Samaria was abuzz. Philip’s proclamation of Christ had resulted in the expulsion of unclean spirits and the healing of paralytics. The power of God had set the city rejoicing. Even the esteemed magician, Simon, was baptized and became a follower of Philip. Who wouldn’t want to be part of an amazing discipleship program like that?1
One thing was missing, though. The power of God at work through Philip had not yet come upon the new believers. So the apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to pray for an impartation of the Holy Spirit. As the apostles laid hands on the members of the Samaritan church, they began receiving the Holy Spirit. So far, so good. Many branches of the church recognize belief in Jesus, and baptism in water and the Spirit, as the first steps into the Christian life.
However, Simon the magician tried to take a detour. He saw the effect of the Holy Spirit on people’s lives and he wanted to have the same impact. You see, Simon enjoyed astonishing people. He loved the attention and the reputation he had earned:
They all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” (Acts 8:10)
However, verse 13 indicates that the tables had been turned on Simon; the astonisher had been outdone and was himself amazed.2 Time for a power upgrade! Simon concluded, “Never mind receiving the Spirit myself, I’ll just buy a franchise and add Holy Spirit impartation to my repertoire of magic tricks.” We never hear the end of Simon’s story beyond Peter’s stern rebuke,3 but there is a lesson for everyone about ministering in the power of God.
Part of the preparation for ministry is to meet the magician inside each of us. We all enjoy the admiration that sometimes comes with ministry positions. No one will last long in a role if he or she does not bear good fruit. But our detour begins when we conclude that the success or security of our positions is proportionate to what we produce, and when we start to revel in a reputation. Then we begin offering our prayer, worship, and Bible study times to the Lord with the secret intent of procuring the power of God for our own glory. Nothing is secret from God; He sees our hearts and He never trades power or glory.
Once we have met the magician, though, we can deal with him or her and write a better ending to our own story. The power of God is given to bring glory to Him and to set captives free. The step that Simon missed—baptism with the Holy Spirit—involves surrender of our lives to Him. The best guard against the magician mentality is to focus our lives on glorifying God, and to minister out of compassion for those who need His touch.
The goal of Bible Maturity is to promote spiritual maturity and faith in God. Please share these short Bible devotions with your friends and family (for God’s glory, not mine).