Soteriology 034Acts 5:1-11 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 9, 2016 • Soteriology
Soteriology 34, Acts 5:1-11
October 9, 2016
Father, we’re grateful for today, grateful for a chance to gather and grateful for the exciting things You’re doing here, grateful for all the people that are going to be baptized later on this afternoon. So I just ask that you’ll be with our worship service and Sunday School class and everything that’s going on here this morning. And we just ask that Your Spirit would come and illuminate our minds to spiritual truth. We just ask that we would come before You today with the right spirit and heart and that we might receive from You, and we just ask that you would work mightily. And we ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.
If we could open our Bibles to the book of Acts, chapter 5 and verses 1-11. As you all know we have been venturing through this teaching on eternal security, no longer really laying out the arguments for eternal security. Of course, eternal security means the grace that saved you is the grace that keeps you until the end so. So loss of salvation is not a possibility according to the doctrine of eternal security. That’s what I believe, but really what I believe doesn’t matter, it’s what the Bible teaches. Right?
So we’ve walked through several arguments about the eternal security of the believer and now we’re into those passages that seem to deny the security of the believer. And what we’re learning is how to harmonize those with the clear passages that teach once saved always saved. So we’ve looked at Old Testament passages, passages from the Old Testament, we’ve looked at passages from Matthew, we’ve looked at passages from John’s Gospel which seem to deny eternal security, and so you see that we’re actually moving, we’re progressing, now we’re finished with the gospels and the Old Testament, and today we’re going to look at a few passages in the book of Acts, and if time permits I’m going to start showing you passages, at least one, in the writings of the Apostle Paul.
So there are passages at first glance that make it look like you can lose your salvation. One of those is Acts 5:1-11; Acts 5:1-11 is basically the death of Ananias and Sapphira, so let me read those verses to you if I could. It says: “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,  and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’  And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.  The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’  Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.  And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”
So not exactly a warm fuzzy thought for the day, is it? You have this husband and wife team and people are confused about the sin. People think the sin was they sold their property and didn’t give it all to the church, and that really wasn’t their sin. Their sin was they sold a piece of property, so they liquidated their assets and they told the church we’ve given all the money from the sale to the church; that’s how they publicly represented themselves and the fact of the matter is they hadn’t done so; they had kept back part of the proceeds for themselves. So their sin wasn’t they didn’t sell everything, their sin was they lied about it. They exaggerated their level of generosity. And I just bring this up just as a side note; there’s a big effort today, sadly, to mix the principles of communism with the principles of the Bible. And that’s called liberation theology. And they always quote Acts 2, where the church had “all things in common.” [Acts 2:44, “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 4:32, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.”]
So they want to kind of pretend that the early church was practicing an early form of Marxism, which it was not because under Marxism the government comes in and controls your wealth and the government is not involved in Acts 2 at all. And the last time I checked the Bible says “The Lord loves” a what kind of giver? “a cheerful giver.” [2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”] I’m not all that cheerful April 15th; are you guys cheerful on April 15th? No, it’s being forced out of my hand.
So the Bible doesn’t teach communism, it teaches what I would call passionate capitalism where God is interested in the ownership of property and He’s interested that we use those things that He loans to us as stewards generously. And it’s very clear in verse 3, Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart. [Acts 5:3, “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?”] Verse 4, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” In other words, they were allowed to own the property, they were allowed to sell the property, they were allowed to do whatever they wanted with the proceeds because God is into the ownership of private property. But the problem with these two is they sold the property, they told the church they’d given all the proceeds to the church when in reality they hadn’t.
