
Peter’s response quickly sobered him up however, for in essence Peter declared “You and your money are going to hell, you think you can buy a gift from God?”.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.(Acts 20:20-23)
Peter told Simon that his heart was not right and that he was on his way to hell. He had been “converted” and even baptised but he wasn’t right with God. Simon still had the same master passion,values, worldview and desires as he had when he was yet a sorcerer. He hadn’t changed and this episode proved it.Like So many of our healers and televangelists of today, he was merely a christianised sorcerer.
*He still had ‘respect of persons’. Before , he had accepted the title of “Great power of God”, and held forth that he was some ‘great One’. He loved the praises of men, and received the awe and accolades of the superstitious masses.
But here were even more powerful men, Phillip, Peter and John, doing things utterly amazing. He had to admit that their power was superior, he had to humble himself to them and learn. But it was still all about the praise of men to Simon.
* He still believed that Divine power was something to be put to the use of those who had obtained the ability to wield it. He wanted to buy a share of what ‘the great apostles’ Peter and John had ! He was willing to pay good money for it!
* Paganism is all about power,control and human greatness. God is depersonalized, it becomes a matter of learning “The Laws of faith”. The titles of books such as Charles Capp’s “God’s Creative Power Will Work For You”, or “The Force of Faith” by Kenneth Copeland, or “Having Faith In Your Faith” by Hagin, all point to this pagan notion of faith and power.
Pagans don’t want to deal with a personal God, certainly not the Infinite ,personal God of the Bible, who has likes, dislikes, preferences, makes moral demands, and sets the terms of life. Such a God cannot be controlled. An impersonal force, can indeed be controlled, simply by learning the ‘secret laws of the kingdom’ for a mere $29.95.
Peter , in his rebuke of the Sorcerer predicted that this was “The Gall of Bitterness, and the bond of Iniquity”. Although strange-sounding at first, it is actually a reference to something Moses predicted of Israel, that when idolatry comes in and seduces them from God,
Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;(Deuteronomy 29:18-19)
Just as Moses saw that Idolatry would become a root of bitterness to Israel, Peter could see in Simon Magnus, that false conversion, respect of persons, love of money and greatness would become a root of bitterness to the church.
The other sign that Simon wasn’t really turned to the Lord, was that when Peter warned him that his heart was not right, and that he was on the way to hell, all he was concerned with was the consequences. He had been called to repentance but wasn’t interested in Christ. Peter commanded him to pray to God himself, but Simon instead appealed to Peter as some kind of mediator, to save him from hell.
Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the LORD for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.(Acts 8:24)
The Story of Simon is a caution to all of us, a warning that not all who ‘believe and are baptised’ are really right with God, for it is a matter of “Truth in the heart” , humble turning unto God , and not Power, greatness and signs and wonders.