There’s more to the account of Simon the magician (Acts 8:4-24) than sometimes meets the eye. One of the overarching concerns in Luke-Acts is the kingdom of God. Luke uses the phrase almost 40 times in the two books.
He begins Acts by telling Theophilus about the 40 days Jesus spent with the apostles after His resurrection, and how He was speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God (1:3). He concludes with Paul under house arrest in Rome, welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God (28:30-31). Any time then we come across this phrase, we should pay close attention to what is going on.
Luke is showing us in 8:4ff how the kingdom radiated from Jerusalem to Samaria like ripples on a pond (1:8). He has documented the persecution of the Jerusalem church, and how it forced all but the apostles to vacate the city (8:1,4). As a result, Philip was preaching and performing miracles—casting out unclean spirits and healing those who were lame and paralyzed. The people were paying close attention to what he had to say (v. 6)—and he had something to say! He was proclaiming the Messiah (v. 5), and bringing great joy to the city (v. 8).
But there was another man in Samaria named Simon who seemed to possess great power as well. He had been practicing sorcery in Samaria for some time, and until the arrival of Philip, he had all but cornered the amazement market. Luke tells us that, All the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God,” (v. 10). And poor Simon, he had nothing better to say so his message was that “he was someone great,” (v. 9). What’s the saying . . . If you have to tell someone you’re important—you probably aren’t.
Exactly what Simon was doing and whether it involved anything supernatural or not seems open to debate. In the end it doesn’t really matter because what isn’t debatable is the truth that what Simon was doing didn’t compare with the miracles Philip was performing. Not only did Simon’s followers embrace his message concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,” (v. 12), Simon was baptized as well (v. 13)! We learn that the power behind the kingdom of God is real and in no way resembles the mumbo jumbo, hocus pocus of the world.
This says something to the astrology, Wicca, karma, or whatever other “powers” people dabble in today. Christ rules over everything (Ephesians 1:20-21; 1 Peter 3:21-22). This last passage is of particular interest since the lordship of Christ is expressed in connection with baptism. By being baptized in the name of Jesus (under His authority), Simon would have been confessing His absolute power over all.
It also says something about those who dabble. The flash and hype associated with the latest technology, the loudest celebrity, or whatever is trending on Twitter draws them like a moth to a flame. Like the Samaritans with Simon, they tend to raise these up and attribute greatness to what doesn’t begin to merit the label. It’s as much a reflection upon them as the things they elevate. A lack of depth and discernment causes such people to drift in whatever direction the cultural winds are blowing.
Disciples need an anchored faith. We need to understand the nature of the kingdom of God. We need to see its transcending greatness and know that Jesus alone offers hope—everything else is just hype!