While Philip preached the Gospel in a Samaritan village, a man named Simon is said to have believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). What is interesting is that Philip’s works among the believing Samaritans is contrasted with this man’s works before Philip arrived. Philip did miracles, drove out evil spirits and healed the people (Acts 8:6-7), while Simon used sorcery and bewitched the people (Acts 8:9). Philip preached Christ, but Simon preached himself as a great one. The Greek word megas (G3173) means great one and is the root from which the 2nd century church fathers derived Simon’s other name, Magus.
Many things are said of this man in the 2nd century which may or may not be true. That is, they may erroneously apply the reputation of Simon Magus to this fellow in Acts 8. Some scholars believe that, because Simon believed and was baptized, he could not be the Simon Magus of the 2nd century who is credited with founding Gnosticism. Whether or not the two Simons are actually one man, I cannot say, but I do doubt this man’s sincerity, and I believe the text supports such an understanding.
Everyone, from the least to the greatest, of the city gave heed to this Simon, believing that he was a great worker of the power of God (Acts 8:10), but long ago Moses wrote of another who was considered a great prophet of God by both small and great. Nevertheless, he ended up fighting the people of God and giving the enemies of God a means to neutralize the power of God among the people. His name was Balaam. Nevertheless, Simon recognized there was a big difference between what he did to awe the people and what Philip did to help the people and preach the Gospel (Acts 8:13b), but up to this point, there is no reason to suspect that Simon was not a true believer.
It wasn’t until Philip sent for the apostles that Simon really began showing his true self. Up until the arrival of the Apostles, the believing Samaritans did not have the Holy Spirit, which probably meant they had a very limited understanding and faith in Jesus, probably akin to that of the Apostles before Pentecost. However, when Peter and John began laying hands upon the believing community and they began speaking in tongues and exercising their new spiritual gifts, Simon offered Peter money for the rights to this secret power. To be fair, I don’t believe Simon meant to be blasphemous. Magicians who were impressed with the power of other magicians paid for the secret that lay behind its working. Simon considered all that Philip and the Apostles did as no more than secret magical power. He understood and believed in this power, but didn’t seem to have any real regard for Christ. If he had, why wasn’t he able to speak in tongues or give evidence of a depth of understanding **after** the Holy Spirit did fall upon the believing Samaritans?
It seems to me that Simon’s only interest in Jesus is how much greater he, i.e. Simon, could appear before the people, if he knew the secret of peddling Jesus and selling the power of the Holy Spirit to whomsoever he desired (Acts 8:19). For Simon, Jesus was simply a means to continue doing as he had always done, except with greater ability and more lucrative material. The same holds true for many today. There is little doubt in my mind that some cast out demons not in the name of Jesus but through sorcery. They peddle Christ for profit rather than preach Christ the Savior. They always appear as great (megas – G3173) workers of the faith rather than lifting up Christ as the Great Savior of the people. May they perish with the money they derive from their erroneous gospel.