Acts 8:23

Looking down on Great Seal of the state of (Yee Haw) Texas. Texas Capitol.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

“For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Acts 8:23

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).

Peter has upbraided Simon for his offer of money to have the power to impart the Holy Spirit to others. He then offered the corrective measure which was for him to repent and pray. Now as an additional poke at him, he says, “For I see.”

Peter discerns the wickedness that fills Simon that he spoke of in the previous verse and he identifies it to him with the words, “that you are poisoned by bitterness.”

The verb is a present participle and the word “poisoned” is a noun, not a verb. It more precisely reads, “that you are being in the gall of bitterness.” The word translated as “gall” is cholé. It means gall or bitter herbs. It is what was given to Jesus in Matthew 27:34 as a painkiller and which He refused to drink. Here, it is used figuratively.

The next word, bitterness, is from the Greek word pikria. It is found only here, and it signifies bitterness, harshness, and such, as in an embittered spirit. This word will be seen in Romans 3:14, Ephesians 4:31, and Hebrews 12:15. In Ephesians 4, Paul notes that this and other negative traits can exist in believers, but they are to be put away.

The two words together give the sense of Simon either being corrupted by (poison) or immune (anesthetized) to bitterness. Peter continues with his words saying, “and bound by iniquity.”

Again, the first word is a noun, not a verb. In essence, “You are being in the bond of iniquity.” It is as if iniquity (unrighteousness) is acting as a force that restrains him in the state of iniquity so that he can do nothing else. It is a word that Paul uses concerning believers, such as in Romans 3:5 and in an ironic way concerning himself in 2 Corinthians 12:13.

It is to be noted that throughout the epistles there are saved believers who are highlighted for their improper conduct and attitudes, but Paul does not question their salvation. They believed and were saved.

The record in Acts concerning Simon says he believed. What he needs is repentance and turning to sound thinking and doctrine, something desperately needed throughout the church and in all ages. If the words used to describe Simon were a statement that he was not saved, it would be a statement against the majority of believers at any given time in their lives after salvation.

Life application: The Bible says that a person is saved by grace through faith. Grace is unmerited favor. It is, therefore, something that no person deserves. It is also something that any person can obtain. Simon was said to have believed in Acts 8:13. Does his belief not justify being granted grace because he is described in such a negative way by Peter? On the contrary, Paul addresses this in Romans in an ironic fashion noting that the “truth of God has increased through my [supposed] lie to His glory” (Romans 3:7).

In other words, it is like saying, “When a person has done great wickedness and yet is forgiven, it shows the truly great nature of God who will still forgive.” The more sinful a person was before believing, the greater the mark of mercy is granted, and the greater the grace of God is highlighted.

Paul then goes further and says that some actually accused him of basically saying, “Well if this is true then let us sin even more so that God can be even more magnified in His forgiveness of us.” Paul immediately shows that that is perverse thinking, and someone who thinks that way is justly condemned for entertaining such an idea.

Simon believed. Assuming (and there is no reason to think otherwise) that he was saved, it does not mean that he suddenly became a person without fault. Rather, in his state, God’s grace towards him was shown to be exceptional. Now, what Simon needs is correction (something he has been given by Peter), and turning to the appropriate path.

As you witness to people more and more, you will find that there are many people who truly believe but who are so theologically confused that it will take a long time to sort them out. And some may never get completely sorted out. Paul refers to a couple of men in this state in 1 Timothy 1:18-20. There is a point where you just have to deliver them over to Satan and let them learn their lesson the hard way.

In the end, it is our job to hold fast to what is right, to teach others in this manner, and to live our lives as faithful Christians so that we can be examples for others to emulate. If we do these things, we will be doing our part.

Lord God, help us to be sound in our footing as we walk along the paths of right doctrine and personal holiness. In this, we can lead others as well. Give us the ability to remember Your word, to apply it to our lives, and to call it to memory as need be. With this, we can be the example to others that we should be. To Your glory! Amen.