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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Tue, Jul 10, 2012

73 - Simon and Philip [b]

Acts 8:14-25 by Robert Dean
There was a positive response to the gospel message in Samaria. In Acts 8:13 Simon the sorcerer also believed. When Peter and John came from Jerusalem to lay hands on the believing Samaritans, they received the Holy Spirit. Simon thought this was great and offered money in order to profit himself from this phenomenon. Was Simon really saved? What did it mean when Peter told Simon he had neither part nor portion in this matter? How can we know that Simon’s belief was sufficient for his salvation?
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 8 secs

Simon and Philip. Acts 8:14-25

We will finish up looking at Simon, his conversion, and then his immediate fall into confusion and sin, and look at a few things related to more clearly understanding the gospel. Then we will get into the next section. Both of these are tied together showing the expansion of the church. Acts is about the birth and the expansion of the church as it is overseen by the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. They move out from Jerusalem and we learn at the beginning of chapter eight that this is because of persecution which breaks out in Jerusalem against the Christians. At this stage the church is still one hundred per cent a Jewish church.

As we get into this chapter we see an expansion north into Samaria. The key player is Philip, one of the six who was chosen to help with the distribution of financial aid to Hellenistic widows in chapter 6. Another who was mentioned there is Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. A proselyte—at this time there were different levels—probably meant a proselyte of the gate which was someone who was pretty much accepting all of Judaism but they stopped short of circumcision. There were other designations: God-fearers (Cornelius) and there was a full proselyte which was someone who was a Gentile who fully can under the Mosaic Law. Here we have Nicolas, a proselyte. He was not considered a Gentile anymore. Thinking about the big picture in Acts again, we start off in Jerusalem and then go to Samaria and Judea. Then they go outside of that once Paul becomes saved. He goes to Antioch and there the church is still Jewish because it is not until Acts chapter ten that Luke makes a significant emphasis on the fact that Cornelius and what occurs at his household is the first inclusion of Gentiles into this new entity known as the church.

With both the Samaritans and the Ethiopians the emphasis that Luke has is on the expansion of the church, and in these two groups they are not fully Jewish groups but they are not considered Gentiles either. It is not until Acts 10 that we get into a look at the Gentiles.

In Acts 8:14-17 we have the story of Peter and John coming to Samaria. There has already been a response to the gospel. We are introduced to Simon in verse 9 who previously practiced sorcery, so he is into the demonic arts. He was identifying himself according to the title that he used, "the Great Power of God." This was a title he was claiming for himself an incarnation of God himself—not like Jesus who is the Son of God, but he was claiming to be God himself. He had really impressed everybody in the area. He was widely known, infamous, and when Philip comes he is evangelising, proclaiming the gospel, and the response is that the people believed. Notice verse 12: "But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike." "They" is the Samaritans, the subject of the verb. They believe Philip as he preaches the things concerning the kingdom of God, which is roughly analogous to the gospel at this point, and the name of Jesus Christ. Both men and women are baptised—water baptism as a sign that they have accepted Jesus as the Messiah. The verb "believed" is used over 35 times in Acts, and every single time it talks about the response to the gospel message. All that is required for a person to be saved is to believe. This is the Gospel of John who writes toward the end of the Gospel: "These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life through His name." Over 95 times in the Gospel of John there is this one verb mentioned as the sole condition for eternal life—simply to believe.

Believe doesn't mean to commit. You don't get that out of any dictionary. Believe means to accept something to be true, to trust it, to rely upon that as being true. Some people come along and they say such as the problem is that people have a head faith and not a heart faith. The problem with that is they are mixing metaphors of Scripture. Heart in the Scripture is simply used as a metaphor for the soul, and it primarily has as its meaning probably 75 per cent of the time in Scripture as the thinking part of the soul, not the emotional part of the soul. A head belief is considered to be the intellect and heart is juxtaposed in that kind of a sentence to something else. It is not really emotion because you can't believe with emotion. Belief is not an emotion; belief is purely and simply an intellectual activity. It involves an understanding of what you are believing. You can't believe what you don't understand. We may not fully comprehend what it is that we are believing. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead. We cannot fully comprehend how that took place but we can comprehend it enough to where I understand what it means to be resurrected from the dead. We can't explain the dynamics of the process, what happens medically, but we can understand what took place and I can choose to believe that or to not believe that. So belief doesn't means that we understand comprehensively or exhaustively, but it does mean that we understand the general concept that is expressed in the belief statement. So everything we believe is simply expressed by what is called by philosophers as propositional statement. A propositional statement is really a technical term in philosophy and a proposition is basically an indicative mood sentence. It is a statement about reality that can either be proven or disproved.

