by Tad Lindley
About 2,000 years ago there was a shaman named Simon. He lived in a city called Samaria, which was in the northern part of Israel. According to the Bible, he had used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is great with the power of God.” And for him they had regard, because for a long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. (Acts 8:9-11 KJ21)
Simon loses his grip
Then one day, a missionary showed up in town, and he had something better to offer than what the medicine man had. His name was Philip. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did, For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:5-8) The call of Jesus upon the hearts of the men and women of Samaria was greater than the wiles of the witch doctor, and the city turned to Jesus.
Turned from sorcery to salvation
When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs that were done. (Acts 8:12-14) Not only did the people turn from sorcery to the salvation message, but the sorcerer himself repented of his witchcraft and was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus!
Reinforcements from Jerusalem arrive
The explosion of the Kingdom of God was so great in Samaria, that the apostles sent reinforcements down. Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. (For as yet, He had fallen upon none of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17 KJ21)
Simon breaks out his billfold
Keep in mind that Simon had seen many wonderful things happen in the name of Jesus. As we have already read, he saw healings, deliverances, great joy, and demonic spirits being cast out. Not only that, but he himself had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of his sins. But when he saw people receiving the Holy Ghost, it was something different than all of these other miracles. It could not have been that people cried, or that they felt goose bumps, because those are commonplace. No whatever it was that Simon saw was some sort of outward show that caused him to break out his billfold and tell the apostles, “Wow, I’ll pay you to teach me how to do that to people!”
Peter: Be buried with your billfold
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power so that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
But Peter said unto him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” (Acts 8:18-20)
If you have read the rest of the book of Acts, then you already know that what Simon saw was people immersed in the presence of God to the point that they began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (see Acts 2:1-4, 10:44-48, 19:1-6). And when Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer, he made it clear that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the gift of God. It is exactly that, a gift. It is not for sale, but it is given by God.
A free gift
Simon could not have paid Peter enough money to have the power of God. It was not Peter’s to sell. And likewise none of us can buy the gift of God from the Lord himself. It is not for sale. No amount of hard work on our part could earn it, it is a gift. To top it off, God wants to give it to us. He won’t, however, sneak up behind you as you walk home from the steam bath on a dark night and force it upon you. No, he will wait patiently for you to come to repentance, and to seek him. After all, he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) The Bible even promises us that if we follow his salvation message, then we too will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost: Then Peter said unto them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:38-29)
Have you repented of your sins?
Have you been baptized in Jesus’ name?
Have you received the gift of God in the same way the apostles did?
Reverend Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.