So as you read through these eleven verses what you discover is the Lord struck them dead right there on the spot for this sin. And people say well, obviously then they lost their salvation. A couple of points on that. First of all, I’m very convinced that Ananias and Sapphira were believers. A lot of people will say well, they weren’t believers. The reason I say they were believers is because this is taking place in church, which is where believers go. Right? And in fact if you go down to verse 11 it says, “And great fear came over the whole” what? Church. So why would the church be afraid if an unbeliever was struck dead; that wouldn’t cause a lot of fear, would it? But what happened is one of their own were struck dead. And as you look at verse 3 this is why people think they were unbelievers. Peter says, “…why has Satan filled your heart” the Greek word for “fill” there is plēroō, and it’s the same verb used in Ephesians 5:18 which says that we are to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” [Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”] So people say well how can they be believers when a believer is supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit? The verbiage that’s used here is they weren’t filled with the Holy Spirit, they were filled with satanic motivation, so obviously they were unbelievers, people say.
But the fact of the matter is the devil cannot possess a Christian but he can significantly influence a Christian and we’re warned about this over and over again. In fact, Peter himself (who spoke these words to Ananias and Sapphira) a little bit earlier, while Jesus was on the earth, Peter made a statement and he actually tried to talk Jesus out of going to the cross, Matthew 16:21-23. And Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me,” what? “Satan.” [Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.  Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”  But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”]
So very clearly was Peter saved? Of course he was, but Peter went back and I think he catered to the sin nature in some sense; maybe it was pride, I’m not sure what the issue was, and the moment you go back to the sin nature the demons can’t possess you but they can significantly influence you. And that’s what’s happening here with Ananias and Sapphira, they’re being motivated by a desire to lie and Satan actually took their fleshly activity and they gave Satan a foothold and he filled their hearts.
The book of Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 26-27, now Ephesians 4 very clearly is speaking to a believer because he says there we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and things of that nature, but Paul in Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “…do not let the sun go down on your anger,” that’s why I’ve always wanted to move to Alaska, “…do not let the sun go down on your anger” because in doing so you give the devil a what? A foothold. So isn’t it interesting that when we’re angry we’re harboring bitterness, we say angry things to people. Isn’t that how it typically works? And a lot of the angry things we say it spills out on innocent people. So if I’m going to cater to my sin nature then I’m giving Satan, not an opportunity to possess me because God and Satan I don’t think can be roommates if my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but I have given him ground to use me. See that? And see, that’s how to understand what was happening here with Ananias and Sapphira; they were catering to a fleshly desire to be seen by men, to misrepresent their level of generosity and the Lord immediately killed them on the spot.
So this is not a loss of salvation issue; this is a divine discipline issue because Hebrews 12:5-11 says “whom the Lord loves, the Lord” what? “chastens.” [Hebrews 12:5-11, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;  FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”]
Jesus, in Revelation 3:19 says, “Those whom I love, I reprove [and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”] So you can go under the chastening of God, much like David went under that in the Old Testament, but that’s not a loss of salvation. And sometimes the chastening of God can be so severe that God can actually remove the life of a child of God from the earth before it’s really their time to die. So God can terminate the natural expiration of someone’s life when they get involved in certain sins.
And to my count the Bible teaches this at least four other times. I want to show you that this is a New Testament doctrine. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:30, where the Corinthians were drunk and disorderly at the Lord’s table and they had taken what was holy and turned it into a common meal where the poor were being excluded because they didn’t have enough money to participate, Paul says, 1 Corinthians 11:30, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick,” and some of you have what? “fallen asleep.” Now when he says “fallen asleep” that’s a euphemism or a way of saying death. So God actually moved into Corinth and actually began to exercise divine discipline on His people. And there’s no hint, as you go through the book of Corinthians, and I’ve gone through some of it with you even in this class, that the folks in Corinth were unbelievers. Paul commends them for being saints at the beginning of the book, positionally, but the rest of the book they’re not acting very saintly, are they? So the Lord moved in there in 1 Corinthians 11:30 with divine discipline and even brought some people to the point of death. That’s what I would call maximum divine discipline.
Another place where this is taught is 1 John 5:19, which says there is a sin that leads to death, and then it never defines what the sin is. So everybody asks me well, what’s the sin, and I don’t have any idea what it is but it’s something bad, whatever it is. [I John 5:19, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.”] In other words, it’s opening the door there, 1 John is, all written to believers, by the way, “My little children” and so forth, all the way through 1 John. And then he talks about a sin that leads unto death; there are some sins you get into that can become so severe that it not only warrants divine discipline but it actually warrants God terminating somebody’s life span, which is what happened with Ananias and Sapphira.
