Acts 8:9-25

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 16, 1997


When Stephen was put to death, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, scattering the Christians all over the regions of Judea and Samaria.

We’ve seen that one of the church busboys, Philip, went north to Samaria, and was used by God to start a revival.

:9 there was a certain man, called Simon

This is the man known in church history as "Simon Magus", "Simon the Magician", or "Simon the Sorcerer".

:9 used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria

used sorcerymageuo – ("magic") to be a magician, to practice magical arts

bewitchedexistemi – to throw out of position; to amaze, to astonish; to be out of one's mind. Don’t think of Samantha twitching her nose, it’s really the idea of amazing them with his tricks.

:10 This man is the great power of God.

powerdunamis – strength, power, ability. This is the word Jesus used in promising power to the disciples when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8)

But was this man the "great power of God"?

He was either nothing more than an illusionist, or he was a man who used evil, demonic forces. And yet people thought he was from God.

:12 they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ

Simon had held the people in his grasp for a long time, but when Philip came along, they turn and believed him.

Philip was giving demonstrations of power like Simon, in that he performed miracles (Acts 8:6-8), but he did something else that was different, he had a powerful message, and preached Christ to them (Acts 8:5)


Share the powerful message.

He shared about the kingdom of God. Probably not just what the coming kingdom was like, but also what was required to get in. Jesus had said,

(Mat 5:20 KJV) For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

He shared about the name of Jesus Christ.

(Acts 4:12 KJV) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Jesus is God’s only path to the kingdom, but only He has paid for the very things that keep us from the kingdom, our sins. He paid for them by dying on a cross, taking our sins upon Himself.

Don’t get discouraged when you share the message of salvation with people.

In reality, the big difference between Simon and Philip was not the miracles, but the message. There’s power in the message.

(1 Cor 1:21 NASB) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

(Rom 1:16 KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Miracles don’t save people, preaching does.

:12 they were baptized, both men and women.

As the people came to believe and follow Jesus instead of Simon, they responded by being baptized.

Going under the water symbolizes dying, and coming back up symbolizes new life. It’s a way of saying that we’ve died to the old ways and have been given a new life in Jesus.

:13 Simon himself believed also … and … was baptized

Was Simon actually saved?

We are told he believed and was baptized.

Yet later he is warned by Peter that he and his money were in danger of going to hell. Then we are told that his heart wasn’t right before God, and that he was in bitterness and sin. It doesn’t sound too promising.


Real salvation isn’t always an easy thing to recognize in others.

It’s easy for a person to pray a prayer, and yet not really mean it. It’s easy to get baptized.

Whether or not it was sincere will be shown by what happens in their life.

(James 2:18 NLT) Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." I say, "I can't see your faith if you don't have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds."

Our salvation is based on the fact that we are trusting Jesus to pay for our sins. But if we’re really getting to know Jesus, then more and more of Jesus will rub off on us, and people will see it by the changes in our lives that He is making.

:13 he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles

wonderedexistemi – to amaze. The same word translated "bewitched" in vs. 9,11. Simon is no longer the one causing the amazement, but is himself amazed.

miraclesdunamis – strength power, ability. This is the same word that was used to describe Simon’s tricks, and now he sees the real thing for himself.

:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

Praying for Samaritans is quite a change for John.

Luke 9:51-56 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, {52} And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. {53} And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. {54} And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? {55} But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. {56} For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.


Let Jesus turn your hatred into love.

John had once desired for God to send fire down on the Samaritans. Now he’s going to pray for the fire of the Holy Ghost to come upon them.

If you have an intense hatred for someone else, Jesus would say to you too, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of".

Look at what John himself would later write,

1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. {8} He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.


Corrie Ten Boom shares this true story in her book, The Hiding Place: "It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there -- the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!" His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."

:16 For as yet he was fallen upon none of them

As we’ve studied the passages on the Holy Spirit, we’ve seen that there are three little words used to describe the three kinds of relationships that a person can have with the Holy Spirit. They are characterized by three Greek "prepositions".

1) With (para, meaning "with" or "alongside")

This is the relationship that the Holy Spirit has with most people in the world. He is the one "called alongside" (para-kletos) to help, the "Comforter". Jesus said,

(John 14:16 KJV) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

2) In (en)

When a person comes to the place where they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit is no longer just beside you, but He comes to live inside you. You are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 6:19). Jesus said,

(John 14:17c KJV) … for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

3) Upon (epi)

As we’re seeing in this passage, there is an even closer relationship with the Holy Spirit that God desires for us, when the Holy Spirit comes upon us in power, filling us, giving us the ability to live the Christian life like He wants. Again, Jesus said,

(Acts 1:8 KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

In our passage here (Acts 8:16), the emphasis is very clear, in fact there’s an abundance of "upons" here, so that you could almost translate this passage, "he had not yet upon-fallen upon any of them".


Have you received the Spirit’s power "upon" you yet?

This is not a matter of "have’s" and "have-nots". It’s a matter of receiving all that God has for you.

What will happen to me if I receive this power?

In other words, "Will I speak in tongues?" Will I roll on the floor and act real weird?"

Maybe. Maybe not. But in either case, that’s not what Jesus promised would happen.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give power, not tongues.

