Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - False Conversions - Acts 8:9-25

False Conversions - Acts 8:9-25

Luke has to this point in Acts already set the precedent that conversion to Jesus is a deep work of the Holy Spirit, and alternatively the reality of false confessions of faith and baptisms, such as Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), and now the example of Simon the magician. The Holy Spirit fell upon the Samaritans and they saw the grace of God in Jesus. Simon however, was blind to this, and only saw the manifestations of the Spirit and focused on what he could gain from them.

Context: The disciples who were scattered because of the great persecution (Acts 8:1) that started following Stephen’s martyrdom go about preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Luke then spends a lot of ink to tell us about one man - Simon (Acts 8:9). He is described as “great” (a greek word from which we get the word megalomaniac, Acts 8:10). He was self-absorbed, and loved the praise of men.

Philip preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12) to the Samaritans. Note that up to this point, the gospel had only been preached to Jews in Jerusalem. It was shocking that Samaritans, half-breed Jews with bad theology, could enter the kingdom. But though the Samaritans had believed and been baptized, the Lord sovereignly orchestrated the holding back of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them, until the apostles would be there to witness this second Pentecost (Acts 8:14-17). Philip’s preaching to the Samaritans demonstrates the Lord’s purpose - there will be no division - not a Jewish body and a Samaritan body, but one body of Christ. When the Holy Spirit fell upon the Samaritans, they were likely speaking in tongues and prophesying. The Jewish believers in witnessing this would have to welcome the hated Samaritans.

Question: What is happening before the apostles came? Did the Samaritans already have the Holy Spirit? Yes, the Holy Spirit had already come in when they received the gospel and were baptized. They were already born again, but the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon them (Acts 8:16). The point is: Christianity is forgiveness and justification, yes, but also empowerment by the Holy Spirit. Christianity is to be experienced, and is not just an intellectual agreement to truth claims. Luke makes this clear throughout the book of Acts (Acts 2:4, Acts 4:31). Note that Simon saw something, not the Holy Spirit Himself, but something that He caused, some kind of manifestation in the people (cf. Acts 19:6, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 9:17, 20).

The Christian experience of a repentant heart, of faith in the gospel, and joy in the Holy Spirit is the context for understanding false conversion. After Simon saw the miraculous signs Philip performed, Luke tells us that he believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). But the fruit of Simon reveals that this belief was not saving faith (Acts 8:18-23). False faith is a Biblical doctrine. From experience, think about the hundreds of thousands of kids raised in Evangelical churches who go off to college and return denying the gospel. From the Bible, see the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18-23), John 2:23-25, and 1 Cor. 15:1-2. Simon had faith, but the object of his faith was the power of miracles, not Jesus. What happened to the Samaritans is what did not happen to Simon - 2 Cor. 4:6 (also Gal. 4:6). His heart was all wrong (Acts 8:21); it was crooked. Peter calls Simon to repent (Acts 8:22) and to pray to the Lord. But Simon cannot even get himself to pray (Acts 8:24).

Do you know that you have a genuine affection for Jesus? If so, you are like the Samaritans, and not like Simon. We are to know that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead for our justification, has ascended to the right Hand of God and has sent the Holy Spirit to apply what was accomplished at the cross. If you want to be saved, but don’t know if you are, then pray for God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon you.


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