And then only other time in the New Testament where I know this happens is over in the book of Revelation, chapter 2 and verse 23 where Jesus is speaking to the seven churches. And in Revelation 2:23 Jesus says to the church at Thyatira, “And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” And Jesus is reacting there to a sin taking place in their midst, which is described in verse 22, He says, “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.” There’s some kind of terrible sin taking place there in Thyatira, and that’s when Jesus says “I will kill her children” and that’s her spiritual children I believe, “with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts, and I will give to each one according to his deeds.”
So this maximum divine discipline has a natural purifying effect on the church. And that’s what Jesus means there when He says, “and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts,” and that’s what Acts 5:11 is talking about, where it says and the whole church became fearful, great fear came over the whole church. [Acts 5:11, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”] God moves in, not just with discipline but maximum divine discipline and people start to die. You get a sense that God is pretty serious about sin in the life of the believer.
Now is every death a result of maximum divine discipline? No, not necessarily, but there is this New Testament reality that sometimes death can be attributable to some kind of divine discipline in the sinning believer’s life. And so it was necessary here in Acts 5 particularly, because the church just started… and by the way, a lot of people will say the church really didn’t start in Acts 2, but look at verse 11, “great fear came over the whole” what? “church,” that’s the Greek word ecclesia, so obviously the church is in existence here. When did the church come into existence? I believe the church came into existence in Acts 2. So very clearly the church is in existence, it just consists primarily of Jewish believers, completely Jewish believers at this point.
And the thing to understand is the church is a newborn infant at this point. So a newborn is particularly vulnerable, are they not, to diseases, to infections, which can destroy the life of that newborn. And that’s how this newborn church was functioning; it’s brand new and any spiritual virus that entered it could have destroyed that infant and that’s why God was so severe with Ananias and Sapphira here in terms of the sin that was taking place in their lives, which was lying to the Holy Spirit.
So all of this to say that this is a maximum divine discipline issue with Ananias and Sapphira. It really has nothing to do with loss of salvation. I believe that when Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God their souls immediately went into His presence. As Paul says, “absent from the body” is what? “present with the Lord.” So don’t read a bunch of loss of salvation ideas into Acts 5, that’s really not the point; it’s a divine discipline issue, and in this case I would call it maximum divine discipline.
Let me take you to another one; let’s go over to Acts 8:5-25, this is the conversion of Simon the Sorcerer, and Acts 8:5 says this, “Philip went down to the city of Samaria” Philip being one of the deacons, Philip’s name is given in Acts 6, he’s one of the deacons. “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.  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.  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.  So there was much rejoicing in that city.  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;  and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’  And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.  But when they believed” that’s the Samaritans, “Philip, preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” Verse 13 is the key verse, “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.”
 “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John,  who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  For He had not yet fallen upon any of them;” that’s the people in Samaria, “they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.  Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,  saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’  But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!  You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.  Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.  For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.’  But Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’  So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.”
So what has happened here in the book of Acts, and the reason Luke brings all of this up in the book of Acts is because Luke is trying to document, not just the birth of the church but its progress. And the fact that you get Samaritans believing in Jesus is like a major ethnic step, it’s like a quantum leap forward for the church, because if there was ever a group of people that hated each other it was the Jews and the Samaritans. And this conflict actually goes all the way back to the seventh century; the Samaritans were a group of people that were brought into the land by an Assyrian king after the northern kingdom was evicted in 722 B.C. and they kind of… the Jews had been displaced so they brought in this kind of Babylonian group and they started to intermarry with some of the Jews and they became what’s called a half-breed hybrid race. And they were people that just basically followed their own program; they wouldn’t go to Jerusalem like they were supposed to, to worship, they instead decided to set up a rival religious system on Mr. Gerizim. You might remember from the book of Deuteronomy that when Moses enters the land he was told there’s going to be two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, and I want you to read the curses of the law, God said to Moses, for Ebal, and I want you to read the blessings of the law from Gerizim, and so these people liked the blessings part of that so when this half-breed hybrid race started they just sort of decided we’re not going to worship in Jerusalem like we’re supposed to, we’re going to worship on Gerizim.
And so what you have to understand is for seven hundred years, that’s a long time, isn’t it, there is nothing but hostility racially between the Jews and the Samaritans. That’s why when Jesus ministers to a Samaritan woman, John 4, everybody is stunned. I mean, first of all, she’s just a woman, why are you ministering to her? And secondly, why are you ministering to a hated race? So Jesus has come into the world to transcend all of these barriers that men have erected, the gender barrier, and what I mean by that is women are to be despised and hated, that’s not Christianity. That’s not even God’s original design for creation, going back to Genesis 1. And Jesus is not into, Christianity is not into, racial hatred. Paul specifically says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” for we are all one in Christ.
And what happens is people in Samaria, because of Philip’s ministry start getting saved like crazy. And the apostles back home, in Jerusalem, the whole leadership of the early church was Jewish, can’t really believe this has happened. I mean, you’re telling me that those Samaritans are believing in Jesus? So they have to actually travel from Jerusalem a little further up north, if I remember right in my map, and they have to actually lay hands on the Samaritans so that they can receive the Holy Spirit. So this is a unique occurrence in Acts where people get saved in Samaria but they don’t receive the Holy Spirit immediately. That occurrence is not normal today; Paul specifically says in Romans 8 and verse 9 that anyone who has believed in Christ has His Spirit. [Romans 8:9, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”]
But here what you’ll discover is the Spirit was postponed so the Jerusalem apostles could lay hands on these Samaritans and they received the Spirit that way. Now why did God do that? I think the answer is very simple; if these folks had received the Spirit immediately upon believing (through Philip’s ministry) in Jesus Christ there would have been two churches. The racial hatred that had existed for 700 years would have just kept on existing in the church age and that’s not God’s purpose for the church.
So what happened is God intentionally delayed the giving of the Holy Spirit here so that the apostles could really see that yeah, these Samaritans are saved. And the Samaritans could really understand that they’re now part of the same program of God that the Jewish saints in Jerusalem are in because of their faith in Christ. So the reason that the apostles have to come and lay hands is because Jerusalem needs to understand that Samaria now belongs to Jerusalem and Samaria needs to understand that Jerusalem belongs to Samaria. You would have two bodies of Christ if this had not transpired the way God did it here.
So that’s why you can’t go to the book of Acts, as many people try to do, particularly our Pentecostal brothers and sisters, they go to Acts and they to define what’s normal today from the book of Acts. What you have to understand is the book of Acts is a transitionary book; it’s a historical book and there are all kinds of things happening in Acts that are not normative today. So if you want to document something as normative today you have to find it not just in the book of Acts, you have to also find it in the epistles. And here the epistles are saying something different related to when we receive the Holy Spirit and what is found in the book of Acts.
But anyway, in the midst of all of this you’ve got this guy, Simon, the Sorcerer, who obviously was channeled into the occult, or Satan, because he’s performing miracles; he’s performing miracles before he believes and we know from the Bible that God is not the only miracle-worker in the Bible. Satan, to a large extent, can imitate many of God’s miracles; of course, he can’t imitate them to the extent God can perform them, but you know from the book of Exodus that Pharaoh’s magicians actually were able to duplicate the miracles performed by Moses and Aaron, up to a certain point. And we know that the coming antichrist is going to come forth, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, with great power, signs and wonders. [2 Thessalonians 2:9, “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders.”]
Those Greek words, “power, signs and wonders” dunamis, I think it’s terasin and sēmeion, are the same words used to describe Christ’s miracles in the gospels. So Simon the sorcerer is working miracles through satanic power. Philip shows up, preaches Jesus to him, Simon believes, and then when this issue of the Holy Spirit takes place, where the Holy Spirit doesn’t come upon the Samaritans until the Jerusalem saints are prayed for and laid hands on, I think I said that wrong, the Samaritans don’t receive the Holy Spirit until the Jerusalem saints pray for them and lay hands on them. Simeon sees this transfer of power and what he says is I want that power, and he actually tried to purchase that power through money.
So this passage raises a big problem because verse 13 clearly says that Simon believed. Acts 8:13, “Even Simon himself believed….”] It says it as clear as it could be said, right? How many conditions are there to becoming right with God? One, faith alone in Christ alone. Simon believed, yet he’s coveting, verses 18-19, he’s described as perishing, verse 20, he’s described as having no portion in the things of God, verse 21; he’s told that his heart is not right with God, verse 21, he’s told that he needs forgiveness, verse 22, he’s told that he is wrapped up in bitterness, verse 23, and Peter also tells him that he is in bondage, verse 23.
[Acts 8:18, “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,  saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’  But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!  You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.  Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.  For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”]
So hmmm, this is a very interesting thing, we’ve got a guy who believed and we don’t see a lot of fruit there as a believer. Now here’s the solution of Calvinism. Calvinism is big on this idea of spurious faith; there is a faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save. And I believe that from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet that that is a destructive doctrine because if you believe that you’re going to spend your whole life wondering if you’ve got the right kind of faith or not. So simple faith is not enough, there’s got to be contrition, brokenness, remorse, there’s got to be some kind of emotion, there’s got to be fruitfulness, when in reality all faith in the Bible means is confidence; you place your confidence or trust in what Jesus has done. It doesn’t matter how remorseful I am or sorrowful; it really doesn’t matter if I cry tears like a river, if I cry crocodile tears. Now if you want to cry then cry up a storm but that’s not a requirement. See?
So what they’ll say is well, Simon here didn’t have the right kind of faith, and they call that the doctrine of spurious or illusory faith. For example, I’ve quoted here in prior studies William Hendrickson, a pretty well-known Calvinist and I’ve the relative portion underlined, he says: “Not all faith is faith today.” So there’s a faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save apparently, in the doctrine of Calvinism. And so that’s what the Calvinist would say and they would say Simeon obviously didn’t have the right kind of faith, spurious faith.
What are the problems with that? Number 1, it says, verse 13, Simon believed. [“Even Simon himself believed”] Now when I was at Dallas Seminary they gave us, in the doctoral program, a test that they called carols, and my wife would always say you’re spending too much time with carol, which was kind of a joke, not another woman but the wife kind of feels like it’s another woman because you’re spending so much time on your studies. And I was right next to… and they put us all next to each other, it’s like all the people that disagreed with each other the most they put us right next to each other, I don’t know if they planned that. And I was seated next to a guy who now is a professor over there, I don’t know what his beliefs are today, a really smart guy, and he was a Five-point Calvinist, and I brought up this passage to him one time and I pointed out to him that Simon believed. And this is his answer, he says “I don’t accept that, I don’t accept the authenticity of the salvation.” I was kind of put back by that, I didn’t know we were in a position where we could kind of go through the Bible and decide what we’re going to accept and what we’re not going to accept.
And see, this is the problem with theology, you get so into theology you start to rewrite the Bible to accommodate a theology. It says, “he believed.” Now beyond that other people thought he was saved because he got what? Baptized. We’re having a baptism today; we don’t just baptize people. There’s a class they go to where we try to ascertain are these people really believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. But the early church thought Simon was saved because they baptized him.
And notice that the passage runs parallel with verse 12 which is describing the conversion of the Samaritans. Verse 12 is talking about the Samaritans, “when they believed,” that’s the Samaritans, that’s the revival happening in Samaria, Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” Verse 12, the Samaritans believed and were baptized. Verse 13, “Even Simon himself believed; and after being” what? “baptized….” So if you’re going to call into question whether Simon actually was a believer you can’t stop there, you’ve got to challenge everybody’s salvation in Samaria, which to me makes the passage look ridiculous. It’s the exact same words used to describe Simon’s conversion, verse 13; they’re used to describe Samaria’s conversion in verse 12. So there is very little doubt in my mind that this man was saved.
And even when Peter pronounces all of these very harsh things against him, if you look at verse 24 of Acts 8 Simon said, “Pray to the Lord for me…, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” So did Simon feel bad about the whole thing? Yeah, he was remorseful and to me the reason he’s remorseful is the Spirit of God really is inside this guy, convicting him of sin.
So before you get saved the Spirit of God convicts you, John 16:7-11, of your need to believe in Jesus. When the Spirit comes He will convict you of sin, hamartia is a Greek noun for sin, singular, and it goes on and it defines what that sin is—unbelief. [John 16:7, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;  concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;  and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;  and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”]
After you get saved through not justification but now progressive sanctification, as the Spirit of God is inside you have you notice that you start feeling bad about the things you used to do. I mean, you start using profanity like you did as an unsaved person and there’s a check in your spirit. Now what is that? That’s the work of God called progressive sanctification. Simon, I believe, is under that; that’s why he feels bad about all these things that were said about him because the Spirit of God really is inside this man. So is Simon’s conversion authentic? My conclusion is it’s authentic.
Now this is where I have more in common with Armenians, on this point, than Calvinists. The Calvinist would say he’s really not saved. Armenians would say he is saved but he what? Lost his salvation. So at least Armenians acknowledge that the man was truly a believer, they just say he lost it because he committed some kind of unpardonable sin, whether it was lusting for the power of God or something to that extent, and I don’t believe, as I’ve said over and over again that a believer can lose salvation. So that places the burden of proof on me, then, to explain all of these negative descriptors of Simon. How do we explain those things if it is true that Simon was, in fact, a saved person?
Well, this story in Acts takes place within a very short period of time and what it’s describing is a brand new Christian who just came out of the occult. And keep in mind the power that this man, Simon, wielded. Verses 9-11 says he basically wowed, before believing in Christ, he wowed or he amazed a whole city based on these satanic miracles that he could conjure up through Satan’s power. So you’re dealing with a guy who is coming fresh out of occultic activity; he gets saved, and how much time has this guy had to grow? Zero, because these events, I believe, are happening very quick to each other. So he has limited time, if any, for progressive sanctification. His mind has not really been given the opportunity, through progressive sanctification, to be renewed. You say well, why doesn’t the guy just go home and read his Bible? Well, the problem is there isn’t a Bible yet.
So that’s how I’m understanding these negative descriptors of him. It’s a very young Christian still thinking like a pagan, still thinking like an unsaved person. And that’s why he’s coveting; he sees the apostles lay hands on the Samaritan saints; he sees the power involved in that and what he’s saying to himself is I’m the guy with the power, or at least I used to be. I want you to give me that power because he’s still thinking like a pagan, like someone in the occult, like someone who is unsaved. He wants authority and power; he wants to do magic tricks and things like that to amaze people because he wants to be known as someone great, as the text says. And all he’s done after getting saved is drag all of that wrong mental baggage into his Christianity.
And people will do this quite frequently. For example, someone coming out of a works based system, like Roman Catholicism, or Islam, when they hear about Lordship salvation they just gravitate towards it, like moss to a flame, like bees to honey. Now why are they gravitating towards Lordship salvation? Because they still, in their minds think in a works righteousness way. So they naturally gravitate towards false systems within Christendom that still appeal to works. And Simon is into power and he gravitates towards this power that he thought he could possess, thought he could purchase regarding the laying on of hands and the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Now I don’t really think that’s a basis, the fact that he’s coveting power, that’s not a basis in and of itself to deny that the man was saved. Was Simon the first man ever in the history of Christianity, or the only man I should say in the history of Christianity to covet power, to covet prominence, to covet the spotlight? I would say the Christian world today is filled with people like that. And the church for the last 2,000 years is filled with people like that. A lot of people pursue the ministry because they think it’s going to bring them some kind of fame and fortune. Simon, of course, fits that bill, but he’s not the only one because what does Paul say in Philippians 1:14-17? “and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;  the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;  the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.”
