Here’s the sermon outline for Acts 8:4-25, preached at Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville, Illinois. Audio here.
Gospel Reaches Samaria! (Acts 8:4-25)
Simony: Websters definition of simony: “buying or selling of a church office or ecclesiastical preferment”
-Paying someone money to become a pastor or a leadership role in the church
-Paying money to a pastor or church leader for some kind of Church special privileges or blessings
-Great problem in Medieval Church ($ for bishop position, indulgences)—Reformers fought and taught against it.
-Still happens today in different ways.
-Origin of word “simony” comes from the section we are looking at today in Acts based on Simon Magus
-The sin of simony can take place as the gospel advances to new areas and people come to faith in Christ.
-Temptation is to treat Christianity as opportunity for mere personal advancement, worldly gain, or power (perceived or real)
-You may not be tempted to pay money to be an elder or CG leader, but we all face the danger of approaching
God solely to get something from Him, rather than approaching God to know and love Him.
-The danger of simony is one we all face, and by God’s grace can turn from it.
BIG PICTURE: As the gospel advances it brings great joy, but we must beware of the danger of simony.
Acts=Establishment & expansion of the kingdom of God on Earth through the church, as God’s people—filled with the Holy Spirit and led by the apostles—bear witness to Jesus and those called by God respond in saving.
-Acts is not just a historical record, but teaches us truths about God and how to live for Him and know him today!
-Last 3 weeks: Story of Stephen (ministry, final speech, and death)
-After Stephen’s death what happened to church? Persecution & SCATTERING
TODAY: Gospel reaches Samaria, but we also see the danger and error of simony.
1. Spread of the gospel to Samaria; 2. Sin of Simony
As the gospel advances it brings great joy, but we must beware of the danger of simony.
1. Spread of the Gospel to Samaria (8:4-17)
Remember Acts 1:8
Wherever the gospel goes it brings a joy greater than anything of this world, and it holds a power greater the powers of darkness!
-GOSPEL BRINGS JOY (4-8)
-A “Scattered Church” (4)
-What did they do? “preach the word”
-They proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ, calling people to repent of sin and believe the gospel!
-Gospel arrives at Samaria through preaching of Philip (5)
-Philip=one of the seven appointed in Acts 6.
-Samaria BACKGROUND: Samaritans were despised by Jews; considered a half-breed; built they own temple
-Real animosity between Jews and Samaritans: all of the church at this point is mainly Jewish Christian
-God blessed Philip’s Ministry (6-8)
-Blessing shown through attentive audience (6a)
-Miraculous signs given to Stephen (6b-7)
-Remember: SIGNS given to confirm the truth of the gospel!
-RESULT (8) “MUCH JOY”
Augustine: ‘the heart is restless, until it finds rest in you’
Pascal: ‘God-shaped hole in every man’s heart’
*QUESTION: Have you experienced the joy that only Christ can give?
*DANGER: Counterfeit joys, junk food joys, stealing our hearts and leaving us empty.
GOSPEL! Jesus died for our sins, in particular for the sin of idolatry.
-He leads us to true joy, the joy of knowing the living God!
-Joy to be had in God better than joys of suburbia (Ps 4:7)
-GOSPEL HOLDS A POWER GREATER THAN THE DARKNESS (9-13)
Contrary to our modern ‘enlightened’ rationalistic views, there are real spiritual powers out there: some are very evil.
-Devil and demons are not a myth: they are far more powerful than you or me!
-Some people try to tap into their power (psychics, voodoo, necromancers, witches, wizardy, New Age)
-Simon was one of these, and apparently very successful.
-Simon the Magician (9-11)
-Practiced ‘magic’ and ‘amazed’ the people of Samaria (9)
-Pointed to his own greatness (not the greatness of God!)
-Had a big following (10-11)
-But the gospel is more powerful than the darkness (12-15)
-Philip preached “good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,” (12)
-Remember: KINGDOM OF GOD—key theme in Acts.
-Jesus brought it to Earth, and through faith in Christ we enter in to it.
-Crowds respond in faith and baptism (12)
-Simon also believes and is baptized! (13a)
–NOTE: he was particularly enamored with the powerful signs and miracles.
*GOSPEL: Power of gospel is greater than power of sin (Rom 8:2-4)
-Jesus triumphed over the powers of darkness at the cross! (Col 2:15)
*APPLICATION: KIDS, remember, that Jesus is more powerful than the darkness.
-Unusual Delay of H.S. in Samaria (14-17)
-Bible’s teaching is that when a person places their faith in Jesus they receive the H.S. (Acts 2; Romans 8:9; Titus 3:4-7)
-But here in Samaria, that did not happen (16a): UNUSUAL
-Apostles Peter and John arrive in Samaria (14)
-They came down and prayed at the Samaritans would “receive the Holy Spirit” (16b)
-They laid hands on the Samaritan Christians, and they then received the H.S. (17)
-Possibly spoke in tongues, or prophesied. Something visible, but we are not told.
WHY THE DELAY?
-Commentators: likely the delay occurred to provided a FURTHER verification of reality of Samaritans faith
-Remember, Samaritans and Jews do not get along, and surely some would be suspicious
-Commentators note, this occurs also at two similar places in Acts (Paul’s conversion, Gentiles convr).
1. Interpret the less clear passages of Scripture through more clear passages.
2. Interpret Acts along with the epistles.
2. Sin of Simony (8:14-25)
-Sin of simony displayed (18-19)
-Impressed with the power of the apostles (18, 19)
-Offered money so they he might confer the Holy Spirit on whomever he lays his hands
-Simon’s background: great spiritual power.
-Sees Christianity as means to gain and offers to buy SPIRITUAL power through money.
-Simon Rebuked by Peter (20-23) -‘May your silver perish with you!’ = possible translation “to HELL with your money!” (20)
-Simon’s evil intent: “you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”
–NOTE: H.S. referred to “gift of God”
-“You have NO part in this”=in Christian faith or Christian ministry! (21)
-REASON: “your heart is not right before God”
-Vitally important that our hearts are right before God
-Call to repent and pray to God for forgiveness (22)
-Simon’s desperate state (23)
-Simon’s Response (24)
-Instead of repent and praying, asks that Peter prays and danger is avoided!WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SIMON?
-Luke doesn’t tell us, but Early Church history records Simon as ‘first heretic’ and founder of ‘Gnostics’!
-Other works show that he did not repent, but went into back to spiritual darkness
-Likely was not a genuine convert in first place (possibly swept along with crowd)
APPLICATION TO US: The Sin of Simony is ALIVE today
-Viewing Christianity as means to an end, rather than a way to get God.
-Seen in boyfriend/girlfriend who converts, but slides back later to former ways after marriage
-Seen in youth who converts when friendship circle converts, but reverts back later.
-Seen in acting ‘spiritual’ to gain influence or recognition of others.
QUESTION: -Do you view God merely as a means to an end—to get things from Him in this life—or the end itself: to know Him? -Surely in all of us, there are bits of this SIMONY attitude lurking.
-We see it when we attempt to obey God and demand a response from Him
-But God sanctifies His people, and purifies their love: that we love God for God’s sake!
-Jesus is the answer to the sin of simony: he died for our sin on the cross! He brings us back to God!
CONCLUSION: Even though Sin of Simony is real, the gospel continues to advance (25)
-Let us work to see the advance of the gospel here in Naperville, for the joy of our neighbors and glory of God
-Let us beware of the sin of simony and pray for grace to turn from it in our own hearts.