Question: Is it raining outside? Can you prove that? You can't, it's a question. Go to the store and get some milk to bring home. Can you prove that to be right or wrong? Neither, because it is a command. So you can't prove a question to be right or wrong but if we say it is raining outside we can prove that or disprove it. It is provable or disprovable. There is a God who exists in heaven. Can you prove that or not? In some sense you can, eventually it will be demonstrated to be true one way or the other. But you may not see it right now; you may not have empirical evidence of it; but you hear it from authority so you can believe it or not.   

It is always amazing the hear some people who are too smart for their own good, or think they are, and it is nothing more than arrogance, who think: I am only going to believe something I can see, or touch, or personally experience. That is insane, because everyone of us believes thousands and thousands of things to be true that we have no evidence of whatsoever. We grow up learning that way. When you are a little child and your parents begin to teach you things you just take it by faith that that is the way it is. Later on there are some of those things that are proven to be correct or incorrect but there are many things that we all believe about life that cannot be proven in any empirical sense be true or false. But statements such as Jesus is the Messiah or statements that you can validate or invalidate: there are some people who despite evidence want to invalidate that statement. But there are always people who, no matter how much evidence you present, are not going to believe something.

In a context of talking to somebody about the Lord a question to ask is, what would it take for you to be convinced that God exists or that Jesus was God? Because Jesus performed not just the miracles that we are told about in Scripture but we are told in various texts that He performed numerous miracles. And He performed the kinds of miracles that can't be counterfeited. One was in John chapter nine where He gave sight to the blind man. That is a significant miracle that is recorded because according to rabbinical thought at the time that was one of the unique signs of the Messiah that could not be counterfeited, could not be duplicated in any way. It would be a clear understanding that the person who did that was the Messiah.

But then the issue is: do you believe it or not? Belief is related to a sentence that is provable or falsifiable. It is related to a proposition. Jesus is the Messiah. You either can believe it or you can not believe it. There is evidence to support that claim and this is what John writes about in the Gospel of John. John 20:30, 31 NASB "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." It is by believing, a clear stand alone condition. It is the sole condition for regeneration, justification, for eternal salvation, moving from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Acts 8:12 NASB "But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike." We have no doubt whatsoever that those who believed were saved.

Acts 8:13 NASB "Even Simon himself believed …" It is just as simple in the Greek text. There is nothing else added, no funny little word used there; it is just a very simple statement that as part of the larger group that believed and was baptised we have "Simon himself also believed." The conjunction kai [kai] used there is just a word to add to the previous group. From  the large group that believed Luke is now focusing on this one individual, Simon, that he also believed. " … and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip …" So there is a continuation there. He is following along. There is no indication there is anything odd or unusual about Simon yet. "… and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed."

Acts 8:14 NASB "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God [indicating belief, a synonym for faith], they sent them Peter and John, [15] who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit." The object of this receive is different from, the object of the receive in verse 14. In verse 14 they were receiving the Word of God, believing the message of God, but in verse 15 they haven't received the Holy Spirit. The term there for receiving the Holy Spirit is a term that goes right back to Acts chapter two and what happened with the apostles when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So this is called the Samaritan Pentecost but there is a different order of events and there is no speaking in languages. Why? Because it is involving the Samaritans.

Acts 8:16 NASB "For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [17] Then they {began} laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit." Except for Simon? It's not there, is it? It's not there even in any corrupted manuscript. So there is no exception. 

Acts 8:18 NASB "Now when Simon saw that …" So he is present; he is not being singled out as one who did not receive the Holy Spirit. "… the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money." Does this mean he is not saved? Not at all. There is not any verbiage yet that would indicate that he is not saved. Stupid, sinful, carnal? Yes, but nothing here says he was not saved. He is doing what so many Christians do today. He is doing what many Christians do today. We see it all the time. They become saved but they are still living in the pig stye that they were saved out of because they don't know anything. Their thinking, their values, their ideas are all shaped by the culture around them and they don't have any biblical values yet. Their default position is still going to be back on what they were before they were saved.

Romans 6:11 NASB "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Paul is telling believers that they need to think, realise, consider the fact that a change has taken place and they are now to think about themselves as being dead to sin. He makes it even more clear in the next verse. [12] "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts." In other words, it is a choice. We can choose to continue to sin, to live as we were before we were saved. [13] "and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin {as} instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members {as} instruments of righteousness to God. [14] For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

Romans 6:16 NASB "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone {as} slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? [17] But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, [18] and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."

However, he is telling them that they still have a problem. Romans 6:22 NASB "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." The problem is that they have not always been presenting themselves to righteousness and to obedience. So as an believer we can sin just like we did before we were saved because we don't understand, haven't learned, the difference. This is what was going on here with Simon. 

