Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! – Acts 8:20 NIV
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Simon whom the Bible described as a sorcerer was a man who practiced sorcery in the city of Samaria and had definitely earned for himself, some financial benefits and tremendous respect from the people, who regarded him as one with the divine power known as the Great POWER – Acts 8:9-10. The arrival of Peter and John from Jerusalem as representatives of the Apostles, in reaction to the news of the acceptance of the Word by the people of Samaria, following the evangelical activities of Philip, brought a new understanding of what the true divine power was, not only to the people but also to Simon himself. He had witnessed the Apostles pray for the new converts and in a manner very strange but impressive to him, the Holy Spirit came on them, as hitherto, all they had experienced was the baptism into the name of the Lord, that is the Water baptism – Acts 8:11-17.
Simon immediately indicated his desire to have not just the Holy Spirit but the ability to pray for the people to receive the Holy Spirit – Acts 8:18-19. This is not to say that his ambition was wrong as that is what will be expected of every Christian but it was the manner of his request that got him into trouble with the Apostles. He actually offered them some money in exchange for the acquisition of the ability. Why he would have done that, only he can explain but maybe one can hazard some guesses by presenting the following reasons. Could it have been due to his knowledge deficit about the things of Jehovah God or was his sense of judgement beclouded by the possibility of financial gain that will accrue to him for possessing such ability? Whatever may have been the reason, it definitely did not go down well with the Apostles whose disapproval of his manner of thinking was evident in their response.
1. He was immediately told to perish with his money wondering why he could ever think of buying the gift of God – Acts 8:20.
2. They also declared that he had no part or share in the Christian ministry as his heart was not right with God – Acts 8:21. By that he was excluded from the activities and benefits that will accrue to those working in the ministry for having a wrong view about the things of God.
They however had an advise for him. Due to his demand which was regarded as an act of wickedness, he was told to repent from his thought process and pray seeking forgiveness hoping that he will receive forgiveness from the Lord. They however concluded that his action must have been due to
1. His heart being filled with bitterness – Acts 8:23a.
2. His being held captive to sin – Acts 8:23b.
Most Christians leaders today are not too different from Simon in their thoughts about the things of God. They may claim to be spirit filled but their reasons for desiring spiritual abilities and operating in the ministry of Jesus Christ is not too noble.
Firstly, like Simon, most Christian leaders need to meet with the source of the true power because whatever they are demonstrating as the divine power is truly everything but that. Their members may be seeing them in the manner they desire to be seen but they may actually need to pray to know the truth. Simon was lucky to eventually know the truth in his life time and so did not die in ignorance. His willingness to immediately acknowledge the truth was an indication of the possible innocence in all his activities before meeting the Apostles. The repercussion of not experiencing the truth before his death will be best left to imagination.
Secondly, the nature of the spirit occupying his soul became manifest in the action he put up, even after witnessing the true power. All he thought of was the personal advantage that could come to him if he could possess the ability that the Apostles displayed. To the one with a negative spirit, every spiritual ability is viewed from the perspective of material advantage that can be gained and not the soul that can be saved. It is simply impossible for the one that is inhabited by a negative spirit to display positive attributes. No wonder the Christian world today is filled with people supposedly operating in the spirit of the Almighty God but all their interest is in the material advantage that comes with such abilities. They can as well be classified as false Christian leaders who are impressing the followership with the practice of sorcery.
Thirdly is the revealed fact that such leaders are yet to experience the true power, and irrespective of how much miracles they perform, they will never be regarded as part of the ministry of Jesus Christ. They belong to those group of people whom Jesus says he will send away from him because they are workers of evil – Matt. 7:21-23. Peter and John were quite emphatic in their pronouncements that such false Christian leaders will have no part or share in the Ministry due to their heart which is not right with the Lord.
Fourthly is the revelation that people who are involved in this kind of thought process, are actually filled with bitterness. This is very true because it takes a heart that intends to oppress a fellow brother or enjoys oppressing fellow brethren to think in that manner. Of course with such an advantage, they are able to keep fellow brethren under subjection and bondage for as long as possible. Several false Christian leaders today are like this as they go to very ridiculous extent to retain members within their ministry, not necessarily because they care for such souls but because of the material advantage that a large congregation brings to them. For such people members are not seen as souls that need to be saved but as numbers that will help to boost income and potential sources of material advantage.
Fifthly is the revelation of the true spiritual state of such false Christian leaders. Just as Peter and John concluded that Simon was under bondage of sin, similarly many of the false Christian leaders today are actually under bondage of sin and need deliverance. Although they preach the gospel, most probably with all the necessary conviction and accompanying miracles, they are actually very far from being saved from hell fire when they depart this earthly realm. The first will indeed be the last on the day of judgement as many who are believed to be candidates of paradise will find themselves in hell fire – Matt. 20:16.
All Christian leaders in particular and all Christians in general will need to do proper spiritual introspection and confirm to themselves that indeed they are operating in the true spirit of God. By not doing that and even with the best of intentions, they may find themselves on the way to hell fire and this will be the case, despite the large followership or congregation that they may be leading. Like Simon the Sorcerer, total repentance will be the only option that can earn them forgiveness from the Lord.
For those who are desirous of spiritual authority and power, they will need to be sure that their intention is purely for saving souls as any other reason will only produce the fate that befell Simon. May God grant us the purity of thought necessary to acquire and dispense His Grace in our lives so that we may be admitted into His kingdom on the last day in Jesus name. Amen.