Verse: Acts 8:5-25 Simon the Sorcerer
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
I keep reading this passage over and over. It’s kind of a sad story. It starts out so hopefully. Here is Simon, a man who has been using sorcery, or calling on demonic powers, to perform some kind of miracles. And Philip comes to Samaria, preaching the gospel, and he is saved, along with many others. But he tries to offer money to Peter and John when he sees their power to give the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands.
I find myself trying to get to the bottom of his motivations. Did he miss the power he used to have? Is he confused about what his role is, if it’s not performing miracles? What is he bitter about? Other people receiving adulation? This story is included for a reason. What does it teach me about the character of God? That his gift is free, undeserved, and that he wants us to have it.
Can I find myself in this story?
Am I bitter? Jealous of others gifts? Unsure of my own place in the kingdom of God? Looking for accolades? Maybe. Maybe some of these, or all; depends on the day. But it does make me want to search my heart. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to show me the places that need work. Places where I am trying to earn my way to a gift that’s already free. Or allowing bitterness to take root.
Holy Spirit help us to see ourselves in this story, wherever that might be. And help us to understand more about your character through it.
Author: Emily Costa