The Reality of Vain Belief (Acts 8:9-24) | Jared Betts

The Gospel Enters Samaria

Within our previous text, we saw how hell sought to overpower the church. After the stoning of Stephen, great persecution arose against the church at the hands of Saul who was ravaging Christ’s bride in an attempt to annihilate her from the face of the earth.[1] He had made it his mission to persecute the Way to death, and he found satisfaction in so doing.[2]

God, however, sovereignly used hells attempt to prevail over His church to build it further. Saul’s breathing threats and murder against the disciples scattered them throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. As Luke says, “Those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”[3]

In the end, persecution did not stop the gospel, it spread it. Christ continued to build His Kingdom through the means of suffering. No matter how much the world seeks to triumph over Christ and His people, it will never be victorious. No matter what, Christ is always the victor, for sovereignty belongs to Him.

            As we briefly saw last week, it was according to God’s purpose that great persecution propelled the gospel into the region of Samaria through who is known as Philip the Evangelist. Take a moment to look at what Luke records for us in Acts 8:4-8:

Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city.”

We know that this was not the Apostle Philip because Luke has indicated that none of the Apostles were actually scattered by the persecution when he says in verse one of chapter eight:

“And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”[4]

This was the Philip who was appointed as one of The Seven to care for the Hellenistic widows among the church.[5]

This Philip went down to the Samaritans and began declaring the message of life in Christ to them. Given his close proximity to the Apostles as one of the Seven, we see that signs were being performed through him to validate the message preached. The result was that people were giving attention to what he was saying. That is to say that they were inclining their minds to his teaching, and the result was that there was great rejoicing in the city.

 It is with this backdrop of people celebrating in Samaria and giving attention to the gospel proclamation by Philip, that Luke then introduces us to a man named Simon. Since the Spirit draws our attention to this man in the Scripture, we ought to pay close attention to what is written of him, for it reveals a reality that should stir within us an honest self-reflection as to the inclinations of our affections. Do we possess hearts of flesh that feel for the things of God, or do we possess hearts of stone that are apathic, indifferent, or even contrary to Him? The former reveals life, and the latter indicates death.


Simon Magus, The Great Power of God

Who then was this man named Simon? Based on Luke’s description he was a prominent man among the Samaritans. He claimed to be someone great, and he captivated people by practicing magic in the city. Prior to the people’s giving attention to Philips proclamation of Christ which was being verified through exorcisms and healings, they were giving attention to Simonbecause he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. He was Simon Magus, which means Simon the Magician or Sorcerer. There is no description at all of what his magic arts consisted of but one source points out that:

“In “sorcery,” the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.”[6]

Luke says of the Samaritan crowds that all of them, from smallest to great, weresaying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.”There is good reason to believe that divinity is what he was claiming for himself, and through his deceptive arts he had convinced the crowds of his claims. Simon hungered for power and control over people and sought to manipulate them to achieve it.

            The implication in our portion of Scripture is that his power over people was crippled after the gospel came in through Philip and set the captives free. Acts 8:12 says:

12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 

Simon’s following begin to become non-existent. His power over the crowds was crumbling because of Christ. People were turning to Him in belief.

Now, Luke goes on to point out in verse 13 that:

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.

May we take the time to see that this man manifests several outward marks of a believer:

  1. Simon himself believed. He made a profession of faith.
  2. Simon was baptized. He was obedient to the Lord’s command.
  3. Simon continued on with Philip. He was active among the people of God.

By all outward appearances, he was a genuine Christian.

What we need to understand about this man, however, is that though he is described as one who believed, and was baptized, and continued on with the believers, he was nothing but a dead man walking. Based on what the Scripture reveals of Simon, he is currently suffering under the wrath of God in hell, for believed in vain.


The Reality of Vain Belief

This is one of the things before us in this text, the reality of vain belief. We come face to face with a faith that is futile. Some may ask: Is there such a thing as a faith that is futile? Is it possible for a person to believe the gospel in vain and consequently never experience its promises of forgiveness and life? To answer this question, we just need to consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he sought to establish the components of the gospel message. He says:

1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”[7]

To believe in vain means to believe idly, which is to believe with no particular purpose, reason, or foundation. Essentially, it is when a person believes without just cause; therefore, it is to believe without success or effort. This means that someone who believes without just cause will never experience the blessings of salvation.

