By Mike Willis
Among the first century conversions is the record of the gospel going into Samaria during which time a magician named Simon was led to Christ. The taking of the gospel into Samaria was the first step toward the gospel breaking out of Judaism into the whole word. The conversion of Simon was therefore accompanied by several miracles. A study of this case of conversion (Acts 8:5-24) reveals to us several things which stand out as rather important. These are some of the things which Simon the sorcerer saw when he came into contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Difference Between Bible Miracles and Counterfeits
Simon the sorcerer had been practicing his magical arts in the city of Samaria to which Philip came. The people were following him saying, “This man is the great power of God.” Yet, when Philip came to his city, Simon saw the miracles which Philip performed through the power of God. When the counterfeit miracles of Simon were placed beside the real miracles of Philip, Simon and all of Samaria saw the difference between them. Seeing the contrast caused the Samaritans to forsake Simon.
I wish that some of today’s religious people could see the difference between Bible miracles and the things which modern charlatans are pawning off as miracles. Compare some of the miracles of the New Testament with the things which we see going on today. In the New Testament, people were raised from the dead, water was turned to wine, men who had been born blind were healed, people lame from their mother’s womb were restored, etc. Today, we hear of people walking better but certainly not healed. We see persons who were dying of cancer, according to their unconfirmed reports, testifying that they are healed. We never are given the evidence to confirm the reports which are circulated. We never see the diseased organs which are healed. We never see leprosy healed, broken bones mended, deteriorated muscles restored, etc. We see charlatans duping people but no Bible miracles. How I wish that more were like Simon who saw the difference between Bible miracles and counterfeits.
That the Kingdom of God Was Established
Another thing which Simon saw when Philip preached in Samaria was that the kingdom of the Lord had been established. The record states, “But 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” (8:12). The word translated “preach” is euangelizo which means “preach the good news.” What Philip preached was good news. The good news was that the kingdom which had been prophesied for centuries had now been established. Jesus was now seated on the throne of David at the right hand of God reigning over the kingdom of God which He established.
There is a large segment of religious folks who have not seen what Simon saw. They still think that the kingdom of God has not been established. Tell me what would have been “good news” about what Philip preached concerning the kingdom of God in the event that modern premillennialism is true? According to the premillennialists, God postponed establishing the kingdom for centuries when the Jews rejected Christ. What good news is there in being told that the kingdom which was supposed to be established within a few months had been postponed for nearly two thousand years? There is no good news in such a message. The good news is that the Lord’s kingdom has been established. This is what Philip preached and is in perfect harmony with the message of Jesus Christ while He was on this earth (cf. Mk. 9:1).
When Simon heard the good news of the kingdom, he desired to enter that kingdom through the new birth. He wanted to be born of water and the Spirit in order that he might become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn. 3:5). Hence, he saw some other things than just that the kingdom was established; he saw
What Was Necessary For Salvation
Simon saw again what others never see. He saw what was required to be born again and become a part of the kingdom of God. As he gave heed to the things which were being spoken by Philip, he believed the divine message of God. Just as the Samaritans quit following Simon when they believed the gospel which Philip delivered to them, so also Simon would have been expected to quit practicing magic. Then, he was baptized as were the rest of the Samaritans (8:12-13). Hence, Simon saw that the divine plan of salvation involved man’s response to the gospel of Christ through belief, repentance and baptism.
A number of religious people today never learn that baptism is the proper response to the preaching of the gospel. They go through their entire life not seeing what Simon saw, namely, that a man must be baptized in order to be saved. Jesus Himself said, “He that believeth arid is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Simon saw this and was baptized in order to have his sins washed away by the precious blood of Christ.
That The Gifts of the Holy Spirit Were Given Through The Laying on of the Apostle’s Hands
After Simon was baptized, Peter and John came to Samaria from Jerusalem to impart the Holy Spirit to the new Christians in that area to confirm that the gospel should be preached to the Samaritans. The Apostles journeyed to Samaria to impart the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to the people converted under the preaching of Philip.
Simon saw what many today never see. He saw that the miracles were bestowed through the laying on of the apostle’s hands. That is the reason that Peter and John had to come to Samaria. Had the gifts been able to be conveyed through prayer, there would have been no need for these apostles to come to Samaria; had the gifts been able to have been obtained through the work of Philip, one who himself possessed the gifts, there would have been no need for the apostles to come to
Samaria. But, since these gifts could not be obtained in these ways, the apostles had to journey to Samaria to convey these gifts through the laying on of their hands. “Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given” (8:18).
Those who claim to have the Holy Spirit today have not seen what Simon saw. If they did see this, they would not be claiming to have these miraculous gifts today. They would recognize that since the apostles have died that there is no one qualified to impart these gifts and, consequently, that they no longer exist. Simon saw this but many today do not.
That A Child of God Can Fall From Grace
When Simon sought to purchase the ability to transfer spiritual gifts, he saw something else which many today do not see. He saw that a child of God can fall from grace. There are many who believe that once a person is saved that he can never so sin as to be eternally lost. Simon saw differently. When he sought to purchase the gift of God with money, Peter told him that he was destined to perish with his money (8:20), his heart was not right with God (8:21), and that he was in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity (8:23). These are not descriptions of a person bound for the promised land; these are the descriptions of man doomed to hell. Simon learned that a child of God could so sin as to be eternally lost.
Furthermore, he saw that a child of God does not and other have to sin two hundred times to fall from grace. One sin of which a Christian does not repent can doom his soul to hell. Simon saw this although some of my brethren do not. The one sin which Simon, the saved Christian, committed did for his soul exactly what the sin of Adam and Eve did for their respective souls. Those who hold out hope for the man who sins, telling him that one sin will not harm his soul, need to produce the scripture which so teaches.
Simon also saw what the fallen saint must do to be restored. Peter told him to “repent and pray” that the thought of his heart might be forgiven him. The child of God who has fallen from grace needs to repent and pray to have his sins forgiven. What Peter told Simon to do harmonizes perfectly with what John revealed in 1 John 1:9 — “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When Simon was told to pray to God, he was not being told to pray a prayer of thanksgiving, intercession for others, etc. He was being told to confess his sin to God and beg his forgiveness. Hence, we see that Simon saw what he had to do to be saved from the sins which a child of God commits.
Can you see as clearly as Simon did? If so, I hope that you will have the integrity of heart which he had which led him to be obedient to the Lord’s gospel. If you are not a Christian, do as Simon did-believe the gospel and be baptized. If you are a fallen saint, do as Simon did-repent and pray that the very thought of your heart might be forgiven you. There is no reason for a man to die and go to hell with the resources of God’s grace so available to him.
Truth Magazine XXII: 27, pp. 435-437
July 13, 1978