I look up and see a huge waterfall cascading down a breathtaking precipice, tons of water swirling and churning, spray flying – pouring down into a torrent which is powering its way through a deep canyon – the water mighty and powerful: “The waterfall represents My word and My power released through it – you are being washed by water and the word – the torrent represents My purposes in the world – My purposes are rushing forth across the world like the power of the water in the canyon – but My torrent is spreading over the whole world and it is rushing to a conclusion – it is working out my purposes – they cannot be thwarted – there is much evil – but the victory has already been won – “the battle belongs to the Lord” – you will be part of that victory – look up at the mountain from whence comes the mighty waterfall and see Me and worship Me. You may feel at times as if you are being swept along by the torrent – everything feels out of control – you feel you are drowning – but don’t fear I am holding you I am working out My purposes and the powers that are being unleashed are far beyond your understanding – just worship Me and allow yourself exhilarating freedom in the torrent”.
My reading today is Acts 8:4-25. This is an enigmatic passage about which much has been written and many arguments made. As I seek to hear Jesus I must try and put that all out of my mind and see what He is saying to me afresh, while sticking to Luke’s flow of thought in writing it.
This is an important new phase in the spread of the Gospel, as it is taken beyond the borders of Israel for the first time. As I ponder the passage I find myself coming back to the figure of Simon. Most people who write about this passage are so busy trying to figure out the apparent contradictions about receiving the Holy Spirit in this passage with others elsewhere, that they give very little space to Simon, who then becomes a sort of peripheral figure. But of the 21 verses in the passage Simon takes up 13; more than half. So why has his story been included and what does it contribute to the bigger picture of the spread of he gospel? Mmmm, Lord please help.
So who is Simon? He was an important figure in the community of Samaria. He had what appears to be pseudo-supernatural, magical powers and was actually almost worshiped as the “Great Power”. When he saw the centrality of his importance waning in the face of this new religion, where there were real supernatural signs being done, he decided that the best way forward was to join the disciples and somehow acquire the power to dispense the Holy Spirit, whom he perceived was clearly central to the new power that was being released among the community. Peter, however saw through this and called him to repent of his wickedness.
So what is the significance of his story fitting in here? My mind goes to the statement Jesus made, reported for instance in Mark 13:22; “for false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible”. Although Simon is not claiming to be a Christ, is Luke not holding him, up as he has done so many times before as a sharp contrast to highlight the real gospel and at the same time as a warning to the reader of the danger of being taken in by false professions of faith and false claims?
Today as I ponder this passage I feel I am being reminded of the danger of being dragged down false paths, to take my eyes off the only Messiah. I am led again to 1 John 4:1-6 to remind myself of “how to test the spirits”. A strong warning to be vigilant at all times, as for instance when we recently had a questionable prophecy loaded onto our WhatsApp group, by a well-meaning friend, so attractive to believe..
I also smiled as I recollected an experience I had after I had spoken at a “Christian Woman’s Club” meeting, many years ago at the Kloof Neck restaurant. After I had spoken I invited anyone who wanted to find out more about the gospel to come to one side. Presently a tall, well-dressed, rather attractive lady walked up to me and planted herself in front of me. Without introducing herself she looked me straight in the eye and said to me “I want what you’ve got”. I felt a wonderful opening to explain the gospel and how she would receive the Holy Spirit, who she had apparently seen in me, if she believed. Starting to explain, she cut me short with “I am not interested in all that, you have got something and I just want that”. My thoughts slid to Simon and I thought, all she is not doing is offering me money. She was followed up but never showed any interest in Jesus or His gospel simply wanting the power and presence of the Holy Spirit whom she had seen.
The Holy Spirit cannot be peddled nor handed out, He is the most precious gift that Jesus gives as part of the New Covenant promise to change our hearts so that we will have a new power to live for Him when we believe and are born-again. Lets us rejoice and enjoy Him and be very careful of false information and misleading advice on how to receive Him.