International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday October 21, 2012
Purpose: To emphasize that true power comes not from money or prestige, but from reliance on God's Spirit
Scripture Text: Acts 8:4-24
Acts 8:9-24 (CEB)
(9) Before Philip’s arrival, a certain man named Simon had practiced sorcery in that city and baffled the people of Samaria. He claimed to be a great person. (10) Everyone, from the least to the greatest, gave him their undivided attention and referred to him as “the power of God called Great.” (11) He had their attention because he had baffled them with sorcery for a long time. (12) After they came to believe Philip, who preached the good news about God’s kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. (13) Even Simon himself came to believe and was baptized. Afterward, he became one of Philip’s supporters. As he saw firsthand the signs and great miracles that were happening, he was astonished.
(14) When word reached the apostles in Jerusalem that Samaria had accepted God’s word, they commissioned Peter and John to go to Samaria. (15) Peter and John went down to Samaria where they prayed that the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit. (16) This was because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) (17) So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
(18) When Simon perceived that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money. (19) He said, “Give me this authority too so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”
(20) Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money! (21) You can have no part or share in God’s word because your heart isn’t right with God. (22) Therefore, change your heart and life! Turn from your wickedness! Plead with the Lord in the hope that your wicked intent can be forgiven, (23) for I see that your bitterness has poisoned you and evil has you in chains.”
(24) Simon replied, “All of you, please, plead to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said will happen to me!”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Simon enjoyed a good business, he was sought out for advice and probably well paid for his opinions or magic tricks that he performed for the masses. Simon appeared to have it all; he was rich, powerful, well respected in the community. However Simon knew that a lot of his so called power was fake, and manipulative, he was well aware of his shortcomings. When he heard the message delivered by Philip he was moved to believe, but then his real motives came out as he tried to purchase what Philip, Peter and John had.
If we look back in the Book of Acts we can see where Philip came from, he was one of the Greek speaking deacons appointed by the Apostles to help distribute food to the Greek speaking widows. He along with Stephen seemed to be gifted in other areas beside administration or oversight. Both Stephen and Philip were obviously gifted in the area of evangelism; Philip was in Samaria proclaiming the “good news” as commanded by Jesus before his ascension into heaven. (Acts 1:8) “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Because of Paul's persecution of these early Christians many left Jerusalem and went to other areas preaching the “Good News” of Jesus as the Messiah.
Samaria offered a unique opportunity because while they were connected to Jewish teachings they were not considered to be Jewish. Prior to the divided Kingdom of Israel, after the death of Solomon, they had been a part of the united Nation of Israel. However they drifted far away from their early teachings and became a heathen country by defying God's commands not to marry the Canaanite women. They had been ruled for 400 years by wicked Kings that worshiped Baal and other gods. But, their old teachings told of a coming Messiah, so since the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, they may have had a tendency to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah out of spite. Regardless, Philip was able to draw large crowds when he spoke and evil spirits were removed along with miraculous healing.
You can easily see why Simon the Sorcerer, was interested in obtaining this power that Philip had demonstrated. Jerusalem, seemingly always skeptical of anything the Apostles were not directly involved in, sent Peter and John to check out the stories coming back to Jerusalem from Samaria, as well as making sure that that they not only received water baptism but also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw the power that the laying on of hands did for those converted to this new religion he wanted to purchase that power from Peter and John. This request brought a fast and cutting rebuke by Peter. Not only could Simon not buy this power his very salvation would be in jeopardy, Peter demanded he change his attitude and repent, because his heart was not aligned with God, but rather his actions were purely greed motivated. There are business people today that seem to have this same greed driven motive to display “signs of the fish” and proclaim themselves as Christians but are really just drawing on true believers emotions and convictions in order to get more business. They are every bit in as much danger as Simon was. Simon was able to heed the warnings of Peter. There are many pretenders out there that are nothing more than sorcerers. Thankfully the Holy Spirit can help us discern the difference. Check your motives for following Christ, make certain you are yielding to Him and not trying to manipulate God into doing what you want, rather than what He wants.