Acts 8:22
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
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(22) Repent therefore of this thy wickedness.—The stern words of condemnation are, we see, meant to heal, not to slay. Rightly understood, the call to repent in such a case as this, opens the door of hope as wide as the history of the penitent thief. Repentance, and with repentance, forgiveness, were possible, even for the charlatan adventurer who had traded on the credulous superstition of the people, and claimed something like adoration for himself and his mistress.

Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart . . . .—The better MSS. give “Lord” instead of “God,” either in the Old Testament sense of the word or with special reference to the Lord Jesus. The “if perhaps,” in the Greek, as in the English, implies a latent doubt. Did the thought come across the mind of the Apostle that the sin of Simon came very near that “sin against the Holy Ghost which hath never forgiveness” (Matthew 12:31)? The use of such words by the chief of the Apostles, after the apparent concession of a plenary power in John 20:23, are terribly suggestive. He neither forgives nor condemns, but bids the offender turn to the Searcher of hearts and pray for forgiveness. Had he seen repentance, he might have said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Had he seen a conscience utterly dead, he might have closed the door of hope. As it is, he stands midway between hope and fear, and, keeping silence, leaves judgment to the Judge.

Acts 8:22-23. Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness — Be humbled and ashamed for what thou hast thought, said, and done; own thyself guilty in this matter, and be sorry for it; condemn thy way, and amend it; and be a new creature in Christ. And pray to God — He must pray that God would give him repentance, and pardon upon repentance. “Here is so incontestable an evidence of an unconverted sinner being exhorted to repentance and prayer, while he was known to be in that state, that it is astonishing the propriety of doing this should ever have been disputed; and one would think none could be so wild as to imagine faith in Christ was not included in that repentance which an apostle preaches to a baptized person as the way of obtaining forgiveness.” — Doddridge. If perhaps, the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee — Without all doubt, if Simon had repented he would have been forgiven; and this dubious manner in which Peter speaks of his obtaining forgiveness, intimates, not that his repentance, if sincere, might possibly fail of acceptance, for that would have been contrary to the whole tenor of the gospel; but the doubt was, whether he would sincerely repent; whether, after the commission of a sin so nearly approaching the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, he could ever be brought to true repentance. For I perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness — That is, the most bitter gall. “Significat animi constitutionem perquam vitiosam, et talem, qualis sunt cibi felle corrupti.” It signifies a state of mind very vicious, and like meats corrupted with gall. — Grotius. Odious to God, as that which is bitter as gall is to us; or plunged in that hateful pollution which must be bitterness and poison in the latter end. See note on Deuteronomy 29:18; and Hebrews 12:15. And in the bond of iniquity — Held in the chains of thine own covetousness and carnality, and consequently in a state of base servitude; bound over to the judgment of God by the guilt of sin, and bound under the dominion of Satan by the power of sin, led captive by him at his will. The whole sentence expresses, in Peter’s strong manner of speaking, how odious and wretched a creature Simon now appeared to him: and how much more odious must such a sinner be in the eyes of a holy God!

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.Repent, therefore - Here we may remark:

(1) That Simon was at this time an unconverted sinner.

(2) that the command was given to him "as such."

(3) that he was required to "do the thing"; not to wait or seek merely, but actually to repent.

(4) that this was to be the "first step" in his conversion. He was not even directed to "pray" first, but his first indispensable work was to "repent"; that is, to exercise proper sorrow for this sin, and to "abandon" his plan or principle of action.

And this shows:

(1) that all sinners are to be exhorted to "repent," as their first work. They are not to be told to "wait," and "read," and "pray," in the expectation that repentance will be "given" them. With such helps as they can obtain, they are to "do the thing."

(2) prayer will not be acceptable or heard unless the sinner comes "repenting"; that is, unless he regrets his sin, and "desires" to forsake it. Then, and then only, will he be heard. When he comes "loving" his sins, and resolving still to practice them, God will not hear him. When he comes "desirous" of forsaking them, grieved that he is guilty, and "feeling" his need of help, God will hear his prayer. See Isaiah 1:15; Micah 3:4; Proverbs 1:28; Psalm 66:18.

And pray God - Having a "desire" to forsake the sin, and to be pardoned, "then" pray to God to forgive. It would be absurd to ask forgiveness until a man felt his need of it. This shows that a sinner "ought" to pray, and "how" he ought to do it. It should be with a desire and purpose to forsake sin, and in that state of mind God will hear the prayer. Compare Daniel 4:27.

