“Simon Magus, the Sorcerer”

By Akin Ojumu

In the previous two commentaries, we’ve been discussing the Book of Hebrews with specific reference to the composition of the Christian congregation that was the original recipient of the epistle. 

As we saw last time, the assembly was composed of two broad categories of people, namely, true believers who had genuinely given their lives to Christ and were devoted to living according to His commands. The other category of people were unbelievers who hadn’t received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The unbelievers in this congregation were of two types. There were unbelievers who, having heard the preaching of the Word of God and witnessed the demonstration of the power of God by virtue of the ministration of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, were intellectually convinced about the basic truths of the Gospel. 

These unbelievers couldn’t honestly deny the outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit that they saw with their own eyes. But instead of surrendering and giving their life to Christ, they hardened their hearts and remained recalcitrant.

It was to these intellectually convinced but spiritually unconverted unbelievers that Hebrews 6:4-6 was written:

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

The problem with the intellectually convinced but unconverted unbelievers was not lack of understanding. As the passage says, they’ve been enlightened i.e., they had received ample instruction about Biblical truth which was accompanied by intellectual perception. All they heard and saw made sense to them cognitively and conceptually. But their intellectual perception did not result in spiritual regeneration.

They tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit. Meaning, these people savored God’s goodness through the things they consciously experienced, but still rejected the Savior. Their rejection can be likened to the Jews who experienced the healings and miracles that Jesus performed but still rejected Him as the Messiah anyway.

In addition, the intellectually convinced also tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come. In this regard, they were like Simon the Samaritan magician mentioned in Acts 8:9-24. After hearing the Gospel preached, Simon Magus, that was his name, believed and was baptized. As he followed Philip everywhere, he marveled at the signs and great miracles that he witnessed. 

Unfortunately, Simon Magus was also a case of conviction without conversion. Deep down, he never really surrendered to Christ. When he saw that whomsoever the Apostles laid their hands on received the Holy Spirit, he offered them money in exchange for the power. Consequently, Peter rebuked him saying:

“May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23).

From historical accounts of the second and third century Christian writers, Simon Magus never repented. We learned that he went on to become a torn in the flesh of the Christian Church and the Apostles. Justin Martyr and other Christian apologists like Irenaeus labelled him an antichrist who continued his sorcery. 

In fact, Gnosticism, which was one of the earliest heresies the Church contended with, originated from Simon Magus. In modern times, people who use religion to enrich themselves are now described as practitioners of “Simony.”

Simon the sorcerer was the quintessential intellectually convinced but unconverted unbeliever. The man was enlightened. He tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit. Simon partook of the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come. At the end of the day, though, he fell away into perdition.

Stay tuned till next time.


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