Acts 8:20

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Saturday, 25 June 2022 

But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! Acts 8:20

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

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse cited Simon. He had offered money to Peter and then he said, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” With that, Luke records, “But Peter said to him.” From the coming words, it is evident that Peter completely flipped out at the offer. And more, he strongly rebukes him, saying, “Your money perish with you.”

More literally it reads, “Your money be along with you to destruction.” Today, to say this as forcefully as Peter, we might say, “Both you and your money can go straight to the pit.” This should not be taken, as many interpret, as Peter calling a curse down on Simon, although it would not be out of character for him. In his denial of Jesus, his words were packed with emotion, literally saying that he began to “anathematize.” It was as if he was calling down curses if he was lying, which of course he was.

In the case of his words to Simon, he is surely being expressive of contempt for the money more than contempt for Simon. We might say something like, “Even if you gave me a million dollars, it wouldn’t matter.” The very fact that Peter tells him to repent of his thought in the coming verses shows that he is not adamant that Simon will, in fact, perish. For now, however, Peter continues to correct Simon’s thinking about what is happening by saying, “because you thought that the gift of God.”

Peter acknowledges exactly what Paul will later write in his epistles. A gift is something that cannot be purchased. It doesn’t matter how good of a bargain it is, if it has a value attached to it, no matter how large or how small, it cannot be considered a gift. The giving of the Holy Spirit is called a gift.

As the Holy Spirit is something given upon belief, and as the Holy Spirit is considered a guarantee (see Ephesians 1:14), and because the guarantee is given as a mark of salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9) which is also called a gift, then it clearly indicates that salvation is eternal. It is this matter that is being considered, and Simon thought it, as Peter says, “could be purchased with money!”

As one can see, Peter’s words are more of an idiomatic expression than a curse directed toward Simon. “What God has offered as a gift, you are trying to pay for? You and your money can go to destruction together!” Peter is trying to wake Simon up to the process of salvation and what it ultimately means. If the “gift” can be purchased, then it is not a gift. Further, it would then mean that what occurred does not come with a guarantee. But the process is of God, and it is something that He will see through to the end.

Life application: The words of Peter cannot override the promises of God. If Simon believed (which he did as is recorded in verse 8:13), and if belief is what brings salvation (see Ephesians 1:13, 14, for example), then Simon was saved. The giving of the Holy Spirit through the apostle’s hand has a purpose that is fulfilled in the act. It is not something that needs to be done again, as will be evidenced in Acts 10 with the conversion of Cornelius and those with him.

Peter is doing what is proper in rebuking Simon for his horrifying doctrine. He has fully misunderstood the process of salvation that takes place, and he is being corrected in his thinking. Later in the chronology of time, Paul will have to do this exact same thing to Peter –

“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.’” Galatians 2:11-16

Who is in the more damaging position from a theological standpoint, Simon Peter or Simon the Magician? Arguably, it is Simon Peter. Simon the Magician had no schooling on the matter, and what he was considering was not something that would keep a person from being saved, simply because what he was asking for was something that could not be purchased.

On the other hand, what Simon Peter was doing was setting aside the grace of God which comes through the work of Christ through His actions (Galatians 2:21). He was falling back on the law in order to please men. This can, and it does, lead directly to the introduction of a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-8).

As this is so, and as Peter remained as saved after his actions as he was the day he was saved, it demonstrates to us that Peter’s words to Simon are surely to be taken in the proper context of a sharp rebuke, but not a statement of condemnation. The grace of God, even in regard to the abject failure of Peter in His conduct before those in Antioch – as is recorded in the book of Galatians – is a comforting reassurance that we are saved despite ourselves. Thank God for His grace in Jesus Christ!

Lord God, what a comfort Your word is. It shows us that even when we really botch things up, we are Yours because of Jesus. And more, we will remain Yours because of Jesus. Thank God for the eternal salvation that is found in Him. Amen.