Acts 8:18

Senate Chambers, Texas Capitol.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, Acts 8:18

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

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It was noted that as Peter and John laid their hands on those of Samaria the people then received the Holy Spirit. Luke now continues with, “And when Simon saw.”

There was obviously a visual effect that came about when the Holy Spirit was given. This would have been a necessary confirmation to the apostles that the Samaritans had actually been accepted by God. In other words, this visual event was as much for them as it was for the people. Otherwise, it could later be claimed that God never accepted them, nor does he accept anyone except the Jews who had an obvious audible and visual reception of the Spirit in Acts 2.

But with Luke’s record of the events of Acts, it definitively points to the fact that those in Samaria had received the Spirit and were equally accepted by God. With that, Luke continues by noting that Simon saw “that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands.”

It was through the physical contact with the hands of Peter and John that the event being described takes place. As noted, these people had already believed, and they had Philip there with them, but no such event took place. Now that Peter and John are present and physically in contact with the people, a visual and/or audible event occurs proving that “the Holy Spirit was given.”

This is not unlike Acts 19 where the following account will take place –

“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’
So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’
And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’
So they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’
Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all.” Acts 19:1-7

At the laying of hands by Paul, these men received the Holy Spirit. Unlike now in Acts 8, the specific proofs of the Spirit are noted, which are speaking in tongues and prophesying. That is probably what occurred with these Samaritans, but it remains unstated.

Whatever transpired, it was sufficient proof to Peter and John that the matter was settled. There were the necessary “two or three witnesses” to establish the matter, and therefore the matter is established. The written words of Luke confirm that it is so. Seeing this, however, it says that when Simon saw what occurred, “he offered them money.”

Simon was in the business of amazing the people through magic. It may have been simple tricks to fool them or actual black arts. Either way, his source of livelihood was now gone because he had believed in something greater. With that now the case, and with seeing the demonstrable proof that what Peter and John had taught was true, he probably thought, “If I can do this, I can continue my livelihood by doing this with others by obtaining this ability.”

The coming verses will show the utterly perverse nature of this. With this in mind, it is something that scholars jump on and immediately start claiming that he isn’t saved, and his actions have proven this. On the contrary, verse 8:13 clearly and unambiguously tells us that he believed the gospel. This is what saves, not making stupid errors concerning life in Christ after being saved. If such were the case, not a person who was ever saved would continue to be saved.

The account says that the Holy Spirit was given at the laying on of hands by the apostles. We have no idea if that included Simon or not. He may have seen this in others, or it may have occurred to him personally. All that is given is the record of his belief and then of what now transpires.

Life application: Are speaking in tongues and prophesying proof today that someone has received the Holy Spirit? The answer must be, “No.” People in other religions and in false sects of Christianity also speak in “tongues,” as well as “prophesy.” As such, these things do not prove anything. So why were these things given to those in the early church in Acts?

The answer is not so much to confirm to the people that they had been accepted by God, but to confirm to the apostles that they had. In the case of Paul’s laying on of hands as noted in Acts 19, that was an additional confirmation that not only had these people been accepted, but that it was after belief in Jesus’ fulfillment of what John’s baptism had only anticipated.

Repentance from sin imputed under the law cannot save anyone since the coming of Christ. Jews do that all the time, and not one of them is saved without coming to Christ. Only faith in Jesus’ fulfillment of the law through His death, burial, and resurrection can bring about salvation.

As this is true, and as the reception of the Spirit was proof of the work of Jesus for the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 2), for the apostles that the Samaritans had been accepted by God (Acts 8), and for the apostles to know that the Gentiles are accepted by God (Acts 10), then such outward signs are no longer needed. The record of them has been established.

As for the account in Acts 19, it is a clear record for all today that repentance under the law is not enough to be saved. It is a clear sign to the Judaizers and Hebrew Roots Movement adherents that they are following the wrong path. One must place his faith in Christ to be saved. When that happens, he is saved. The historical descriptions found in Acts confirm these things once and for all time.

Lord God, how grateful we are that the book of Acts reveals to us the truth concerning Your acceptance of those who have believed the gospel. We can now read the epistles that instruct us in proper doctrine and know that we too are accepted by faith alone in the completed work of Christ. The record is given, and we live by faith in the word we have been given. Amen!