The Spirit of 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 selected this passage to demonstrate how easy it is for the enemy to infiltrate the church if leaders are undiscerning. Simon was a popular sorcerer with such demon powers that people in his community revered him as a god. However, when Phillip came preaching the Gospel and moving in signs and wonders, the people who followed Simon — turned to Phillip. Upstaged and impressed, Simon joined the crowd, believed the Gospel, and was baptized in water.
Believed But Had Not Received
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 the Sorcerer witnessed something that grabbed his attention. We do not know what he saw, but it caught his interest immediately. Simon may have been a sorcerer, but he never saw power like that and wanted in on the action.
Understand that he used to charge people money for using his demonic powers and believed he could purchase the power of God. So, he asked the apostles if he could buy the ability 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 joins a person to Christ and brings them into the fullness of the New Covenant. But unfortunately, because his heart was not right with God, Simon did not qualify to receive this gift — much less administer it by laying hands. So, 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 in Water — Still a Sinner
Simon believed in Jesus and was water baptized; nevertheless, his heart was not right in the sight of God. In other words, he never repented of his sin. There is no indication of godly sorrow or a change of mind. Instead, he tried to adapt Christianity to his old lifestyle. The fact that the Holy Spirit inspired the record of this story shows that God expects us to be on the lookout for the “Simon the Sorcerer” types or what I’m calling “The Spirit of Simon the Sorcerer.”
Simon’s confession and Baptism did not fool God, but it could have fooled everyone else. Jesus would never give this man the Holy Spirit while his heart was not right, and he was demonized in the gall of bitterness. Fortunately, Peter discerned this man’s condition preventing the Devil and his demons from inserting themselves into the church. But, I’ve often wondered, what if Simon the Sorcerer had somehow begun speaking in an unknown tongue and doing weird manifestations? What if he manifested a different spirit than the Holy Spirit? (2 Cor. 11:4) This was a real possibility and could have fooled most people.
If the people lacked the discernment to know the difference between the Holy Spirit and an unclean spirit, they might have rejoiced that this man was “saved, baptized, and filled with the Holy Ghost.” But, then, he may have been asked to sing or preach! In time he might have moved into ministry as a pastor or some other leader. He may have “read peoples’ mail” or “prophesied.” How horrifying! Think of the implications of that. It makes sense that Jesus said many in that day will say, “Lord, Lord, in thy name have we not cast out devils and done many wonderful works.” Only to hear, “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity, for I never knew you!”
Carnal Christians become Carnal Leaders
What if this happened in our times? Would we recognize the Spirit of Simon the Sorcerer types? If a person comes to Christ to have the power, they are deceived. Why did Simon the Sorcerer want power? Was it to glorify God, or was it to promote 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 “power.” During his life, Simon tried to gain a following by impressing people with power. He couldn’t comprehend the words of John the Baptist, “I must decrease, and He (Christ) must increase.”
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, be water baptized, and never repent of your sins. But, unfortunately, it is also possible to desire the gifts of the Spirit and be bound to iniquity. Yet, in modern times, it’s easy to infiltrate the kingdom of God by simply being talented. The question is, has the person truly renounced all sin? Have they turned from all darkness and iniquity? Do they have a desire for God? Are they yielding the fruit of the Spirit? Do they love the people of God?
Simon the Sorcerer appeared on the surface to be doing everything right, but he gave himself away when he asked to buy the Holy Spirit. Simon the Sorcerer had all the markings of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Peter didn’t overlook the warning signs, and neither should we. Had Simon the Sorcerer made it into the church, he would have torn many sheep to pieces and scatted the rest.
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