Thursday, May 30, 2013


Acts 8:9-24

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money.

—Acts 8:18


8:9 Now a certain man named Simon had previously  practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. 10A11 of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, "This man is the power of God that is called Great." 11 And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19saying, "Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money! 21You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. 22Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness." 24Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me."


As Christians, as congregations, as denominations, and as Christ's one universal church, we do not depend on ourselves but on Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ's is the only authority that we are to seek and discern in the midst of our lives. We are not lords of others or ourselves. Our Lord, the one who authors our lives, is Lord over all that is and is none other than the triune God. All spiritual power is God's alone. Our power is in cooperation with the power of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot be holy apart from the Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit cannot be owned, parceled, hoarded, bought, or demanded.

As we follow the plot in this story, we see power at work; we see how people respond to this power both in service and in greed. Simon was powerful. People followed and "listened to him eagerly." As the story unfolds, Simon recognizes power greater than his own in the preaching of Philip, and so he follows him. Then there is an even greater power: the power of bestowing the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. When Peter chastises Simon, he draws a vital distinction: one cannot have the power of God. One simply serves it.



We human beings are certainly drawn to power. We enjoy watching powerful athletes; we respect people who are able to use words effectively; and when someone with personal charisma walks into a room, we can't help but notice and show interest. Power brings prestige and recognition, and as we can see in many public figures, it brings the temptation to live outside ethical boundaries. Simon is a powerful man, so powerful that people "listen to him eagerly." They follow him. However, these same people discern a greater power through Philip's preaching when he comes to them in Samaria.

Philip was among those who had been dispersed throughout the area when Saul began his campaign against Christians (Acts 8:1-3). Those who spread out after Stephen's death and Saul's persecution of them did not scatter into the countryside to escape from threats to their lives but to proclaim the gospel. No wonder the Samaritans took note of Philip: even though persecuted, he preached a joyous message that threatened religious assumptions.

The Samaritans believe and are baptized, but the power that Philip brokers is not his own, nor does he buy or sell it for his own sake. Instead, he serves the power of God through proclamation and baptism. Because those in Jerusalem heard of this work of God, they sent Peter and John to demonstrate it further and to serve the power of God by the laying on of hands. Simon doesn't understand that it is God's power alone. The Samaritans discern the power of God and how it is administered. Simon discerns incorrectly when he thinks that this power can be manipulated.

Peter not only accurately accuses Simon of the wrong motives,  he also makes a way clear for Simon to be healed and forgiven for his motivations and misunderstandings. The power of God opens a way to Simon for restoration.

What does Simon do?

He accepts the grace! Certainly, Peter is a strong example of a servant to the power of God; Simon now humbles himself, submits to correction, and learns about the true nature of the power of the Holy Spirit. Simon wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit; now he receives it freely, pointing to God alone.



We read about God's power for living in Eph. 3:20:" [God] by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine." It is what gives us the confidence to spread our wings and fly, to dare to say and do all the gospel things we are given. The God of the universe created us in God's own image, which we bear in our daily lives. We are created to be who God created us to be. We are servants, yes. But we are not all the same servant doing the exact same thing in service to the Holy Spirit. And we are not weak servants, "for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7).

How do we shine brightly without burning others? Our power is to serve, not destroy. Our lives are like parables, pointing to Jesus or to the kingdom of heaven.

Philip continued the call to proclaim the gospel and to baptize; John and Peter went where they were sent and did what they were given to do; and Peter declared the truth about the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, in the end, serves us by binding us to Jesus Christ, in whom all things in heaven and on earth are reconciled to God. We serve the God who is for us.

Just imagine: your light, shining brightly, glorifies God and points all those around you to the Holy Spirit.



Can you think of a person or two in your life who has "shined brightly" and encouraged you to do so? How does your understanding of this inspiration change when you realize God gives you a spirit of power and love?

Is it hard to affirm others who shine brightly in a way different from the way that you shine? Why or why not?

What power has God given you to point to the gospel of Christ? Do you demonstrate joy, love, peace, patience, or other fruits of the Holy Spirit?



Holy Spirit, if you accomplish abundantly far more than what we can think to ask for or even imagine, we realize that you change the world. Help us to stand up boldly, confident that you have created us to be powerful servants of your gospel. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen.

Compiled from The Present Word and Congregational Ministries Publishing is not liable for for the content of this Bible Study and Blog.

From The Present Word © 2012 Congregational Ministries Publishing. Used by permission.

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