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Simon the Sorceror June 18, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 8:9-25.

Summary: In this passage, a sorceror named Simon had captivated the Samaritans by his actions. His hold on them was broken by the arrival of Philip – who preached the Gospel message, bearing much fruit. The apostles in Jerusalem then sent Peter and John to Samaria to build on the good work of Philip. In particular, Peter and John:

  • laid their hands on the Samaritan converts so that they might receive an extraordinary gifting of the Holy Spirit
  • rebuked Simon for attempting to leverage the Holy Spirit for a pecuniary advantage
  • preached the Gospel message.

Thoughts: Simon the sorceror is a central figure in this passage. How did he acquire his powers of sorcery (e.g. by making a pact with Satan)? What was his understanding of the Gospel message that Philip presented? After he was baptized, did Philip instruct him on how to live obediently to God? How did he respond to Peter’s sharp rebuke of his pecuniary motives? Was he convicted of his sin and compelled to live a righteous life? I certainly hope to meet him in the next life and learn about God’s work in his life.

In verses 15 and 16, we see that while the Samaritans had been baptized, they had not received the Holy Spirit. Calvin offers some insights on this potentially confusing point in his commentary on verse 16:

A question arises here. Luke says they were only baptized into the name of Christ and that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit; but either baptism must be empty and confer no grace, or else its power must come from the Holy Spirit…He must be speaking about those special gifts that God gave certain people in the early days of the Gospel to honor Christ’s kingdom…So we conclude that the Samaritans already had the Spirit of adoption, and the special graces of the Spirit were then added.

Initially, I was confused by these verses; thus, Calvin’s insights were immensely helpful. Now I am curious as to whether these “special graces of the Spirit” can still be communicated today through the laying on of hands. We occasionally see believers – even in churches that adhere to a conservative doctrine – laying hands on pastors and missionaries at special ceremonies. Does God furnish them with extraordinary gifts at those ceremonies? Or are those ceremonies symbolic – confirming what God has already done?

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