Realize that vain belief is a belief that is driven without genuine repentance. It is a belief that occurs without a change of heart and mind towards God. It is a belief that permits people to live their lives without ever shunning sin and striving after Him.

For vain believers, Christ merely becomes an addition to one’s life. They claim all the benefits of His merit for themselves, while simultaneously holding on to their love for the world and themselves; and anyone that calls into question the legitimacy of their belief is labeled a sanctimonious legalist that does not understand the grace of God. Tragically it is they who do not understand the grace of God, which is a grace that instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desire and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.[8]

Ultimately, vain belief occurs when the living and holy God’s character, nature, and will is either diminished, distorted, or disregarded. Our understanding of God matters. It is only when we begin to gaze upon the face of God that we will ever begin to understand ourselves. He is holy, and when we compare ourselves to His glory, we fall short. We are left sinners in the hands of an angry God. Our sin incurs His good and just wrath. Our greatest need, therefore, is His mercy and grace. We do not understand this need until we are haunted by His holiness.

At the end of the day, it is not the wrath of God which prompts those who are being made alive by God to turn from their sin and to Christ. It is the mercy and kindness of God in light of His wrath that leads towards repentance.[9] It is the love of God in Christ. It is God loving us when we did not love Him and sending His Son to appease His wrath for our sins.[10] It is God demonstrating His love towards us in that while were yet sinful, ungodly, and helpless enemies against Him, while we were yet objects of His holy hatred, Christ died for us.[11] He became a curse for us.[12] He became our sin so that we might become His righteousness.[13] He died for our sin, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.[14] He was nailed to the cross at the hands of godless men, but God raised Him up again putting an end to the agony of death for it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.[15]

I would argue that much of the so-called evangelism that goes on today does nothing but generate vain belief. Not only has evangelism been reduced to a five- or ten-minute gospel presentation, but the supposed “gospel” that is being presented within that time has been so reduced to nothing that it leaves a person with no particular purpose, reason, or foundation to believe. In an attempt to quickly make converts people spend more time striving to garner a “decision” then they do seeking to ensure that people rightly comprehend the Divine Being with whom we all have to do. In so doing, they diminish who God is and the repentance He requires of them. People who just want to see a profession of faith impress upon them their need to believe the gospel, so they do so idly and to their detriment. After such an encounter, such people become twice the sons and daughters of hell, for they are now in a state of self-deception and inoculated from the truth.

Knowing this should draw us to be mindful as to how we handle God’s gospel! Now, do not walk away thinking that I am insisting that Philip did not do a thorough job in proclaiming Christ. Quite the contrary. I not only believe that Philip presented the gospel clearly, but that he also diligently labored with his audience to make certain they understand what he was proclaiming. The point is that, if vain belief is possible when someone is careful and diligent in handling the gospel, how much more so when someone is careless with its contents and their presentation of it? Do not be reckless with God’s gospel!


The Samaritans Receive the Spirit

We should be able to see that Simon believed, and was baptized, and continued on with Philip so that he might gain the power that was being displayed through him in order to elevate himself above others.

I found it interesting to learn that in the writings of the church fathers, Simon is understood to be one of the men who was instrumental in introducing the heresy known as Gnosticism into the church, believing himself to be God incarnate.

For those that do not know, Gnosticism teaches hidden knowledge. People claim secret knowledge that God has given to them, so they then become the only avenue through which people can understand that knowledge. The people become dependent upon the one receiving the supposed information from God, which allows the one who is “acquiring” the information to have power over the people. Simon did not believe because he loved Jesus, rather he saw Christ as a means to regain the control he once had.

            Simon’s self-deception begins to be revealed when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God. Luke tells us in Acts 8:15-17 that they sent:

“Peter and John who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 

            Let me briefly point out that there are some who miss the transitional nature of the book of Acts and believe that this text teaches that it is possible to be saved and not possess the Holy Spirit. This is a wrong view to have for a couple of reasons:

  1. First, the Scripture is abundantly clear that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”[16]

In other words, there is no such thing as Christian who does not possess the Holy Spirit. Paul told the Corinthians that

13 By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”[17]

  • It is with this verse in mind that we can understand why God delayed in pouring His Spirit out upon the Samaritans until Peter and John arrived.

