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Acts #27 (chapter 8:9-24)
The Book of Acts
The First False Convert
Acts 8:9–24
 
Tonight we are at Acts 8, verse 9 where we meet a man named Simon.  Not Simon Peter, but a "certain man", Luke says, named Simon from Samaria, who was a sorcerer, a magician.
 
Now at first glance, he appears to be an incidental, maybe just a story inserted to tell us a little bit about the ministry of Philip.  But when we look more closely, we see he is actually presenting to us one of the most significant teachings of Scripture. 
 
If we keep reading in this chapter, we find Philip also encountering another man who is much more recognizable and familiar to us.  He is the Ethiopian who is converted through his encounter with Philip. 
 
Now, considered separately, they are interesting stories about two individuals who cross paths with Philip.  But considered together, they show us the two basic approaches to God.  
 
Simon, the sorcerer, shows us a faith that does not save.  The Ethiopian shows us a faith that does.  So what we really have there is a very important contrast between the nature and character of saving faith and that of a false faith.  Tonight we'll look at Simon and next time, we'll look at the Ethiopian. 
 
Let's begin by reading
 
Acts 8:9-25
 
Without backtracking too much, let's get our bearings for a moment.  The church, which began in Jerusalem and just exploded with growth in its earliest days, has now been scattered, due in large part to the murder of Stephen. 
 
But in direct fulfillment of the words of Jesus, she is now being sent out from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and the farthest reaches of the world. 
 
Philip, the main character of our story, winds up in Samaria.  And while he is there, God uses him to illustrate for us the difference between a non-saving faith and a saving faith with Simon and the Ethiopian.
 
Now to be fair, Simon looked like a true believer. We read in verse 13 that he was a believer. We find out that he was baptized and that he continued.  And that's what we would expect from a believer. He believed, he was obedient to baptism, and he continued.  It looked good on the surface.
 
In fact, Philip himself was even convinced.  There is indication of that in verse 13 where we read he "continued" with Philip.  Later on, when Peter and John show up, we discover otherwise.  But for now, everything looks good.
 
But if we follow the narrative, the Holy Spirit uses Luke to record for us four characteristics of false faith that are demonstrated by Simon. 
 
For instance, Simon has
 
 
 
1. The Wrong View of Self
 
In a word, he is egotistical and ego, pride, is a common reality that keeps men from faith that saves.  They think they’re good, they think they’re important – that was Simon.  He had far too high a view of himself. 
 
Notice what we read in
 
verse 9
 
Simon was a sorcerer.  Remember the magi who came to visit the Christ child?  It's the same word we find here.  They were magicians or star gazers.  Another word is sorcerers. 
 
That’s what the magi means.  They were the ones who, through their arts and magic, tried to discern the times and discern reality. Eventually the word came to refer to the practice of magical arts of any kind: astrologers, soothsayers, sorcerers – any pagans who dealt in incantations, charms, spells, divinations, horoscopes. 
 
And, just as magicians do today, they could pull off some amazing things through sleight of hand and deception. 
 
Now that worked well in Samaria because the Samaritan people were generally superstitious.  Remember, they are Jewish half-breeds and paganism had infiltrated and perverted the true religion of Israel.  They mixed parts of the Old Testament with superstition and magic.  ANd there was this deadly mix of rligion and magic that was very intriguing.
And here we meet in Simon, a false teacher who has infiltrated the church and he's using his powers to make an impression and gain a following.  Notice, verse 9 tells us He "astonished the people of Samaria".  He had a quite a reputation and it had all gone to his head, so much so that he went around bragging about himself and his powers.
 
verses 9-11
 
And there we find the evidence that he had the wrong view of self.  I promise you, if you think you’re someone great and you have inside connections to God and you want people to recognize how great you are, then you are a long way from the necessary humility that is required to come to true salvation. 
 
By the way, the phrase, "the great power of God" that we see in verse 11, is used by later theologians to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ.  
 
So the first thing we see here is this immediate barrier between Simon and true salvation called pride.  He likes the fact that people think of him as someone great.  He revels in the reputation of being a holy, powerful man.
 
But he problem is that pride keeps us from God.  God resists the proud.  The proud are warned about falling and destruction.  Pride is a real barrier to salvation. The proud can never come to Christ because salvation requires brokenness and humility, the very opposites of pride.
 
 
And because of this attitude of pride, we know Simon's faith was false.  Not only did he have a wrong view of self, he also had
 
2. A Wrong View of Salvation
 
verses 12-13
 
If we were to pick up the text and begin reading at that point, it all sounds so good.  But don't remove what we read in verses 9 through 11 from what we read here.  There is this fatal flaw called pride that keeps him from true salvation and that affects what we read int eh following verses.
 
No doubt, Philip is preaching the truth about how to enter the kingdom of God and people are responding by believing and being baptized.  This is Acts 1:8 being fulfilled.  And as that happens, Simon's hold on people begins to dwindle. 
 
So as he watches all of this, he realizes Philip has even more power than does he.  He watches all these miracles and signs and he is absolutely amazed.  After all, miracles and signs are his business!  That’s what he does.  But instead of the preaching of salvation causing him to humble himself and come to Christ, it causes him to become a believer because he wants in on the power.
 
