Summary: If you make any effort to live for God, you will face opposition. If you’ve never run into Satan, it’s because you and he are traveling parallel in the same direction.
In the early part of Acts, we are introduced to 5 brief biographies that I want to introduce to you now. If you enjoy reading a biography, then you’ll benefit from these short bios. Think of these five men as the Mount Rushmore of the early chapters of Acts, if you will. A week ago we saw the sterling character of Stephen, Christianity’s first martyr and real hero. Girls, he’s the kind of guy you want to bring home to meet your parents.
Today, we meet Simon. Simon was a first century version of David Copperfield or Harry Houdini. Whether he had saffron robes marked with the sign of the zodiac & made theatrical entrances, I’m not sure. Like Stephen, he also works miracles. But unlike Stephen, he doesn’t understand the ways of God. Thinking he could fake it until make it, Simon’s life is a warning for us all. Simon’s heart represents a crossroads where religion & greed collide.
“Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
9 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. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 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. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” 25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.” (Acts 8:5–13, 18-25)
Simon’s story is written in our history & our culture. Today, the act of simony is the paying for position or influence inside the church. Now, so many people hate religion because they think churches & pastors are only after their money. A number of people who have recently converted to Christ in our church over the past 4-5 years, many of their family members have warned them something to this effect, “If you must go down there and if you have must have anything to do with religion, don’t give them a penny of your money.” The power of Simon’s life & his story is the way it shows a path forward when religion and money collide.
1) Simon the Pretender
Simon’s story is really an insertion inside a larger story of how a group called the Samaritans came to faith in Christ. Simon is a magician hungry for power (Acts 8:9). If you asked Simon, “Are you great,” he would have simply said, “You bet I am.”
1.1 Philip the Hero
Now, I need to introduce Philip into our story for Philip and Simon are in sort of a competition for the same audience, the people of Samaria. We should note that Simon had a head start for he’s already there before Philip arrives. Luke wants to show you how the two compare & contrast. Simon works wonders (Acts 8:11); Philip works wonders (Acts 8:6, 13). Simon draws crowds (Acts 8:9-10); Philip draws crowds (Acts 8:6-7). Simon amazes (Acts 8:9, 11); Philip amazes (Acts 8: 13). Simon claims to have great power (Acts 8:10); Philip heals with great power (Acts 8:13). Philip, a deacon like Stephen (who we met last week), was an evangelist who brings the gospel to the Samaritan people. Philip deserves his own sermon but that’s for another day for he was incredibly bold in sharing the gospel among a hated people.