Jews and Samaritans hated one another. There was a massive chasm between these two groups of people. If God did not delay in pouring forth His Spirit upon them, that divide would only have been solidified and the church would be seen as two entities: The church of the Jews, and the church of the Samaritans.

God, therefore, waited for two of the Jewish Apostles to come down so that the Samaritan believers might receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of their hands, thus showing that the same Spirit that Jewish believers possess is the very same Spirit that Samaritan believers possess. God preserved the unity of His church and demonstrated that by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or gentiles, we are all made to drink of one Spirit.


Magus Unmasked

Look closely now at what Luke says in verses 18-19:

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

You may or may not have heard of the term simony, which is the act of buying or selling sacred things. Simony derived its meaning from this man here in Acts. He sought to purchase something that God freely bestows upon those whose hearts are truly His, so that he might have power over people.[18]

I had said earlier that based on the testimony of Scripture we know that Simon believed in vain. Just look at Peter’s response to him in verse 20, 21, and 23:

20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!21 You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” 

There are several things Peter says here that make it abundantly clear that Simon was not a true believer:

  1. Peter implies that he is currently in a condition in which he will one day perish when he says, “May your silver perish with you.

We understand that fallen man is currently destined to perish forever under the wrath of God, but those who genuinely repent and believe in Jesus Christ will not perish but be given eternal life.[19] They will no longer be under the state of condemnation they were formerly in.[20]

Simon was still condemned, and was, therefore, in a condition in which he would one day perish. One translation captures the essence of Peter’s words by rendering his statement to Simon as, “To hell with you and your money!”[21] In a sense, “Perish, if you will not repent.”

  • Peter tells him that he has no part or portion in this matter, for his heart is not right before God.

Remember what Peter said about the promise of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:38-39:

38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

Here Peter tells Simon that his heart is not right before God, therefore, he has no part or portion in the promises that belongs to all whom the Lord calls to Himself. His heart is not right because he believed in vain. His belief was not guided by true repentance.

Take a moment also to consider the fact that Simon never received the Holy Spirit, which tells you that he was not a true believer.

  • Peter points out that Simon is still a slave to sin. He says, “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness.”

These are strong words which are meant to convey that Simon was in a nasty and distasteful condition. His condition was that he was in the bondage of iniquity.  Sin was his master, and not Christ.

The Scripture is absolutely clear that Christians have been set free from the bondage of sin. Christ has not just saved us from sins penalty upon us, but sins power over us as well. Consider Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:17-22:

17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”

Based on Peter’s words, may we all agree that Simon Magus was self-deceived and is perishing as we speak. Though he manifested marks of a genuine believer he was dead while he lived.

Peter saw his condition and provided him with the remedy to his ailment. He says to Simon:

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

He tells him to turn from himself. To have a genuine sorrow over his sin that will compel him to put his confidence in Christ and experience true forgiveness and life. As the text says:

24 But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

Simon’s faith was futile, and it is seen by that fact that he had no desire to turn to God himself.


The Consequence of Vain Belief

Let the words of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:13-24 enter through your ears so that your minds might soak in them and discern the consequence of vain belief. Jesus said:

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Do we understand that the consequence of vain belief is eternal damnation under the goodness of Almighty God. All of those who do not truly know God and who do not obey His gospel, which demands their repentance, will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.[22]


Make Certain of His Choosing You

There is now one question I want to bring to bear on the minds of everyone today, which is: Are you no different than Simon? Yes, you may have believed and been baptized and continued on among the church, but have you believed in vain? Is your faith futile? Are you on the broad road that leads to destruction? Are you that tree which consistently produces bad fruit, and is destined for the flames? Are you one who says, ‘Lord, Lord’ making merely a show of Christ in your life, but do not care about doing the will of the Father? Are you like a foolish man who built his house upon sand only to have the torrent of God’s wrath lay waste to it? Are you one who hears the word’s of Christ, but never acts on them? Are you no different than Simon?

Some of you know that a profession of faith means very little to me, and it should to you. As one person says, “Faith that does not transform the life is not saving faith.” Perhaps you are just holding to a form of godliness while denying its power.[23] Perhaps you are like the person Paul warned Titus about who professes to know God, but by your deeds you deny Him revealing you do not actually know Him and He has never known you.[24] In your life, is there fruit in keeping with repentance?

