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You can buy a lot of things in life. The rich and the powerful realize this. They are used to getting preferential treatment. Throw a big tip this direction and you get taken care of. If you get in trouble with the law it sure helps to be able to buy the best lawyers. If you need to broker a certain deal, the movers and shakers know how to get together behind closed doors and get the deal done. Sometimes some of your assets get frozen – as in the case of former Egyptian President Mubarek. That’s a problem. Don’t feel sorry for him — it looks like he still has plenty left.

But we all know that the most important things in life cannot be bought. God is no respecter of persons in terms of showing partiality and He has designed the world so that in certain respects one’s money and influence don’t make a difference. We think of health; of various trials; of relationships — especially of one’s spiritual relationship to God and His power and blessing and favor.

Today we are going to study the case of one of the most famous religious charlatans of all time – Simon Magus (meaning the great in Latin, or the Magician in Greek) – we call him Simon the Sorcerer. We don’t use the term sorcery very much – it refers to the use of power gained from the assistance of evil spirits. So we are going to see that Simon can do some magical feats – but the power comes from the demonic world. He is not bashful about trying to advance his standing and influence. He is very ambitious – especially where fame and fortune are involved. In fact his very name Simon has come over to the English language as simony to mean the buying of church office or some type of religious favor. He attempts to use his money and influence to buy spiritual power from the apostles.

There are plenty of religious charlatans attempting to merchandize the gospel today. They are all over the TV and radio airwaves. Surprisingly, they seem to have no trouble attracting a huge following. They promise great blessings and harvest incredible sums of money from the naïve and the deceived. But where they stumble is in their failure to connect with the genuine power of God.




Gospel ministry is all about reproduction: one convert tells all of their family and friends and contacts and then the spiritual power just mushrooms; like multi-level marketing without any money involved – The great power of this principle of reproduction is that it is distributed – not centralized around one personality figure

A. (:4-5) Green Field — New Frontier for the Proclamation of Jesus Christ = Samaria

“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.”

1. Scattered to accomplish God’s kingdom purposes

Transition from last week’s message: Persecution sharpens our focus on the glory of God (martyrdom of Stephen) and flames the fanaticism of ungodly extremists (emergence of Saul)

2. Sense of mission: preaching the Word / proclaiming Christ

This should be our major focus; cannot deviate from this or try to substitute some other methodology; involves an authoritative presentation of truth; no moral relativism here or many paths lead to God or let’s just share our uninformed imaginations about religion

You cannot truly preach the Word without proclaiming Christ; you cannot accurately and powerfully proclaim Christ without preaching the Word

Bock: The imperfect verb ekeryssen, began proclaiming, probably has an ingressive force, pointing to Philip’s entry into his mission.

3. Spiritual Giftedness of Philip the Evangelist — title in 21:8-9 (Magnificent Seven)

Not the apostle; they had remained in Jerusalem (8:1); but one of the seven chosen by the Jerusalem church to provide practical care for the widows; good one to follow after Stephen – his four virgin daughters referred to as prophetesses; owned a house; able to offer hospitality to others – did a lot more than distribute food

Note how the outline of Acts revolves around 2 key factors:

– geographical spread of the gospel;

– highlighting key players

Longenecker: It is not too difficult to imagine what would have happened had the apostles at Jerusalem first been the missionaries to Samaria. Probably they would have been rebuffed, just as they were rebuffed earlier in their travels with Jesus when the Samaritans associated them with the city of Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51-56). But God in his providence used as their evangelist the Hellenist Philip, who shared their fate (though for different reasons) of being rejected at Jerusalem; and the Samaritans received him and accepted his message.

