GOD OR MAMMON?

Opening Prayer

Ruler of the Universe, great lover of my soul, help me to serve you with all that I have, all that I am.

Read ACTS 8:4-25

Philip in Samaria

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

Simon the Sorcerer

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

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Meditate

May we be sensitive to the perils of the love of mammon (riches) and learn to worship God alone.

Think Further

Yet again, one of the ‘seven’ appointed to ‘wait on tables’1 proves to have previously unrecognized gifts. His ministry takes him well beyond Jerusalem. Philip’s evangelistic activity fills this chapter, acting as a bridge by which the story in Acts moves from Jerusalem to the wider, gentile world.

The incident in Samaria, involving the sorcerer named Simon, introduces us to a character who had very bad press in subsequent Christian commentary. Luke reports that Simon, who was very influential in Samaritan society, believed the gospel and was baptized (v. 13). In this text, baptism is not accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit, a lack remedied by the arrival of the apostles, who became the channel of what may be described as the ‘Samaritan Pentecost.’ All kinds of theological conclusions concerning the relationship between faith, baptism, and the Spirit have been drawn from this passage. The danger is that they miss the main point of the narrative, which concerns discipleship and money! The ancient world was full of people with charismatic gifts that were used to exploit the poor for personal gain. Simon the sorcerer is just such a person (we meet others later in Acts), as becomes clear in his assumption that the Holy Spirit is a commodity available for purchase!

Peter’s emphatic response (vv. 20–23) is consistent with the position taken earlier by the apostolic church on the subject of money and possessions. More importantly, it reminds us of the insistence of Jesus that faith in God demands the renunciation of the idolatry of mammon. In an era in which money dominates the whole of life, the challenge of Peter’s words must resonate with Christians today.

Apply

What conclusion should we draw from Simon’s answer in verse 24?

Closing prayer

As you give me opportunity to share my faith and be a witness, Father, I trust your Spirit to speak through me and draw others to living faith in Jesus.

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by kingstar

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