9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”On reading this passage, I observe that Simon the Sorcerer started showing signs of believing in Jesus when his followers started following Philip who did signs and wonders. With money, Simon wanted to buy the ability to give the Holy Spirit to people. Peter was offended because Simon thought he could buy out God.
Simon the Sorcerer’s name is now used in the word “simony,” the act in which people try to buy church positions, which happened notoriously in the Reformation era. He went on to be known in history as Simon Magus, or the Magician, and he led many people into a false Christianity based on health and wealth.
Luke tells Simon’s story in Acts because Christians need to know that there will be people who call themselves Christians who do not really believe. They may be attracted to the church because of the people or the music or the good programs, but if they do not truly get to know Christ, then they are false believers, and true Christians need to be aware of them.
Jesus's first two parables in Matthew 13 deal with false believers in the church.
Verses 1-23 deal with the parable of the Sower and its meaning. What kind of people are described by the path that received the seed/Word? (People who never got the word because it got eaten away by the devil)
What kind of people are described by the rocky soil? (People who got the word, but who did not stick around when times got tough)
What kind of people are described by the thorny soil? (People who like the church but are worried about the things of this world)
What kind of people are described by the good soil? (The people who hear God’s word, become true believers, and grow in the Lord)
The parable of the Sower shows that the church will have many people come and go. The church is where people hear God’s word, and different people react differently. Among those hearers are people who will look like Christians and appreciate different aspects of the church, but because they to not place their faith in Jesus, or because they love the things and attention of the world more than the Lord, they will eventually leave and not return. But before they leave, they will come to your church, get involved in the ministries, and seem like genuine believers. They may even hold leadership positions. Let’s read Jesus’s next Parable.
He tells the parable in verses 24-30 and then explains it in 36-43. Here is the text:
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
In agriculture, wheat and tares look identical when they sprout. But when they reach maturity, the wheat produces a fruit that can be made into bread while the tares become a poison to the wheat and produce nothing beneficial to the farmers. What did the owner say to do with the weeds in verse 30? (Let them grow together until harvest)
The Church as we see it today will have true and false believers sitting next to each other until Jesus returns. And some of those weeds will come into leadership positions and hurt the congregation causing people to leave the church.
I once knew of a man who went to church and then went into business with a trusting friend. He seemed to love the Lord, and he wrote songs and told about how much he cared about people and God. But years went by, and he embezzled from his friends, and many affairs, and soon showed that he was not a true believer.
There was a well-known preacher in the Atlanta area who used his position to tell the women in his congregation that it was the Lord’s will for them to sleep with the pastor. This created a huge scandal and caused many to leave the church.
What is a person to do when people in the church and even in its leadership hurt other people? (rhetorical question)
The first thing is to pray for the hurt people, that they do not fall away from the faith on account of the false believers.
The second thing is to pray for the abuser. They are people who need the Gospel of Jesus to save them from their sins. The blood of Christ forgives all kinds of people from their sins, including abusive church leaders.
The most important thing, however, is to continue to follow Christ and belong to his Church. You go for Him, and not for the people. You go for the message, not the messengers.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.[f]
Verse 23 is the crux: Stay in God’s covenant community because outside of it, there is no hope for salvation. And wait for Jesus to either change their hearts the way he changed all who believe or to bring his justice upon them.