Acts 8:21
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
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(21) Neither part nor lot.—A like, though not an identical, combination of the two words meets us in Colossians 1:12. On the latter, see Notes on Acts 1:17; Acts 1:25. It is, perhaps, used here in its secondary sense. Simon had no inheritance in the spiritual gifts nor in the spiritual offices of the Church. The power attached to the apostleship was not a thing for traffic.

Thy heart is not right in the sight of God.—“Straight” or “right” is used, as in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, for “straightforward,” not in the secondary sense of “being as it ought to be.” The word is not of frequent occurrence in the New Testament, but, like so many of the spoken words of St. Peter, meets us again as coming from his pen (2Peter 2:15).



Acts 8:21

The era of the birth of Christianity was one of fermenting opinion and decaying faith. Then, as now, men’s minds were seething and unsettled, and that unrest which is the precursor of great changes in intellectual and spiritual habitudes affected the civilised world. Such a period is ever one of predisposition to superstition. The one true bond which unites God and man being obscured, and to the consciousness of many snapped, men’s minds become the prey of visionary terrors. Demand creates supply, and the magician and miracle-worker, the possessor of mysterious ways into the Unknown, is never far off at such a time. Partly deceived and partly deceiving, he is as sure a sign of the lack of profound religious conviction and of the presence of unsatisfied religious aspirations in men’s souls, as the stormy petrel or the floating seaweed is of a tempest on the seas.

So we find the early preachers of Christianity coming into frequent contact with pretenders to magical powers. Sadly enough, they were mostly Jews, who prostituted their clearer knowledge to personal ends, and having tacked on to it some theosophic rubbish which they had learned from Alexandria, or mysticism which had filtered to them from the East, or magic arts from Phrygia, went forth, the only missionaries that Judaism sent out, to bewilder and torture men’s minds. What a fall from Israel’s destination, and what a lesson for the stewards of the ‘oracles of God’!

Of such a sort were Elymas, the sorcerer whom Paul found squatting at the ear of the Roman Governor of Cyprus; the magicians at Ephesus; the vagabond Jews exorcists, who with profitable eclecticism, as they thought, tried to add the name of Jesus as one more spell to their conjurations; and, finally, this Simon the sorcerer. Established in Samaria, he had been juggling and conjuring and seeing visions, and professing to be a great mysterious personality, and had more than permitted the half-heathen Samaritans, who seem to have had more religious susceptibility and less religious knowledge than the Jews, and so were a prepared field for all such pretenders, to think of him as in some sense an incarnation of God, and perhaps to set him up as a rival or caricature of Him who in the neighbouring Judaea was being spoken of as the power of God, God manifest in the flesh.

To the city thus moved comes no Apostle, but a Christian man who begins to preach, and by miracles and teaching draws many souls to Christ.

The story of Simon Magus in his attitude to the Gospel is a very striking and instructive one. It presents for our purpose now mainly three points to which I proceed to refer.

I. An instance of a wholly unreal, because inoperative, faith.

‘He believed,’ says the narrative, and believing was baptized. It is worth noting, in passing, how the profession of faith without anything more was considered by the Early Church sufficient. But obviously his was no true faith. The event showed that it was not.

What was it which made his faith thus unreal?

It rested wholly on the miracles and signs; he ‘wondered’ when he saw them. Of course, miracles were meant to lead to faith; but if they did not lead on to a deeper sense of one’s own evil and need, and so to a spiritual apprehension, then they were of no use.

The very beginning of the story points to the one bond that unites to God, as being the sense of need and the acceptance with heart and will of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Such a disposition is shown in the Samaritans, who make a contrast with Simon in that they believed Philip preaching, while Simon believed him working miracles. The true place of miracles is to attract attention, to prepare to listen to the word. They are only introductory. A faith may be founded on them, but, on the other hand, the impressions which they produce may be evanescent. How subordinate then, their place at the most! And the one thing which avails is a living contact of heart and soul with Jesus Christ.

Again, Simon’s belief was purely an affair of the understanding. We are not to suppose, I think, that he merely believed in Philip as a miracle-worker; he must have had some notion about Philip’s Master, and we know that it was belief in Jesus as the Christ that qualified in the Apostolic age for baptism. So it is reasonable to suppose that he had so much of head knowledge. But it was only head knowledge. There was in it no penitence, no self-abandonment, no fruit in holy desires; or in other words, there was no heart. It was credence, but not trust.

