“Simon Wants to Buy Power”
Lesson Text:Acts 8:9-24
Background Scripture:Acts 8:2-25
Devotional Reading:1 Corinthians 1:18-24
Acts 8:9-24 (KJV)
9But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
10To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
11And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
12But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
14Now 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:
16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
24Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
Learning Fact: To show Simon’s response to the Gospel message and his following with the wrong motive.
Biblical Principle: To teach that God provides many opportunities to share the Gospel.
Daily Application: To examine and guard our relationship with the Lord.
How to Say It
People Who Would Be God
Caligula was the Roman emperor who ruled from A.D. 37 to 41. Beginning in A.D. 40, he often presented himself in public dressed as a god, demanding that people worship him. In several temples he had the head of the god-statue broken off and replaced with a likeness of his own head. Caligula was a man who wanted to be God.
Caligula was not alone. King Darius decreed that he alone was to be prayed to for 30 days (Daniel 6:6-9). Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) demanded that conquered nations revere him as a god. The fall of the human race was precipitated when Adam and Eve fell for the temptation to “be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
In this lesson we will meet one more person in this less-than-illustrious line who would be godlike. His name was Simon.
Following the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, a fierce persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem. While the apostles stayed in the Holy City, other believers scattered to cities throughout Judea and Samaria. They preached the good news of Jesus everywhere they went (see Acts 8:1-4).
Philip, one of Stephen’s original coworkers in the work of feeding needy widows (Acts 6:1-5), went to “the city of Samaria” (8:5) and began proclaiming Jesus.
Philip found surprising acceptance with the Samaritans. It was surprising because the history of bad blood between Samaritans and Jews was well known. The two peoples refused to have anything to do with each other (John 4:9). Even so, Samaritans are usually seen in a good light in the New Testament. A Samaritan woman and her townspeople accepted Jesus as “the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). The stories of the Good Samaritan and the grateful leper (Luke 10:30-37; 17:11-16) also cast Samaritans in a positive light. Only the Samaritans’ inhospitality in Luke 9:51-56 is less than admirable. As our lesson opens, crowds of people in Samaria have listened to Philip’s preaching and have rejoiced at his miracles (Acts 8:5-8).
WRONG FAITH (Acts 8:9-11)
1. Who was Simon? What was his position among the Samaritans? (Acts 8:9)
John 4:20-25 indicates that the Samaritans worship the God of Israel in their own way, and they expect the Messiah. But here we see that sorcery and superstition are also present. When people embrace such folly, they naturally leave themselves open to be exploited by charlatans. One such imposter is a certain man, called Simon.
The kind of sorcery or magic that Simon practices may involve the use of incantations, potions, and good-luck amulets. Superstitious people believe that such things will bring good fortune and can also be used to make bad things happen to enemies. Simon somehow tricks people into thinking he has access to supernatural power. In their eyes, this makes him some great one. The word translated "bewitched" in Acts 8:9 and 11 simply means "astounded, confounded."
When the people believe Simon, they are choosing the wrong object for their faith. The Old Testament forbids the practice of sorcery (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Jeremiah 27:9). Indeed, those who practice sorcery or witchcraft are to be executed (Exodus 22:18).
What Do You Think?
How can we be on the alert to the danger of being “bewitched” by an ungodly person or unholy idea today?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Genesis 3:1-5 | Proverbs 14:12; 16:25| Romans 16:18
2 Corinthians 11:14 | Colossians 2:8 | 2 Timothy 3:6
2. What were the people of Samaria saying about Simon? (vs. 10-11)
Simon has been making a tremendous impact on the people of Samaria. From the least to the greatest, they all listen eagerly to whatever he says. In so doing, they reach the wrong conclusion: They considered him "the great power of God."
We should note that the Samaritans do not credit Simon’s apparent power to a pagan god. Rather, it seems that the people of Samaria are ready to combine Simon’s sorcery with what they know about the true God. The result is a jumble of truth and error, which we call syncretism. We can also note that Barnabas and Paul are celebrated as gods in Acts 14:11-13, but they immediately reject that acclamation (14:14-18). There is no indication here. However, that Simon rejects the conclusion that he is the great power of God.
RIGHT FAITH (Acts 8:12-17)
3. How did the Samaritans respond to Philip’s preaching? (v. 12)
It was because of the magic Simon performed that he held such sway over the people of Samaria (Acts 8: 11). But the arrival of Philip changed all that. He proclaimed the “good news” (v. 12) about the divine kingdom, especially as it centered on Jesus the Messiah. As a result of Philip’s evangelistic activities, many men and women put their trust in the Messiah. They also gave evidence of their decision to believe by being baptized.
At Philip’s command, demons are cast out and the sick people are healed (Acts 8:6, 7, 13). The miraculous signs they now see are superior to anything they have seen from Simon.
Simon's sorcery was energized by Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) and was used to magnify himself, while Philip's miracles were empowered by God and were used to glorify Christ. Simon started to lose his following as the Samaritans listened to Philip's messages, believed on Jesus Christ, were born again, and were baptized.
4. How did Simon respond to Philip’s preaching? (v. 13)
Simon is also impressed with the miracles and signs that Philip performs. Even Simon can see that the miracles and signs done through Philip are genuine. Simon’s belief indicates that he knows his own miracles to be either fake or inferior. Joining many others, Simon therefore believes the gospel message and is baptized. Miracles and signs are important in confirming the truth of the gospel as it spreads in the first century (John 10:25, 38; 14:11; 20:30, 31).
What Do You Think?