After all, he's a professional deceiver.  Philip is the real deal!  No one could see that any better than he!  He knows the difference between demonic deception and the power of God. And he's impressed with the power of Philip.  It was a real power as opposed to his counterfeit power. 
And if he could get that power, then he could mix his power with that power and elevate himself even more.  To him, this power to do miracles is just a commodity to be added to his show.  So he decided to join the movement.
 
And this is a very subtle approach.  Satan always wants to join the church.  Satan always wants to talk and act like a believer.  So in Simon, for the very first time in the history of the church, we see an example of those who get baptized and join the church with the sole purpose of corrupting the faith they profess.
 
Is he there because he loves Christ?  Is he there to worship the God who can forgive sin?  No. He continues on with Philip for the reason that he sees the signs and great miracles taking place, and he is constantly amazed.  He believes.
 
But James 2 says, “The devils believe and tremble.”  He believes superficially.  He wants miracle power.  The people already see him as "the Great Power of God" and if he can just get access to some of it, he'll be set for life!  So he believes and is baptized.
 
, and he will use this power if he can gain access to it.  If he can find out how Philip does what he does, he will capture this.  This is reminiscent of areas that we are familiar with:  he believed; he was baptized.
But he was never saved. 
 
It was all an external thing to him.  He had a wrong view of self and a wrong view of salvation.  He thought that by being baptized, he’d be in; and now he could tap into the power.  And that leads me to say, thirdly, that he had
3.  A Wrong View of the Spirit
 
verses 14-17
 
So what's going on?  Well, in verse 14, we read about the amazing response to Philip’s preaching in Samaria reached Jerusalem.  Peter and John hear about what's happening and they go down to Samaria to check it out. 
 
They have three primary things on thier list.  First, they are going to assess the work and perhaps offer assistance to Philip if needed.  Second, if meeting with their approval, as apostles, they will bless the work, and thirdly, they will confer the Holy Spirit.
 
Which brings up an important point.  Peter and John come to pray for those who are being saved and baptized to receive the Holy Spirit.   You say, “Well, wait a minute.  I thought that when you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit came immediately.”  That’s true now, but it wasn't true then. 
 
Remember, the book of Acts records the transition of the early church into what it is today.  And in the beginning, the Samaritans didn't receive the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation.  Why not?  I think it was to convince the Jews they had really been saved. 
 
Remember, the Jews hated the Samaritans.  The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans.  For 500 years, they had worshipped in Mount Gerizim on their own.  The Jews in the south and the Samaritans in the north each claimed in their own way to be God’s chosen people.
There was intense rivalry between them.  Jews didn’t even go through Samaria.  It would have been very difficult for the Jews in Jerusalem and in Judea, who had come to faith in Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit, to believe that the Samaritans were in the same church and the same body with them. 
 
So these Jewish apostles to have to go down to Samaria and witness it for themselves and God designed this plan for the Holy Spirit to come through their blessing so they would be convinced of their salvation.
 
So on this day, the most trustworthy Jews in captivity, Peter and John, come down to Samaria so that everybody knows that the Holy Spirit came in the same way on the Samaritans that He did on the Jews at the Day of Pentecost. 
 
And that's what is happening there in verse 17.  These apostles began laying their hands on these believers, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit, and Simon saw what was happening, and in some way, perhaps in the same way the Spirit was manifest on the Day of Pentecost, he knows what is going on.
 
And he is anxious to get in on it that he offers to pay for the experience. 
 
verses 18-19
 
Suffice it to say, that was the wrong thing to do because at the thought of someone wanting to buy from God that which cannot be bought, Peter pounces.
 
verses 20-21
 
This is holy indignation. In fact, one commentator said, “Peter told Simon to go to hell.”
 
Now Philip didn’t see that at first, and I want to insert, I don't think it is ever wrong to give someone a chance to prove their sincerity.  God uses a lot of different kinds of people and different personalities and gifts. 
 
And I will tell you, I've been wrong about folks down through my ministry.  Some I've thought would be in it for the long haul have bailed out.  Others I thought wouldn't amount to a hill of beans have turned out to be faithful servants of God. 
 
So I'm going to give Philip some leeway in being deceived.  But Peter saw it for what it was.  In so many words, he says, “You have no part in the grace of God.  You have no part in salvation.  You have no part in Christianity.  You have no part in the church.  You are not a Christian because your heart is not right.  You can’t buy the Holy Spirit.” 
 
He had a wrong view of self, he had a wrong view of salvation, he had a wrong view of the Spirit; and, finally, he had
 
4.  A Wrong View of Sin
 
verses 22-23
 
Peter tells him to repent, turn in the opposite direction from your sin and embrace Christ.
 
He says, You are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."
 
That's very strong language.  The old KJV says, “in the gall of bitterness.”  That’s a Greek word for bile.  “You are in the bile of wickedness, and the bondage of iniquity.  You are a slave to your sin.  You must repent.”
 
So what did Simon do? 
 
verse 24
 
Was he frightened or terrified?  We don't know.  There’s no confession or acknowledgement of sin.  There’s no expression of faith in the Lord.  There’s no asking for forgiveness. 
 
It almost appears to have a hint of sarcasm or mockery as Simon says, “Why don’t you pray for me yourselves, so that what you’ve said doesn’t happen to me.”
 
Here is a man who starts out and looks so good, but ends up so horribly bad because he had the wrong view of everything.
 
Well, next week, we'll see the other side of the issue as we meet a man who got it right.
 
Let's pray.
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