Now it does not matter how much or how little you know about Jesus Christ. It does not matter how you have come to that knowledge. It does not matter though you have received Christian ordinances as Simon had. If your faith is not a living power, leading to love and self-surrender, it is really nought. And here, on its earliest conflict with heathen magic, the gospel proclaims by the mouth of the Apostle what is true as to all formalists and nominal Christians: ‘Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right.’ One thing only unites to God-a faith which cleanses the heart, a faith which lays hold on Christ with will and conscience, a faith which, resting on penitent acknowledgment of sin, trusts wholly to His great mercy.

II. An instance of the constant tendency to corrupt Christianity with heathen superstition.

The Apostles’ bestowal of the Holy Ghost, which was evidently accompanied by visible signs, had excited Simon’s desire for so useful an aid to his conjuring, and he offers to buy the power, judging of them by himself, and betraying that what he was ready to buy he was also intending to sell.

The offer to buy has been taken as his great sin. Surely it was but the outcome of a greater. It was not only what he offered, but what he desired, that was wrong. He wanted that on ‘whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.’ That preposterous wish was quite as bad as, and was the root of, his absurd offer to bribe Peter. Bribe Peter, indeed! Some of Peter’s successors would have been amenable to such considerations, but not the horny-handed fisherman who had once said, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’

Peter’s answer, especially the words of my text, puts the Christian principle in sharp antagonism to the heathen one.

Simon regards what is sacred and spiritual purely as part of his stock-in-trade, contributing to his prestige. He offers to buy it. And the foundation of all his errors is that he regards spiritual gifts as capable of being received and exercised apart altogether from moral qualifications. He does not think at all of what is involved in the very name, ‘the Holy Ghost.’

Now, on the other hand, Peter’s answer lays down broadly and sharply the opposite truth, the Christian principle that a heart right in the sight of God is the indispensable qualification for all possession of spiritual power, or of any of the blessings which Jesus gives.

How the heart is made right, and what constitutes righteousness is another matter. That leads to the doctrine of repentance and faith.

The one thing that makes such participation impossible is being and continuing in ‘the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity.’ Or, to put it into more modern words, all the blessings of the Gospel are a gift of God, and are bestowed only on moral conditions. Faith which leads to love and personal submission to the will of God makes a man a Christian. Therefore, outward ordinances are only of use as they help a man to that personal act.

Therefore, no other man or body of men can do it for us, or come between us and God.

And in confirmation, notice how Peter here speaks of forgiveness. His words do not sound as if he thought that he held the power of absolution, but he tells Simon to go to God who alone can forgive, and refers Simon’s fate to God’s mercy.

These tendencies, which Simon expresses so baldly, are in us all, and are continually reappearing. How far much of what calls itself Christianity has drifted from Peter’s principle laid down here, that moral and spiritual qualifications are the only ones which avail for securing ‘part or lot in the matter’ of Christ’s gifts received for, and bestowed on, men! How much which really rests on the opposite principle, that these gifts can be imparted by men who are supposed to possess them, apart altogether from the state of heart of the would-be recipient, we see around us to-day! Simony is said to be the securing ecclesiastical promotion by purchase. But it is much rather the belief that ‘the gift of God can be purchased with’ anything but personal faith in Jesus, the Giver and the Gift. The effects of it are patent among us. Ceremonies usurp the place of faith. A priesthood is exalted. The universal Christian prerogative of individual access to God is obscured. Christianity is turned into a kind of magic.

III. An instance of the worthlessness of partial convictions.

Simon was but slightly moved by Peter’s stern rebuke. He paid no heed to the exhortation to pray for forgiveness and to repent of his wickedness, but still remained in substantially his old error, in that he accredited Peter with power, and asked him to pray for him, as if the Apostle’s prayer would have some special access to God which his, though he were penitent, could not have. Further, he showed no sense of sin. All that he wished was that ‘none of the things which ye have spoken come upon me.’

How useless are convictions which go no deeper down than Simon’s did!

What became of him we do not know. But there are old ecclesiastical traditions about him which represent him as a bitter enemy in future of the Apostle. And Josephus has a story of a Simon who played a degrading part between Felix and Drusilla, and who is thought by some to have been he. But in any case, we have no reason to believe that he ever followed Peter’s counsel or prayed to God for forgiveness. So he stands for us as one more tragic example of a man, once ‘not far from the kingdom of God’ and drifting ever further away from it, because, at the fateful moment, he would not enter in. It is hard to bring such a man as near again as he once was. Let us learn that the one key which opens the treasury of God’s blessings, stored for us all in Jesus, is our own personal faith, and let us beware of shutting our ears and our hearts against the merciful rebukes that convict us of ‘this our wickedness,’ and point us to the ‘Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,’ and therefore our sin.

