Bible Gemz 1495 - Simon - a power encounter of a different kind (Acts 8:9-24)
A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great.
Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as "the Great One—the Power of God."
They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic.
But now the people believed Philip's message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized.
Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God's message, they sent Peter and John there.
As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power.
"Let me have this power, too," he exclaimed, "so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!"
But Peter replied, "May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God's gift can be bought!
You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.
Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive your evil thoughts,
for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin."
"Pray to the Lord for me," Simon exclaimed, "that these terrible things you've said won't happen to me!” (Acts 8:9-24)
I have chosen some of the questions you all asked and grouped them together.
Why is the story of Philip’s encounter with Simon included in the first place?
What feature of the story is in focus?
Who is in focus here? Is it Simon or is it Philip?
What exactly is being called great? Simon as a Sorcerer? The power he manifests? The Power of God? Is the power great? Or is it God behind the power Who is Great?
What exactly is the meaning of the phrase in verse 10? - Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as "the Great One—the Power of God.
What is the point of this story about Simon? Why did Luke include it? (David)
Note how much space is given to Simon in Acts 8. (16 Verses) Do you think its important?
This indeed is a curious story. What is the point of this story? Why was it included, as Alan asked? Just who is it who is in focus here? Is it Simon? Is it Philip? Or is it even possible that Peter is in focus? After all, he is the one whom the Apostles in Jerusalem sent (along with John) when they heard what was happening in Samaria. No. It is Philip who is in focus. This ordinary, humble deacon went down to Samaria as a result of the persecution. Remember the point from the last Gemz – all of the believers are forced out of Jerusalem as a result ofSaul'ssavage response. Philip, one of the seven deacons chosen to take the load off the apostles, goes down to Samaria. In the minds of a Jew, this is one of the hardest places to go because these people are the worst of the worst. Philip is a Hellenist and not a Jew himself. He is just an “outsider"to the faith and not of the true faith. Philip then encounters Simon. Simon is a man who boasts about how great he is. He is a man who had been practising the arts of black magic for years, a sorcerer. Simon had impressed them to such a degree that they hung on every word he said it seems, simply because they had been impressed by the man’s magical powers. But notice the main point about Simon is not what the people thought of him. The fact is that Simon thought himself to be great. He went around claiming he himself was great. In short, there was huge pride in Simon’s heart. He was the Mohammad Ali of the world of magicians. He was like the David Blaine of the then-known-world, a combination of Blaine and Ali. Simon David Mohammad Blaine Ali, the Magus. He impressed everyone with his magic and went around claiming he was “the greatest”.
There have been all sorts of attempts to explain verse 8:10. This verse at face value, appears to claim Simon is the power of God. Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as "the Great One—the Power of God.” Notice the way the versions handle this verse. In some, Simon is capitalised as the Great One, in others “great" is spelt with a lower case letter. The intent is to lessen the aggrandisement of Simon as a person. In the last Gemz I asked the questions - What exactly is being called great? Simon as a Sorcerer? The power he manifests? The Power of God? Is the power great? Or is it God behind the power Who is Great? The Apostolic Bible Polyglot takes great pains in the footnotes to explain this cannot be the man but must refer to the power of God behind him. "To whom all gave heed from small unto great, saying, This one is the power of the [2God 1great]." (APB) Surely we must separate out the man from the source of his power. It is not the man who is great but God behind the man who is great.
There was one person who responded by asking me where I found the verse I quoted in the quotes at the end “Why do you call Simon great? No one is great except God alone.”People, that was no quote. That is not in the Bible. That was simply me adding to Matthew 19:16 and Luke 18:18-19 by extension of thought. Matt 19:16 is an attempt to soften the statement of attributing to men thegreatnessof God. But of course the focus in Matt 19 and in Luke 18 it is Jesus Himselfwhois in focus. If anyone deserved to be given the honour of God, He does. I simply took the statements used in the gospels and extended them to refer to Simon. After all, that is what is going on here. Simon went around astounding people with his magic to the point where everyone attributed his deeds to the power of God working behind the scenes. Wow, he is so great it must be God working through him. He not only let the people say this but seemingly boasted of it himself.
Many have tried to soften this verse (verse 10) over the years of translation by making it clear it can’t be that Simon is being referred to as the Great One and being equated with God. How can the Bible say that or allow that.
The Greek of this verse appears to read as though Simon is being referred to as God:
ᾧ προσεῖχον πάντες ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου
To whom giving heed all from small until great
λέγοντες· οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ δύναμις τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡ μεγάλη.
saying this one is the power of the God the great
(ABP+) To whom all gave heed from small unto great, saying, This one is the power of the [2God 1great].
(ASV) to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that power of God which is called Great.
(BBE) To whom they all gave attention, from the smallest to the greatest, saying, This man is that power of God which is named Great.
(CEV) Everyone, rich and poor, crowded around him. They said, "This man is the power of God called 'The Great Power.' "
(GNB) and everyone in the city, from all classes of society, paid close attention to him. "He is that power of God known as 'The Great Power,' " they said.
(GW) Everyone from children to adults paid attention to him. They said, "This man is the power of God, and that power is called great."
(ISV) Everyone from the least to the greatest paid close attention to him, saying, "This man is the power of God, which is called great!"
(MSG) He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him "the Great Wizard."
See how each of the translations above attempts to soften the shocking statement. But the NLT leaves it in its outlandish form - "Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as "the Great One—the Power of God.” There is no attempt to lessen the affront of this verse. This verse leaves us in no doubt as to what was going on here. Simon not only liked the adoration and the fact that people equated him with God, but he revelled in it. This is a power encounter of a different kind. This is not a challenge over who has greatest power. That was seen in the story of Elijah challenging the prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 18). This is an encounter or a clash as to Who has the right to be referred to as God or the Power of God. I met with someone when I was training people for missions and talking of power encounters – the clash between the kingdoms of light and darkness – who toldme the ultimate story of power encounter. It happened in Nepal when a new missionary to the area went into a darkened local spirit house and saw a man chanting while hovering and spinning in the air at the same time. When the missionary entered, the shaman, who was hovering in the air while spinning and chanting, spoke authoritatively and told all those present that this one was a messenger of the Christian God and warned the missionary to go. The inference being that the shaman had ultimate power and the missionary should leave. The new missionary wisely interpreted this as a power encounter over who had the right to be called the Most High God. He then spoke out in a voice that all could hear and in Jesus Name he “disarmed or came against the power that held the shaman up” whereupon the shaman crashed to the ground. Now who is in control?
It is this intent which is behind this story of Simon here in Acts 8. This is a confrontation as to who it is who has the right to be called God, or be referred to as the Power of God, which in itself is a circumlocution for God Himself.
Now look carefully at the questions David asked:
1b. What kind of "magic" was Simon practicing? David 2. Why didn't Simon approach Philip and offer to pay money for the ability to heal, or cast out demons? David 3. What was enticing about imparting the Holy Spirit to people that SImon wanted that power? David 4. What was Simon planning to do with this power -- Help out Peter and John? Garner esteem? Make money off of it? -- or does it even matter? David 5. What exactly is "wicked" about Simon's request? Simon may have been thinking too much like a businessman, and been a bit pretentious for a new believer, but "wicked"? "evil"? really? David 6. How did Peter see/know/understand what was in Simon's heart? David 7. What was the object of Simon's jealousy? David 8. What was the sin that Simon was in bondage to? David
9. Why does Peter react the way he does to SImon? Given Simon's past, and that he is a new believer, why didn't Peter correct him more gently? David
I particularly like David’s questions 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. These are very insightful questions David.
Take time to ponder them before we move on to responding to them in the next Gemz.
Now . . . the word of the LORD came to Elijah . . . saying, "Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” (1Kings 18:1)
"Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God . . ." (1Kings 18:24)
At noon, Elijah began making fun of them. "Pray louder!" he said. "Baal must be a god. Maybe he's day-dreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he's asleep, and you have to wake him up.” (1Kings 18:27CEV)
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (1Kings 18:38)
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." (1Kings 18:39)
“ . . . Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:15)