- Sermon Notes
Devotion Without a Doubt
As we continue through Acts chapter 8 this morning, we will be introduced to a man in the city of Samaria who hears Phillip preach the gospel message of Jesus Christ and seems settled in his belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, but as the story goes on, his devotion and wholehearted belief in Christ come into question as his heart and desires are revealed.
The glimpse we get of his story, will bring lessons and encouragements to you and me in our lives presently. To live in such a way that our loyalty and devotion to Christ are not continually in question, but rather that we would be those whose lives are consistent with our confession of Christ as Lord and we would live with a devotion to Him that is without a doubt.
As we studied two weeks ago, Phillip had come to Samaria as the result of severe persecution. God was working it all for good however, and Phillip’s journey to Samaria was fulfillment of the fact that Jesus had said in Acts 1:8 that His people would witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!
Phillip began to preach in that city and verse 8 tells us that there was great joy in that city as a result! Next in verse 9, we are told about the man I mentioned named Simon who was well known in the city and up to this point had been misleading many. Let’s open to Acts 8 and get an understanding of the life he was living, and how we can apply his story to our lives personally.
Read: Acts 8:9-24
When Phillip first came to Samaria, Simon was one who made many claims to his personal greatness on a grand scale. But we will soon see, at least temporarily, his understanding of true greatness challenged when the people in Samaria hear the great news of Jesus Christ proclaimed powerfully by Phillip.
- Be Committed to the Claim that God is the Greatest
Acts 8:9-11, Now a man named Simon had previously been practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and all the people, from small to great, were paying attention to him, saying, “This man is the Power of God that is called Great.” And they were paying attention to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic arts.
- As we are introduced to Simon, we are given some facts about who he has been and what his life has been like.
- First, we are told that he had been practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria.
- It is important to know that Simon’s magic was not for entertainment, or to trick people. Simon was practicing an ancient form of magic, called sorcery.
- One point I want to be sure to make is that there is a difference between the magicians spoken of in the Bible, and most of the magicians or illusionists we might see in a stage act today.
- The magicians in the Bible were not generally performing card tricks they learned from a book to perform at a kid’s birthday party; rather, they gained power from demonic forces, or they were charlatans whose goal was to hit people up for money.
- Sorcery was and is strongly condemned by God.
Matthew 24:24, For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
- In the days of the early church, those who practiced this type of magic and sorcery were numerous and influential.
- They worked wonders, performed healings, and exorcisms, and practiced astrology. Their “wonders” included magic tricks, illusions of the mind, but also utilized the power of demonic forces and satan himself.
- Clearly, something was working with Simon’s sorcery, because there was power involved, but that power was not from God, or of God.
- There was power, but it was not God’s power, and this is something we must be mindful of even in our day, 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 speaks of false apostles, deceitful workers, people to disguise themselves as those who are sent by Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:15, Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
Matthew 7:15-18, Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…
- Simon seems to look good and sound good to the people, but his doctrine and description, claiming and accepting the characterization of the great power of God, is
- The term “great” is often used in conversation, to admire someone’s accomplishments or abilities. Those “great” people are held in high regard because of their skill or ability, but, when the Bible calls God “great,” it is a designation of such broad scope and supremacy that it is beyond our ability to fathom.
Psalm 145:3, Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.
Illus. The greatest…
Illus. Signs or the Savior?
Matthew 12:38-40, Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves a sign; and so no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
- In verse 12, we see Phillip, who knew the sign the people truly needed to see for salvation…
Acts 8:12-13, But when they believed Philip as he was preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were being baptized. Now even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was repeatedly amazed.
- Something changed when Phillip comes on the scene and speaks to the greatness of the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.
- The people, who had been thinking of Simon the sorcerer as something great, believed what he had to say, and proclaimed their faith publicly by being baptized.
- Even Simon, the one who was making claims about his own greatness, seems to understand what Phillip had to say and verse 13 tells us even he believed, and was baptized.
- He continued with Phillip and was repeatedly amazing at the ministry taking place.
- And at this point in the story, there seems to be no question about the direction of Simon’s life. It seems that he believed in Jesus, that he made a commitment to Him in his life. But as his story goes on there would be some doubt associated with his devotion, some question associated with stated belief and commitment to God as the greatest.
- What we will see is a hindrance in his heart, and so many, throughout history have wondered if Simon’s belief was in his head, but not in his heart.
- Make Sure Your Heart is Right in His Sight
Acts 8:14-17, 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 hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
- Here we see that the Apostles Peter and John journey from Jerusalem to Samaria when they learn that people had received the word Phillip preached.
