8 Jan 2011

Simon the sorcerer

Submitted by theshovel
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hi, what do u think abt Simon? It looks like he really believed the gospel and became a christian... But why r apostles telling him like he will go hell even if he believes? and why do they say that God will only MAYBE forgive him, even if he repents of his sins? GBU! :) Peter

Peter sent this to me, but I was unable to get my response back to him because of a bad email address. I hope he checks back and finds this here.

Hello Peter! How are you today? :) Oh yeah, good old Simon, the sorcerer. Let's take a look at the script:

Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 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 constantly amazed. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone 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 no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. Acts 8:9-25 (NASB77)

I don't see any reference to hell or afterlife destination in Peter's statement to Simon, do you? Nor can I assume anything beyond the plain statement "that even Simon himself believed" Phillip. But consider what's behind this whole situation. When we look back and try to fit the words of the apostles into our modern patterns of thinking, we often overlook the critical connection between believing the gospel and receiving the Spirit of God. I'm not suggesting that we don't receive the Spirit at faith in Christ at this time, but at least in the early years this connection did not necessarily happen automatically. You see, this was the time when God established the apostles as the official carriers of the good news of Christ to the world.

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. Hebrews 2:1-4 (NASB77)

This confirmation of the message of Christ through the apostles stands behind all the instances we read about where people who believed did not yet receive the Spirit. Not only did God want it understood that the message itself was valid, but that the miracle of the Spirit was intimately connected to the good news message as preach by those who had been with and heard Jesus. Anyhow regarding Simon and the other Samaritans, their believing of the message of Christ that Phillip preached happened during this time, and this created a kind of vacuum to their completeness in Christ. Why? Because they had not yet received God's spirit. The life was not yet in them. Although we may feel a sense of insecurity, everything was under control by God. This also makes it clear that faith is not the power of our salvation, merely the accompanying reality of those who receive the Spirit. For God works by grace through faith. This all means that Simon and the other Samaritans did not yet have the life of Christ but were in a place of transition. As Simon observed the miraculous working of God by which those ahead of him were receiving the Spirit when the apostles put their hands upon them, he likened it to his practice of the magic arts, especially as he held much sway with the people. His mind must have been spinning with the possibilities as to how he could keep his former importance in the community by becoming one of the leaders of this new magic. But also imagine how the people who had been astonished by him may have later assumed that he would be one of the prime candidates for leadership among them because of his past work in the field of the metaphysical. Consider how God specifically worked this event to the good of all who were present at the time (including Simon). I mean, even down to the positioning of allowing Simon to observe what he couldn't help but perceive as magic. After all, what if Simon had been the first in line? I have to wonder if Peter may have purposely held him back in order to force the issue. Or it could have been Simon himself who wanted to observe. Either way, things worked out so that everyone present would be given the perfect real-life scenario by which the magic of Simon was contrasted with the miracle of Christ. You see, Simon's otherworldly magic could be bought and sold, but the gift of God could not. Simon's perceived spirituality was declared in the presence of all as being nothing more than a fleshly guise that covered his bitterness and bondage to his evil practices. Immediately at the hearing of Peter's proclamation, Simon came to his senses. Realize what it was for Simon to appeal to Peter to ask God on his behalf. Up until that moment, he was imagining himself as on a similar level with the apostles. After all, he assumed that they might share some trade secrets with him in exchange for money. Simon had to recognize that the gift of God had no absolutely nothing in common with his former magic that was actually based in the elemental world. Peter's statement to Simon did not present a hopefully-maybe kind of possibility, as it often seems according to many of our translations. He instead put forth the reality that God's gift could not be bought. In begging Peter to pray for him, Simon declared his recognition to everybody that the authority of the apostles superseded any position his former practice gave him among them. As to why some translations insist on saying "perhaps" or "if possible", I don't know. Here's the word in question:

NOTES FROM THE NASB: ara; a prim. particle; therefore (an illative particle):– NASB usage: fact(1), perhaps(2), possible(1), so(4), so then(12), then(22), therefore(3), well then(1).

NOTES FROM THE KJV: ara; a particle denoting an inference more or less decisive (as follows) {Often used in connection with other particles, especially G1065 or G3767 (after) or G1487 (before)} [probably from G142 (through the idea of drawing a conclusion)] KJV: haply, (what) manner (of man), no doubt, perhaps, so be, then, therefore, truly, wherefore

I mean, look at the other possible translations of that word: fact, so, so then, then, therefore, well then, no doubt, so be, truly, wherefore. Even if it was a sense of "perhaps" that Peter meant to convey, it would have been to establish the need for the gift of God to be regarded as totally apart from Simon past magic and money. For as it worked out, Simon threw himself at the mercy of those who declared the true God, and the intention of his heart had been forgiven him. However, I think the better sense of that word in the statement appeals to the definite connection that would "no doubt" come about through the true God as preached by the apostles. It is more a therefore or truly relationship that Peter declared, even if it may have sounded to Simon as being a possibility. Maybe the translators used the sense of maybe-possibly because that is how it comes across to them. I hope to hear back from you, Peter. :) Jim

New Testament: 


Well written … thank you for the explanation.

[previous comment by Nergo]

Jim, Thanks for posting this. Also, thanks for diggin into the letter of Acts. I had been wondering why in the book of Acts Peter[and Paul]seemed TO want to place a ritual of baptism on the ones who received the spirit? I guess it is easy to think that they might have assumed that was what God wanted at the time especially since there awareness was still growing but, I wonder if this baptism was simply something they thought was what a ‘gentile’ needed upon believing?
theshovel's picture

I don't think the apostles saw water baptism as any kind of a ritual needed for Gentiles. Don't forget how it played a role in revealing Christ to the nation of Israel.

The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34 (NASB77)

Because water is the universal solvent, it obviously pictured cleansing in the ritual of water baptism. While it was connected to cleansing of sin in his ministry, it is important to note how John explained that the reason God sent him to baptize in water was to manifest, or reveal, Jesus Christ to Israel. I'm pretty sure water baptism became something anticipated by those who found freedom and forgiveness of sins in Christ. Jim

Hello my dear brother, Based on what you rote, I am not sure I am understanding what you are getting at. I DO see the baptizing of John as something ritualistic and of the coming reality.[the Baptism of the Holy Spirit]However what I am not understanding is what or how ritualistic water pouring was any different than continuing to have men circumcised after receiving the circumcision of the heart?[which we KNOW Paul would have not been preaching] When Philip baptized the Ethiopian[who had no clue about baptism seemingly] or Paul or Peter baptized men[in ACTS] and often referred to it as seemingly essential, it seems to contradict what Paul later says in his epistles? As a matter of fact, If I remember correctly I think the household of Cornelius[who was not a Jew] that sought out Paul[according to a dream] to give him his sight back, were baptized too. I don’t see a testimony to Jews[Israel] in that. At least not directly. I wonder why they felt any need to ‘picture’ something that was REAL? To me, from my vantage point[which is so ever expanding! lol], it would be no different than saying ‘let’s go get our four-skin removed so we can testify to our being circumcised by the Spirit’. For it IS a ritual. The phrasing by Peter also makes it sound very necessary as well. I wonder do you see any significant event that released the Apostles[including Paul] from the urgings to be water baptized? Was there something that later came about that I might be missing? Or am I just off in directions based on an unrelated premise? I can do that, and do it alot you know!! lol arguing it WITH you my friend, Love, Adam PS: I realize it IS possible that the random new believers in the ACTS that were not Jews may have HEARD of the things to come by practicing the Law, but I just don’t know if that even matters in the over all picture or not.
theshovel's picture

[quote=Adam]However what I am not understanding is what or how ritualistic water pouring was any different than continuing to have men circumcised after receiving the circumcision of the heart?[which we KNOW Paul would have not been preaching][/quote] Rituals fill life in any culture, some more than others. A ritual, even though it brings with it the possibility of misunderstanding, is not a bad thing. Circumcision, despite how we have come to see it, became embedded in the very culture of Israel as the testimony to God's covenant with them. As I understand it, no Israelite would have argued with another as to whether to circumcise his son, for there was no question in their minds. That's just what they did. Paul himself baptized a few people, and he also had Timothy circumcised.

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. Acts 16:1-3 (NASB)

While many assume this conflicts with his claim that he did not preach circumcision, the whole matter was so rooted in the Jewish culture that it only served in his ministry to the people of his Jewish heritage. It wouldn't have come across as any kind of requirement to the Gentiles, as it simply did not apply to them. On top of that, Paul made his gospel known as having nothing to do with a fleshly circumcision. You mentioned Philip and the Ethiopian. Why do you assume that he knew nothing about baptism when it seems that he was the one who initiated the subject by his request? Remember, the Ethiopian was returning from worshiping in Jerusalem, and he was reading from the book of Isaiah at the time. He was probably a proselyte to the Jewish religion. I think he was quite familiar with John the baptizer, as well as the baptism of those Jews who followed Christ. Actually, the man God used to seek out Saul was Ananias:

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened.  Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,  Acts 9:10-19 (NASB)

As I read it, there is a simple statement made that Saul got up and was baptized after he received his sight. Once again, I see the ritual regarded as a statement, held in great anticipation by those who came to faith in Christ. It seems they couldn't wait to make it known to the community that the blindness had been broken down. Jim

Hi Jim, Yes Ananias not Cornelius. Wrong name. My point was and is, if it’s NOT about water and all about the baptism of the Spirit as Peter later said in his Epistle, then why the ritual? I guess to that you are saying :”why not?” That’s cool. That all aside, I am encouraged that when I read the Bible I get the clear message that the Holy Spirit does not care[nor wait for] about water as much as we/they do/did. For He made His move without it. Love, Adam

Interestingly enough though some had no community around to make it known to when being baptized with water. Like in the case of the Ethiopian and some others as I vaguely remember. It is a mystery to me as to why they began baptizing with water at that time and then later Paul and Peter put it into it’s living perspective in there letters.
theshovel's picture

Don't overlook the fact that if someone is there to perform the ritual, someone is there to make it known to. LOL! Besides, regarding the Ethiopian man, I don't think that such a man would have been travelling alone.

So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud. Acts 8:27-28, HCSB

Also consider how a primitive ritual, one which they joyful partook of, provided such an incredible insight for Peter and Paul to rightly declare. While we are a society of words, photos, and book knowledge, I am sure that our intellectually based viewpoints would be mostly meaningless to people who related life more in terms of nature and rituals. After all, consider the image of baptism:

Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. Romans 6:3-5, HCSB

At its beginning, the ritual of baptism that accompanied faith in Christ not only pictured their being joined to Christ in his death and resurrection - and not just as an afterthought to be later revealed - but was partaken of in full realization as an identification with him. Paul took that universally regarded perception in order to drive home the amazing ramifications of what that identification really meant. In other words, he declared just how far being joined in both death and life was to be understood in Christ.

Jim :)

Thank goodness that their sense of ritual early on did not compel them to choose circumcision[ouch!! lol] in most cases to ‘prove’ or testify to the circumcision of the heart that had come about in the removal of the fleshly man into the kingdom of Heaven. Geez, for that matter according to rituals , Paul would have been also putting up requirements by stating in Romans that one must ‘confess with their MOUTH’ that Jesus raised from the dead in order to be saved. You know, as I think about it. Things like these are what lead me to be ‘ok’ with the idea that we COULD see outwardly just what Christ had done in an individual person all those years. It was the outward oriented proclamations that these men made[for whatever reason they had] that made me think that it must be ok with God to look on the outside and judge all sorts of things about man and his mark. It played into the idea that we could do this or that and join this and that in order to be saved. It all ran it’s course in my mind and eventually just served to occupy a pocket of confusion for me. For some how I knew salvation had to be better, more. Yet, I was grieved that a perfectly riteous son of God full of His power in me COULD be confused? Even that God would allow it. Especially when those same brothers of ours in the faith testified to the fact that God is and was NOT a God confusion. Just some thoughts I wanted to express… Love, Adam

i want to thank peter for asking the question, and i want to thank you, james for the wonderful, encouraging, full of hope answer!  :) it was/is awesome!  :) i LOVE it!  :) thank you again, both of you!  :) sherri

This quote from me was posted anonymously by a reader

...Consider the whole letter Paul wrote to the Roman believers. Everything he wrote was a testimony of life instead of legality. His arguments make it clear that salvation is solely the work of God through Christ, which is why it must be by faith so that it could be by grace. For someone to argue that a ritual of baptism was somehow "necessary" would have stirred up an argument of the same magnitude as that of circumcision in both Romans and Galatians. He would have framed it as being of the same legal insanity as any "biblical" issue that might be posed as being "necessary".-jim

This quote from me was posted anonymously by a reader

Take a good read through Galatians and silently include water baptism into Paul's argument against circumcision. It will shed a whole new light on the argument. Notice how Paul's use of scripture is not really a "scriptural refutation" of a false teaching but is instead a foundational premise of the distinction between law and grace ... between flesh and spirit ... between works of man and the miraculous work of God in Christ.

Don't allow yourself to get caught up in a scriptural argument, instead speak to your dad's heart. By all means, refer to the written record of Christ ... but only as it testifies to the life of Christ that has done away with the flesh, the world, and sin itself.

Thoughts? :)


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