The Short Sight of Simon

Acts 8:14-24

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.’ But Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’ And so, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Without the CAGED method, one could jump to all kinds of conclusion based upon the content of Peter’s condemnation of Simon and from the laying of hands from the apostles on the Samaritans, coming up with all kinds of dubious dogma. Therefore we must unlock the CAGED Scripture, which has been caged by our traditions and the like, by utilizing the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth, either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions.

“Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Dubious dogma #1, One doesn’t recieve the Holy Spirit at salvation but when one is prayed over. But this is disproved by a possibly doubly dubious dogma reached by reading further; “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money…” which brings us to dubious dogma #2; the Holy Spirit is bestowed by the laying of hands. This is bolstered by more of today’s text, “Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.”  We can even expound on this, going all the way back to Moses and Joshua, in our Old Testament tutor, by using an expository exegesis of examples. “Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

But is the aspirations of the authors for us to assume that the Spirit is bestowed by the laying on of hands? A better question is, do we see this anywhere else in the Bible? Not necessarily the laying of hands but the receiving of the Spirit by the laying of hands? The answer is not only no, but also it is not the aspiration of either author. The laying on of hands, throughout the Bible is used for many things, and these many things are also accomplished without the laying of hands. That is, sometimes spiritual gifts were bestowed by the laying on of hands, sometimes sans hands. Other times, healings happened at the hands of hands, sometimes from a great distance or even from a shadow. We also see that some are sent and commissioned by the laying of hands but other times without. To keep it simple we will stay within the parameters of what we have previously read. Philip had hands laid on him prior to becoming a table waiter. But no such action happened to him as he left Jerusalem to go and perform healings and miracles, preaching to the people of Samaria. Nor does the Bible record him being bestowed with the Spirit by the laying of hands on him. We actually read that he, Stephan and the other deacons were full of the Spirit before the laying of hands on them. Rather than be dogmatic about the laying of hands, we should see the sublime string.

That is, why hands? I am probably going to get in trouble for this: Laying of hands signifies God’s choice and the agreement of that choice with the people present, unlike the outdated, bloodline, descendants being God’s choice. The simple, sublime string of the Bible confirms this. One of the main reasons that the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected the teachings of Jesus was because he was from the wrong tribe to be able to be a priest. Moses was from the levitical line but Joshua, actually named Hoshea, was from the tribe of Ephraim. Joshua should not have been a religious leader because he was not from the levitical line according to their dogma. Joshua did not perform the duties of a priest but he was their leader–a transfer was made between Moses and Joshua. A transfer, not a transaction. We see this in the context of Acts 8 as well.

“Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'”

Simon saw the Spirit sent to the Samaritans from the hands of the apostles. Simon saw an opportunity. Simon was used to making money off of his minor “miracles.” In his earthly and logical thinking, he saw the possibilities. Therefore he offered the apostles money so that he too would receive this power. Which proves two or more things. The first is that the laying of hands on people, to receive the Spirit, by the apostles was something that did happen. But again, this doesn’t determines definitively that every person had to have the apostles lay their hands on them to receive the Spirit. We are helped with this by continuing in the context.

We notice the response of Peter; “But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.'”

First, Peter says that money is perishable, figuratively speaking. “May your silver perish with you.” Could it be true, that while Simon belied everything of which Philip preached and proclaimed, he was still the walking dead, unrepentant and unsaved? I suspect that Simon neglected to repeat the sinner’s prayer after Philip, with every head bowed and with every eye closed. Hate me, call me a mocker and scoffer, but consider the context and the sublime string.

Jesus said, “everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Wait a minute, am I actually saying that although all these Samaritans believed and we’re baptized, they were not securely saved until the apostles bestowed the Spirit on them? I am not saying anything, I am merely considering the context and seeing the sublime string. It was Jesus who said these things and Peter who confirmed them to Simon. However, being born again does not require the laying of the apostles’ hands on someone–we see the sublime string. Simply because it happened here, doesn’t mean that for time and eternity this is the process of new birth. Nevertheless we see that belief doesn’t always equal being born again in and of itself. The brother of the Lord writes; “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”

Paul puts it perfectly; “’THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!’ However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, ‘LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; ‘THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD.’ But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? At the first Moses says, ‘I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER YOU.’ And Isaiah is very bold and says, ‘I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO SOUGHT ME NOT, I BECAME MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME.’ But as for Israel He says, ‘ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE.'”