The word (dunamis) means "power, strength, ability". It means that He gives us the ability to live like we ought to live. To do what we need to do. Sometimes that involves spiritual gifts like tongues, other times it doesn’t.

:17 laid they their hands on them … they received the Holy Ghost.


Ways of receiving the Holy Spirit.

Prayer. (vs.15)

Peter and John started with prayer.

This seems to be what the disciples were doing on the day of Pentecost.

(Acts 1:14 KJV) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Laying on of hands. (vs.17)

Here the apostles lay hands on the people and they receive the Holy Spirit. This will also happen in Acts 9:17, when Ananias prays for Paul, and in Acts 19:6 when Paul prays for the Ephesians.

But this is not the only way the Holy Spirit is received.

Keep in mind that back on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), nobody laid hands on the disciples when they first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Also, when the Gentiles first heard the gospel (Acts 10), nobody lays hands on them when they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.


This is the over-riding principle. Jesus laid it out for us like this:

John 7:37-39 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. {38} He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. {39} (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Jesus said you had to be thirsty (you had to want it), you had to come to Him for it, and you needed to simply receive it (drink).

It’s the one that believes that will receive.

You can receive it right now, right where you are, right there in your seat. You can receive it at home on your bed in the middle of the night. You can receive it while you’re out for your morning jog.

It’s not a matter of having enough faith to receive, it’s simply trusting that Jesus will fill you is you ask Him to.

The Bible tells us that if we ask God anything that’s according to His will, He will hear us and give us the requests we’ve asked for (1John 5:14-15)

Is it God’s will for you to be filled? Yes (Eph. 5:18). Then will He do it if you ask?

:18 Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands

sawtheaomai – to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate.

The word that Luke uses here gives us the idea that Simon was paying close attention to the things that were happening with the apostles. After all, he was a "magician", and he was seeing things happen that cause him to want to figure out how this was happening.

It’s interesting to note that we aren’t told what outward manifestation took place when the Holy Spirit was given. But there must have been something, since Simon was studying it.

:18 he offered them money

A common practice among magicians is the selling of tricks. If you ask a legitimate magician what his secrets are, he probably won’t tell you, but if you’re another magician, you might be able to persuade him to sell you his secrets. I had a professor in college who did magic tricks as a hobby, and he’d tell us how he had been up at some magic store in Hollywood and had purchased a new trick.

There is a practice known as "Simony" where a person purchases a position in a church. There have been times in church history where positions were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

:19 Saying, Give me also this power

powerexousia – power of choice, the power of authority. Simon isn’t asking for the ability or power (dunamis) itself, as much as asking for the authority to use this power.

:20 Thy money perish with thee

The concept: Simon is on his way to destruction, and his money will perish with him.

:20 … the gift of God may be purchased with money.


Money has nothing to do with it.

It’s funny, but many people today think that somehow they can purchase a smile from God if they give enough money. Some people give to try and get rid of their guilt, but in a way they’re trying to purchase the gift of forgiveness with money.

God’s gifts are free. Always have been. Always will be.

:21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter

matterlogos – "word"

Peter is saying that Simon doesn’t have a place in the preaching of the gospel or praying for people to receive the Holy Spirit.

:21 for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

righteuthus – straight, level; upright, true, sincere

in the sight ofenopion – in the presence of, before


No fakes in God’s presence.

Everything we are, have, and do is completely open before Him.

The problem with most of us is that we don’t often realize that we’re in God’s presence, and so we get to think that we can put on masks and pretend to be something we’re not.

But when our eyes are opened, and we realize that God is right here, watching us, looking right through us, we tend to react like Isaiah did when he realized he was in God’s presence:

(Isa 6:5 KJV) Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Open your eyes. Stop pretending.

:22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God

praydeomai – to lack; beg because you have a need.

Peter isn’t coming across as some angry guy who doesn’t want any competition. He’s concerned for Simon, and is begging him to repent and turn around.

:23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

I perceivehorao – to see with the eyes; to see with the mind, to perceive, know

gall of bitterness – "the bile of bitterness", he is a totally bitter man. Perhaps Simon was bitter over the fact that he had lost his following. The people who had once followed him had now come to believe in Jesus Christ, and after they had been baptized, they no longer followed Simon.

bond of iniquity – he is bound or tied up with sin, with unrighteousness


Discerning of spirits.

Peter is exercising the spiritual gift of discernment.

If it was simply a matter of Simon wanting to be used by God, but he didn’t know any better and just relied on how things were done among fellow magicians, I think that Peter would have gently corrected him and maybe even prayed for Simon to be used by God.

But Peter realizes that there’s more here than just trying to use money to achieve spiritual gifts, there’s a real problem in Simon’s heart.

:24 Pray ye to the Lord for me

Simon is addressing both Peter and John.

John Gill writes: There is no reason to believe he truly repented, from the accounts given of him by ancient writers; who always represent him as an opposer of the apostles and their doctrine, as the father of all heresies, as a blasphemous wretch; who gave out that he was the Father in Samaria, the Son in Judea, and the Holy Ghost in other places; and as a very lewd and wicked man, who carried about with him a whore, whose name was Helena; whom he called the mother of the universe, and gave out the angels were made by her, and the world by them; with many other errors, blasphemies, and impieties

Some have suggested that it’s possible that Simon may have even been a little sarcastic in his reply to Peter.