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Evil's Fascination With Godliness

Acts 8:9-13
Now for some time a man named Simon had practised sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, 'This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.' They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptised. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. (NIVUK)

Philip's gospel mission in Samaria attracted many spiritually hungry people. They had previously felt they were spiritual outcasts, because of their history and their rejection by apparently holy people in Jerusalem and Judea (John 4:9). But when Philip announced that God's kingdom was for Samaritans, as well as pure-bred Jews, people were eager to believe in Jesus and be baptised.

Simon was an occultist. He was open to evil and allowed it to empower his activities. His self-centred character was flattered by praise; he accepted people calling him 'the Great Power of God', and boasted that he had special powers. He enjoyed the awed respect of the whole population, and doubtless made much money from them over many years, until Philip arrived in town. However, the miracles Philip performed took attention away from Simon, and people could also see that Philip’s character was very different: he did not boast or accept praise, because his focus was Jesus Christ.

But something about Philip drew Simon to listen. Perhaps he did not want to be seen to be hostile to the new 'wonder-worker'; or perhaps he simply saw a new business opportunity if he could do what Philip was doing. Whatever his motivation, Simon claimed to believe in Jesus and was baptised. After that, he followed Philip everywhere; perhaps trying to find out how he did the miracles (Acts 8:18). As we shall see in later verses, whatever his reason for being baptised, his heart was not right (Acts 8:21-23).

Evil spirits know they cannot win against God, but they seem to enjoy getting as close as possible, taunting God to dislodge them (Luke 4:34). Satan himself acts as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and his servants are like wolves dressed up as sheep (Matthew 7:15). So, "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God …. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:1-3). So be watchful and discerning: all sorts of people will be attracted to your group, evil as well as good. Make sure that God's true Word has priority; it is God's sword to defeat evil lies and bring the truth which will set people free from evil (John 8:32-36).

God of truth. Thank You that although the powers of evil will try to disturb Your church, Your people are safe as they let Your Word dwell in them. Forgive me for sometimes failing to identify error and evil. Please help me not to be naïve but to place people and ideas alongside Your Word so that I will know how to respond in a way which will build Your kingdom. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams