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But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Acts 8:20-23

Simon the sorcerer was, supposedly, converted.

Philip the evangelist went to the city of Samaria to preach the gospel and to heal, which brought great joy to the city. In this city was Simon the sorcerer. When many in the city believed, Simon also confessed faith and was baptized, all the while scrutinizing Philip’s miracles of healing.

The Jerusalem church then sent Peter and John. This gave the work in Samaria the blessing of the apostles. By the prayers of Peter and John and by the laying on of their hands the Holy Spirit was also poured out upon the Samaritans, as it had been on the disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost. This was important for the Jewish church in Jerusalem, to encourage them to accept the Samaritan converts.

Foolishly, Simon sought to purchase with money the power of dispensing the Holy Spirit.

In this meditation we have Peter’s response.

How wicked Simon was that he thought the gifts of God could be purchased.

Simon must repent that he may be forgiven.

Yet Peter is doubtful that Simon would ever find for­giveness! How horrible!

A heart of wicked thoughts!

Simon thought to purchase the gift of God with money.

Through prayer and the laying on of hands by Peter and John, some of the Samaritan converts received the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was not the ordinary gift of the Holy Spirit that works faith and sanctification in the life of every believer. This the Samaritans already had by the power of the preaching. We are talking about the extraor­dinary gift of the Spirit that enabled those who received it to speak in tongues and to prophesy. These special gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer present in the church. They died out with the office of apostle. They served the purpose of assisting the church in the transition from the Old to the New covenant and have been replaced with the complete revelation of God in Scripture.

Simon sought to purchase from Peter and John the power of bestowing the special gifts of the Spirit on oth­ers. Through his sorcery Simon had risen to prominence in Samaria. He used sorcery (practiced magic) and bewitched (astonished) the people (v. 9). In what his sor­cery consisted is not clear. The term suggests invoking su­pernatural powers to accomplish the unusual, e.g., casting a spell, healing, fortune-telling, etc. It is not always clear whether these sorcerers actually received power from the evil one or simply manipulated the minds of people with the power of suggestion and sleight of hand. Whatever the case, the sorcery of Simon led people to esteem him as great, even claiming that he was the great power of God.

Evidently Simon put these things aside at the time of his “conversion.” That he kept a close eye on all that Philip did, however, suggests that he was more interested in Philip’s miracles than in the gospel of salvation.

And then, when he saw the Holy Spirit come upon some through Peter and John, Simon sought to purchase from them the ability to do the same.

Peter rebuked Simon for his wickedness.

What was the wickedness of Simon?

First, he thought he could purchase the gift of God with money. The gift of God’s Spirit is of such great value that it can be purchased only by the atoning blood of the cross. God must give His only begotten Son to the hor­rors of the cross. This is the ultimate price! What little value Simon placed on God’s gift by thinking that he could purchase it with money. Those who think they can purchase (earn) the gift of God’s salvation by their own works are really no different than Simon.

But the wickedness of Simon is also seen in how he intended to use the power of the Holy Spirit. It was not to promote the church and the gospel, as was true of the apostles. It was to retain his place of prominence in the community. He had been received as one who was the very power of God. He no doubt used this perception to promote himself in the community. The power that the apostles displayed was far greater than any power he had possessed. This power he wanted for himself, so that he could retain his prominence in the community. Concluding that Peter and John were sorcerers of a higher class than he, and not wanting to be outdone by them, he sought to purchase from them the power to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit.

How wicked were the thoughts of Simon’s heart. Wicked thoughts arising from a wicked heart! Simon had confessed his faith in Jesus Christ. Yet his actions showed that before God his heart was not right.

A necessary forgiveness!

What a chilling rebuke Peter gave to Simon.

“Thy money perish with thee.” May you perish in hell on account of this terrible deed. And may the money that you have defiled perish with you.