- I find it interesting that John is there. He is the same John who had previously been to Samaria with Jesus Himself…
Luke 9:53-56, But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
- The same people who were calling on the Lord for fire to fall and consume the Samaritans, are now calling on the Lord to fill them with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
- Previously, they thought that it would be a good idea for the Samaritans to be wiped off the face of the earth, but Jesus did not agree with their assertion.
- Jesus made sure they understood his heart, that he did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them.
- Historically there was much animosity between Jews and Samaritans. Jesus had come to save, however, and from John 9 it is clear, he even drew near to Samaria so they too might be saved.
- Here, Peter and John’s hearts were in the right place, as they come to the place Phillip was preaching the word in order to confirm the work of the Lord there in Samaria and lay hands on those who had received Jesus.
- Upon the laying of the apostles’ hands, the people in Samaria received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:18-19, And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
- Keep in mind that Simon had been a sorcerer, a magician. Magicians in those days, and even magicians in our days will often pay to learn tricks. If they see a trick another magician is doing, they will try to buy it so they too can do the trick. Sometimes a great deal of money is earned from it.
- So, Simon says, “hey, I see you are able to lay hands on people and something powerful happens, I want to buy that trick from you.”
- Interestingly, it is here that Simon gave his name to the term “simony,” which throughout history has referred to the buying and selling of a church position, privilege, or ecclesiastical office.
- Nothing God gives, however, is for sale, certainly not the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing we can offer to receive spiritual blessing or salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Isaiah 55:1, You there! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat.
- Simon seems to have thought that everything, including the gift of the Spirit, could be bought with a price, but Peter was going to tell him that his heart was not right.
Acts 8:20-23, But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
- Peter says, “your money perish with you…”
- And it is there that Peter displays discernment into Simon’s situation and reveals that his heart is not right in God’s sight, and he needed to repent.
- Peter makes no false pretenses about Simon’s heart, he says “Simon, you need to repent, you need to change, you need to turn, your heart is not right in God’s sight.
- Peter doesn’t look past it, he understands the importance of a right heart in God’s sight, he tells Simon that he is poisoned by bitterness.
- And Peter says he was bound by iniquity, meaning he was held captive by sin. He had problems in his heart, there was wickedness and he needed to repent, he needed to turn from his sin, he needed to change his mind, change his heart, and turn to God so that his heart would be forgiven.
- Peter says another interesting statement in verse 21, “you have neither part nor portion in this matter…”
- That part and portion is a share in the ministry, or the gift of God, here potentially referring to salvation itself.
- Some might say, wait a minute, he believed, didn’t he? The reality is that it is possible to believe, but not be saved.
James 2:19, You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
Matthew 22:37, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
- Simon could recognize that what Phillip was preaching was real, but as his heart is revealed, it becomes clear that it is not right before God.
1 Samuel 16:7, God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
- Peter had been given insight and discernment; he was gifted with the ability to see into Simon’s heart.
- And in addition to his discernment, Peter knew the heart posture and place of one who had no part:
John 13:5-9, Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.
- Peter responded to the reality that his posture in that moment meant he would have no part with Christ…So he said, Lord, then wash every part of me clean.
- Simon answered differently.
Acts 8:24, Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
- Simon did not say, “pray that I will see the reality and change my heart!” Rather, he said, “pray that these things won’t happen to me.”
- It seems he was not interested in the way his heart before the Lord needed to be corrected, rather, his concern was that he would be protected from the consequences of his sin if they remained uncorrected.
- Simon’s response seems to reveal a lack of personal relationship and real recognition of his need for a right heart in the sight of God.
- Simon says, “pray to the Lord for me…” But we do not see Peter do what “Simon said,” because Simon needed to say it to God, and Peter said if he would pray, if he would repent, what was in his heart would be forgiven.
Illus. Ask for me.
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Simon had given indication early in his story that he was far from God as a sorcerer, then in the middle, he believed, he was baptized, but then later is seen as someone whose heart was not right with God, someone who did not have a relationship or part with God.
- As a result, scholars look at his life and suggest different destinations.
- What this should cause to pursue personally, is a life that leaves less open to interpretation, and little room for doubt.
Matthew 5:14-16, Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- In light of his story, there is a great lesson we can all learn, that is, to pursue devotion to Christ, and leave no room for doubt, to be committed to God as greatest, and make sure your heart is right in God’s sight.
- Pursue devotion without a doubt: Realize God knows all things, John 21:17, Ask Him to lead you in the everlasting way, Psalm 139:23-24.
But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but 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. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”