Simon the Jealous Sorceror - a story from: Acts 8:1-24
Object Lesson: The importance of a Christian's submission to the leadership and admonition of his pastor and elders.
Teaching method: Dramatic Storytelling
This lesson seeks present this role of the pastors and elders of a church to the children in your class. We see the Apostles confirming the faith of the new believers in Samaria. We see Peter confronting Simon with his sin and exhorting him to repentence, even as he must be cast out of the fellowship of the Church.
And central to your story is Simon, the magician. A man who knew how to decieve and manipulate people and who selfishly desired to extend his power over people. His quest for power and authority in the church was a real threat to the church. Try to understand his way of thinking and the motives behind his profession of faith and seeking to buy power in the church.
There may well be discipline situations in the churches in which you minister. Children may be confused and frightened by the hushed conversation of adults concerning it, and perhaps unexplained removal of a teacher or officer, or the departure of a family from the congregation. Children need to know that when these things happen, and they will, that the pastor and elders are acting in obedience to Christ, and should be supported and their admonitions obeyed.
Read Acts 8:1-24 through a couple of times. Outline the events, and familiarize yourself with the locations mentioned.
Since you will be telling this story dramatically, it is especially important for you to get to know the characters involved and their thoughts and feelings. Can you "feel" Simon's envy and pride and Peter's anger as if your own!
And you will need to sense the dramatic tension that builds as Simon the magician seeks after and tries to buy authority in the church, climaxing in Simon Peter's forceful response.
Philip the evangelist
Philip, called the "evangelist" to distinguish him from the Apostle, was one of the seven Deacons in Acts 6:5. Following the stoning of Stephen and great persecution that followed it, he left Jerusalem and carried the Gospel on its first leap to people of another culture. Acts 8 is the account of his ministry in Samaria, with the Ethiopian, and in Caesarea. His enthusiasm for the Gospel stands out in the Scriptures. The message suggested in the sample story is in line with the Apostle's preaching in Acts.
Samaria was the area between Judea and Galilee. Though historically part of David's Kingdom, following the destruction of Isreal (the northern half of the Divided Kingdom) by the Assyrians, most of the population who had not been slaughtered, had been removed and replaced with pagans. The remaining Jews and the new inhabitants had a religion that borrowed both from Judaism and Paganism. For that reason Jews avoided Samaritans in Jesus day as "half breeds" both racially and religiously. Jesus was an exception, he carried on ministry in Samaria, and had announced in the great commission that the Gospel was to be taken there.
However it took persecution and the scattering of the church in Jerusalem to get them moving out and evangelizing. The Apostles remained in Jerusalem, as the church moved out in evangelism. We see examples of their leadership being execised in the sending of Peter and John to Samaria to meet with the new believers and confirm their faith and the growing ministry.
Since the Samaritans were superstitious people, the rise of a man who claimed magical powers is not surprizing. How much of his power was Satanic and how much just illusion we aren't told. Magicians are quite adept at decieving the senses, at sleight of hand and creating illusions. They know how and when to distract attention, and how to appear to be something more than they really are. With Simon's power came prestige and authority. (Vss 9-11) That he was a proud man indicates his desire for power. Certainly when Philip came, actually preforming miracles, he would have been extremely suspicious and envious. The sample story in your notes builds on this situation.
The gift of the Holy Spirit
The manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the Samaritans was similar to that manifestation at Pentacost. This was for the sake of the Apostles, who needed to know that this turning of the Samaritans to Christ and their becoming part of the church was clearly God's plan. The continuing of glossilalia (speaking in tongues) in the church today is a issue beyond the scope of this lesson. But take note, here we have a special situation, we should not expect such miraculous manifestations of the Spirit to occur normally in the church. After all, God had to resort to persecution to move the believers out of Jerusalem and visions to convince Peter that Gentiles were a part of God's people too. Most significant for Simon, of course, was the realization he could not counterfeit the bestowal of the Spirit through the hands of the Apostles, and his decision to try to buy the "secret".
Church officers - Pastoral authority and admonition
Discipline in the church is carried out in a variety of ways by its shpherds (1 Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:7,17). They hear people profess their faith and administer Baptism and the Lord's Supper. In instruction (2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:14-26; 3:1-5; 14-17; Tit 2:1ff, 15). In admonition, following self examination (Matt 18:15; Gal 6:1, Tit 3:10,11). In examination before witnesses (Matt 18:16). IAnd if necessary, in turning someone over to Satan and out of the fellowship (1 Tim 1:20; 1 Cor 5:1,4,5 2 Tim 3:5,8). And in restoring the truely repentant (2 Cor 2:5-11). The officers of the church are accountable to God for what they do.
Simony - the buying or selling of Church offices
The term for trying to buy or sell an office in the church is called "Simony". Simon left his name to this wicked practice. God's shepherds are called by Him.
Church Discipline and it's two-fold purpose
In Peter's response to Simon we have an illustation of the two fold purpose of discipline in the life of the church. It is intended to protect the flock, preserving its purity, peace and unity (vs 20,21) and to bring the sinner to repentence and restore the wayward (vs 22,23). The Church has been entrusted the keys of the kingdom. (Matt 16:19). The elders are warned to be on guard for the flock. (Acts 20:28-31; Cf 1 Tim 1:3-7; 18-20; 4:6-7; 11-13; 6:20-21). The continued presence of false teaching, immorality or divisive people within the church will only destroy the body.
Did Simon repent?
Scripture does not tell us. Its silence concerning Simon is perhaps an indication that he did not. His response to Peter is not godly repentence, but fear and sorrow concerning consequences (vs 24). Tradition tells us that he founded a Cult around himself and was one of Peter's and the Gospel's arch enemies in the years following. If so, we have no other evidence that such took place.
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