8:14-25 The Holy Ghost was as yet fallen upon none of these coverts, in the extraordinary powers conveyed by the descent of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. We may take encouragement from this example, in praying to God to give the renewing graces of the Holy Ghost to all for whose spiritual welfare we are concerned; for that includes all blessings. No man can give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands; but we should use our best endeavours to instruct those for whom we pray. Simon Magus was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but cared not at all to have the spirit and disposition of a Christian. He was more desirous to gain honour to himself, than to do good to others. Peter shows him his crime. He esteemed the wealth of this world, as if it would answer for things relating to the other life, and would purchase the pardon of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and eternal life. This was such a condemning error as could by no means consist with a state of grace. Our hearts are what they are in the sight of God, who cannot be deceived. And if they are not right in his sight, our religion is vain, and will stand us in no stead. A proud and covetous heart cannot be right with God. It is possible for a man to continue under the power of sin, yet to put on a form of godliness. When tempted with money to do evil, see what a perishing thing money is, and scorn it. Think not that Christianity is a trade to live by in this world. There is much wickedness in the thought of the heart, its false notions, and corrupt affections, and wicked projects, which must be repented of, or we are undone. But it shall be forgiven, upon our repentance. The doubt here is of the sincerity of Simon's repentance, not of his pardon, if his repentance was sincere. Grant us, Lord, another sort of faith than that which made Simon wonder only, and did not sanctify his heart. May we abhor all thoughts of making religion serve the purposes of pride or ambition. And keep us from that subtle poison of spiritual pride, which seeks glory to itself even from humility. May we seek only the honour which cometh from God.Neither part - You have no "portion" of the grace of God; that is, you are destitute of it altogether. This word commonly denotes the "part" of an inheritance which falls to one when it is divided.

Nor lot - This word means properly a portion which "falls" to one when an estate, or when spoil in war is divided into portions, according to the number of those who are to be partakers, and the part of each one is determined by "lot." The two words denote "emphatically" that he was in no sense a partaker of the favor of God.

In this matter - Greek: in this "word"; that is, thing. That which is referred to here is the religion of Christ. Simon was not a Christian. It is remarkable that Peter judged him so soon, and when he had seen but "one" act of his. But it was an act which satisfied him that he was a stranger to religion. One act may sometimes bring out the "whole character"; it may evince the "governing" motives; it may show traits of character utterly "inconsistent" with true religion; and then it is as certain a criterion as any long series of acts.

Thy heart - Your "affections," or "governing motives"; your principle of conduct. Comp, 2 Kings 10:15. You love gold and popularity, and not the gospel for what it is. There is no evidence here that Peter saw this in a miraculous manner, or by any supernatural influence. It was apparent and plain that Simon was not influenced by the pure, disinterested motives of the gospel, but by the love of power and of the world.

In the sight of God - That is, God sees or judges that your heart is not sincere and pure. No external profession is acceptable without the heart. Reader, is your heart right with God? Are your motives pure; and does "God" see there the exercise of holy, sincere, and benevolent affections toward him? God "knows" the motives; and with unerring certainty he will judge, and with unerring justice he will fix our doom according to the affections of the heart.

21. Thou hast neither part nor lot … thy heart is not fight, &c.—This is the fidelity of a minister of Christ to one deceiving himself in a very awful manner. Neither part nor lot in this matter; no inheritance or share in such a thing as this, to wit, either in the receiving or conferring the Holy Ghost; or in that eternal life which we preach; thou hast no part in it, neither art thou fit to be a minister of it.

Thy heart is not right in the sight of God: the apostle had the gift of discerning of spirits, which is mentioned 1 Corinthians 12:10; which might cause the execration in the foregoing verse, and in divers other places of Scripture, 2 Timothy 4:14.

Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter,.... Or business of the gift of the Holy Ghost; signifying, that as he had not the grace of the Spirit of God implanted in him, so he should not have any of the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on him; and much less a power of communicating them to others, through laying on of hands: or "in this word"; the word of the Gospel, preached by the apostles; and in any of the blessings published in it, as the forgiveness of sins, a justifying righteousness, and eternal life; and so the Syraic version renders it, "in this faith"; neither in the grace of faith, nor in the doctrine of faith: it seems to answer to a way of speaking frequently used among the Jews, that such and such persons, , "have no part or lot", in the world to come (i). The Ethiopic version reads, "because of this thy word"; because for his money, he had desired to have a power of bestowing the Holy Ghost on persons, through the imposition of his hands; which showed he had no share in the grace of God, and would have no part in eternal life, thus living and dying:

for thy heart is not right in the sight of God; he had not a clean heart, nor a right spirit created in him; he had not true principles of grace wrought in him; his heart was full of covetousness, ambition, and hypocrisy; he had no good designs, ends, and aims, in what he said and did; in his profession of faith, in his baptism, in his attendance on Philip's ministry, and in his request for the above power, of conferring the Holy Ghost: his view was not the spread and confirmation of the Gospel, or the enlargement of the kingdom and interest of Christ, and the glory of God, but his own applause and worldly interest; and therefore, however he might be thought of by men, to be a good and disinterested man, he was otherwise in the sight of God, who is the searcher of the heart, and the trier of the reins of the children of men.

(i) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1.

Thou hast neither part nor lot in this {e} matter: for thy heart is not {f} right in the sight of God.

(e) In this doctrine which I preach.

(f) Is not upright indeed and without the concealing of hypocritical motives.

Acts 8:21. μερὶς οὐδὲ κλῆρος, cf. Deuteronomy 12:2; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 18:1, Isaiah 57:6, and instances in Wetstein, see on Acts 1:17.—λόγῳ τούτῳ: both A. and R.V. “in this matter,” i.e., in the power of communicating the Holy Spirit, but Grotius, Neander, Hackett, Blass, Rendall and others refer it to the Gospel, i.e., the word of God which the Apostles preached, and in the blessings of which the Apostles had a share. λόγος is frequently used in classical Greek of that de quo agitur (see instances in Wendt). Grimm, sub v., compares the use of the noun in classical Greek, like ῥῆμα, the thing spoken of, the subject or matter of the λόγος, Herod., i., 21, etc.—ἡ γὰρ καρδίαεὐθεῖα, cf. LXX, Ps. 7:10, 10:3, 35:10, 72:1, 77:37, etc., where the adjective is used, as often in classical Greek, of moral uprightness (cf. εὐθύτης in LXX, and Psalms of Solomon, Acts 2:15, ἐν εὐθύτητι καρδίας), so also in Acts 13:10, where the word is used by St. Paul on a similar occasion in rebuking Elymas; only found once in the Epistles, where it is again used by St. Peter, 2 Peter 2:15.

21. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter (or word)] By the word “lot” the thought is carried back to the election of Matthias (Acts 1:26). In that case the choice had been left to the “Lord who knows the hearts of all men,” but Simon’s character is patent to all; “his heart was not right with God.” If the literal rendering, “in this word,” be adopted, the reference is to Acts 8:14, where it is said, “Samaria had received the word of God.”

Acts 8:21. Οὐκ ἔστι σοι μερὶς, οὐδὲ κλῆρος) thou hast no part by purchase, nor lot freely or gratuitously. Μερὶς and χλῆρος are also joined, Deuteronomy 18:1; Isaiah 57:6, with which comp. Psalm 16:5.—ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ, in this word) in this matter, of which thou hast spoken. The purity of religion admits of no foreign (adulterated) admixture with it.—γὰρ, for) In a minister and partaker of the Gospel the heart ought to be right. The heart is the citadel of good and of bad.—οὐκ ἔστιν εὐθεῖα, is not right) that is, is very much distorted. [Rectitude of heart does not admit the mixture of spiritual intentions with temporal.—V. g.]

Verse 21. - Before God for in the sight of God, A.V. Thou hast neither part nor lot. The "covetous shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:10; comp. Psalm 10:3; Luke 16:14; 1 Timothy 3:3). The phrase, ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ, rendered in this matter, seems to be more fitly rendered in the margin, "in this Word," i.e. the Word of life, the Word of salvation, which we preach (see Acts 5:20; Acts 10:36; Acts 13:26). Acts 8:21Part nor lot

Lot expresses the same idea as part, but figuratively.

Matter (λόγῳ)

The matter of which we are talking: the subject of discourse, as Luke 1:4; Acts 15:6.

Right (εὐθεῖα)

Lit., straight.

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