Acts 8:14-25

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 23, 1997

Introduction

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.

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

One of those who supposedly believed was a man named Simon, who used to be a sorcerer, but began to follow Philip.

:14-25 Peter and John's Samaritan Ministry

:14 they sent unto them Peter and John

When the persecution had hit the church, everybody was scattered, except for the apostles, who stayed back in Jerusalem.

When the apostles began hear what was happening in Samaria, they send Peter and John, apparently to get some kind of a better report of what was going on.

It's interesting to note that Peter, who is considered the first "pope" by some, is the one being sent, and not the one sending.

:15 prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost

We mentioned last week what a change this was for John, who once wanted to pray for fire to come down and consume the Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56), and now he comes to pray for the Holy Ghost to come upon them.

I have to admit that there are folks who have a difficult time with this passage because they believe that the moment you receive Jesus Christ into your life, you receive all youíre going to receive from the Holy Spirit.

And yet there are three different times in the book of Acts (Acts 2,8,19) where groups of people receive the Holy Spirit after they believe.

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

As weíve studied the ministry of the Holy Spirit, weíve 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) Ö for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

You have to have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you, or else youíre not a Christian.

(Rom 8:9 KJV) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

3) Upon (epi)

Yet as weíre seeing in this passage, there is an even closer relationship with the Holy Spirit that God desires for us than just having the Holy Spirit gain entrance into your life. This is when the Holy Spirit comes upon us in power, filling us, giving us the ability to live the Christian life like He wants.

With the disciples, we see a development in their relationship with the Holy Spirit after the resurrection. Before He ascended into heaven, the apostles had already received the Holy Spirit into their lives Ė

(John 20:22 KJV) And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

And yet Jesus promised more to the disciples, something more that would take place after He ascended into heaven. Jesus said Ė

Acts 1:8 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.

This power of the Holy Ghost coming upon the disciples is what took place on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2.

In our passage here (Acts 8:16), the emphasis is very clear, in fact thereís an abundance of "upons" here. The word translated "fallen" is literally "fallen upon", and then Luke again uses the preposition "upon", so that you could almost translate this passage, "for as yet He was upon none of them fallen-upon".

Lesson:

Have you received the Spiritís power "upon" you yet?

This is not a matter of "haveís" and "have-nots". Itís 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, thatís 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 doesnít.

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

Lesson:

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.

We read of this happening in the life of Charles Finney (Autobiography, pg.31) after spending much of the day in prayer Ė

I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had made of large wood was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings. No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, "I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me." I said, "Lord, I cannot bear any more;" yet I had no fear of death.

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.

Faith

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.)

Are you thirsty?

Jesus said you had to be thirsty. This is no mere mental exercise where we think about something and decide, "Oh, and I think I'll probably be needing that as well Ö"

There needs to be something in you that recognizes that you need the power that He has for you. You must need Him.

Are you coming to Jesus?

We can come to famous people, famous pastors, hoping to be prayed for, but Jesus wants us coming to Him.

Are you open to Him?

Thatís the point of "drinking". As you would open your mouth to drink water, you need to open up your heart to receive the Holy Spiritís power.

Itís 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 youíre out for your morning jog.

Itís not a matter of having enough faith to receive, itís simply trusting that Jesus will fill you is you ask Him to.

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

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

Pray. Raise your hand if youíre ready. Receive and believe.

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

saw Ė theaomai Ė to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate.

The language 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.

Itís interesting to note that we arenít told what outward manifestation took place when the Holy Spirit was given. It may have been tongues or prophesying, but we arenít told. Yet 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 wonít tell you, but if youíre 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 heíd 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

power Ė exousia Ė power of choice, the power of authority. Simon isnít 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

Peter is saying that Simon is on his way to destruction, and his money will perish with him.

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

Lesson:

Money has nothing to do with it.

Itís 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 theyíre trying to purchase the gift of forgiveness with money.

In 1517, Pope Leo X was trying to raise money for the building of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He was doing this by offering indulgences for sale to the people. These offered partial remission of the penalty for sins to those who made donations of money. This was kind of a way of buying yourself or a loved one out of hell. This was one of the things that moved Martin Luther in his struggle to reform the church.

You canít buy the gifts of God. Godís gifts are free. Always have been. Always will be.

:21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter

matter Ė logos Ė "word"

Peter is saying that Simon doesnít 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.

right Ė euthus Ė straight, level; upright, true, sincere

in the sight of Ė enopion Ė in the presence of, before

Lesson #1:

No fakes in Godís presence.

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

The problem with most of us is that we donít often realize that weíre in Godís presence, and so we get to think that we can put on masks and pretend to be something weíre 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 Godís 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.

Sometimes we try to pretend to be something weíre not because weíre afraid nobody will care about us if they see what horrible people we really are. Weíre afraid that God couldnít love the person we really are. But the truth is, God loves you, and canít help you until you stop pretending and start living in the truth.

(John 4:24 KJV) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Lesson #2:

Discerning of spirits.

How does Peter know all this about Simon? Has Simon somehow just "rubbed" Peter the wrong way?

Peter is exercising the spiritual gift of discernment.

I donít think that Simon is just a misguided, new believer. I donít think this is just a matter of him relying on his old ways of learning, by buying the latest tricks. If it were, I think that Peter would have gently corrected him and maybe even prayed for Simon to be used by God.

But Peter realizes that thereís more here than just trying to use money to achieve spiritual gifts, thereís a real problem in Simonís heart.

We need to be discerning as well.

Though Peter may be exercising a supernatural gift of discernment, there are things we can do to increase our own discernment, even if we donít have the gift.

Luke writes about the Berean believers Ė

(Acts 17:11 KJV) These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

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

pray Ė deomai Ė to lack; beg because you have a need.

Peter isnít coming across as some angry guy who doesnít want any competition. Heís 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 perceive Ė horao Ė to see with the eyes; to see with the mind Ė this is Peterís discernment.

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

gall of bitterness Ė "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.

It seems this was one of the major problems in Simonís life, bitterness.

Lesson:

Deal with the bitterness.

Heb 12:14-15 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: {15} Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

Itís a root problem.

When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes assign me the chore of weeding out in the backyard. When a kid weeds, they usually tend to just pluck off the leaves on top, leaving the root. And the weeds always grow back. We have a plant in front of our house that I chopped down a few years ago, but was unable to get all of the root system. Every six months or so, some new stalks pop their head up, and the plant re-emerges.

Bitterness produces lots of things in our lives, lots of things that defile many people.

It can give us a quick temper with people. It can make us a grouch to be around. It can make us be a person who takes revenge on others.

You can take care of those problems individually, but if you donít deal with the root, youíll still keep having problems.

Bitterness is the result of unforgiveness.

Thatís the root of bitterness. We must learn to forgive others.

It keeps us from Godís grace.

If we refuse to not forgive others, we in turn wonít experience Godís forgiveness.

(Mat 6:14-15 KJV) For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15} But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Perhaps this is partly why Peter is giving Simon such a stern warning, because heís slipping farther from Godís grace.

:24 Pray ye to the Lord for me

Simon is addressing both Peter and John.

John Gill (1700ís) 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 itís possible that Simon may have even been a little sarcastic in his reply to Peter.