Simon wants this power. Having this background of being involved with sorcery, these demonic arts where money could be used to purchase things and to be taught skills so that one could continue to fool people and practice black arts in order to become wealthy by taking advantage of people. Simon sees these miracles and is thinking just like any normal person would in terms of his own limited frame of reference. It is not that he is not saved; it is that he has no knowledge.  

Acts 8:19 NASB "saying, 'Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'" This is great stuff. I could really get rich doing this. There are numerous people who are really Christians but who are living in sin, and they're wrong.

Acts 8:20 NASB "But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!'" He doesn't say "because you are not saved," he says because he thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money. Now the gift of God that he is talking about here isn't the gift of salvation, it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is very clear from what happened in the previous verse.

Where this gets a little interesting is this word "perish," because it is the Greek word apollumi [a)pollumi], which is related to the word usually translated "eternal perishing," e.g. John 3:16, "not perish," or relating to Judas Iscariot where he is called "the son of perdition," another form of that same word. So in many cases it has that sense of eternal punishment, but not always.     

Acts 8:21 NASB "You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God." What does "no part or portion" mean? The real key is the three words, perish, part, and portion. We should be warned that there are people we will read who are generally pretty good at expositing the Word that didn't get this.

To quotes given as an exercise and discernment and critical thinking. It is always important to know some things about people we are reading, and also know some dates. In about 1981, 2 the Bible Knowledge Commentary came out. It is excellent in many ways. Each commentary on each book is written by a different faculty member of Dallas Theological Seminary. On the opening page it says "Edited by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck." But there are things within the commentary with which we do not agree. For example, John Martin, who later demonstrated that he had already given up dispensationalism but didn't have the integrity to say so at the time that he wrote the commentary on Isaiah. He denied that Isaiah chapter fourteen related to the fall of Satan. This has now become a popular position with different people and there are others have clearly refuted it.

Just because there is a variety of positions and a variety of scholars who take these positions doesn't mean we are agnostic. A lot of sheep in the pew get a little bit uneasy: Well, how do we know what is right? You learn how to think, you learn how to evaluate evidence like a good lawyer or a good jury, and you go, in an evaluate the evidence. You weigh the arguments on each side and continuously study because there is always information you could learn that would either reinforce your case, but you are always open to learning and to improving your understanding of the truth.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary on Acts was written Stanley Toussaint. He was a great teacher. He understands free grace. But that is why dates are important. This was really written in the late eighties and the thing that really broke open the free grace versus lordship debate where a lot of things started to get hammered out and clarified and understood did not occur until about 1982 when Zane Hodges wrote a book called The Gospel Under Siege. This was one of those ground-breaking books that became quite controversial among students at Dallas Seminary. People who were committed to Calvinism really had a problem with it because it really does point out some problems with some forms of Calvinism. But not all forms of Calvinism have necessarily been of a lordship type. A lot of things were worked out.

There were young men in that group like Bob Wilkin who later became the head of the Grace Evangelical Society. In his doctoral dissertation he wrote on the use of metanoia [metanoia], the word for repent in the New Testament. This was a 300 plus page, heavily documented doctoral dissertation where he pointed out that this was not a word related to getting saved. If it were necessary to repent to get saved then why does the Gospel of John never use it? If John is the source of understanding what that key message is to getting saved then the fact that he never uses the word "repent" is significant. It is not important; it is not relevant to that concept. Some people will come along and say repent clearly means to change your mind, so it would relate to the idea of changing your mind from rejecting Christ to believing in Christ. Yes, if you want to limit it to that that could be true, but that is not primarily how it is used in Scripture. It is used of the people of God turning from disobedience to obedience. That is its primary usage in the Scripture. 

But this is what Stanley Toussaint wrote:

"The language of this verse where Peter says, 'You have no part or share in this ministry implies Simon was not a Christian. For similar terminology see Deuteronomy 12:12; 14:17, 'just as the Levites had no inheritance in the promised land.'     

 But they were still in the promised land; they were still Jews. He misses the point there. He gets it close enough that it is inheritance, but inheritance doesn't equal entry into the land. Levites were allowed to enter the land but they weren't given a portion or inheritance in the land, and it wasn't a punishment.

The adverb perhaps does not mean God is reluctant to forgive sin; the question is whether Simon would repent of his heart's intention.

He misses the point.

Arnold Fruchtenbaum:

"The picture is of Simon sticking closely to Philip to find out the secret of his power. The question arises: What does it mean when it says that Simon believed? Did he become a true believer?

You cannot find in the original text of Scripture where you have an adjectival or an adverbial qualification on either the noun "believe" or the verb "believe." Never does it say you need to be a true believer in Jesus. Not once! In the English some of the translators have added that but it is not in the original. There is never a qualification. You don't have to have genuine belief or sincere belief or true belief; it is always simply you have to believe. Believe simply means to accept it as being true.

It is not that you believe it is true that that is what the Bible says. I believe that Charles Darwin said that men evolved from monkeys. But I don't believe that men evolved from monkeys. Those are two different statements. Many people believe Christianity teaches that Jesus was the Son of God; many people believe that the Bible says you have to believe in Jesus to be saved; but they don't believe personally in Jesus to save them.

"What did he come to believe?

What did the text say here? Acts 8:12 NASB "But when they [The Samaritans] believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike." If we trace that always through Acts it is always expressing the content of the gospel. [13] "Even Simon himself believed …"

But this is what Arnold says:

"What did he come to believe? In the end he believed that Jesus was "the Great Power of God."

That is not what the text says. Going back to verse 10 it says, "and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, 'This man is what is called the Great Power of God.'" But nowhere does it say that Simon thought that Jesus was the Great Power of God. That connection is never made anywhere in the text.

But this was not saving faith. The problem with Simon was that the more he watched the signs and miracles performed by Philip the more the wonder of it all grew in his mind and eventually a desire developed within him to be able to do the same. However, what Simon believed did not require saving faith. To believe that Jesus was that great power of God is not enough to save anyone.

Nowhere in the text does it say he believed that Jesus was the Great Power of God. So he is reading things into the text that aren't there. He concludes:

One must believe that He died as our substitute, and one must trust what Yeshua did on the cross for our salvation, and nothing else.

That is the free grace gospel right there; he has it nailed. But he messes up earlier. This is not recent material. These kinds of things related to the gospel have really been clarified.

 Acts 8:20 NASB "But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! [21] You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.'" The identical terminology is used for Simon's belief as all other saving faith in Acts. They key is understanding the technical sense of these two words in verse 21. The word "part" is meris [merij] from meros [meroj], and "portion," the word kleros [klhroj], the word for inheritance. meros is the word that designated the part or portion that was given to someone in their inheritance.

Luke 15 is part of three stories that Jesus tells about lost things—lost sheep, lost coin, and a lost son. The first thing to note is that prior to being lost they were all owned by the owner. That is salvation. So this isn't talking about how to become owned by the owner, how the owner came to own the sheep or how the woman came to own the coin, or how the lost son became to be the son of the father. It is talking about what happens when there is a break in the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, the woman and the coin, and the lost son.

Luke 15:11, 12 NASB "And He said, 'A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share [meros] of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them." What does the son want? He wants his share of the inheritance. The word meros was a technical term to describe in a legal will what portion/share went to somebody.

Where would Peter get this terminology? John 13:8 NASB "Peter said to Him, 'Never shall You wash my feet!' Jesus answered him, 'If I do not wash you, you have no part [meros] with Me.'" Jesus is saying, "You have no inheritance with me." He is not saying, "You are not saved."

Te bottom line is, when you are saved you have an eternal destiny in heaven. But God promises certain rewards, incentivised blessing for believers to be obedient and to grow to maturity. This is what 1 Corinthians 3 and the judgment seat of Christ is all about. If we walk with the Lord and we grow and mature then there are additional blessings and rewards that God is going to distribute to us in heaven. But if we don't, we are going to lose them. The difference is, are we going to live on the basis of God and His Word, and on dependence on the Holy Spirit? Or are we going to do it on the basis of legalism, on the basis of thinking we can buy God's favour or earn God's favour? That is the point that Peter is making here, that Simon is operating on his unbelieving mentality that he can buy the favour of God. Peter is saying, If you continue to operate that way you are not going to have any inheritance in the kingdom, you are just going to be a failure as a believer. You are going to get there but you are going to be like that last category that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 3, saved but not have anything in terms of rewards.

So what is the solution? He is addressing a believer. He doesn't say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Why? He is already saved.

Steven Ger, the new Executive Director of Ariel Ministries, wrote a commentary on the book of Acts. He takes the same position explained above, that Peter wasn't trying to tell Simon at this point how to get saved. He says,

Note that Peter did not prevail upon Simon to trust Christ. Simon's faith is assumed.        

Acts 8:22 NASB "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. [23] For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity. [24] But Simon answered and said, 'Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.'"

He doesn't seem impressed, he doesn't seem to change, and that is the last we hear of him. But does that mean he is not a believer? No, there are a lot of people again. It just means that they never play a role in Luke's narrative.

Acts 8:25 NASB "So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken [laleo/ lalew] the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching [euangelizo/ e)uaggelizw] the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. laleo—now they are moving from evangelism to teaching more about what the Word of God teaches. euangelizo—evangelism.