Tom: In this our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we are in the Books of Acts:8:9: “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one. To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.” Hm. Sounds like an interesting guy.
Dave: Hm. Well, apparently he had some powers from some source - it certainly was not from God. “Bewitched them with sorceries…” In other words, these were lying signs and wonders. So it was quite appropriate that Philip would come with the real thing. I guess it would take that to convince these people.
Tom: Mm-hmm. You don’t think this was just delusions, slight-of-hand, which…some would say today, “Oh, no, there is no such thing as demonic power,” some within the church, by the way.
Dave: Yeah. Well, Tom, I can’t say for certain. It says he bewitched them, so they were deceived. So maybe it was trickery, but whatever it was it had convinced them, and they thought he was this great one. But he is going to see something that he can’t explain away.
Tom: Dave, when it says sorceries, “He used sorcery,” v. 9, “and bewitched them with sorceries.” We know the Scripture - Greek here - could relate to drugs. We know Revelation certainly indicates that - pharmacia, and some say pharmakeia, from which we get the word “pharmacy.”
Dave: Tom, I don’t know, but we do know that he had convinced these people that he had great supernatural powers and that he was some great person, and he was the great power of God - this was what it says. By what means he did this, I don’t know, but they all gave heed, and he had bewitched them with sorceries.
Now, I know that that word pharmacia is used for sorceries, but I think it also could have some application besides drugs. In other words, I don’t think he fed drugs to them. You know, I don’t know, Tom.
Tom: Well then, let’s push on, okay?
Tom: Verse 12: “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. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” Now, Dave, this gets a little bit confusing - somebody said, “See, he believes! He became a believer.” But we know from other verses - I’m thinking of John chapter 8:31,32 - it says, “And they believed on him,” talking about the Jews, but they really didn’t truly believe, did they?
Dave: Yeah, Tom, here again, it’s difficult to understand. It says, “Simon himself believed and he was baptized.” Now, but it sounds as though he believed on the basis of the miracles. Maybe that means he hadn’t really understood, you know, the doctrine that Christ died for his sins. Once again, Tom, I don’t know, but we get a further hint of that a little bit later on. But he is watching these miracles and signs with great wonder that the Lord is doing through Philip.
Tom: Dave, what do you say to the person out there that’s saying, “I’m listening to these guys, and they don’t seem to know what they’re talking about.” [Laughs]
Dave: [Laughing] Well, Tom, we’re trying to go by the Bible, and sometimes we must confess that - we don’t say this very much; this program we’ve said it a lot - but sometimes there are things that are difficult to be understood. And I would say in this case, the Bible is just telling us what happened, not giving us an analysis of the heart of Simon, but we get some hint of that in the following verses.
Tom: And we can certainly look to other verses to see if it bears upon this particular verse. So I guess that’s what I’m kind of thinking for the sake of our listeners: we’re privileged to take them through the Scriptures. We are not the end-all, be-all; we are not the final source here, and we encourage them to be Bereans, to search the Scriptures themselves, to check out what we say. But these verses - this isn’t the gospel, in effect. These are not the basis doctrines of Scripture which are very clear, and there’s no waffling around about them. But there are some things, because of the lack of information, we shouldn’t get too deeply involved in.
Dave: And there were certain things that are happening here, Tom. This is the beginning of the church in Samaria, and this was not repeated on down through history, this was a beginning, and there were some special graces from God at that time. In v. 14: “Now, when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money, Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye unto the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”
Well, you get some interesting indications there. He says, “Your money perish with you.” We see that Simon is mainly interested in miracles and these signs and wonders, which he pretended to do, I guess. He bewitched the people to deceive them. Now he would like to carry on in this miracle ministry; he has wrong motives.
I would have to say, Tom, that’s the motive of many people today: they run from one place to another pursuing signs and wonders, and there are so many young ministers who want to develop a signs and wonders ministry. That’s not what it is all about.
Now, Simon, he is willing even to pay for this. So he doesn’t understand what’s happening, and Peter says, “Your money perish with you.” Verse 21: “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.” So the heart has to be right (we talked about that earlier), and apparently his heart was not right.
Tom: Dave, can we go back to v. 12, and just get your comment on this: “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.” But then later we see that they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. How does that work?
Dave: This is one of those very difficult passages. [Laughs]
Tom: [Laughing] Boy, today is our day, Dave.
Dave: Right, today is a tough day. There are those who say, “Well, the apostles had to come to show the identification of the home church in Jerusalem, or the apostles with this.” Again, I think this was a special instance, the beginning of the church. And why God caused this to happen, I don’t know, because it certainly doesn’t happen today. “By one spirit we are all baptized into one body,” 1 Corinthians 12 tells us. I believe that a person must be born of the Spirit of God to be saved, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This just has to be a special case. I don’t know, Tom, but it’s telling us what happened, and the apostles recognized that.
You know, there were signs and wonders to let people know that this was genuine, that it was identified with the apostles themselves, and with Jesus Christ and those He had chosen, and, Tom, certainly this is not what goes on today.
Now, there are people who believe that this is what goes on today: you get saved, then they lay hands on you, and you receive the Holy Spirit. But there are enough instances in the Book of Acts where that did not happen, that that is not the norm, so this had to be a special case for some particular reason.