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A Right Heart Before God

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The Gospel's Impact on the Heart

Acts 8:9–25 NASB95
9 Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed. 14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” 24 But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” 25 So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Luke now introduces us to a man named Simon who apparently was a magician. Luke writes here, "who formerly was practicing magic in the city." Now I am not sure if this formerly is Luke looking back and saying Simon did this before he was saved and now that he is saved he no longer practices magic or did this man practice magic and after he convinced the people he was something he wasn't stopped. Either one of these is plausible so it is hard to make a distinction. A few things though that are very important in these three verses. He did do some magic, the people were astonished, he claimed to be someone great or important, the people believed him and they believed that he was acting in the power of God and coming in the power of God. In Verse 11 Luke repeats what he has said in verses 9-10 in a bit of a summary fashion and to bring about emphasis in how the people of Samaria were taken by this man's false claims. The idea here is they were enthralled or bewitched. It is not clear what is meant here by magic, is it tricks or is it knowledge? I must do some more investigating on this topic. Never-the-less, the people believed Simon to be a very powerful man who was working for God. This Simon is believed to be the Simon who began the Gnosticism. Gnosticism is a heresy that chases after knowledge and believes that the material is evil and the spiritual is good. They also do not believe you can truly know God that He is transcendent and beyond us. This belief takes away from the deity of Christ.

Gospel Authority

Luke is pointing once again to an interchange, beginning with Saul and the persecution of the church interchanged with the Philip and his moving out to spread the gospel. One trying to stop God's work and the other follow God's plan. Now Luke changes to another character who is Simon and interchanges Simon and what Simon was doing with Philip and what Philip was doing. Simon had won people over with magic arts, some kind of false perception that he had more power then he truly had. Enter Philip who comes in and is pointing the Samaritans to the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. The message Philip was proclaiming was authenticated by the signs and wonders he would perform. Philip's signs and miracles where true and they unmistakable. These people that would be healed and cleansed of demon possession were undeniably transformed in such a way that even Simon was amazed. Simon knew he was performing parlor tricks and he saw the truth of what God can do. These signs and wonders were from God and the Samaritans believed in God. People were being healed and they were repenting of their sins and turning to God. Even Simon believed and he was baptized. Still the phrase, 'he was constantly amazed,' gives the idea that Simon may have believed these things were true and these things were happening and that God existed but it seems as though it was not taking root. This is the first instance of another religion influencing the one who hears the gospel message. This is a half hearted faith, he may believe the signs and wonders are taking place but as we will see "he doesn't believe for eternal security, he only believes for temporal gain."
Philippians 2:9–11 NASB95
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Colossians 1:15–22 NASB95
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—

Gospel Unity

Now as Philip is proclaiming the Gospel in Samaria word of the what was happening spread to Jerusalem. By this verse it is very obvious that the leadership had become organized and it seems as though Peter is not the head of this leadership. Come to find out in chapter 15 James, Jesus' half brother seems to be the leader of the church. Any way, Peter and John are sent to Samaria. When they arrive at Samaria they find that the Holy Spirit had not yet come on the Samaritans. So they pray for the Samaritans and they lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. This is the second time in the New Testament that there was a receiving of the Holy Spirit. Notice in this receiving the Holy Sprit there is no speaking in tongues. That is because there is no need of it since all those there as far as the text reads speak the same language.
This is important, the growth of the church and it's development in each location was powerful and demonstrated proof of God working to bring about not only the message of the gospel but also to unify people groups in such a way that was obvious to the leadership of the church, that means the apostles. We saw this first in Acts 2 when the Israelites were gathered together and praying and they first recieved the Holy Spirit. We see this now as Philip goes to these people in Samaria and proclaims the gospel message to them. They believe and are baptized but they are not a part of the church, yet. This is not a principle for all churches and all believers this was a special event for the first church in Samaria. We will see this again when the gospel goes out to the Gentiles in Acts 10. Still for now the Holy Spirit doesn't come on the Samaritans until the apostles come and they lay hands on them. This is also for the witness of the apostles to see this happening so that they see that God is at work and developing His church the way He said He would. Especially since the Israelites tended to be exclusionists. This message and the Holy Spirit is not only for the Israelites and the church age the kingdom age is made up of Israelites, Samarians and Gentiles. This is powerful and the apostles needed to see that. Don't read more into this then is there. Meaning don't ever think that a person who claims to be an apostle has to lay hands on you in order for you to receive the Holy Spirit. That is not what the passage teaches in fact that is what is commonly known as the gospel and, which is not the gospel at all.
Galatians 3:1–9 NASB95
1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you. 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Gospel Exposes