4. Significance of region of Samaria

Kent: Jesus had once spent two days at Sychar, just seven miles away (John 4:40). Philip’s preaching to the Samaritans indicated a growing awareness in the church that the gospel was intended for others than Jews only. The Samaritans were greatly despised by the Jews because of their impure blood lines and their religious deviations from orthodox Judaism. Following the fall of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C, the largely depopulated region was resettled by colonists brought in by the Assyrians from various parts of their empire (II Kings 17:24). They intermarried with the Jews who had been left behind and the “Samaritans” were their descendants. The rebuilding of the temple and the walls at Jerusalem brought opposition from the Samaritans, and eventually a rival temple was built on Mt. Gerizim. Ever since, the Jews had “no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9), and the feeling was reciprocated. Thus for Philip to share his faith with the Samaritans was a most uncommon act.

Constable: The Samaritans accepted only the Pentateuch as authoritative and looked for a personal Messiah who would be like Moses.

Cole: When Jesus sent out the twelve, He gave them orders not to go into the cities of Samaria

(Matt. 10:5), which was probably just fine with them. But in Acts 1:8, He lifted that restriction. .

The point for us is twofold: First, God wants to reach all people, even those whom we may not naturally like. . . Second, while we may need to be sensitive to certain cultural differences, we don’t change the message to fit different cultures.

– No Prejudice

– No Compromise

B. (:6-7) Glorious Results – very impressive

“And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.”

– The truth gets people’s attention – has the ring of reality to it; tone of authority; makes sense; consistency to the message; all hangs together; touches me where I live

– Especially when accompanied by powerful signs and healings; changed lives; people were impacted at the point of their suffering; delivered from bondage

C. (:8) Great Joy – contrasted with climate of persecution in Jerusalem

“And there was much rejoicing in that city.”

Joy should characterize our Christian fellowship; when someone becomes a new Christian it is an occasion of great joy for them personally, for the one witnessing to them and for the church as a whole

– Once I was lost but now I am found

– Once I was blind but now I can see

– Once I was in bondage but now I am free



A. (:9-11) Counterfeit Exploitation by Simon the Magician

“Now there was a certain 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 magic arts.”

Type of magic: not sleight of hand magic tricks but using the power of Satan and his demons to keep men in spiritual bondage while impressing them with miracle-type counterfeits

Key Differentiator in evaluating spiritual ministries – distinguishing the genuine from the counterfeit: Very simple litmus test:

– “claiming to be someone great” called “the Great Power of God” vs

“He must increase but I must decrease”

– Seeking attention and popularity and recognition vs

Pointing people to Jesus Christ and His sufficiency

– Making people dependent on your ministry vs

Making people dependent on Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit

– Gathering a following to himself; exercising counterfeit power

Stedman: All false faith exalts personalities, makes much over men. It involves the inflation of an individual, usually by self-aggrandizement. These individuals are always egocentric, always pointing to themselves, exalting themselves, and using religious terminology to make a great deal over themselves. That is the quality of counterfeit Christianity. Genuine Christianity makes nothing of the individual. “We preach not ourselves,” says the Apostle Paul, “but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves your servants, for Jesus’ sake,” {cf, 2 Cor 4:5}. But here we have a man who exalts himself.

Barclay: There were many astrologers and soothsayers and magicians, and in a credulous age they had a great influence and made a comfortable living. There is little to be surprised at in that when even the twentieth century has not risen above fortune-telling and astrology, as almost any popular newspaper or magazine can witness. It is not to be thought that Simon and his fellow-practitioners were all conscious frauds. Many of them had deluded themselves before they deluded others and believed in their own powers.

MacArthur: Simon had used his sorcery to capture the minds of these people. The word bewitched means astonish them or dupe them or brought them under his control. He had actually captured these people. Now mark this down, these sorceries actually happened. He actually did supernatural things and it’s still being done today. These things were really being pulled off and because of them people’s minds were being captured to the control of Simon. And he announced to everybody that he was some great one, some great power of God.

