Simony

The Apostle Philip’s ministry thrived in Samaria. He was doing the work of an evangelist, and he performed many signs and wonders to the amazement of numerous people. A picaresque magician by the name of Simon was one of those who stood amazed at Philip’s ministry (Acts 8:9–24).

Magic is a dark art. It serves to deceive the observer to his or her amazement. It is natural for magic to stand in contrast with miracles, signs, and wonders performed in the power of the Holy Spirit (ie. Moses vs. magicians of Egypt). The power of deception is a controlling act. The practitioner submits to the proposition, “You too shall be like God (Gen 3:5).” The people of Samaria thought Simon was someone pretty special. Simon thought so, too.

The Holy Spirit, working through Philip, gave Simon faith to believe, and he was baptized. He attached himself to the Gospel preacher whose work he genuinely admired. Someone had come to town who was truly greater than the charlatan, and the charlatan knew it. He recognized the true power of God in his midst.

Peter and John went from Jerusalem to Samaria when they heard that the Samaritans were receiving Philip’s preaching of the Word (Acts 8:14). They had been baptized in obedience to the Word, but the Holy Spirit had yet to come upon them. With prayer and the laying on of hands, the Spirit was received by the people (Acts 8:17).

We must remember that Simon was a new believer. He was hardly capable of understanding all that Christianity entailed. For him to witness the Holy Spirit’s move upon the people must have been enthralling. It also exposed his naivete regarding the things of God. He probably had watched other magicians perform acts he had never performed. In order to add a magic trick to his repertoire, he may have purchased the rights to any number of his showstoppers from his peers. Hence, his quick inclination to want to purchase the power he was witnessing. It was probably his custom and trade protocol.

The Apostle Peter issued a sharp rebuke to Simon and an explanation (Acts 8:20). The lesson principle was, “You cannot buy the gift of God.” This means you cannot purchase the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Stated another way, one cannot purchase salvation, nor can he purchase the right to bestow salvation on others.

Peter judged Simon with a degree of spiritual discernment (Acts 8:21–23). Simon was not right with God, having the gall of bitterness, and the only remedy was repentance from his bondage to sin. Although we are not privy to Simon’s status of salvation (see Acts 8:13), nor do we know what became of him in this life, we have an application to learn from Luke’s inclusion of this historical account.

You cannot serve God and mammon, and you cannot employ mammon to manipulate God. It is common, today, to see successful businesspeople/politicians/sports icons/entertainment icons occupy positions of power in the church. Their philanthropy toward the church is known to all people. The more fame and influence these people possess, the more notoriety is received by the church they attend.

Too often these people bring the world into the church. It is just another venue to gather people to venerate them. Simon the magician is the representative of what the church calls, “Simony” in his memorial. Simon serves as a bad example for the church to remember…much like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). We must heed the warning Luke issues us, and we must be on guard against sinful tendencies in ourselves. Sin is crouching at the door for all of us. When it flares, we must be quick like Simon to request prayer because sin has consequences…even today.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

June 11, 2021

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Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher