In Acts Chapter 8 there is an interesting story of a man named Simon who was a practitioner of magic. According to one commentary, Jewish magicians were fairly common and garnished large followings. Simon was no exception, the Bible says that he ‘amazed the people of Samaria’(ESV). Apparently, he became a powerful influence, as Luke doubly emphasizes that the people ‘paid attention to him’. They even went as far as to say that he was ‘The Great Power of God’.
Under the ministry of Philip, Simon became a believer and was baptized. This is where another really interesting thing happens in this story. Philip was apparently preaching The Gospel, performing signs and miracles and baptizing new converts, yet, the Holy Spirit ‘had not yet fallen on any of them’. (This seems a little weird since the Holy Spirit ‘falling’ seems to be the way that they know people are truly saved in the book of Acts. Peter uses the Holy Spirit’s arrival on gentile believers as proof of membership in the Kingdom at the Jerusalem council). So word was sent to Peter and John to lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. There are a few theories on why this happened which is another story for another day.
Anyway, the Apostles come, lay hands and the people receive the Holy Spirit. Simon sees that the Holy Spirit is given through the laying on of hands and wants this ‘power’.
Quick question and I will stop with the A.D.D. How did Simon SEE the Holy Spirit coming upon the new believers?
Back to the story and no more distractions I promise. Simon offers money to Peter to be able to have this ability. This is where it goes bad for Simon. Peter rebukes him severely. I’m not going to dig into the rebuke specifically, maybe a part 2 is warranted for that, but want you to ponder one aspect of this. Simon seems to still be thinking in his old ‘magiciany’ ways. But, what really was the problem here? What made his desire to minister like the Apostles so wicked? Given his background in magic arts, and that he was a great self promoter(vs 9) it’s apparent that he was pretty power hungry for the sake of being ‘somebody great’. Peter says that he is still in ‘the bond of iniquity’. Gripped by sin.
This passage always makes me wonder about the movement I’m apart of, namely, the charismatic movement. Sometimes the power of God is sought after with great fervour but, also with suspect motives. I believe we are to seek Holy Spirit power. Paul tells us to seek the greater gifts (graces) of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t wrong for Philip to send for Peter and John, as we might mistakenly have handled the situation in our day. “God just didn’t want those baptist, I mean, BAPTIZED believers to have the Holy Spirit I guess”. I think it’s proper for us to expect the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives and gatherings. But what of this attitude that wants that power or ability to be someone great? Sounds obviously false doesn’t it? We know through Paul that the point of the gift(s) of the Holy Spirit is that they are others centred not us centred. Maybe that’s just it.
Why do we desire to be ‘powerful’? Why do we seek or just flat out chase the power of the Holy Spirit? We read a book about a historical figure or even a contemporary minister who walks in ‘great power’ and we want that. Is that a bad desire? Where is our heart in all this? What aspect of power simply comes from closeness to Jesus? I’m thinking of Moses’ glowing face right now and how it was just a by-product of being with God. What aspect of power is tied to the mission of the church? What aspect is tied to lovingly inviting people into the Kingdom of God? Sometimes I think we are a little more like Simon than we like to admit.
This time we don’t dare move when ‘Simon says’.