How have you seen God work in ways that either created or strengthened someone’s faith?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Through God’s Word | In observing creation | In healing | In timely provision of needs
In comfort during a time of stress
APOSTLES’ REACTION (Acts 8:14-17)
5. How did the apostles in Jerusalem react to the spread the gospel? (v. 14)
Soon enough, the apostles back in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) hear about the evangelistic success in Samaria. The gospel is now spreading from Jerusalem into “all Judaea, and in Samaria” as Jesus commanded (1:8).
At the same time, a problem also presents itself. The Samaritans were known for practicing their own, corrupted form of Judaism (John 4:22). Will they now begin to practice a corrupted form of Christianity? Perhaps it is this question that motivates the apostles to send two of their number, Peter and John, from Jerusalem to Samaria to see what is happening. The apostles have the responsibility to see that the first-century church adheres to the truth (Acts 2:42).
6. What did Peter and John do when they arrived in Samaria? (vs. 15-17)
When Peter and John arrive in Samaria, they undoubtedly rejoice to see the new faith of the believers there. But they apparently also realize that something is missing. Therefore, the two apostles pray so that the people will receive the HolyGhost. They had been baptized in the name of Jesus but had not experienced the power of the HolyGhost.
Peter and John laid hands on these people and prayed for them, and they received the Spirit. It is important to see that effectiveness in ministry comes only through the power of the Spirit.
God was interested not only in the outreach of the gospel but also in the unity of the church that was being established. The giving of the Spirit assured the Samaritans equality with the Jewish believers, confirmed the ministry of Philip, and removed any questions Peter or John may have had about the Samaritan believers’ status.
MISGUIDED FAITH (Acts 8:18-24)
7. What is Simon’s purpose in trying offer money to the apostles? (vs. 18-19)
Simon the sorcerer has not given up his love for power. He wants in on the action. The wickedness of Simon's heart was fully revealed by the ministry of the two apostles. Simon wanted the “power” to lay hands and bestow the HolyGhost. He had no idea of the spiritual issues involved. He thought this was an amazing magic trick, and he wanted to be able to do it. The word for “power” means “authority.” He was trying to buy the same authority the apostles had to bestow God’s power.
Perhaps Simon sees great possibilities in being able to confer the power of the Holy Ghost on others. His importance in Samaria will be greater than ever if he can just have the same ability as the apostles. Sadly, Simon does not understand the real significance of God’s Spirit in a person’s life. All that catches his eye is the spectacle: the miracles and signs that the Holy Ghost produces.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways that people seek to misuse the power of God today? How do we help them overcome this tendency?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
For financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5) | To dominate others (Luke 22:24-26)
To call attention to themselves (Matthew 6:5) | Other
8. How did the Apostle Peter respond to Simon’s offer of money? (vs. 20-23)
Peter saw through Simon’s request. The apostle told him in no uncertain terms that since he tried to use money to acquire the “gift of God,” both he and his money should “perish.” Peter rejects Simon’s offer harshly. There have always been people who think that religion can be a means of personal gain (see Acts 19:23-27; 1 Timothy 6:5), and Simon seems to be that sort of person. His very name eventually becomes the word for the buying and selling of church offices: simony.
Next, Peter firmly told Simon that he could not have any “part nor lot” (Acts 8:21) in the evangelistic work, for he tried to bargain with the Lord and bribe His ambassadors. Peter urged Simon to abandon his evil plan and turn away from his sinful motives. If he did so, God could forgive him of his warped thinking (v. 22).
There is only one solution for Simon: he must repent. A total change of attitude is necessary. As an indication of genuine repentance, he should pray to God for forgiveness. Sin begins in the heart (see Luke 6:45).
Peter described Simon’s spiritual condition as being consumed by “bitterness” (resentment), and remained in bondage to “iniquity” (wickedness) (v. 23).
There is a lingering question as to whether Simon was a genuine believer. While verse 13 seems to indicate that he was, verses 20-23 seem to suggest that he was not. There are several possible answers to this question. Some say Simon only appeared to believe when he saw and experienced Philip’s power. Others say Peter used exaggerated terms, meaning only that Simon had sinned badly, not that he was an unbeliever. A third group maintains that Simon abandoned his faith when he tried to buy divine power.
9. Did Simon “repent” as the Apostle Peter warned him? (v. 24)
Simon's response to these severe words of warning was not at all encouraging. Simon asks Peter to pray on his behalf “that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” Was Simon more concerned about avoiding judgment than getting right with God?
The text doesn’t tell us if Simon does indeed pray for himself. Does Simon fear that his own prayer might not be sufficient? Is he truly repentant, or is he merely afraid he will perish as Peter warns? In the end, it is God, who knows the heart, who will be the judge of Simon’s fate.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Believers should use spiritual discernment to reject spiritual counterfeits. (Acts 8:9-11)
2. Believers can be used by the Lord to impact the lives of others. (vs. 12-13)
3. Effectiveness in ministry comes only through the power of the Holy Spirit. (vs. 14-17)
4. No amount of money can purchase what the Lord freely gives. (vs. 18-19)
5. Ministry is not an opportunity to make a name for ourselves but to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ. (vs. 20-24)
Being Used by God
When we come to faith in the Jesus, we must surrender our old life so that we can receive a new life. Our old sinful ways of thinking, our old attitudes and prejudices, and our old habits and lifestyles must all be given up so that God can do His work in us.
Whenever we desire to do something good in service to God, we must take care that our motives are pure!
Father, forgive us if we have sought to exploit Your kingdom selfishly. Help us to cherish the presence of Your Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Examine your heart for wrong motives.