But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria…
His name indicates a Jewish or Samaritan origin. He appears as the type of a class but too common at the time - that of Jews trading on the mysterious prestige of their race and the credulity of the heathen, claiming supernatural power exercised through charms and incantations. For other illustrations, give account of Etymas (Acts 13:6); the "vagabond Jews, exorcists," at Ephesus (Acts 19:13); the so-called Simon of Cyprus mentioned by Josephus; and Apollonius of Tyana. Explain the state of the times; men were thoroughly dissatisfied with the empty formalities of religion, and were sick of the routine demands of rabbinical traditions, and were more or less distinctly yearning and crying for the spiritual. Their thought and feeling laid them open to the influence of the sorcerer and juggler, who appeared to be possessed of mysterious and spiritual power. "All over the known world, the nations were at that critical hour in history agitated by a vague unrest and a feverish anticipation of some impending change. Everywhere men turned dissatisfied from their ancestral divinities and worn-out beliefs. Everywhere they turned in their uncertainty to foreign superstitions, and welcomed any religion which professed to reveal the unknown. Along with this came a strange longing to penetrate the secrets of the world, to communicate with the invisible. To persons in this expectant and restless condition there could be no lack of prophets. Asia bred them, Egypt ripened them, the West swarmed with them."
I. SIMON'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF A DIVINE FORCE IN CHRISTIANITY. The degree of his sincerity in professing belief and submitting to the rite of baptism needs careful consideration. He may have been carried away by feeling. He may have been guileful throughout, and only seen a higher force in the power of the apostles than he knew of, and designed to get the control of this force for his own purposes. Or the two may have blended. He may have been carried away. At first he may have sincerely taken up with Christianity, but soon yielded to a guileful spirit, which suggested that a splendid fortune could be made out of the new force. But whatever Simon's motives may have been, we have from him an important testimony to the genuine persuasion and power accompanying the early preaching, and to the truth of the miraculous powers exerted by the apostles. Simon well understood the ways of sorcerers and jugglers, and he knew and openly acknowledged that the apostles were not such. Show the importance of the testimony to Christ and Christianity rendered by those outside, and even opposed, such as Rousseau, Napoleon, J. S. Mill, etc.
II. SIMON'S MISTAKE IN PROFESSING BELIEF IN CHRISTIANITY. Because true discipleship is no mere profession, no sudden excited impulse, no vanishing sentiment, but a sober, calm judgment, a full and hearty surrender, an entire consecration of heart and life to Christ. Simon did not sit down first and count the cost. Simon had no idea of taking a lowly place in Christ's service. He wanted still to be "some great one." He was "weighed in the balances, and found wanting," when Christ's testings came. "He that would be great among you, let him be your servant." "He that exalteth himself shall be abased." Show with what mistaken notions men take up the Christian profession now, and how certainly life tests and tries them, and they fail in the testing day. Simon's faith had not a moral, only an intellectual basis, he expressed no compunction for having deceived the people and blasphemed God. The whole ethical side of Christianity, its power of bringing man into peace with God, and of making man like God, was shut against him. For that he had no ear. Against that his heart was closed. He believed, therefore, without being converted. Impress how the money-getting spirit had so hardened Simon's mind that it was difficult to gain access for the Christian truth and claims. "How hardly shall they that trust in riches enter into the kingdom of heaven!" - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: