Acts 8

Acts 8:13

Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

Simon himself believed. The man who operated in counterfeit signs and wonders marvelled when he saw the real thing. He believed Philip’s message and was water baptized, but he was not filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8:16) and his subsequent actions show he did not have a good grasp of the grace of God (see Acts 8:18).

Acts 8:14

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John,

(a) Received the word of God. They believed the good news about Jesus.

In the New Testament, there are more than 200 imperative statements linked with faith. Some of these statements exhort us to: receive Jesus (John 1:11-12, 5:43), receive the message of Jesus (John 17:8), obey or heed the message or good news of Jesus (John 17:6) and turn to God in repentance (Acts 26:20).

Other scriptures encourage us to accept the word (Mark 4:20), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9), call on the name of the Lord (Act 2:21), eat the bread of life (John 6:50-51), be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3), and be born again (John 3:3, 7).

But the one imperative that appears far more than any other, is the instruction to believe. We are to believe in Jesus (see entry for John 3:16).

(b) The word of God is the good news of Jesus. See entry for Acts 4:31.

Acts 8:20

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!

You could obtain the gift of God with money! What a fool Simon was to think he could buy the gracious gifts of God with money. Yet many of us are trying to purchase grace with dead works.

“If I confess, God will forgive me. If I do good, God will bless me.” It’s Simon’s sin all over again and it would make Peter furious. “May your dead works perish with you,” he might say. “You have no share in the Spirit’s ministry because your heart is captive to unbelief.”

Acts 8:22

“Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

(a) Repent. To repent means to change your thinking. “Stop thinking you can purchase the blessings of God and believe in grace.”

You don’t need to ask God to forgive you (he already did) or love you (he already does). Instead, ask him to help you receive the word of his grace. Thank him for Jesus through whom all blessings flow.

(b) Be forgiven. As far as God is concerned, you are forgiven, but you won’t be forgiven – that is, you won’t experience the gift of his forgiveness – unless you receive it by faith (Acts 10:43, 26:18).

On the cross the Lamb of God bore the sins of the whole world (John 1:29, 2 John 2:2). All your sins have been forgiven. But only in Christ do we have or possess the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14). Those who scorn Christ, scorn the grace that saves and forgives them.

A bad translation of this verse is “repent and the Lord may forgive.” That’s like asking Jesus to come and die a second time. On the cross, all your sins were dealt with once and for all and no further sacrifice for sin remains (Heb. 9:26, 10:18). God has forgiven us but those who don’t turn to him continue to carry their sins with them. Although God has provided the solution for their sins, they prefer to hold onto their sins rather than receive his forgiveness.

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