Perhaps I went too far considering the context of an example–too much Vitamin E, Expository Exegesis of Examples. Because allegedly, this context is about Israel returning as a nation and the generation that sees this will not pass away until the abomination of desolation, which hasn’t happened yet, is fulfilled, along with the Antichrist, the false prophet, a cashlesss world, with microchips or tattoos as currency and third temple destroyed in under three and a half years. If you don’t see any of this in this passage, we are in agreement. Nevertheless this passage is about Israel, both apostate Israel and the true and continuing Israel, made up of those who believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord, from Israel, Samaria and the rest of the nations. What then did Simon lack, besides the Spirit?

Actually, being void of the Spirit was his shortcoming. He was still earthly, thinking earthly. Simon believed in his head, Luke writes this, but as an opportunity to make money. The gospel made sense to him and seeing the real miracles moved him, monetarily speaking. Peter’s proclamation confirms that Simon was thinking earthly with his money on his mind and not believing with his heart.

“You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” Like Paul writes, one believes in his heart, Simon’s heart believed in monetary gain. Simon was not thinking about a transfer of transformation but of a transaction. We must not forget that the people in Samaria believed that Simon was sent by God. He probably practiced a form of religiousness that was a mix of ancient Hebrew and Eastern rites, adding a bit of “magic” or something like that, being in Samaria. It was a very mixed culture and we have seen that they held on to some of the ancient, Israeli traditions, though we know from reading the Old Testament and from archeological digs, that they loved their idols. Simon probably played into their beliefs. Yet we also see that they were susceptible to believing Simon’s​ scorcery. If they believed in Simon’s manufactured miracles, it’s not a great leap for them to believe Philip’s true miracles. This would effect Simon’s bottom line. Nevertheless, I believe that Simon thought that the miracles were authentic and that they came through the Holy Spirit. This lines up with what Peter says. Simon truly wanted a portion in this ministry, he probably even wanted to truly help and heal people, but not according to the love of Jesus. Even though he desired to help, it was more of a business transaction.

You should see my library. I have bought books on everything from church planting to arguments for eugenics. I have the Communist Manifesto and the Quran. I don’t always buy books with which I know that I will agree. I want to know how adversaries think. I also buy books with the hopes that they will help me strengthen and stretch my faith. I have also bought books to read and report, so that others won’t waste their money. It’s these books ​that I would like to discuss, as the author’s pertain to Simon. That is, though they talk about God and seemingly promote the christian walk, they were written for only one reason–to make money.

There are many christian authors who have firm faith and sound doctrine, who do their best to promote the christian walk, truly trying to help the hurting in their faith. They are not often found in the bestsellers list but on occasion it does happen. Usually their books are fairly priced, to cover publishing and marketing–I realize that writing takes time and research takes triple the time and people have a right to be paid for that time. And after the publisher gets their cut, and the distributer, possibly a warehouse and a bookstore​, the author makes pennies an hour. Yet the authentic author does it for the Love of Jesus for the people, truly believing that they can help. That’s the authentic author. The authentic author’s aspiration to his audience is a deeper relationship with Jesus. The unauthentic author’s aspiration is entirely opposite. They will use the guise of godliness to sell books not necessarily to help, but to make money. Like the false prophets, you will know them by their fruit, therefore I won’t name names. I will however mention some items of which to be aware –date setters of the second coming of Christ. If Jesus did not know and he wouldn’t tell his apostles, I can assure you that “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Like Simon, they aren’t transferring transformation but thinking about transactions. In their minds they are helping, but in their hearts they are fond of sordid gains.

Perhaps it is best for them to consider the fruit of their investment and intention, as Peter points out to Simon. “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” Fat chance, I realize this is all but impossible at this point. Notice the response of Simon.

“But Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.'” Simon does not submit himself to God but asks that the apostles do it in his stead. Believing in his mind, on the cusp of Spiritual birth, he asks the apostles to intercede for him. Taking our Vitamin E we see that this is reminiscent of Pharaoh to Moses. Simon is on the precipice of eternal life and death, and he entreats Peter and John to entreat the Lord on his behalf. Simon gets it, but he just doesn’t get it. Rather then admit his sin before the Lord, humbling himself, he passes the proverbial buck to those he knows have a proper relationship with the Lord–so close yet so far. Simon feared what would happen to him, yet wouldn’t bend the knee for himself. And this is the last we hear about Simon. Yet many people present believed with their hearts and received the Spirit.

“And so, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.”

 

 

 

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