The Sin of Simon; or Trading in Holy Things
Acts 8:9-24
But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria…

The way in which the Holy Ghost is introduced here throws light upon apostolic usages and upon problems of Christian life in all ages. Compare Acts 19:1-7, in which, however, there is a difference, inasmuch as the disciples had not advanced beyond the teaching of John. They had not so much as heard of the Holy Ghost. The Samaritans were favoured with distinctive Christian teaching and baptism, but lacked that experience which we identify with conversion, viz., the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This, alas, is not peculiar to that age. Multitudes now are Christians, and yet not Christians. Strange paradox! Many become Christians by persuasion, conform to rites, live moral lives, without attaining consciousness of Divine sonship. We are not justified in excluding such from our assemblies; but their condition is full of danger, and renders them liable to fall into the gravest sins. To all such let Simon be a warning. As to his offence, notice —


1. An insult to God. It could not have been the unpardonable sin, however, since the apostle holds out hope of forgiveness; but it may have been one of those sins which prepare for and predispose to it.

(1) It betrays a low estimate of the Holy Spirit. One who could speak as Simon did must have regarded Him very cheap! No more than a piece of sordid merchandise! Of a like character are all conceptions of monopolising spiritual privileges, of selling or buying such, or of bribing God by money, good works, etc.

(2) It was a contradiction of the principle on which the gospel is based — grace not works — that no man might boast or presume. Grace is the ground not of pardon only, but of every Divine gift.

2. A desire through Christianity to aggrandise self. Spiritual life springs from, and consists in, the crucifixion of self. In Simon self was alive and rampant. With him as with so many professors it was self first and God and righteousness afterwards. Every Christian worker should examine his heart and see whether he is serving self or the Master.

II. HOW HE FELL INTO IT. This can never be fully answered; it is a part of the "mystery of iniquity." But note —

1. His previous life tended to lead him into such an error. He was a magician. One who blended the mystical doctrines of Eastern wisdom with the practice of sorcery, and prepared the way for the subsequent monstrous growths of heresy, called by the general name of Gnosticism.

2. He had not yet fully understood the gospel. Probably he had learnt only a few of its doctrines, and those only imperfectly.

3. He was inwardly a stranger to Divine grace. He had not yet been converted. This defect is at the root of most heresies.

III. ITS PUNISHMENT — destruction.

1. Imminent and impending. The sentence was not only uttered by the apostle, it was inherent in the sin itself.

2. Graciously postponed. His might have been the fate of Korah and Ananias, etc. God gave him space for repentance.

(St. J. A. Frere, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:

WEB: But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who used to practice sorcery in the city, and amazed the people of Samaria, making himself out to be some great one,

The Sin of Simon
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