Simon the Sorcerer
As November begins, hunters here in Texas will take to the woods. For many of us, hunting is much more than just harvesting an animal. It’s about being in the fresh air, the sun rising over a dew-covered field, birds chirping and your son or daughter beside you all adding up to make the perfect hunt. As many fellow hunters know, nature has a certain way of getting to you. When you are in the woods, you escape the troubles of your daily life and feel closer to God as you take in His wondrous creation all around you. We are drawn to the outdoors for these reasons, and as Christians we are drawn to God for the same reasons. God provides us a way of escape from our troubles through His grace and salvation. His inspired Word is designed to draw sinners to Him through salvation in His Son (Rom 1:16-17), as we are reminded that the gospel is for all.
As our text begins in Acts 8, we read that after Stephen’s death (Acts 7), a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Phillip went down to Samaria and was hunting for new souls to bring to God by proclaiming the Messiah there.
Simon the sorcerer was also in Samaria at this time, and he boasted that he was someone great (Acts 8:9-11). Many people followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with sorcery, and they exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great power of God.” But when they believed Phillip (Acts 8:12-13), 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, also, believed and was baptized.
Like Phillip, we too must go and “speak to the people all about this Life” (Acts 5:20). We do not need to add games or gimmicks to the drawing power of God’s word as Simon did. Divine truth is sufficient to draw good and honest hearts to Christ, for they will hear the Word, retain it and examine it with great eagerness (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). We must remember that Phillip and the other apostles did not perform miracles to “wow” the people, “the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:20). Jesus even warned the apostles “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Unfortunately for Simon, just like we do at times today, he was still looking to store up treasures on earth instead of in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). “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!’” (Acts 8:19-20) Peter goes on to warn Simon that he has no part in the ministry because his heart is not right with God, and he tells him, “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’re full of bitterness and captive to sin” (8:22-23).
Let us not be quick to judge Simon though, because just like he did, we too put things of this world before God. How often do we give a higher priority to our careers, schooling, personal success, and other worldly things than we do our spiritual lives? We give so much of our time devoting ourselves to daily physical things that we often leave no time for prayer, Bible reading and meditation with God. Simon realized that he had done this and repented. “Then Simon answered, ‘Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me’” (8:25).
As this year draws to a close, let us remember God’s inspired word is designed to draw not only sinners to the salvation in His Son, but those also who have chosen to obey His will. The Gospel is sufficient to the task and never ceases to amaze, but we must choose to want to grow closer to God. Let us make sure that we are hunting for ways to draw us closer to God, and when we fall short of the Glory of God let us remember to pray to the Lord, as Simon did for strength.