We are continuing on with Philip in Samaria. Reading my bible helps, they tell me that this Philip wasn’t the apostle Philip like I had said the last time. I’m no great bible scholar or historian so I will take their word for it.
Today we meet another “character” in Samaria that Philip ran across. It is “The Great Simon” who was a magician. He spent many years fooling the people with his magic. He had them convinced that what he did came from God. He himself knew the truth but he wasn’t about to share it with his audience.
Simon hears Philip’s teaching and watches the works that he is doing. Everyone is listening to Philip and believing what he is teaching. They are even committing to Philip’s teaching through the outward sign of baptism. This was one of the first things new believers did after professing belief in Jesus and asking for forgiveness from their sins. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). That was Peter’s answer on Pentecost when asked by those listening to that first sermon what they must do. The Samaritans are following those instructions too.
Simon appeared sincere in his belief and followed it with baptism too. He also followed wherever Philip went. He was blown away by the miracles he was seeing. I’m wondering what he actually thought about the miracles he was seeing. Was he always trying to figure out the “tricks” Philip used? Was he attributing the miracle to Philip or Jesus whom Philip preached about? Did he notice there was a difference between Philip and the new believers?
Word of all that was taking place in Samaria had reached the apostles in Jerusalem. They come down to check it out. I’m curious as to what they were expecting to find. Were they excited to hear that the Samaritans had believed in the same gospel they had? Were they going for the purpose of checking it out or for praying for them to receive the Holy Spirit? We know what they did once they got there but what was their intent when they left on that journey?
When they got there I’m certain they were excited! So many new brothers and sisters in the faith! Jesus didn’t exclude these people and neither would they. They prayed that the rest of Jesus’ promise and God’s presence would inhabit these brother and sisters the same as it did with their counterparts in Jerusalem. This group was technically of Jewish decent so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to welcome them into the fold.
Simon watched all the activity and paid close attention to the process. He was still trying to “peek behind the curtain.” He watched the hands so closely that he missed the heart behind it. The apostles were praying for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit out of love for them and for Jesus, not as some ritual that had to be performed to be able to check all the boxes.
We are not told that Simon received the Holy Spirit or even that the apostles prayed for him to do so. I don’t know if he was at the end of the line or if they recognized his heart’s condition even before he opened his mouth. What he witnessed though convinced him he wanted a part of this.
As the Holy Spirit was only present after the apostles’ prayers and laying on of hands, Simon assumed that they had some special talent that allowed them to perform this task. Maybe he thought it was part of their “higher ranking.” Whatever it was he wanted in on it. He thought he might purchase; after all, that’s how most magicians acquired their newest tricks. Did he want this talent so he could make money with it by offering it to others or was he planning on giving it out as freely as the apostles were?
Peter’s response was swift and strong. This was NOT for sale! Even the idea of buying God’s gifts was repugnant. I wonder what would have happened if Simon had asked that the apostles pray for him to also be able to share this gift. His money was no good! It only proved the condition of his heart.
I won’t judge Simon’s heart but the Spirit appears to have done so through Peter. “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God” (verse 20-21)… “I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (verse 23). Instead of being filled with love towards his fellow new believers Simon was jealous of Philip, Peter and John. He was no longer center stage in his region. He had been upstaged by true power. He lost his hold on the people. Could they now see him for the fraud he was?
Simon’s response tells me that Peter was right on. Simon didn’t repent of his attitude. Nor did he pray to the Lord for his own forgiveness. He asked that Peter pray for him and intercede on his behalf with God. If he really had the change of heart associated with receiving Jesus he would have asked HIS Savior himself. Outwards signs with no inward change.
The gift of sharing the Holy Spirit through laying on of hands and prayer didn’t die with the apostles but was given freely to those who believe. The Spirit is still available today to all who truly believe. This is the kind of heart God can use to do great things! Greater than Simon ever imagined.
Father God, forgive me for the times I was a Simon. Someone who put on the pretense of a changed life without the actual heart change. Thank You for getting through my exterior and taking up real residence in my life. Thank You that I can come to You when I mess up and don’t have to ask someone else to bring my needs before You. Help me be able to see the motives of the heart with those I deal with. Help me know when to stand strong and call it out and when to gently come along side and steer them to the truth they are missing. Steer me to the truth I’m missing too Lord.