Turn your attention to the book of Acts, we're looking in Acts chapter 8. We'll be reading about the conversion of the church in Samaria and one person in particular in Samaria, a man by the name of Simon, known today as Simon the Sorcerer, or Simon Magus.
Every generation of people has had to contend with charlatans, con-artists, swindlers, and hucksters. A century ago, they came in the form of rainmakers and snake oil salesmen.
Today, this genre of men often pushes religion as a means of making merchandise of the brethren. Peter alludes to this, "by covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words." — 2 Peter 2:3
One of the greatest stories of conversion in the book of Acts deals with a grifter by the name of, Simon, Simon the sorcerer.
As we pick up the story, the Christians, except for the apostles went everywhere preaching the Word. Having been chased out of the city by the uproar caused by Saul's persecution. They went everywhere preaching the Word.
One Christian, a man by the name of Philip went down to Samaria to preach the Word.
- Acts 8:5-13
Prior to his conversion, Simon would have made a good televangelist. He could have had his own TV show and felt right at home on stage with several false teachers of our day. Simon had everything going for him. His credentials as a "faith healer" would have been impressive.
The early "Church Fathers" wrote much about this man—some of their accounts are highly imaginative. There is nothing more known for certain about this man other than what Luke wrote about him. He is known as Simon Magus or "Simon the Sorcerer."His name, Simon, suggests he was of Jewish or Samaritan origin.
In this lesson, we want to notice some of the things about his "religion" and the way many of the Samaritans viewed him.
Simon Made Great Claims
- Acts 8:9
Simon claimed, "that he was someone great" (Acts 8.9).
Look at the differences between Simon the Sorcerer and Philip. One preached himself, the other preached Christ. One man amazed his audience with "sorcery," while the other man performed genuine miracles by the Spirit of God. One man had to rely upon gullible people, the other man called for faith in the Son of God.
This is the difference between the religion of Jesus Christ and the superstitions which the world calls religion.
Philip went into the region of Samaria to preach Christ—to preach that the Messiah had come and to make known his teachings.
The same truths had before been stated in Samaria by our Savior Himself.
- John 4:3-5
Maybe this is why they gladly received the word.
- John 4:39-42
The field had been prepared by Jesus Himself—He said the fields were "already white for harvest."
- John 4:35
It is in this field that Philip enters and is blessed in his labor. Simon made great claims, but he was a fraud!
Simon Drew Large Numbers of People
- Acts 8:10
The people of Samaria "all gave heed" to Simon, (Acts 8:10). Many people want to be a part of the "mega-ministries." Large numbers are not wrong by themselves.
The so-called health and wealth or prosperity theology has pulled in millions of people around the world with the false notion that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth.
Creflo Dollar has a following of over 200, 000 people. He asked his followers to buy him a Gulfstream G650, the fastest private jet in the world, priced at $65 Million so that he "safely and swiftly share the Good News of the Gospel worldwide." His own personal wealth is ~$27 million.
Joel Osteen has over 10 million viewers weekly, has a megachurch with approximately 50,000 members housed in a 606, 000 square foot former sports arena – has authored numerous books, which are little more than religious versions of popular psychology self-help books. His personal wealth is thought to be over $50 million.
Kenneth Copeland of Trinity Broadcasting Network, TBN has an estimated net worth that makes the other two look like two-bit street hustlers! $760 million!
Many would-be impressed with the prophets of Baal.
- 1 Kings 18:17-22
Just because a preacher has a large following does not mean his message is pleasing to God.
- Matthew 18:20
Simon the sorcerer had a large following, but he was a thief!
Simon Had Many Influential Followers
Simon's followers came from all classes of people, "from the least to the greatest," (Acts 8:10). Some people get overly excited when a famous politician or star is a member of their church. God is not a respecter of persons.
- Acts 10:34—35
Christ did not promise popularity.
- Matthew 10:22
The New Testament church was composed of former prostitutes, drug users, adulterers, and homosexuals.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Jesus rejoiced when sinners came to Him.
- Luke 15:1—7
Few "noble" people will come to Christ
- 1 Corinthians 1:18—26
Simon had "great" follow him, but he was a charlatan!
Simon Could Offer Moving Testimonials
The Samaritans said, "This man is the great power of God,” (Acts 8:10).
If you dared to question the claims of Simon, he would have supplied you with a list of folks willing to give testimony about his ability. Every witch doctor in Africa and every voodoo priest in Haiti can supply you with a list of references of people the "healed." What does it prove? What about his audience? Were they all liars?
God allows Satan to blind the eyes of some.
- John 12:39-40
- 2 Corinthians 4:4
God will allow us to believe a lie.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
When an honestly mistaken man sees that he is mistaken, he either ceases to be honest or he ceases to be mistaken. Simon could offer you testimonials, but he was a flimflam man!
Simon Could Perform Astonishing Feats
Simon was able to "astonish" his audience with his feats, (Acts 8:11). Simon's sleight of hand and Houdini-like powers amazed the people. Like many "faith healers" today, he could probably “cure” everything from headaches to vertigo.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:9
Of course, Simon could not make the lame to walk, the blind to see or raise the dead as the apostles did, (Acts 3:6; 9:40).
The magicians in Pharaoh's court imitated Moses.
- Exodus 7:11
- 2 Corinthians 12:12
- Revelation 2:2
Simon could perform astonishing feats, but he was a huckster!
Simon Had Been a Longtime Resident of Samaria
Simon was not a newcomer to Samaria, for he had been able to "for a long time," (Acts 8:11).
Perhaps as long as five to seven years. Around 27 A.D. Jesus had been to Sychar (near the city of Samaria).
It is possible that Simon arrived in the area just after Jesus left, and finding people still influenced by the Master, he exploited their excited emotions for his own objectives.
Some people believe longevity in a town is proof that God is with you. Some even brag that their church established the town. Simon was a long-time resident of Samaria, but he was an impostor.
Just because a church makes great claims, has a large number of influential members, offers moving testimonials about astonishing feats, and has existed in a town for many decades —that is no proof that God is with them.
Simon had all of this and more!
Young people don't allow your selves to be influenced by these things.
We are happy to report that when Simon saw the genuine power of God, he along with many others, gave up on his religious scam.
- Acts 8:12-13
He became a Christian. He turned away from that life of grift and being a con artist to be a child of God. We are 100,000 miles and 2,000 years removed from the church established in Jerusalem in Acts chapter two, and the preaching of the things concerning the kingdom in Acts chapter 8. But, we can become what they were by doing what they did.
- Acts 2:38-42
We can become what they were if we do what they did. We can become a child of God, become Christians, as the first Christians became Christians. We can believe, repent, confess our belief, and be baptized just as they were baptized.
If you are a Christian today, who has become unfaithful, as we see later in the case of Simon in Acts 8, you can do as Peter told him to do, Acts 8:20. Simon repented and prayed for forgiveness. If he stayed faithful unto death, he received the reward. If we too remain faithful unto death, we will be where he is.
If we can assist you in turning your life to the Lord, in obedience, living a repentant and faithful life, please contact us.