Here we see Simon's motives. Simon in verse 13, believed and was baptized and began following Philip and was amazed at what was taking place through Philip. Now we find out what amazed him and why. It was the power of God that amazed him and he followed because he was looking to have this power. It was all selfish and self-centered. Now Simon's true colors come shining through. He only wants the authority or power to lay hands on others. There is no true belief there is no real repentance. Simon is to consumed by the world to let go and allow the Spirit to turn him away. He isn't interested in eternal life but in temporal power, which only leads to loneliness and eternal damnation. I find it interesting how he doesn't even understand what it is that God is doing because he wants to buy the power of the Holy Spirit. This has the earmarks of someone who is always working on a back room deal. Bringing Peter aside and taking out a sack of money to show he has the clout and then proceeding to ask, how much for me to have this power and authority. The sad thing is the price for this authority was already paid at the cross. Simon obviously didn't listen to the gospel message because he missed out on the value of a gift like the Holy Spirit and the value is not in the authority to distribute the power of the Holy Spirit, but in the security and assurance the Holy Spirit brings on those who do believe and turn from the ways of this world.
Temporal desires along with temporal means lead only to decay and destruction. Peter says here, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!" You can buy your way into heaven. Not with money or with works or by any other means. The bestowal of the Holy Spirit can only come on those who truly believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and that Jesus is the Son of God. True faith leaves behind the things of the world and focuses on the cross of Christ. True faith opens our eyes to our worthless position before a perfect God. True faith opens our eyes to the value of Jesus' sacrifice. True faith is relying on the fact that there is nothing I can do to earn value before God. True faith is about Jesus' worth and God's eyes looking at His worth and not my own and seeing Jesus' value in me even though I am the wretch that I am. True faith is acknowledging my wretchedness and seeking only Jesus' righteousness. There is nothing I can offer God to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, except my heart which isn't mine it is His and without the Holy Spirit it is a heart of stone anyone worthless without the power of God. When I give Him my heart of stone He transforms it into a heart of flesh that beats. Simon didn't have true faith, he had a heart of stone that was dragging him down into the depths of hell.
Our hearts need to be right with God, our hearts are what God, those hard worthless pieces of stone is what He wants. Nothing precious because we don't have it in us to provide anything worthy to God. When we give Him our hearts of stone He in turn supplies us with a heart of flesh. The heart is what he wants but because of sin man is more like Simon wanting to give our hearts to everyone and everything else, why because of the wickedness in our hearts keeps us from giving our hearts over to God and chasing after the things of this dark and decaying world.
Peter calls for repentance which is a turning back and away from the things that are contrary to God. To repent is to change your mind, do a 180. Repentance is always a turning away from but it is also a turn to. There is no repentance if there is no turning to. If a person says they repent but don't follow it up with prayer and seeking after God then is there really any repentance? It takes action steps on the part of the repentant person. Meaning at least for Simon here it is a giving up of the desire for money and power and to seek God for the purpose of Salvation not fame. This is what Salvation is, it is a release from bondage. Peter is very clear Simon is in the bond of iniquity which is the bond of sin. It is a separation from God that lead to eternal punishment which is an eternity separate from God. True faith doesn't just save us from sin it saves us to God. Our hearts are destructive and God has provided a plan to defuse the destructiveness within us, this is a free gift and we don't have to offer anything for it just except the gift. Excepting the gift does mean you have to deny all the other worthless things in the world, including a thirst for power and authority and a selfish desire for getting things at any cost. Excepting the gift means you turn from selfishness and trust in Jesus selfless sacrifice, the cost He paid on your behalf.
There is nothing in this passage that indicates whether or not Simon was saved. Although his response leads me to believe he was not saved and didn't truly repent. It seems noble for Simon to ask for the prayers of the apostles on his behalf. The thing is when it comes to salvation it is not salvation by association. I can pray for a person till the Lord comes back but if the person never repents there is no salvation for that person. The only one who can repent and trust in Christ is you. If you are not going to your own knees and excepting the gift God has offered and turning back and giving up on all that you have in this life there is no salvation for you.
Romans 10:10 NASB95
10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
1 Peter 3:21–22 NASB95
21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
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