Summary: Man's religion is at war with God's revelation.
“A king who wished to express his affection for a private soldier of his army gave him a richly jeweled cup, his own cup. The soldier, stepping forth to receive the gift, exclaimed shamefacedly, "This is too great a gift for me to receive." "It is not too great for me to give," the king replied. So Christ offers us this infinite gift of the Holy Spirit to cleanse and fill our hearts and to abide with us. Think then how much He must have cared that we receive it.”
In our text we see the magician of the ancient Roman world, Simon Magus trying to purchase the Holy Spirit. He is rebuked strongly by the Apostles. In fact, this is where the phrase simony comes from in the Church, when some sort of ecclesiastical office or rite is attempted to be bought or sold.
For our purposes here, we will not spend a lot of time dealing with the history of Simon Magus, though there is a great deal of literature and what some refer to as possible folklore about this man in antiquity, even in the writings of the Church Fathers. Suffice it to say that the spirit of simony remains alive and well in the form of the so-called prosperity Gospel, which is really no Gospel at all.
Neither the Holy Spirit nor the blessing of God is available for purchase or resale. We do not give financially the Lord in order to receive a blessing. We cannot purchase the power of the Holy Spirit in any way. The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God dwelling within believers.
CIT: The Holy Spirit is not a thing or a force that can be purchased.
CIS: Life in the Spirit is the inheritance of God in Christ to every believer.
Holy Spirit’s General Work: There is a great deal of things that could be said of the Holy Spirit. We could talk of the intricacies of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Trinity. We could get sidetracked with a debate over speaking in tongues and whether such gifts are for today.
We could do all of that and still leave here without any deeper understanding of what it is that the Holy Spirit does in the world and in us or how to grow in both our understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
That’s why I want to focus on the general Scriptural motifs with regard to the Holy Spirit. That is, let’s look broadly at what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Here are seven umbrella categories, under which could be found countless more.
(1) In Zechariah 4:6 we see that the Holy Spirit is the arm of the power of God. “So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.” (NIV) The real power in the universe is the arm of the Lord moving as the Holy Spirit sweeps, moves, crushes, lifts up, and empowers according to the sovereign will of God.
At times the Holy Spirit moves and crushes armies, as in the Old Testament when God gave great military victories to the people of Israel though they were a small people, usually outnumbered and often outsized.
The power of the Holy Spirit doesn’t always move in dramatic ways. It has been well said that even “A giant feels the sting of a bee.” Sometimes God moves with great precision to accomplish His will. The key for our purposes here is that whether in dramatic fashion as with the armies of Israel or as the still small voice guiding our decision, moving us this way and that way, it is the Holy Spirit, the same one that presently dwells within me and within you that is the arm of the power of Almighty God!
(2) In Matthew 12:28 it is clear that the Holy Spirit destroys demonic strongholds. Responding to the claim of the Pharisees that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan, Jesus says “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (NIV84)
Twelve step and other life recovery programs have the ability to help a man or woman bound in addiction see a way out, but only the Holy Spirit has the power to crush the bondage of addiction. Professional counseling has the ability to highlight our need for change, but only the Holy Spirit transforms.
It seems fair to expect the unbelieving world to struggle in this sin-sickened, broken world, striving in the limited power of self against the overwhelming power of the enemy. The world is in the world. People who are apart from Christ are like sailors lost at sea, without hope of spiritual power in this life and salvation for the life to come.