But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished 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 the great power of God.” And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
A question comes to mind; was Simon’s belief real or just a ruse? Was it real, but within him lay the seeds of resentment toward another demonstrating greater power? He was familiar with the workings of the spirit world but did not seem to have discernment between the evil and the good in that world? Rather than ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, he asked Peter for it. Peter’s reaction and words were familiar to Simon; they were the substance of a curse and Peter gave it therefore Peter would be asked to remove it. However, there is a subtle difference, Simon now asks Peter to pray to the Lord to remove it. He is now recognizing the source of this ‘magic’ he is witnessing. What do we take from this passage? Why is it shared with us, for what purpose? It seems that understanding of the spirit world does not necessarily mean belonging to God. We are not the ‘great.’ God is. He gives. We do not do anything to receive from God. We ask. He gives. We receive. That simple. He knows our heart and gives according to His will. We cannot buy our way into a relationship with God. Peter could have been tempted to take the money, but his mind-set was doing God’s work and following Christ’s commands. The Holy Spirit was in residence within him and revealed the truth of the situation.
How much care we must take to be sure we have the mind of Christ, be sure we are immersed in His Word and filled with His Spirit, have a heart that is true to Him! Peter leaves no room for doubt that it is a fearful thing to think we can selfishly appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit.