Acts 8:9-24 9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 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 neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
Simon believed and was baptized and continued on with Philip. Was it sincere or was he taken in with all the signs and great miracles performed? Was he truly born again or was it just on the surface and part of the excitement? It seems to be the latter in both cases for three reasons: his response in vv. 18-19 (to offer money and want the power); Peter rebukes him in vv. 20-23; and Simon can’t even pray for himself in v. 24.
What do I take away from this incident? People get baptized for false reasons, and maybe their conversion isn’t real. As best the pastor and elders can tell, they must determine the reality of a conversion and be careful who is baptized and when. Perhaps we should not be so quick to baptize. There is great authority for leaders to make these determinations and they have much authority; for Peter to call Simon a fake is bold and necessary, at the very least because it upholds God’s glory. I’d also say, applying this incident to today’s church scene in my experience, it’s a difficult task and a church is going to lose people over this.
I pray for conversions and baptisms that are real, and wisdom for pastors and elders to oversee the flock. I pray for the Simon’s of the world, for repentance and coming to true knowledge and faith and following of the Lord.