By Andy Alexander
The conversion of Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24 is one among many chosen by the Holy Spirit to be recorded for all time in the inspired word of God. There are many lessons to be learned from all the conversions, but we want to notice a few important ones from the conversion of this sorcerer.
Simon was a man who practiced sorcery and he used this device to delude many people into thinking he was some great one (Acts 8:9). He was evidently very good at his trade for many people heeded him for a long time (8:10). However, when Philip came to Samaria preaching Christ and working true miracles to confirm the Lord’s message, “the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip” and “both men and women were baptized” (8:6, 12). The difference between genuine miracles and pseudo miracles was easily recognized by those who had been deluded for years and they responded in a positive way to the gospel.
Simon also witnessed the miraculous confirmation of the gospel and he believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). Jesus said in Mark 16:16 that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Simon was now a child of God having been born into the Lord’s kingdom by water and the Spirit (John 3:5).
Those who obeyed the gospel in Samaria continued with Philip as he preached the word of God. Simon was also among this number (Acts 8:13). The apostles heard about the conversions in Samaria and the text says, “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8: 14-17).
This so impressed Simon that “he offered them money, saying, `Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit”‘ (Acts 8:19). Peter then told him that he had sinned and urged him to repent and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:20-23).
What did Simon learn about the salvation of his soul from the teaching of Philip and the apostles?
Simon Learned the Purpose of Miracles
First, Simon learned the reality of genuine miracles and that these supernatural events had a purpose far greater than just the miracle itself. Simon, being a sorcerer and one that had tricked many people for years with his sorceries, was imminently qualified to discern between real and fraudulent miracles. He recognized that the signs and wonders accompanying Philip’s preaching were not cheap imitations or frauds. They were events that suspended the laws of nature. Today, many people are defrauded by would-be miracle workers. They have been deceived concerning what constitutes a real miracle and then led astray by believing that extraordinary events that cannot be readily explained are miraculous in nature. Survival from a car crash, the birth of a child, and recovery from cancer have all been pronounced miraculous by some. While we should be thankful for such happenings, these do not represent true miracles, signs, and wonders.
These type of “miracles” also do not explain the many fatal car crashes, miscarriages, or deaths due to cancer. Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18, “And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues: they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Notice that the passage reads that when they laid hands on the sick, “they shall recover” not they might re-cover. Evidence is abundant that this passage was fulfilled in the first century (Acts 3:6-7; 13:9; 28:2-5). Why is it not being fulfilled today?
Miracles existed for a specific purpose and when the purpose for which they were given was completed, then their use was no longer necessary. The purpose of these signs, wonders, and miraculous events was to confirm the gospel that was being preached throughout the world (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:3-4). In other words, their use was to prove that the gospel spoken by the apostles and disciples did indeed come from God. Therefore, those who hear should give the utmost heed.
Once the Word was confirmed, the need for miracles ended. Jude 3 states, “Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.” The faith has been delivered. Notice the past tense of the verb. It is not an ongoing process.
The writer of Hebrews says, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3-4). Again, notice the tense of the verb “was confirmed” is past tense. The word is not being confirmed (present tense), or will be con-firmed (future tense), but was confirmed (past tense).
Miracles were not given for the express purpose of healing people physically. Physical healing was only a side benefit to those who lived in the first century. Paul had a valuable companion name Trophimus whom he left behind in Miletus because he was sick (2 Tim. 4:20). Had it been God’s intent to heal all the faithful, all the time, then why did Paul not lay his hands on Trophimus and heal him? Paul definitely had the gift of healing (Acts 19:11-12).
Simon Learned That Spiritual Gifts Are
Given by the Apostles
A second lesson learned by Simon was that spiritual gifts were given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands (Acts 8:14-18). Philip, who had the ability to perform miracles was not able to pass that ability onto others. The apostles had laid their hands on Philip while he was in Jerusalem, but it was the apostles and them alone that had the power to lay their hands on Christians and impart various spiritual gifts (Acts 6:5-6; 8:17). That is the reason Peter and John went to Samaria.
We can see that when the apostles died and the last per-son on whom they had laid their hands died that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased and vanished away. That is in complete agreement with Paul’s statement to the Corinthians which reads, “Love never faileth but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 3:8-10). Paul chooses three gifts to represent all the gifts given by the Spirit and says that they will be done away with when “that which is perfect is come.” He was describing gifts that dealt with the revelation of God’s will to man. Tongues, prophecy, and miraculous knowledge all had to do with a partial revelation, but when the revelation was complete, then the partial would vanish.
The word has been completely revealed and was con-firmed as we have already seen (Jude 3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 2:3-4). James says that it is the “perfect law” of liberty (James 1:25). Also, it does not allow for any tampering by men or angels (Gal. 1:6-9). With the observations of Simon before us and the knowledge that miracles would cease, we should give heed to those things which have de-livered and confirmed by the Holy Spirit and not be deceived by would-be miracle workers of our day (Col. 2:18).
Simon Learned What To Do To Be Saved
Simon also learned what an alien sinner must do in order to be saved from his lost condition. He heard and believed the gospel and was baptized into Christ (Acts 8:13). Thus, he obeyed the command of Jesus in Mark 16:15-16 that states, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Therefore, he was saved from his sins and added by the Lord to his church (Acts 2:47).
Something interesting is also seen in what Simon was not told. He was not instructed to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and say the sinner’s prayer. He was not called to an altar and urged to pray through for forgiveness. The mourner’s bench, praying through, an altar, and the sinner’s prayer are not found in God’s word. Those who have obeyed a command to use any of these means for salvation have obeyed the voice of man and not God. Simon heard and believed the gospel and was baptized into Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Gal. 3:27).
These commands and blessings are as true today as they were in first century when Simon obeyed them (Matt. 24:35). If we will hear the gospel, believe in Jesus with all our hearts, confess our faith in him, repent of our sins, and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins, we will be saved (Rom. 10:17; 10:9-10; Acts 2:38). The Lord will then add us to his church, not some human denomination that has been built and sustained by men. We then, like Simon, must continue in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9; 1 John 2:5-6).
Simon Learned That a Child of God
Can Fall From Grace
At this point Simon learned a fourth lesson. A child of God can sin so as to be lost eternally (Acts 8:19-24). Simon continued for awhile in the doctrine of Christ, but he had sinful thoughts that caused him to fall from God’s grace (Acts 8:13; Gal. 5:4).
Simon Learned How to be Restored
Now Simon learned a fifth lesson; what an erring child of God must do to receive forgiveness. Peter told Simon, “Thy silver perish with thee, because thou hast thought to obtain the gift of God with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee. For I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:20-23). Simon was now a child of God and had access to God’s throne of grace through Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:16; 1 Tim. 2:5). He could now rightfully pray to God for forgiveness.
Simon Learned the Meaning of True Love
Simon also learned a sixth lesson. He learned what preaching the truth in love involves. It involves not only proclaiming the positive aspects of the gospel, but also the negative. When Peter recognized the condition of Simon after he sinned, Peter told him clearly that he had sinned and was in need of forgiveness (Acts 8:20-24). Peter did not sidestep his responsibility. It was Simon’s choice as to whether he would repent and pray and Peter’s love for him and the truth that demanded he inform Simon of his dire condition.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 19, p. 10-12
October 3, 1996