Beware of Simon the Sorcerer (re-posting)

Beware of Simon the Sorcerer

The book of Acts relates a story about a sorcerer of some renown in Samaria who became enthralled with healing miracles performed by the apostles in his part of the country.  The sorcerer’s name was Simon.  We don’t know the nature of his sorcery, whether it was hocus-pocus sleight-of-hand trickery or whether it was more akin to witchcraft.  The story goes into no detail on the matter.  The Bible doesn’t say that witchcraft isn’t real. The story of Saul and the Witch of Endor relates apparently real sorcery. It instead tells us that we are not to mess with it.  We were not created to fool around with it.  We simply don’t know what it was that this Simon was engaged in. But whatever it was, the people that he practiced it among were impressed enough by it to give him the name, “The Great Power”.  The internalization of that kind of fame has a sorcery of its own that plays with the mind of the recipient – it makes that person appear to himself to be more important than he or she really is.  It creates its own dark illusions and distortions, and if we are not careful, we can find ourselves donning the wizard’s hat and memorizing incantations.

Upon gazing with amazement at the miracles that God was doing through the apostles that God sent out, Simon is said to have “believed” to such an extent that he was baptized.  The question that doesn’t get asked in the story is, “Believed in what?”  Clearly he believed that what he was seeing had real power.  But it is just as clear, though only implied, that he saw baptism as some kind of power-giving incantational ritual. The Book of Acts relates that this Simon even went so far as to offer money for the “How-to Manual of Signs and Wonders”.  His mind was filled with wonder, but the wonder that his mind was filled with led him to desire the power to perform miracles and wonders and thus become even more renowned and great in his land and among his people.  Baptism not being a magical act did not rid him of his motive of ambition.  The wonder that filled his mind did not lead him to surrender.  It didn’t lead him to humility.  It didn’t lead him to a posture of servanthood.  Instead, he apparently saw that mastering this “skill” of miracle-making would be another rung on the ladder to worldly fame and fortune.  He’d be an even bigger “rock star” and  “hit with the ladies”.  He saw people pouring out of their homes and villages, seeking what was happening in the mission that the apostles were participating in.  He wanted to be like the apostles…more correctly, he wanted the “mojo” that he mistakenly thought the apostles possessed.

In the mission fields where we serve, we see miracles happen all the time.  We see hearts transformed.  We see lives literally changed before our eyes.  We see addicts break free from their addictions, loosed from the bondage of overwhelming impulse.  We see hope long lost found again among the rubble of really broken things. And we see people who have witnessed these amazing signs and wonders bring their whole households out to participate in the Kingdom of God in our midst.  And on occasion, we find Simon the Sorcerer in our midst.  Seeing a miracle happen is intoxicating.  And if we aren’t extremely careful, it can also be distorting.  I have seen many miracles, and I have never performed a single one.  Every miracle that happens in the midst of our mission is performed singly and solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in relationship with the one being healed.  We wield no supernatural power.  We claim no ability.  We cry out to the Holy Spirit to heal the sick and broken-hearted because we have nowehere else to turn, and because we know for a fact that without the Spirit of God we are powerless.  Indeed, we ARE powerless.  WE are powerless.  And we are dispensable.  We are nothing but ashes and dust.  The King of the Kingdom is the sole power.

It is important to remember that the mission is not what we do.  It is what we PARTICIPATE in.  It isn’t our mission.  It is God’s mission.  If people witness the crazy signs and wonders and imprint on us – seek to become like us, then we have utterly failed in the mission.  Maybe more correctly, we have failed the mission.  We do not exist. We are dead people walking, dead and raised in Christ.  What does a dead person care about being a “rock star” or a “hit with the ladies”? Of what possible good is fame to a dead person? People in need need Christ and the Kingdom, not us.  It is Christ, the Teacher of The Way, that must be imprinted on.  We aren’t placing peoples’ hands in our hands.  We are placing peoples’ hands into the hands of Christ who is reaching out to them.  Anything short of doing that is sorcery, and we will be opening doors to things that we were not created to let loose.  We must be careful to stay small, indeed to not exist, so that Christ may be all that is seen or heard.  I don’t know whether sorcery has any real power.  The Bible seems to indicate that it does.  But the Bible is also clear that though it may have power, it doesn’t have the power to give life.  And life is what people need.  Only Christ can make the lame walk and the dead rise.  Christ alone.  Beware of Simon the Sorcerer in the crowd.  Beware of Simon in your mission teams.  And beware of Simon in our own hearts.  We are all susceptible.



  1. Phineas Marr Said:

    Interesting. I am on my way to church in a few, and the title of my sermon today is “The Death of the Alchemist.” In this sermon I am going to share how, over the course of my spiritual journey, I have given up the practice of religion as a way of perfecting myself (alchemy) so I can attract others to Jesus and have a big pretty church. Instead, I am going to throw the mess I am at the foot of the cross, let the spirit picked up this mess and move it where it will.

    I actually just logged on to check out your “We don’t do outreach” entry before I headed off to church, and this post greeted me. Amen.


    • Hey brother, let me join my own mess I have made of things to yours at the foot of the cross today. Alchemy looks like such a good idea on paper… (Great sermon title, BTW!)

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