by Mike Ratliff
18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” (Acts 8:18-23 NASB)
In these times of the “Compromised Church” with very little knowledge of historical Christianity and what makes up what is truly Orthodox, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when I’m called a heretic and false teacher for teaching Reformation Theology and then revealing that my view of eschatology is (gasp) not dispensational/pre-millennialism. I have been told more than a few times over the last week or so that I could not possibly be a genuine brother and hold to the view of eschatology that I espouse or that I am a Calvinist, et cetera. What is it that makes one a genuine Christian rather than a disingenuous believer? Let’s take a look at a New Testament example.
1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. 6 The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. 7 For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 So there was much rejoicing in that city. 9 Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. (Acts 8:1-11 NASB)
This is a very familiar historical account from the book of Acts of how God used persecution of the Church in Jerusalem to move the Gospel to the Gentiles in Samaria. Why were the crowds “with one accord giving attention to what was said by Philip?” It was the power of the Holy Spirit drawing them to hear the Gospel. He was also, by the power of the Holy Spirit performing signs. What signs? The Holy Spirit was working through him to cast out unclean spirits and people were being healed. However, Luke changes the focus of the account in v9 referring to a man named Simon. He was a magician who practiced sorcery though people thought that it came from God. How can demonic “signs” be distinguished from Godly signs? While both signs are supernatural, they can be distinguished by what they point to. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve and glorify Jesus are Godly. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve or glorify anything or anyone else – pastors and Biblical personalities included – are not.
12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed. 14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” 24 But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts (8:12-24 NASB)
Was Simon a believer? Acts 8:13 says, he “believed” and that he was even baptized, but the rest of the above passage qualifies his belief. What are some of those ‘qualifications’ to his belief? Peter told Simon to “perish” (Acts 8:20), that Simon had “wickedness” (Acts 8:22) but “neither part nor portion” with them (Acts 8:21), that his heart is “not right” with God (Acts 8:21) but “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23). This is not the description of someone who had been born again through Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Someone who is bound by “iniquity“, which means “sin”, isn’t someone whose sins have been wiped clean by the blood of Jesus, so Simon was not a believer. According to historians, Simon later became an enemy of the church and died as one.
In today’s “Compromised Church” someone like Simon would be treated as one who was a true believer because he had “made a decision” and been baptized. However, as we can see here, our Lord’s statement from his Sermon on the Mount, “By their fruits you shall know them” also works with telling a genuine believer from a disingenuous one.
My brethren, I have been a Bible teacher a very long time and have always experienced some push back from those who have beliefs they hold that have become idols in their hearts. These idols have become so well established there that the enemy has been able to build strongholds around them. I know this to be the case because when I teach directly from scripture, word for word, in a doctrinal area that is contrary to what that idol they hold dear demands of them, the response is anything but godly. It is fleshly. It is unreasonable. It is couched in emotional, self-protective anger and the arrogance displayed in some of those cases is utterly amazing. That is not how genuine Christians should behave…ever, under any circumstances. The name calling, the threats, it is like being under some sort of inquisition. You should see the spam folder on this blog at times. These are supposed to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ saying these things? I don’t think so. However, many of them certainly claim to be so.
Let us pray first for ourselves that we do not slip into this self-focused bitterness. Examine yourselves carefully my brethren and repent of what God shows you. Then pray for those professing Christians who seem to think it is their mission to destroy the faith of those who do not hold to the same doctrines they do. Most who do this are focusing in the areas of Reformation Theology vs. some form of Semi-Pelagianism. I have good brothers and sisters with whom I fellowship who are not Reformed. We can fellowship because we have the same Saviour and our hope is the very same.
Soli Deo Gloria!