Understand, it is impossible for a person to have an encounter with Christ and yet remain unchanged. To entertain the possibility of a Christian living a life unchanged is foolish at best, and heretical at worst. It was J.C. Ryle that said:

“The very idea of a person being sanctified while no holiness can be seen in his life is flat nonsense and is a misuse of words. Light may be very dim, but if there is only a spark in a dark room, it will be seen, Life may be very feeble, but if the pulse only beats a little, it will be felt. It is just the same with a sanctified person: his sanctification will be something felt and seen, though he himself may not understand it. A “saint” in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin is a kind of beast not recognized in the Bible!”[25]

When Jesus Christ saves a person, He makes a new one:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away, behold new things have come.”[26]

When someone is made alive together with Christ by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit their heart of stone is replaced by a heart of flesh. God says:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”[27]

This heart of flesh is not hardened to the things of God, but sensitive to Him because the affections of the person are changed. The God they once hated they are now growing to love. The sin they once loved they are now beginning to hate.

A believer who is progressively being sanctified by Christ will undoubtedly be flawed in their love for God, and imperfect in their pursuit of holiness. Every genuine believer in Jesus Christ is incapable of faultlessly loving God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength throughout their life on earth. Every believer will struggle with sin, and experience a war in their members between the flesh that once reined in death, and the Spirit which now reigns in life. All true Christians can relate to the Apostle Paul when he says:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish…I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”[28]

Though a true Christian will have a flawed love for God, and be imperfect in their pursuit of righteousness, they will, however, not glory in these things. They will experience grief when God reveals they have not loved Him as they should. They will be greatly distressed when they take pleasure in that which God hates. The more that they press on in their pursuit of God, they will come to the same conclusion the Apostle Paul arrived at:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?”[29]

A person who has truly encountered Jesus Christ and been regenerated by the Holy Spirit has had their affections altered, and is a new person. They will begin to love what God loves, and hate what God hates, because they are a new creature being transformed into the image of Christ. God purged Egypt out of Israel before they entered the Promised Land, so too will He work to purge the world out of us before we enter, “The city which has a foundation, whose architect and builder is God.”[30]           

A promise is given in the book of Philippians to us who believe upon Jesus Christ for salvation. Paul says:

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”[31]

Christ’s saving work goes well beyond just justifying a person before God; He sanctifies them throughout the entirety of their life on this earth. A Christian is therefore commanded to:

“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”[32]

The question is: How do you know that God has begun a work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure? How can you be assured of your salvation which you are to work out with fear and trembling? In other words, how do you know whether you are truly saved?

Where do you look for assurance of salvation? Do you look to a past prayer uttered? Do you look to a past aisle walked down where a supposed decision for Christ was made? Do you look to the words of a foolish man declaring you to be part of the family of God? Do you look to some past profession of faith? Where do you look for assurance of salvation? How do you know that you have laid hold of eternal life and that Christ has laid hold of you?

Assurance of salvation is not found in a profession or a past experience, but in a present and future progression in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is found in holy affections, and a desire to live a life practically pursing righteousness. One person logically points this out saying:

“True salvation always produces an abiding change of nature in a true convert. Therefore, whenever holiness of life does not accompany a confession of conversion, it must be understood that this individual is not a Christian.”[33]

It was Jonathan Edwards who stated:

“Assurance is never to be enjoyed on the basis of a past experience. There is need of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit…(in) giving assurance.”[34]

The observable sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers is what provides one with a confidence of His indwelling:

“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”[35]

“If you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons…He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.”[36]

All whom Jesus knows He saves, and all whom Jesus saves He sanctifies. Paul says to believers:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?”[37]

As has been said in times past, John’s first letter provides you with a standard to make certain about Jesus’ calling and choosing you. John gives you a biblical basis to test yourselves to see whether or not you are in the faith, and to examine whether or not Jesus is at work in you. It is written so that one may know that they do indeed have eternal life.[38]