Look at America’s fascination with astrology … with fortune telling . . . interest in the occult … look at the movies that claim to be entertainment and go places and delve into things that we need to steer clear of. The devil’s world is a dangerous place – we wrestle “against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” Ephes. 6:12

Illustration: Séance first week at college

Anti-Christ will come and impress the world – counterfeit wonders

B. (:12-13) Genuine Power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

1. (:12) Many Genuine Converts

“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.”

– Faith alone – no works involved in salvation; by faith alone, by grace alone

Philip reaping the harvest that Christ had talked about in John 4

Cole: “The good news about kingdom of God” does not just refer to the future millennial kingdom, when Jesus will literally reign on earth. The kingdom of God is the realm where God is King. Thus it refers both to the millennium and to the rightful lordship of Jesus over all creation, especially over the hearts of people right now.

MacArthur: There are times when people are ready; the Spirit of God has done the pre-evangelism for you. In the case of the Samaritans, they knew enough that all they needed to hear was that the Messiah was here and then whatever went from there. But in our case in dealing with a pagan world, I think we need to be ready to teach people the Word of God, to be able to teach them who God is, what man is, God’s plan for the ages. All of these things are basic before Christ makes any sense

– Focus is not on Philip but on the kingdom of God and the person and character of Jesus Christ

– Follow thru of Baptism — not infant baptism – baptism always associated with belief in the good news

2. (:13) One Wannabe Convert

“And 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.”

Stott: New Testament language does not always distinguish between believing and professing to believe.

Boice: Peter employs the same words Jesus used for him when Peter had objected to Jesus’ washing his feet in the Upper Room. Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). Strong words. Still Peter was not an unbeliever; he was just out of the will of God. So I say that it is possible, just possible, that Simon was a believer. Nevertheless, this seems rather to be a case of one who had been exposed to strong preaching, was impressed by the miracles, and wanted to tap into the evident blessings of the gospel, but who did not have that genuine change of heart that would have meant that he was born again. We can apply the story either way.

Wiersbe: His faith was like that of the people of Jerusalem who witnessed our Lord’s miracles (John 2:23-25).

Bock: The evangelist has greater power than the magician. Jervell points out the parallel to Moses’s power, which is greater than that of Pharaoh’s magicians. Is the attachment Simon has to Philip a sincere attachment to the gift of God or a quest to enhance his personal power? The next part of the event will elaborate that question.

Morgan: Men may come very near, they may be intellectually convinced of the supremacy of Jesus; they may even decide that they will adopt His ethical ideal; they may go so far as to determine that they will imitate the perfection of His example. But these things do not make men Christians.

Remember: John the Baptist had pretenders coming to him for baptism as well; there will always be false professors of faith


God is the one who sovereignly gives the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts

Role of the Apostles – verification / identification / unity of body of Christ

A. (:14-17) Transitional Process in Receiving the Holy Spirit vs.

What is Normative for Church Age

“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.”

Significance of sending John – at one time he had wanted to call down fire upon the Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56)

Stott: received the word of God – This is more than a matter-of-fact statement; it seems to be almost a technical expression by which Luke signals an important new stage in the advance of the gospel. He has used it in reference to the Day of Pentecost when three thousand Jews “accepted his [Peter’s] message” (2:41). He uses it here of the first Samaritans who “accepted the word of God”. And he will use it again after the conversion of Cornelius, when the apostles heard that “the Gentiles also had received the word of God” (11:1). Further, in all three developments Peter played a decisive role, using the keys of the kingdom (though Luke does not refer to this) to open it successively to Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles.

Kent: Even Peter and John did not question their faith, for they preached nothing further to them. Hence it must not have been the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit which was lacking, but the external manifestations which accompanied the Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost. This was a period of transition from the OT dispensation to the NT era, and these believers at Samaria were in a position similar to the believers at Jerusalem prior to Pentecost. . .

The schism which had plagued the Jews and Samaritans would doubtless have been carried over into the church, unless some method should be devised to preserve the unity of the church.