If perhaps - There was no certainty that God would forgive him; nor is there any evidence either that Simon prayed, or that he was forgiven. This direction of Peter presents "another" important principle in regard to the conduct of sinners. They are to be directed to repent; not because they have the "promise" of forgiveness, and not because they "hope" to be forgiven, but because sin "is a great evil," and because it is "right" and "proper" that they should repent, whether they are forgiven or not. That is to be left to the sovereign mercy of God. they are to repent of sin, and then they are to feel, not that they have any claim on God, but that they are dependent upon Him, and must be saved or lost at His will. They are not to suppose that their tears will purchase forgiveness, but that they lie at the footstool of mercy, and that there is hope - not certainty - that God will forgive. The language of the humbled sinner is:

"Perhaps he will admit my plea,

Perhaps will hear my prayer;

But if I perish I will pray,

And perish only there.


22. Repent … pray … if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven—this expression of doubt being designed to impress upon him the greatness of his sin, and the need of alarm on his part. The only remedy and help in his (otherwise) desperate case. This is not spoken as if it were doubtful whether true repentance should obtain pardon, but whether Simon Magus’s repentance were true. Repentance is a condition under which God proposeth our pardon and forgiveness, but it is far from being the cause of it.

Repent therefore of this thy wickedness,.... For a great piece of wickedness it was, to offer money for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and to imagine, that could be purchased with money; and what made the wickedness still greater was, the evil design he had in this, to advance himself in opposition to Christ and his apostles, as he afterwards did; and when the apostle puts him upon repentance, his view is to show the heinousness of his crime, the need he stood in of repentance, and that without it, his case must be miserable:

and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee; though he was in a state of nature, the apostle exhorts him to the duty of prayer; for prayer is a natural duty, and binding upon all men, though none but a spiritual man can perform it in a spiritual way: and though this sin of Simon's was a very heinous one, and came very near unto, and looked very much like the sin against the Holy Ghost, yet it was not the unpardonable one; it might be pardoned by the grace of God, and through the blood of Christ; and therefore Peter, who wished his salvation and not his damnation, put him upon prayer for it; which was possible, though difficult, but not certain: the apostle says not this, as doubting; if it was a case wholly to be despaired of, then he would not have directed him to the means; and yet the wickedness was so horribly great, and he in such a wretched hardened state, that there was no great hope or expectation of his repentance, and so of the application of pardon to him: however, this advice was not given ironically: Peter was too grave and serious to speak sarcastically, or break a jest upon a man in such circumstances; whom no doubt he heartily pitied, though he abhorred his sin: the Syriac version renders it, "the deceit of thine heart": and the Ethiopic version, "the evil thought of thine heart"; and such it was.

{10} Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

(10) We must hope well even for the vilest sinners, as long as and as much as we can.

Acts 8:22-23.Ἀπὸ τῆς κακ.] i.e. turning thee away from, Hebrews 6:1. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 11:3.

εἰ ἄρα ἀφεθήσεται] entreat the Lord (God, Acts 8:21), and try thereby, whether perhaps (as the case may stand) there will be forgiven, etc. Comp. on Mark 11:13; Romans 1:10. Peter, on account of the high degree of the transgression, represents the forgiveness on repentance still as doubtful.[226] Kuinoel, after older expositors (comp. Heinrichs and de Wette), thinks that the doubt concerns the conversion of Simon, which was hardly to be hoped for. At variance with the text, which to the fulfilment of the μετανόησον (without which forgiveness was not at all conceivable) annexes still the problematic ΕἸ ἌΡΑ. Concerning the direct expression by the future, see Winer, p. 282 [E. T. 376].

ἡ ἐπίνοια] the (conscious) plan, the project, is a vox media, which receives its reference in bonam (2Ma 12:45; Ar. Thesm. 766, al.), or as here in malam partem, entirely from the context. See the passages in Kypke, II. p. 42, and from Philo in Loesner, p. 198 f.

For I perceive thee (fallen into and) existing in gall of bitterness and (in) band of iniquity, i.e. for I recognise thee as a man who has fallen into bitter enmity (against the gospel) as into gall, and into iniquity as into binding fetters. Both genitives are to be taken alike, namely, as genitives of apposition; hence χολὴ πικρίας is not fel amarum (as is usually supposed), in which case, besides, πικρίας would only be tame and self-evident. On the contrary, ΠΙΚΡΊΑ is to be taken in the ethical sense, a bitter, malignant, and hostile disposition (Romans 3:14; Ephesians 4:31; often in the classical writers, see Valck. ad Eur. Phoen. 963), which, figuratively represented, is gall, into which Simon had fallen. In the corresponding representation, ἀδικία is conceived as a band which encompassed him. Comp. Isaiah 58:6. Others render συνδεσμός, bundle (comp. Herodian. iv. 12. 11). So Alberti, Wolf, Wetstein, Valckenaer, Kuinoel, and others, including Ewald. But in this way the genitive would not be taken uniformly with πικρίας, and we should expect instead of ἈΔΙΚΊΑς a plural expression. Ewald, moreover, concludes from these words that a vehement contest had previously taken place between Peter and Simon,—a point which must be left undetermined, as the text indicates nothing of it.

