Harsh Words, and then, Grace

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:  Job 5-7; Acts8:1-25

Before Philip’s arrival, a certain man named Simon had practiced sorcery in that city and baffled the people of Samaria. He claimed to be a great person. 10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, gave him their undivided attention and referred to him as “the power of God called Great.” 11 He had their attention because he had baffled them with sorcery for a long time. 12 After they came to believe Philip, who preached the good news about God’s kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Even Simon himself came to believe and was baptized. Afterward, he became one of Philip’s supporters. As he saw firsthand the signs and great miracles that were happening, he was astonished.

14 When word reached the apostles in Jerusalem that Samaria had accepted God’s word, they commissioned Peter and John to go to Samaria. 15 Peter and John went down to Samaria where they prayed that the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit. (16 This was because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon perceived that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money. 19 He said, “Give me this authority too so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money! 21 You can have no part or share in God’s word because your heart isn’t right with God. 22 Therefore, change your heart and life! Turn from your wickedness! Plead with the Lord in the hope that your wicked intent can be forgiven, 23 for I see that your bitterness has poisoned you and evil has you in chains.”

24 Simon replied, “All of you, please, plead to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said will happen to me!” 25 After the apostles had testified and proclaimed the Lord’s word, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the good news to many Samaritan villages along the way. (Acts 8:9-25, Common English Bible)

As I was reading the above passage, when I got to verse 20 I had to stop and reread the verse. “Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money!” Boy, that sounds pretty harsh. This guy Simon was a new convert to the faith. He had just seen some pretty powerful stuff going on right before his eyes, stuff that made the sorcery from his former life seem pretty tame. He also saw how it was changing people’s lives and he wanted to be part of all that.

Living in an era of history when almost everything has a price tag and anything free is considered to be worth exactly what you paid for it, it seems natural to us that we would have to pay to learn what Peter and John were doing. I am still paying for four years of seminary!

Of course, we all know we can’t buy grace. It is a free gift from God. But exactly when did we learn that? I am not even sure. I am sure that at some point in my life I might have understood the whole idea of grace differently. I might have looked at things differently when it came to putting a price tag on what I now know is a free gift I cannot beg, borrow, steal, or buy. It only comes to me because it is a free gift from God.

Peter just comes across harsh to me in this passage. But, without question, he got Simon’s attention. And, in the end, Simon does find grace. He repents and as far as today’s lesson goes he wants to be part of the Church in that time and place.

For Simon, and for all of us, could we ever ask for anything greater than the free gift of God’s grace?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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