1 John exposes where our affections lay. It reveals whether we have a heart of flesh, or whether we have a heart of stone. It discloses whether or not God has begun a good work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure until the day of Christ Jesus. It tells whether or not we have genuine fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ. It draws you to examine your manner of life and asks you:

  1. Do you walk in the light of Christ?[39]
  2. Do you have a sensitivity to sin in your life?[40]
  3. Do you obey Christ’s commandments?[41]
  4. Do you strive to imitate Christ?[42]
  5. Do you genuinely love other Christians?[43]
  6. Do you reject the things of the world?[44]
  7. Do you continue in sound doctrine and practices of the faith and regularly assemble with other believers that continue in the same things?[45]
  8. Do you confess Christ as the Lord and hold Him in the highest regard as the Son of God?[46]
  9. Do you lead a life marked by a practical pursuit of personal holiness anticipating Christ’s return?[47]
  10. Do you seek to conform to God’s standard and live a righteous life?[48]
  11. Do you overcome the world?[49]
  12. Do you believe what God has revealed concerning His Son, Jesus the Christ?[50]

This is not legalism, this is Christianity! Jesus said:

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit…”[51]

James says:

“Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself…show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”[52]

Works do not earn salvation, they evidence it:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”[53]

The Scripture tells us that Christ Jesus:

14 Gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”[54]

Truly, where there is no sanctification, there is no life, for it is the proof that the Spirit has made His abode with you. God says:

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”[55]

He says:

“If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”[56]

            Ladies and gentlemen, the Spirit explicitly declares to you:

“Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.”[57]

When seeking to consider if you are no different than Simon, do not waste your time considering the sincerity of a prayer or profession that you made at some point in your life, but rather consider the manner of life in which you live in the here and now. Does your life bear the marks of a new heart that earnestly seeks Him, and thirsts for Him, and yearns for Him because His loving kindness is better than life?[58] Upon testing yourself, do you see Christ living through you, or do you fail the test? Are you found out to be no different than Simon?

What must you do, if after a thorough search of the affections of your heart, you find nothing but indifference and apathy towards Christ? You find out that you are no different than Simon. You see that you lead a life that is not marked by genuine repentance which prods you on to further faith in Jesus Christ. If this is you, what must you do? Do as Peter said to Simon, repent of your wickedness and pray that the Lord would forgive you. Turn from yourself and turn to Christ, clinging to Him for mercy, and for forgiveness, and for life, and be saved!


[1] Galatians 1:13

[2] Acts 22:4

[3] Acts 8:4

[4] Acts 8:1

[5] Acts 6:5

[6] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: G5331, Sorcery

[7] 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

[8] Titus 2:12

[9] Romans 2:4

[10] 1 John 4:10

[11] Romans 5:6-10

[12] Galatians 3:13

[13] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[14] 1 Peter 3:18

[15] Acts 2:23-24

[16] Romans 8:9

[17] 1 Corinthians 12:13

[18] Isaiah 55:1

[19] John 3:16

[20] Romans 8:1

[21] J.B. Philipps Translation

[22] 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

[23] 2 Timothy 3:5

[24] Titus 1:16

[25] Holiness, J.C. Ryle; Page 48

[26] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[27] Ezekiel 36:26-27

[28] Romans 7:18-19,21-23

[29] Romans 7:24

[30] Hebrews 11:10

[31] Philippians 1:6

[32] Philippians 2:12b-13

[33] John MacArthur, Sermon Titled Is It Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

[34] lain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987], Page 265. Quoted in the sermon titled Is It Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation, John MacArthur.

[35] Romans 8:9b

[36] Hebrews 12:8,10

[37] 2 Corinthians 13:5

[38] 1 John 5:13

[39] 1 John 1:4-7

[40] 1 John 1:8-10

[41] 1 John 2:3-4

[42] 1 John 2:5-6

[43] 1 John 2:7-11

[44] 1 John 2:15-17

[45] 1 John 2:18-19

[46] 1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-3, 13-15

[47] 1 John 3:1-3

[48] 1 John 4:4-10

[49] 1 John 5:4-5

[50] 1 John 5:9-12

[51] John 15:5

[52] James 2:17-18

[53] Ephesians 2:10

[54] Titus 2:14

[55] Hebrews 12:14

[56] Romans 8:13

[57] 2 Peter 1:10

[58] Psalm 63:1-3

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