Getting Right With God (Simon the Sorcerer)

Getting Right With God 
(A Closer look at Simon the Sorcerer)
Robert Wurtz II

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” (Acts 8:18–23 NKJV)


I have chosen this passage in Acts 8:18-23 to illustrate an important truth that is frequently overlooked when studying the topic of evangelism. That truth can be summarized by saying that it is possible to go through all the steps that evangelists suggest are the path to salvation and the person still be on the path to destruction and perdition. 

Simon was a magician (sorcerer) who convinced people that he had great power — like a god. He had a tremendous following in his local community. However, when Phillip came preaching the Gospel, and moving in signs and wonders, the people who had been following Simon — started following Phillip. For reasons unknown to us, Simon joined the crowd. He believed the Gospel and was baptized. 



Phillip knew that the people who responded to his message lacked the Holy Spirit, so he sent for the apostles Peter and John to come and lay hands on them to receive. Simon, who was apparently in line for this blessing, saw some something manifest that arrested his attention. We do not know what he saw, but it grabbed his interest immediately. He then asked the apostles if he could purchase the power to lay hands on people to receive the Spirit. Peter’s response is chilling, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.” (Acts 8:14-16) The “gift of God” is the living water that Jesus spoke of when He conversed with the woman at the well. This event, commonly called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, is what enjoins a person to Christ and brings them into the fullness of the New Covenant. Simon, because his heart was not right with God, did not qualify to receive this gift  much less administer it through the laying on of hands. Again, in the words of Peter, You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.

Baptized: but Still a Sinner 


Simon was a man who believed in Jesus and was baptized in water; nevertheless, his heart was not made right in the sight of God. He never repented of the controversies that existed between him and God. He attempted to “become a Christian” without forsaking his old ways. He merely wanted to adapt his new religion to his old lifestyle. Had he not been exposed, he would have made havoc of the churches. 


God was not fooled by Simon’s confession and baptism. God would never have given this man the Holy Spirit while his heart was not right. That is common sense. However, this could easily have been an opportunity for the Devil and his demons to insert themselves into the churches. What if Simon would have somehow began speaking in an unknown tongue and doing weird manifestations? What if he received a different spirit than the Holy Spirit? (2 Cor. 11:4) This was a real possibility. If the people around him did not have the basic discernment to know the difference between the Holy Spirit and an unclean spirit they may have rejoiced that this man was “saved, baptized, and received the Holy Spirit.” How horrifying! Think of the implications of that. What if that is happening on a large scale in our times? 

Wrong Motivations

Sometimes we need to ask, “what is motivating us?” If a person comes to Christ so they can have “power” they will miss Christ all together. Sometimes, well meaning Christians and ministers will work to develop a fascination with the supernatural in young believers or even non-believers. They tempt them by appealing to the same inner vices that nearly destroyed Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. In fact, whole Television Ministries are designed to show “power.” They are intended to lure Christians into wanting to be like the guy who operates “the power.” Sound familiar? Why did Simon the Sorcerer want power? Was it to glorify God? Was it to glorify himself? His heart was not right with God. This man hadn’t even repented of his sins. He had no desire to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2). He was like the devil who wanted to ascend higher and higher through the use of “power.” He wanted to go on impressing people so they would follow him. Simon could not comprehend the words of John the Baptist, “I must decrease and He (Christ) must increase.”

When I was a young Christian, “the power of God” was lauded to the point that some of us actually went on pilgrimages to places where we could witness first hand “the power of God.” We did not consider that an evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs. (Matthew 12:39) The whole basis of my relationship with God was messed up for the first 5-10 years I was a Christian. The emphasis was on “power, power, power…” Little did we know that Satan moves in “power” and if repentance and holy living are not at the center of our relationship with Christ — we may well fall prey to demonic forces. 

In this crisis hour, we desperately need leaders like Peter and John who can tell the difference between people whose heart is right with God or not. That is the key thing when it comes to “operating the gifts.” I am convinced that many professing Christians have never really repented and are operating under demonic forces  thinking it is the power of God. This is why they emphasize “power” because they have a spirit like Simon the Sorcerer. The fruit of the Spirit is missing. Heart holiness is missing. A general love for the brethren is missing. We could go on, but I must digress.  

Dangerous Ground 

Simon was treading on dangerous ground. In fact, the man came alarmingly close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit; for Peter then stated, Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

Consider his issues: 

1. He was perishing (even though he had repented and was baptized).
2. His heart was not right in the sight of God.
3. His request to purchase the gift was termed as “wickedness.”
4. The thought of his heart was nearly blasphemy.
5. He was poisoned by bitterness (extreme wickedness).
6. He was bound by iniquity. He was enjoined to it.  

Although Simon was dangerously close to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Peter did not close the door to him receiving forgiveness. He was to repent of his wickedness and realize how serious his sin actually was. He was to pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven. The idea here is that he would experience “godly sorrow” that works true repentance. This is sorrow that is God-wards. 

What is most sobering is that this man had recently believed and had been baptized in water. Some would be ready to celebrate that God had “saved the town soothsayer.” However, the way in which God chose to give the people the Holy Spirit exposed Simon’s lust for power. He was saying and doing everything right  up to the point that he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

What was wrong? His heart was not right with God. This is the key thing. In fact, it used to be a common question that preachers would pose to people, “Is your heart right with God?” Simon’s heart was not right. As a consequence of that he did not have part or lot in the matter of things related to the Spirit. In fact, the great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson passes this comment, “The natural meaning of Peter’s language is that Simon was on the road to destruction.” He could not have received the Holy Spirit because, again, his heart was not right with God. The word for “right” is the Greek word eutheias and it means straight. What can we discover from this?

The word eutheias is used six other times in the New Testament. the first four directly relate to the ministry of John the Baptist. 

For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth. (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4–5 KJV)


The ministry and message of John the Baptist was and is to prepare people to be baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Our link between Simon’s heart and our passages above are vital to understanding Lucan (Lukan) theology. This means that what the prophet John the Baptist did in the Gospels, preachers of the Gospel did in the book of Acts. In fact, in Acts 26 Paul tells Agrippa what he earlier told the Ephesians, that people were to repent and do works worthy of repentance. Simon did not repent.   He had not been through the process of “making straight” as outlined in Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4–5. He wanted to buy his way into the ministry because he had not yet “been made straight” or “made right” with God. Peter had to end up preaching the word of repentance to this man. 

There are no insignificant details in the scriptures. The story of Simon is given to us for our learning. It teaches us that it is possible to believe and be baptized and never have repented towards God. It is possible to desire to operate the gifts of the Spirit and be bound to iniquity. The man appeared on the surface to be doing everything right, but inwardly his heart was not right with God. It only took the right kind of circumstances to bring that truth out. 


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