“Thou has neither part nor lot in this matter.” “This matter” refers to the gift of God that Simon sought to purchase. This includes not just the special gifts of the Holy Spirit but the gift of faith and salvation worked by the Holy Spirit. Simon had neither part nor lot in this. The terms “part” and “lot” speak of the part of an inheritance that falls to one by the casting of the lot. By this expression Peter was emphasizing that the gift of the Holy Spirit and salvation is God’s inheritance for His children. However, Simon’s terrible sin demonstrates that he had no part in it. He was not a believing child of God but a wicked unbeliever who has no inheritance.

And so Peter called upon Simon to pray to God for forgiveness. There is forgiveness with God. This stands at the heart of the gospel. We are all sinners worthy of eternal ruin under the terrible wrath of God’s punish­ment. But God has provided forgiveness in Jesus Christ. He punished Jesus for the sins of His elect people. In the perfect sacrifice of the cross, the lost sinner is able to find forgiveness—a forgiveness that will rescue him from hell and exalt him to eternal life.

For that forgiveness Simon must pray. The word “pray” means to beg for something. It teaches us that no one has the right to God’s forgiveness. In asking for forgive­ness we must come to God as poor beggars, pleading for something to which we have no right in ourselves. Simon is called to beg for forgiveness for his great wickedness. Notice, not just for his outward deed of seeking to pur­chase the power to dispense the Holy Spirit but for all the wicked thoughts of his heart out of which it arose.

In this connection Peter commanded Simon to repent. To repent means to have a change of mind about sin. True repentance arises out of a true faith in Jesus Christ. True repentance includes a godly sorrow for one’s sins that leads one to turn from his sin. It also leads one to seek reconciliation, in the cross of Jesus Christ, with the God whom he has offended. And it is a desire to walk in all godli­ness in the service of God.

This must be distinguished from a mere remorse that still loves sin but grieves over the bad consequences of sin.

This repentance of faith is the only way to obtain the forgiveness of God. Forgiveness (like all the other blessings of salvation) is found only by faith in Jesus Christ. To be forgiven and received by God, we must come to Him in repentance, begging Him for forgiveness.

A troubling uncertainty!

“Pray God, if perhaps the thought on thine heart may be forgiven.”

How doubtful Peter was that Simon would ever find forgiveness with God.

His doubt was not because he considered Simon’s sin to be so grievous that no matter how repentant he was and how much he begged forgiveness, God might not forgive. The Bible proclaims forgiveness to all that are truly repentant.

Peter’s doubts arose, rather, out of his perception that Simon was so caught in sin that he would not truly re­pent.

This is evident from Peter’s closing remark to Simon: “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” To be in the gall of bitterness means to be filled with bitterness. How bitter Simon had become because of the attention Peter and John were receiving. He who had been reputed to be the very power of God was losing his standing in the community. This terrible bitterness arose because Simon was in the bond (chain) of iniquity (lawlessness). Simon was a lawless man who had no regard for the law either of God or of man. This spirit of lawlessness served as a chain to keep him from overcoming his bitterness by true repentance, thus finding forgiveness. This is what Peter perceived in light of all the circumstances. The gospel had been preached to Simon, leading him to an outward but ob­viously false confession. In spite of knowing the truth of the gospel, Simon was led by the spirit of lawlessness and bitterness to attempt to purchase with money that which only Christ can purchase. Peter held out very little hope for Simon’s true repentance and forgiveness.

There is something very impor­tant for us to learn here.

On the one hand, all things are possible with God. He is able to take the most despicable sinner and bring him to the repentance of faith in Christ to find forgive­ness. He had done that with the thief on the cross. He also would do this with Saul, the great persecutor of the church who would later acknowledge that he was the chief of sinners. He even made Saul the great apostle to the Gentiles. And so we must never conclude that someone is beyond the possibility of salvation—with the exception of those who have obviously committed the unpardonable sin.

On the other hand, it is possible for someone to give himself over so completely to the power of lawlessness that it holds him in chains that are extremely difficult to break, even in the power of grace. God’s grace alone can free us from the power of sin to turn us to Christ. But by giving oneself over to and even cultivating in one’s life the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity, the way to the cross becomes especially difficult.

Harden not your heart at the Word of God.

Be quick to repent of all your sins in order to find the gracious forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.