Summary: A sermon adapted from an IVP Bible study by C. Nystrom
SIMON: BARGAINER EXTRORDANAIRE
OPENING ILLUSTRATION…Dale Crowell’s bargainer attitude
I cannot help, tonight, to think of one of my supervisors I had during college. I worked at the Groundskeeping shop to help pay my way through school. The second supervisor I had was quite a character. He was an older fellow and was retired from the U.S. Navy and wanted to help out at a Bible College. He did just that. The reason he was quite a character was that to get anything done or to acquire materials that we needed to do our work, he’d always barter. In fact, he bargained with a company to give us quote a nice riding lawn mower. How? I am not sure, but I know that he could bargain his way in and out of a deal at will. And that is the subject we want to look at tonight... bargaining... bargaining with God.
READ ACTS 8:9-25
Why do we bargain with God? Why do we try and make deals with the Creator? Why do we test Him like that? Why why why—that seems to be the primary question when we look at bargaining with God. We’ve seen in this passage a great example of bargaining with God. To take a closer look, let’s look first at the man, then we’ll look at the motives, and then finally the meaning.
I. THE MAN… SIMON
It seems that as our passage opens, our character for this evening is put in a bad light. He is called a sorcerer. The word in Greek that we see here actually means, “one who practices sorcery.” This man, Simon, is no fictional Merlin or a flight of fancy witch; he was one who practiced the magical arts. He did this practice in the open and all the people of Samaria knew who he was. These people were so astonished that the Bible says they were beside themselves with awe. This guy was amazing. He was even called the Great Power. Simon was no con-artist. He was no fly-by-night promiser of empty promises—he was real and he had done it for a long time. I am sure he was making money hand over fist with this power he had. The people of Samaria had come to believe in this man’s power and what it could do for them.
Simon was a dangerous man, make no mistake about that. He was a man who gave false hope to the hopeless and used any means necessary, even absolutely evil ones. He was causing people to put their faith and amazement in himself instead of in God. He was a dangerous man. He was trying to take the place of God in these people’s lives—maybe he even claimed to be God, he was “the divine power known as the Great Power” you know.
But then, Simon the Sorcerer was faced with some competition. His monopoly on the hearts of the people with his magic was over—there was a new spiritual master in town. The True Spiritual Master was being preached loud and wide by a man named Philip, one of the Master’s apostles. The tide was turning away from him and was turning toward Jesus. People began to believe in Jesus. People began to be baptized, the lame walked, the blind received sight—all for the glory of Jesus Christ. It was a revival and it was sweeping the towns of Samaria. The tide was flowing and sweeping everyone in its path to come to faith in Jesus. The revival was so great that Peter and John traveled to see if the reports were true of Samaria’s faith.
And Simon was swept up too. The author Luke records in verse 13 that “Simon himself believed and was baptized.” Amazing, the great sorcerer Simon had come to know Jesus. There is no doubt that he was a changed man. His life was new. He knew that his old life did not fit in with Jesus’ plan for His people. He went around with the evangelist Philip and saw the great power that came with becoming a Christian. Being a Christian had its advantages. Being a Christian could open whole new doors of influence for him. Simon was a changed man.
ILLUSTRATION…the foxhole Christian
“’There are no atheists in foxholes,’ wrote William T. Cummings in 1942. ‘While crouched in a trench with bullets zinging overhead, even the most reluctant heart begins to bargain with God- just in case He might exist. ‘God if you only get me out of this alive, I’ll…’ But foxhole faith rarely lasts. The crisis passes and thoughts of God recede into the background. To the ‘foxhole Christian’ God is there mostly for emergencies.”
II. THE MOTIVES… OF SIMON
When we talk about motives, we are talking about why Simon the Sorcerer wanted to become a Christian. Why all of a sudden did he give up “the good life” as a sorcerer to become a Christian with no advantages.. none like he was used to anyway? He traded his wand for a cross. He traded incantations for prayers. He traded being the object of everyone’s affections and awe and wonder for being a servant. Why would he do that? What did he want from Christianity? What did he want from God?