Bock: These are the only three places the Spirit is bestowed through the laying on of hands (19:6; 9:17). Each is a case where doubts might exist about the experience’s authenticity. It is an exceptional activity, as there are many places where people believe, and the laying on of hands is not described. Acts 2:38-39 declares the normative pattern. Marshall notes that on other occasions joy accompanies the Spirit not charismatic experience (13:52; 16:34; 1 Thess. 1:6).

Different ministries of the Holy Spirit; these people had been regenerated, but they had not yet experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit into the one body of Christ and the giving of the spiritual gifts — Stedman

B. (:18-19) Transparent Power Play – Trying to Exchange Money for Power

“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.’”

Constable: By his request Simon had revealed that he hoped he could buy God’s gifts, namely, the Holy Spirit and the ability to impart the Holy Spirit to others. Peter corrected him harshly. God’s gifts are gifts; people cannot purchase them because God gives them freely and sovereignly. Simon had much to learn about the grace of God. Peter told him God would not grant the ability he sought because his heart was not right with God. Simon wanted to be able to bring glory to himself rather than to God.

MacArthur: Now, when Simon saw this, I suppose his attitude was, “If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.” He was impressed by Philip’s preaching, and he wanted that power so that he could hold the people. If Philip had a power that surpassed his, he wanted that power. And so we see he had a wrong view of supernatural power. He saw supernatural power as a way to fulfill his own ambition, rather than as a way to transform his sinful life. And he sought Christ for his own gain and his own good and his own purposes


A. (:20-21) Condemnation: Spiritual Power is Not for Sale – Check Your Motives

“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.’”

Stott: Ever since that day, the attempt to turn the spiritual into the commercial, to traffic in the things of God, and especially to purchase ecclesiastical office, has been termed “simony.”

Cf. practice of buying indulgences to get out of time in purgatory

Cole: Peter’s rebuke of Simon was not seeker-sensitive! The literal Greek is, “May your silver and you go to hell!”

Illustration: Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, preached to huge audiences in England. One of his contemporaries in the world of entertainment was P. T. Barnum – the prominent circus campaigner. Barnum was always looking for another promotion to draw a crowd and bring more money into his pockets. He heard about Spurgeon and the great crowds coming out to hear him…he sent him a telegram with an offer of a large sum of money to come and preach in his circus tents. [Barnum figured that he would make a huge sum off the increased admissions money ] Spurgeon sent a short reply: Dear Mr. Barnum, you’ll find my answer in Acts 8:20.

B. (:22-23) Command: Seek Forgiveness

“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.”

Kent: OT terminology descriptive of most serious offenses (Deut. 29:18, 20).

MacArthur: He’s no Christian. God saw his defiled heart and Peter could see it, too. His faith could not save. He had a wrong view of self. He had a wrong view of salvation. He had a wrong view of the Spirit. And then, fourthly, he had a wrong view of sin.

Still an opportunity for Simon to become a genuine believer; key is repentance; but his response was pathetic

C. (:24) Cry for Absolution: Pray for Me

“But Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’”

Boice: he was not being pious at all but rather disobedient. His words were what we could call in colloquial English “a cop-out.” He was refusing to do what he had been told he should do and was passing the buck to Peter. Do you do that? Do you pass the buck for your spiritual growth to other people?

Kent: The consistent testimony of church tradition associates Simon Magus with heresy. Justin Martyr, who lived about 100 years later in Samaria, said Simon became a Gnostic.


Are we playing our role in multiplying spiritual power through our proclamation of Jesus Christ? Are we preaching the Word and witnessing to others in the place where God has planted us?

Are we discerning to recognize those who are attempting to mimic spiritual power without submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Are we exposing these frauds and warning others? Are we pointing others to dependency on Jesus Christ rather than seeking a name for ourselves?

Do we understand the transitional nature of these events in the early church or are we confused about how God ministers spiritual power and sovereignly gives the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts today at the time of conversion so that there is no Second Blessing of subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Do we stand with the apostles in condemning any type of merchandising of spiritual power?