So Paul, later on in Philippians, which was probably written around Acts 28, talks about all kinds of people on the landscape that may be preaching Christ and Paul says for that I’m happy because the gospel is true, whether you preach it with a right motive or a wrong motive. But they’re preaching Christ out of wrong motives, so their minds really haven’t been renewed, they’re not really submitted in progressive sanctification to the things of God, and Simon is just like them. It’s not a justification issue! It’s what kind of issue? A progressive sanctification issue.
Well, what about perishing? I mean, didn’t Peter say there in verse 20, related to Simon, that, “May your silver perish with you”? And people see that word “perish” and they say that’s got to be an unbeliever because after all, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever should believe in Him shall not” what? “perish.” So obviously Simon wasn’t a believer because Peter says you’re going to perish. Have you noticed though what Peter connects Simon’s perishing with? “But Peter said to him, ‘May your” what perish? “silver perish….” If I have silver and I go to hell does the silver follow me to hell? If I’m an unbeliever and I’ve got a pocket full of money and I wind up in hell does the money follow me? No, so when Peter is talking about perishing he’s not talking… because he uses the analogy “may your silver perish with you,” he is not talking about someone’s eternal destiny the way it’s described in John 3:16 or “may your silver perish with you” doesn’t make any sense. What he’s talking about is perishing of something temporal. In other words, Simon, because you’re involved in this sin as a Christian there are things that are going to perish from your life. Like what? Rewards in heaven, ministry opportunities will perish. What kind of testimony are you going to have to the unsaved when they see that you’re wrapped up in a desire for power.
And one of the things that might happen to you, Simon, is you might experience divine discipline. Didn’t that happen a little earlier in the book of Acts? That’s just three chapters earlier, so if you’re reading through the book of Acts chronologically you see this word “perish” and this is the problem with cherry-picking verses to build a theology is you many times remove them from their context. You see the word “perishing” it could be referring to divine discipline, which becomes a big deal as we studied earlier in Acts 5. So the “perishing” here I don’t think is his eternal destiny.
Beyond that, Peter says in verse 20, you have no portion. [Verse 20, “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.”] No portion in what? Temporal things that God wants to do in and through you, reward ministry, testimony, avoidance of divine discipline. Those are the things you have no portion in.
And then he goes on in verse 21 and he says Simon, “your heart is not right” and people say that’s got to be an unbeliever; only an unbeliever’s heart is not right with God. Have you read the Psalms lately? Was David saved? Yes! What does David say in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” David wrote that as a saved man after sin had entered his life, so it’s very clear that a believer can have a wrong heart towards God.
Psalm 66:18, I believe also written by David, says, “If I regard iniquity in my” what? “heart, the Lord will not hear;” so Peter is saying to Simon, your heart is not right, I don’t think is enough to disqualify the man from being saved.
And then the part of it that bothers people also is Acts 8:22 where Peter tells Simon he needs to be forgiven. [Acts 8:22, “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.”] People look at that and they say only an unbeliever needs to be forgiven. Can I ask you a question? Does the believer ever need to be forgiven? Of course, that’s the whole point of 1 John 1:9, you know the verse, “If we” notice the word “we” there, John is identifying with these folks that he’s writing to. Was John saved? Sure. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to” what? “forgive us our sins and to” what? “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It goes on in chapter 2 and verse 1, it says, “My little children,” obviously to believers.
So an unbeliever needs to trust in Christ so that they are forgiven of their eternal sins that will separate them from God but as a Christian we still sin. Amen. Anybody in that category? So when I sin as a Christian, and by the way, 1 John tells me that if I think I’m without sin as a Christian then I’ve maybe deceived myself and the truth may not be in me at all. So obviously we sin as Christians. So what do you do as a sinning Christian? You don’t need to trust Christ again for salvation; that issue is secure. You need to confess your sins to God to restore, not your salvation but to restore broken what? Fellowship. So the fact that Peter tells Simon you need forgiveness is not enough to disqualify the man’s salvation. Peter tells him in verse 23 that you’re bitter. [Acts 8:23, “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”] People look at that and they say well, only unbelievers are bitter. I would encourage you to be a pastor for six months, you’ll see a lot of very bitter people that are saved. They’re angry at this, they’re angry at that, and I can get that way myself. Of course, I can become bitter as a saved person; that’s why I always wanted to move to Alaska where I could be angry all the time and the sun would never go down, that’s my point.”
