But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money. You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
Have you ever been fooled into thinking someone was a Christian because of their religious activity? If you have, it may be of some comfort to know that the Holy Spirit has never been so deceived. But evil men, like Simon of Samaria, still try.
The Holy Spirit is a revolutionary. Pentecost had overturned Simon’s position in Samaria and he wanted it back. In a vain and blasphemous attempt at a reputation recovery, Simon offered Peter silver for the Spirit’s power but received a curse instead. Simeon prophesied of Jesus in his infancy, “this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed” (Luke 2:34, emphasis mine). A little more than three decades later, the Spirit continued Christ’s post-ascension revolution. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not stand against His Church (Matthew 16:18). In Samaria, hell’s gates were kept by Simon and both fell when the Spirit-empowered Church came to town.
The Holy Spirit is a revealer. Even though Simon had been baptized by Philip, Peter nevertheless discerned that Simon had never been born again by the Spirit. For that reason, Simon had no “part” or share in Christ’s Church. Simon’s motives were wrong because he was full of poison, not the person of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Spirit-inspired generosity which was so common in the early days of the Church (Acts 2:42-45), Simon was inspired by his greed. Peter ordered Simon to repent of his wickedness and pray for forgiveness, but Simon refused. Like a criminal caught ‘red-handed’, Simon’s only interest was in avoiding the consequences of his crime, not repenting of his sin. The Spirit had uncovered Simon’s contempt for Christ.
The Holy Spirit is a rejecter. What if Acts 8 was presented as a Facebook conversation between Pastor Peter and Simon the parishioner? What sorts of comments would we expect to receive? One can almost imagine the oft-misquoted critiques: “’Judge not.’ ‘Pastor Peter, don’t be a Pharisee.’ ‘If Jesus was here, he’d hang out with sinners like Simon and reject you, Mr. Pharisee.’” Sometimes I worry that the Church has become so intoxicated by tolerance she has lost the ‘Gospel guts’ needed to respond to such criticisms with the Spirit of Truth and the Word of God. Simon’s story ends with him outside, impenitent, and without grace. How will your story end? Simon was full of poison. With what or whom are you full?
The Holy Spirit is a reshaper. Andrew Carnegie became a multi-billionaire as a steel manufacturer. What was the source of his success? He once wisely observed, “Take away my people but leave my factories and grass will soon grow up through the floors of my factories. But leave my people and take my factories and those people will soon build better factories.” Perhaps the Church could take a lesson from Carnegie about the Producer and His produce. The Church doesn’t produce the Spirit, the Spirit produces the Church! When the Holy Spirit applies Jesus’ work to our hearts and souls, lives are powerfully transformed for the glory of God. We are not called to reshape the priceless image of God’s Son, but to be reshaped as His priceless image!
Are you being reshaped? When you are, you’ll have a share in the Priceless.