You may be thinking I’m going to be a judgmental Christian right now and tell you about how I dealt with a hypocrite and the lessons that I learned from said hypocrite.
BUT… that’s not the case!
What I will tell you is this:
There’s a story in the Bible of a “Christian hypocrite” – you may have heard of him: Simon Magus.
No, I am not talking about Simon Peter or Simon the Zealot.
It’s Simon Magus, the Sorcerer mentioned in Acts 8, starting in verse 9 to verse 25.
I think his story is probably overlooked by many of us, but while reading my yearly Bible plan, his story sparked my interest.
So, I did a little investigation (read Bible commentaries) on this example of hypocrisy in the Bible and there are a few lessons here.
At first, it sounded like the guy had a genuine conversion.
His request to the disciples didn’t seem wrong to me and I was astonished at how Peter addressed him.
In fact, initially, I thought Peter was a bit harsh with him because what if Simon the Sorcerer was naïve or innocent in his request?
What do you think? Does he come off as a religious hypocrite to you?
Read it for yourself in the following lines and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Their interaction is found in Acts 8:19-23, NJKV:
Simon the Sorcerer: “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit”
Peter: “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!
You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.
For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
The problem here is that in verse 18 (which I didn’t include above) Simon the Sorcerer offered them money in EXCHANGE for the power to work miracles!
And the second problem is that just before he offered them money, he had heard and believed “Philip as he preached things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” (v. 12—13)
But it gets worse. It says that not only did Simon the Sorcerer believe, he was ALSO baptized AND “he continued with Philip, seeing the miracles AND signs which were done.” (v. 13)
Here we have a “false Christian” and here’s why:
Instead of having a true conversion, he was baptized and followed the disciples with selfish gains in mind.
His focus was not on Christ, but on himself and what he could gain out of this “gift of the Holy Spirit” from the laying of hands by the disciples.
If you read in verses 8—12, you see that, at first, the people in his city were amazed by his sorcery and of course, this boosted his ego: he believed himself to be a “great one.”
But then the gospel was preached in his city and “miracles and mighty works” were happening in Simon’s city, but not because of his sorcery (Acts 8:13).
The focus was no longer on Simon and he was no longer considered the “great one” – Jesus Christ usurped his fame, rightfully so.
Even though he was baptized and had been walking with the disciples, no conversion took place in him!
Just imagine: This guy was probably…
- following the other believers,
- praying with them,
- singing worship songs with them,
- eating and talking to them
- reading scriptures
But it was all in vain…all a façade.
He wanted the attention that the apostles were given, which he used to have.
And his focus wasn’t on spreading the gospel or doing the work of the Lord, but to get paid for performing miracles.
That’s why he offered the disciples money in the first place in exchange for the “gift of God” – he believed he could purchase it with money.
1st lesson from a hypocrite: Don’t belittle God’s gifts
Peter showed him that he did not deserve the gift of the Holy Spirit because he did not regard it with high esteem.
Simon the Magus belittled it by thinking he could buy it as you would buy any other thing.
Can we buy our salvation? No. It is a free gift of God. Romans 6:23.
And we know that the invitation to an abundant life is made to “Everyone who thirsts…Without money and without price.” Isaiah 55:1—2
We have nothing to give Him (other than a surrendered heart), but He gives us His grace and an abundant life!
2nd lesson from a hypocrite: God cannot be deceived
Peter tells Paul the Sorcerer that his “heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:21).
What we may hide from others is plainly evident to God.
3rd lesson from a hypocrite: God cannot be manipulated
At times, we use prayer to get our way with God. We think we can manipulate God to our liking.
It may have appeared as though he was genuine, but God knew. And Peter had godly wisdom to discern that this man was a false Christian.
And therefore, what he asked was denied because the thing he asked for was out of selfishness and not to glorify God.
Does this sound like a familiar bible verse to you?
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3
And this lesson from a hypocrite in the Bible gives us a little insight as to why our prayers may not be answered at times — are they selfish prayers? If God were to answer those prayers now, would they glorify God? Would you glorify God?
4th lesson from a hypocrite: The disguise will soon wear off
Sooner or later, we cannot continue hiding under a mask and our disguise comes off.
Sin is a powerful stronghold. We cannot continue lukewarm.
Peter called out Simon the Sorcerer for being “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23).
Unfortunately, this bitter poison (sin) kills us: it’s a slow, but inevitable death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Thankfully, there is hope for the Christian hypocrite:
Despite Peter’s harsh scolds, he gives Simon the Sorcerer some guidance as to what to do next:
- Pray: ask and seek for forgiveness
Do you think that he followed these two simple steps?
Nope. It looks like he didn’t from the Biblical account.
In fact, he asked John and Peter to pray for him.
It wasn’t for him to be forgiven, but to prevent the judgments made upon him by Peter (Acts 8:24).
So, he was scared of bad things happening to him rather than being in repentance of his sins before God.
Sounds similar to when Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for him. The prayer request wasn’t for forgiveness, but for God to remove the plagues.
The bible doesn’t say further on Simon the Sorcerer (that I know of), but I wonder if he suffered the same fate as Pharaoh.
How does this example of hypocrisy in the Bible relate to us now?
To be honest, I think we all have had moments of hypocrisy in the church and in other aspects of our lives.
Are we proud of them? I am sure we aren’t. In fact, I bet we would all wish we could undo those moments in our lives. I know I would.
And I also know that sometimes, like Pharaoh and Simon Magus, we go to God not out of true repentance, but out of fear of the repercussions that may come.
But the lessons we can learn from a hypocrite in the Bible can prevent us from following in those footsteps.
The *good news* is what Peter told Simon: we can repent and pray to God.
And we know that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Hope you enjoyed a few good life lessons concerning hypocrisy!
Did you learn anything new?
Please let me know in the comments below!
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