Monday, July 2, 2007

Simon the Sorcerer

There is a certain kind of person with whom I find I have absolutely no affinity.
I am talking about the person who lives on the edge.
Perhaps he thrives on the adrenalin response to danger whether he partakes in extreme sports or stands in harm’s way by choosing a life profession in the armed forces, firefighter or policeman.
Or he could be a person who loves the limelight, the center stage, feels the pull of the occult, the power to control people by magic or deception or demonic power. He loves the adulation of the crowds, to be held in awe because he has the power to wow his followers.

Simon, the Sorcerer was such a man.
He had for a long time, by his powers of magic, held the crowds spellbound and had them believing he was someone great, someone who operated by the power of God.
‘Simon, the Sorcerer’ was a house-hold name in Samaria, known by young and old alike and revered and feared by them all.

There was none greater than Simon -- that is, until Philip came to Samaria preaching the good news of the kingdom. The crowds turned from Simon to Philip, convinced by Philip’s words that Jesus Christ had come to bring the kingdom of God to them.
Their hearts were stirred and convicted. Men and women repented of their sin, embraced the new teaching and were baptized into the faith.

Simon was watching.
He saw that the crowds who had previously eaten out of his hand were now eagerly listening to Philip’s teaching. Perhaps our saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them” reaches back to New Testament times because that is what Simon decided to do.
He was intrigued with this new power that Philip had and recognized that to learn more , he needed to be on the inside.
So Simon also proclaimed faith in Jesus Christ and was baptised.
For a time he regained a place of prominence as everyone was talking about his conversion. The exciting news travelled fast - “Did you hear Simon was also baptised?”
Simon had no intention of relinquishing his love of the supernatural. He was intrigued by the miracles that happened by the hand of Philip and desiring to have the same power, he watched closely to discern by what magic Philip was performing these mighty deeds.

The news of what was happening in Samaria spread to Jerusalem and Peter and John were sent to Samaria to check it out. They came to make sure that the new believers were being taught the fullness of the gospel.
Did they know about the gift of the Holy Spirit?
No, it seems they didn’t.
So Peter and John laid hands on the new believers and prayed for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When they did the signs were evident. Did they speak with other tongues? Scripture does not give the details but something happened that impressed Simon so much he was determined to have this power to give the Holy Spirit to anyone he laid his hands on. The crowds would once again be his!!
He took Peter and John aside and offered them a large sum of money if they would give him the secret of their power.

Peter looked at Simon and saw through his spiritual pretence.
He said, “Your money perish with you! You can have no part in this because your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent of your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart maybe forgiven.”
Simon did not grasp what Peter was telling him – that he needed to repent of the wickedness of his heart!
Instead he asked Peter to pray for him that these things would not come upon him.
What things?
That he could have no part of this new power and that his money would perish with him.
Simon could only see the physical substance and reality of this world, not his spiritual condition or the world to come.

The bible does not tell us what happened to Simon and many people have speculated as to whether or not he repented. But we don’t have to speculate. The bible may not tell us but we have historical records that do.

One of the early fathers, Irenaeus – who lived from 120-202 AD- wrote about Simon. He identifies him as Simon the Samaritan that Luke spoke about in Acts 8.
Irenaeus records that after Peter rebuked Simon he did not turn to God but rather set himself against the apostles and became worse than he ever was before.
Claudius Caesar, who was reigning at that time apparently had a statue erected of Simon, honouring him for his magical acts.
Simon went about deceiving many, telling them that it was he who had appeared to the Jews as the Son, but that he had descended to the Samaritans as the Father while he came to the other nations as the Holy Spirit.
He was responsible for the origin of many of the heresies that plagued the early church.

Simon was an example of the men Paul was talking about in Philippians 3:18, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ."
We have had many false teachers/prophets down through the church age. Not all deceivers are as obvious as Simon- especially to us looking at him in hindsight- but even Simon was believed to be sincere for a time.
We have all had the sad and disappointing experience of finding out that someone we trusted and respected was not who they claimed to be.

If we heed scripture’s warning and stay alert and test the teachings we listen to as the Berean’s did whom Paul commends in Acts 17:11, we will not be deceived!

We have Jesus own words to the Ephesus church praising them for examining their teachers, “And you have tested those say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars!” (Rev.2:2)

Let us be eager to listen, eager to learn, but always lovers of Truth!!


Demara said...

You know Julie I think you could teach a class at a Bible College, have you thought about that before? It's never too late to go back to school you know...I just think you would make a very good Teacher. Thanks for teaching me about Simon, I think I heard this before, but to read the reminder is great!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic story on Simon. I know he's been lost in history, and there seems to be two Simons from around this time period and it's difficult to tell which is which, but I thoroughly enjoyed your take on it, especially the biblical points as opposed to the secular history.

Anonymous said...

Yes but in Acts it also says that Peter ended up going back to Jerusalem... So who started the Catholic Church in Rome? Not Simon/Peter but Simon the Sorcerer.

shanta kingston said...

I was looking for some matter on Simon to include in a Children's book. I gathered all the materials I needed from yr article .Thank You.
shanta kingston