Fascinating People of the Bible

Simon the Sorcerer

Before the gospel came to Samaria, Simon was a minor
phenomenon with a major ego. Pretending to be someone
important — perhaps even claiming to be the incarnation
of God Himself (depending on the meaning of the phrase
“Great Power” in Acts 8:10) — Simon wowed the people
with his sorcery, convincing them that he exercised control
over the spiritual realm. In a time when most people
assumed the existence of a spiritual world—and believed
that it was not likely a benevolent force—sorcerers like
Simon were in great demand.

But all that was before the arrival of Phillip, the man famous
for taking the gospel to unexpected places. As a follower of
the resurrected Jesus, Philip possessed a power that made
Simon look like the conjurer of cheap tricks by comparison. Even Simon was impressed — so much so
that he “believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:13).

However, Simon seems to have been drawn to the power rather than to its source. When Peter and John
came to impart the Holy Spirit to the Samaritan believers, Simon was beside himself. Desperate for his
former glory, he offered the apostles money in exchange for the ability to dispense God’s Spirit. After
all, he had spent years pretending to do just that; now, he thought, the real thing was within his grasp!

How wrong he was. Enraged, Peter reduced Simon to a whimpering wreck, denying him any part in their
ministry and warning him to beg God’s forgiveness before it was too late. Nothing more is said about
Simon, except that he begged Peter to pray on his behalf — now too afraid to even speak to the God
whose power he just tried to purchase.

Spiritual insight: Simon had a fundamentally flawed understanding of the Holy Spirit. While Peter and
John freely shared the Spirit, empowering all who believed, Simon saw the Holy Spirit as a means of
gaining power for himself — some deep magic that he could dispense for a price. Peter and John did not use
their status to control others but to release them from sin so they could experience Christ’s promise of true
liberation.

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