εἶναι εἰς] stands as in Acts 8:20. See Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 286 [E. T. 333]. Lange,[227] at variance with the words, gratuitously imports the notion: “that thou wilt prove to be a poison … in the church.”

[226] Not as if it were thereby made dependent on the caprice of God (de Wette’s objection), but because God, in presence of the greatness of the guilt, could only forgive on the corresponding sincerity and truth of the repentance and believing prayer; and how doubtful was this with such a mind! The whole greatness of the danger was to be brought to the consciousness of Simon, and to quicken him to the need of repentance and prayer.

[227] Comp. also Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeit. p. 91.

Acts 8:22. κακίας: not used elsewhere by St. Luke, but it significantly meets us twice in St. Peter, cf. 1 Peter 2:1; 1 Peter 2:16.—ἀφεθ.: if we read above, Κυρίου, the meaning will be the Lord Jesus, in whose name the Apostles had been baptising, Acts 8:16, and ἀφεθ. may also point to the word of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:31 (so Alford, Plumptre).—εἰ ἄρα, Mark 11:13 (Acts 17:27). R. and A.V. both render “if perhaps,” but R.V. “if perhaps … shall be forgiven thee”; A.V. “if perhaps … may be forgiven thee”. St. Peter does not throw doubt on forgiveness after sincere repentance, but the doubt is expressed, because Simon so long as he was what he was (see the probable reading of the next verse and the connecting γάρ) could not repent, and therefore could not be forgiven, cf. Genesis 18:3. “If now I have found favour in thine eyes,” εἰ ἄρα (אִם־נָא), which I hope rather than venture to assume; see also Simcox, Language of N. T. Greek, pp. 180, 181, and compare Winer-Moulton, xii., 4 c., and liii., 8 a; and Viteau, Le Grec du N. T.; cf. Jeremiah 20:10, Wis 6:16, etc., 2Ma 12:45, 4Ma 17:2, and often in classical Greek.

22. Repent therefore, &c.] On this condition not only could the stern wish of Peter be averted, but the anger of God also. We see therefore that the words of the Apostle in Acts 8:20 must have been coupled in his mind with such condition, but the further language of this verse seems to imply that to Peter’s mind there was not much hope of such repentance.

and pray God] The oldest MSS. read “the Lord,” and this is what was to be expected, for the offence was specially against Christ. Simon, with corrupt motives, was seeking to be enrolled among those who were called by Christ’s name.

if perhaps the thought of thine heart may [shall] be forgiven thee] The word rendered “thought” is found in the N. T. only here, and gives the idea of a matured plan. The Apostle sees how full the mind of Simon has been of the scheme which he has conceived, and the knowledge of this seems expressed in the “if perhaps” with which this clause begins. He will not declare that there is not hope even for such an offender, but the covetousness, which is idolatry, makes repentance almost impossible.

Acts 8:22. Μετανόησον οὖν, repent therefore) Repentance ought to be present first: then next we may seek gifts of grace. An abbreviated expression for, Repent, (and cease) from this thy wickedness.—[καὶ δεήθητι, and pray) However lost one be, yet he ought himself to pray, rather than lean on the intercession of others: Acts 8:24.—V. g.]—εἰ ἄρα, if [haply]) The force of the doubt falls on the repentance and prayers of Simon, not on the forgiveness of guilt which is to be hoped for by the penitent.

Verse 22. - The Lord for God, A.V. and T.R.; thy for thine, A.V.; shall for may, A.V. Repent. The terrible words, "Thy money perish with thee," had not expressed Peter's wish for his destruction. But they were the wounds of a friend speaking sharp things to pierce, if possible, a callous conscience. In the hope that that conscience had been pierced, he now urges repentance. And yet still, dealing skilfully with so bad a case, he speaks of the forgiveness doubtfully, "if perhaps." The sin was a very grievous one; the wound must not be healed too hastily. "There is a sin unto death." Acts 8:22If perhaps

The doubt suggested by the heinousness of the offence.

Thought (ἐπίνοια)

Only here in New Testament. Lit., a thinking on or contriving; and hence implying a plan or design.

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