Read - Acts 8v9-25
Message - Scott Woodburn
We can rejoice at the extraordinary impact of the Gospel in Samaria but sadly, not everyone believed rightly. In Samaria there was a magician by the name of Simon. His abilities were so amazing that the people associated Simon's power with God Himself (v10). Where did Simon's power come from? Perhaps he was just a really talented trickster or perhaps his abilities came from a more sinister and satanic place. Regardless, he amazed the people (v11).
Then one day a preacher called Philip came to town. The people received Philip's message by faith (v12). Signs and great wonders were performed (v13) and Simon was amazed. Indeed we are told that Simon believed and was baptized and continued to follow Philip. Wonderful! Another saved man! Sadly, not quite.
Later as Simon witnesses the mighty works of the Apostles he offers them money so that he too might be able to perform mighty acts (v18-19). Peter's response is fierce. He rebukes Simon with the words "may your silver die with you" (v20), literally he says "to hell with you and your money!". Simon saw the gift of God as something to be bought and something to be used. His heart wasn't right before God (v21) and now Peter urged him to repent and if possible to be forgiven (v22).
According to Peter, Simon is still in his sinful chains (v23b) and is full of bitterness (v23a). The magician's spiritual condition is dire. He has professed faith in Christ but he is not a true believer. The Gospel was another mighty trick that Simon could perform. The Holy Spirit was "something" to used for fame and profit. Simon had heard the Gospel but he had not received it by faith.
Simon asks Peter to pray for him so that nothing of what Peter has said will come true (v24). Tragically however there is no evidence that Simon prayed for himself and repented of his sin. What are we to make of Simon the Magician? John Trapp once said "a man may go to hell with baptismal water on his face." In other words, just because a man professes Christ and is baptized, doesn't mean that such a man is truly born again.
The visible church has always been a mixed body with the wheat and the tares growing together. Brothers and sisters, we should not be surprised when there are those within our fellowship who do not truly believe. All is well for many years and then from nowhere we see a heart bound to sin and a spirit of bitterness. We are surprised by such a man's actions or such a woman's words and we weep when by their actions churches are divided. Christ warned us about such individuals. We would recognize such false Christians by their actions (Matthew 7v16).
The true Christian has been declared righteous by God Himself (justification) and is growing in Christlikeness everyday (sanctification). The true Christian knows that God is not "something" to be used for fame or fortune. Instead they have received Christ by faith and they know that Jesus is their greatest treasure. This isn't worked by magic but by the grace of God, the power of the Gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit.
Q104 What do we pray for in the fourth petition? In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray, that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.