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Acts 8:9–13

“Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed” (v. 13).

Philip, one of the seven appointed to serve the early church’s material needs, brought the gospel to Samaria, and many Samaritans responded with faith and joy (Acts 8:4–8). Luke for the most part speaks about the Samaritans generally, not giving us much information about the specific individuals. In today’s passage, however, Luke does begin to tell us about one man who made a profession of faith.

We are talking about one Simon, “who had previously practiced magic in the city” before Philip came to preach salvation through Christ alone (Acts 8:9). This Simon has famously been called Simon Magus, with Magus coming from the Greek phrase translated as “practiced magic.” The word rendered as “magic” has the same root as the word translated “wise men” (literally, “Magi”) in Matthew 2:1. The term could refer to sorcerers, those who fooled people with “magic tricks,” astrologers, and others. Simon Magus, then, was one who engaged in some form of the magical arts. Acts 8:9 indicates that he called himself “somebody great,” and he was evidently powerful enough or at least seemed to be powerful enough for the people to regard him as “the power of God that is called Great,” since he amazed them with his magic (vv. 10–11). Yet his magical abilities, whatever they were, paled in comparison to the power that Philip displayed. When the Samaritans heard Philip’s preaching and saw the miracles he performed, they switched their allegiance from Simon Magus to Christ. Philip’s work was so effective that even Simon professed faith and was baptized (vv. 12–13).

As will become clear later in Acts 8, however, Simon merely professed faith; he did not actually possess saving trust in Christ. Scripture is clear that not everyone who claims to believe in Jesus for salvation has actually done so. Such persons may participate in the new covenant outwardly, even joining the church, but they will likely eventually leave the covenant community because they were never truly part of the company of believers (1 John 2:19). These individuals have the “faith” of demons, which consists of mere intellectual assent to God’s truth but lacks actual trust in Christ (James 2:14–26). Such people might marvel at God’s miracles, but they do not follow this amazement with heartfelt trust in Jesus. Matthew Henry comments, “Many wonder at the proofs of divine truths who never experience the power of them.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The signs that Jesus and the Apostles performed served to confirm that they spoke for God. A faith based only on signs, however, is a faith that has not fully embraced God’s promises of salvation. Our trust must be not only in the wonders that God has done but also in the words that He has spoken. This is why reading Scripture, hearing Scripture preached, and studying Scripture is so vital. God’s Word is the lifeblood of true, saving faith.

For further study
  • Deuteronomy 32:44–47
  • Psalm 119:25
  • Matthew 12:38–42
  • Luke 23:6–12
The bible in a year
  • Judges 11–12
  • Luke 9:1–27

Philip’s Mission to Samaria

Pentecost for the Samaritans

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From the April 2024 Issue
Apr 2024 Issue