Ephesians 4:26, written to believers, “Be angry and sin not, do not let the sun go down on your anger, do not give the devil a foothold.” Now is that written to a believer? Yes, verse 30, Ephesians 4, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit,” only the believer has the Holy Spirit inside of them. And then verses 31-32 of Ephesians 4 says, “Let all bitterness” that’s written to a Christian, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” So that means as a Christian I can go right back to the sin nature and begin to experience anger, clamor, slander and malice. If I didn’t have that ability this exhortation by Paul would make no sense. And by the way, how do you get over bitterness. We’ve all been hurt in life, it’s part of living in a fallen world. And let me tell you a little secret about church life; the people in the church have the same sin nature and if they’re not growing in Christ they go back to the same sin nature over and over again. So the church world will hurt you; the unsaved world will hurt you and we can get very angry and bitter as a result.
Well, how do you get over bitterness? Verse 32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” I have no right in Christ to harbor bitterness and what to treat someone else with justice because that’s not how God treated me. And Jesus told a whole parable about this in Matthew 18 related to the inconsistency that we are as God’s people when we demand justice from other people, when God never treated us with justice. Read the parable in Matthew 18 about the man who was forgiven a small amount and he found someone that owed him some money and he demanded that that man be thrown into debtor’s prison, that ever nickel be repaid even though God had forgiven the man an infinite amount and the fellow that owed him money was a very negligible sum.
That parable is given to expose the inconsistency in our thinking when we are not people of forgiveness. That’s how you get rid of bitterness. You don’t need to get into some kind of counseling class where you dial back into your past wounds. This is one of the problems with merging psychological principles with the Bible, is they get you involved in this kind of retrogression, you know, think back in time to what this happened and that happened. There’s not a shred of biblical data to support that practice. In fact, Paul says, “Forgetting the things that are behind,” forget all that stuff, you’re a new creature in Christ. And you want to get rid of bitterness so you don’t give Satan a foothold in your life—forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Try it this week and watch your level of angst and anger start to dissipate. You’ll be a lot happier. I think forgiveness is not really so much for the other person, I think it’s for you. Being bitter is like drinking poison thinking it’s going to kill the other guy that hurt me. Bitterness is going to kill you, the guy that hurt you probably doesn’t even remember that he hurt you.
So can a believer go back into bitterness? Clearly, so when Peter says you’re bitter, Simon, it’s not a statement that he’s unsaved. And the other part of it that bothers people is verse 25, Peter says you’re in bondage, and people say well how can a believer be in bondage. And the answer to that is Paul opens that door in Romans 6:16, where he says, “Do ye not know that when you present yourselves to someone as” what? “slaves for obedience, you are the slave to the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” So I have a body that has been redeemed, Paul here writing to believers in Romans 6, and I could use my mind and my body to serve God; I can use my mind and my body to go back to the old nature, when I go back to the old nature Paul is very clear that I make myself a slave all over again. So there’s no doubt that a believer can go back into bondage.
So you sort of put all these things together and I think the proper way to look at Simon the Sorcerer is he’s a new believer, it’s real faith, who just came out of an occultic background with limited if any time for progressive sanctification. And all of these exhortations that Peter gives, and I’ve tried to show you those from the New Testament, are commands applicable to the believer. That’s how to understand Simon, he’s an immature believer that needs to grow up. There’s no need to say he lost his salvation, loss of salvation is not even in this passage. And there’s no reason, really, to challenge the authenticity of his faith.
That’s a couple of passage from Acts and we’ll start looking at passages from Paul next time.