Vol. 6, No. 9
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The reason why the conversion of Simon is questioned is due to his actions following his baptism. Previously he had deceived the people of Samaria by his practice of sorcery. He was esteemed highly by his followers. They said: "This man is the great power of God" (v. 10). However, the people could distinguish between the genuine miracles of Philip and the so-called magic of Simon (vs. 6-7, 12). In fact, Simon was greatly impressed with the miracles done by Philip (v. 13). When the apostles Peter and John came from Jerusalem and prayed for the new disciples, laying their hands upon them in order for these Christians to receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, Simon sought to purchase this power "...that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit" (vs. 14-19). Of course, he sinned as is pointed out by the apostle Peter. Simon stood in a condemned condition (vs. 20-21). This action by Simon the Sorcerer is the basis of much disagreement as to his sincerity in responding to the preaching of Philip.
The advocates of the Calvinistic doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (once saved always saved) insist that Simon was insincere at the time he was baptized. The reason being, a true Christian, they claim, would not and could not have committed such a sin. The religionists who propose a second blessing of grace would declare that a true convert to Christ is given power to live above sin. Thus, there is the apparent need to say that Simon was not sincere in his response to the Gospel of Christ as preached by Philip.
Please study very carefully the following observations in order to help us reach the right conclusion regarding the sincerity or insincerity of Simon when he was baptized.
First of all, if we believe and understand that all the Samaritans who believed and were baptized were saved, should we not by the same reasoning accept the conversion of Simon who believed and was baptized (vs. 12-13)? Are we ready to assert that the Lord saved the Samaritans but not Simon, even though they all responded in the exact manner to the preaching of Philip?
Second, if Simon had been hypocritical, surely Philip, Peter or even Luke the inspired historian and author of the Book of Acts would have made mention of this fact. However, there is no indication whatsoever that any of these men of God doubted his obedience to the Gospel of Christ. When Peter said, "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God" (v. 21), he had reference to Simon's transgression in offering money to the apostles so that he might possess their power to impart the Holy Spirit to others.
Third, notice closely what the apostle Peter instructed Simon to do in order to obtain forgiveness of God for his sin: "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you" (v. 22). That statement is very significant. The reason being, if Peter had perceived that Simon had not been truly converted, he would not have told him to repent and pray for the forgiveness of his sins. Rather, he would have required Simon to truly be penitent of his sins and be scripturally baptized this time. But, he didn't instruct him in this manner. He instructed him to repent and pray to God for forgiveness of his sins. An inspired man like the apostle Peter never commanded an alien sinner to repent and pray for the remission of sins. Likewise, an erring Christian was never required to be baptized. This should be sufficient proof that Simon was a fallen Christian and not an insincere sinner who needed to obey the Gospel in order to be saved.
Fourth, can we not discern that the Holy Spirit has given to us this example of Simon as being a case of a Christian sinning after being saved by the Gospel of Christ? There are numerous warnings in the New Testament for the Christian to "take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). Satan simply tempted Simon in his weakness, that is, of possessing the desire to have the preeminence and prominence among his fellowman. The fallen disciple understands that he can be forgiven of his sins by the blood of Jesus Christ when he repents and prays to God. The apostle John informs Christians to confess their sins to God and he will "cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7-10). We see in the command given by Peter to Simon to repent and pray as being God's second law of pardon for the erring Christian and not the insincerity of an imposter posing as a saint.