Jump Start # 3483
Acts 8:18 “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money”.
Many, many years ago, it was not uncommon to find bells attached to graves in a cemetery. There was a fear that the person buried wasn’t really dead. And, if they were to awake from a coma they would be trapped buried under ground. A rope protruding from the casket below ground would be attached to the bell above ground. If the person was alive, they could ring the bell and they could be dug up. There was a dreadful fear of burying someone who was alive.
Our verse today, makes us think about that in a spiritual sense. Simon, who was practicing magic and astonishing the people of Samaria, claimed to be someone great. Simon was baptized by Philip. He followed Philip and was amazed at the great miracles that Philip was doing before the people.
When Peter and John came from Jerusalem, they were laying their hands on the new disciples and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this. He wanted to do what the apostles were doing. As our verse states, he offered money so that he would have this power and ability to lay his hands on others. This would once again make Simon great in the eyes of the people. Simon would be in demand. He would be sought after.
Peter would have none of this. The power of God was not for sale. He rebuked Simon and told him to repent. There are many layers of great lessons to be seen here.
One has to wonder if Simon really believed when he was baptized or was this just a means to get fame and be important? The text tells us that Simon believed (13). This leads us to the thought of someone becoming a Christian who doesn’t really believe. Rather than crucifying the old man and being buried in death, the realty is, a live person was buried. We will not judge Simon.
Here are some thigns to think about:
First, sometimes the pressure is so strong for a young person to be baptized that they do that simply to stop the pressure. Other times, a young person sees his friends getting baptized and it seems exciting so he does it just for that reason. Or, a young man is told that he can’t marry the girl he’s dating unless he becomes baptized. So, he gets baptized. But in so many of these situations, rather than making a disciple, a live person has been buried. There is very little change in the hearts, attitudes and behavior of the person. There seems to be little interest in learning more about the Lord or worshipping the Lord. They got baptized but it sure looks like a live person was buried alive.
Second, maybe the mistake is not upon these people getting baptized but upon the rest of us as we stress baptism more than discipleship. Maybe the commitment is lacking because we have talked too much about water and not enough about Jesus. Baptism is important, but it’s not the golden ticket that guarantees Heaven. An unchanged life, an arrogant and unforgiving spirit, a cold and heartless attitude reflect a person that has not died to sin. Such is a person who has not denied himself. I’ve known many a person who were proud of their baptism, but their words and their heart crushed many around them.
Third, there is a growth period for all of us when we come to Christ. Simon thought he was great before he heard about Jesus. It sure seems that he wanted to continue to be great after he learned about Jesus. His example reminds us that patience, love, long suffering must be extended to those who are new in Christ. Many of us have decades of walking with Jesus. We know the books of the Bible. We know how to pray. We’ve heard hundreds of sermons and sat through so many classes. A new person might call the preacher, “Pastor.” Don’t explode when that happens. He’ll learn in time. He may get things upside down a few times. His background and experience may lead him to have to rewire his thinking. He may have been taught so many things that are just not so.
Simon learned that one can’t buy the gifts of God. The Lord is not for sale. All of us have to learn. It is a journey. Like a highway, some are ahead of us. Some are beside us. And, others are behind us.
Burying a live person…not something that one wants to do, physically or spiritually.