Acts 8:17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,
Acts 8:19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 8:20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!
Acts 8:21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.
Acts 8:22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.
Acts 8:23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
Acts 8:24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.
Sometimes the gospel has an unintended effect. People, coming from whatever dark world they’ve been living in, interpret the salvation of Jesus differently.
Like the tribe in Indonesia that thought there were spirits in the garbage. Once they all because Christians and didn’t fear evil spirits, they left their garbage all over the village and it was like living in a dump!
Or the polygamist village in sub-Saharan Africa that read that in order to be a leader in the church you “had to be the husband of one wife.” They picked their prettiest, youngest wives and kicked the rest out of the street! Missionaries had an instant widow and orphan crisis on their hands!
This is why relationships and discipleship are so important. Yes, it is great for old Simon to become a Christian, but how will he learn how to be a Christian?
The Apostle Paul spent about 14 years alone after his conversion. He went to his hometown, quit the rabbi business (at which he was a rock star) and for all practical purposes would have lived out his days there.
Barnabas came along — at least 14 years after he sold his property and put the money at the apostles’ feet — and took him along to see how to be a Christian.
In the end, Simon begs Peter to pray for him. I think he repented. In his paradigm, power and magic were something that could be bought and taught, they weren’t the gift of God. His final recorded statement shows that he’s no longer living by his own power, but begging God for mercy.
He really wants other people to receive the Holy Spirit, after all. He has recognized that God is the Great Power of God, not himself.
As we speak to people coming out of different world views, it’s worth it to talk through and spend time together. The more clearly we all understand the Christian life in its fullness and truth, the better.
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