This little piece of scripture shows us a great contrast between those who are preaching the truth from those who are not. It is worth looking at and thinking about for a few minutes because it will help us to see the wolves in sheeps clothing and to recognise the works of those who do not follow The Lord.
When Philip and the others who were scattered after the death of Stephen spoke to the people in the towns and cities they came upon, there were many who believed. And the contrast between those who preached the gospel from the others is dramatic.
Simon the magician
We see Philip come into Samaria and beginning to preach the gospel to the people in that region. But amongst them was a man named Simon who was a magician.
Now what we must understand first is that Simon was not some conjuror who did party tricks. He was wielding the powers of darkness to win tribute and praise from the people for himself. Look at what the word says about him in verses 9-11.
9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great.
10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”
11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.
Note what it says in verse 9 in particular. Simon was boastful claiming that he was somebody great. The people were amazed by his magic even though it was deception and trickery and even thought he was wielding the forces or power of God. And Simon did not set them right but accepted all of this praise for himself. He did not acknowledge God nor say that it was not the power of God but let the people think what they wanted.
For Simon this was a source of power and he self promoted to hold onto his power.
That is, until Philip came onto the scene.
Philip the servant of God
Now we see Philip come into the region preaching the truth of the gospel. He began not by proclaiming himself to be anything, but rather proclaimed Jesus as the saviour and the one to whom praise was due. Note the words in verses 12-13.
12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
Philip spoke about Jesus and the power of God. He was not preaching to push his own barrow but was preaching for the benefit of the people. He preached from humility and obedience to the word of God and the people saw the difference and listened, especially as The Lord confirmed the truth of the gospel by the signs, wonders and miracles performed by The Lord through Philip’s preaching.
And we see that even Simon was amazed by the words and the works that Philip was preaching so that he too was baptised. But even though he was baptised we will see in the next post that his heart was not right before God for he was seeking the power of The Lord for his own benefit and to continue to hold power over the people.
This is the contrast we see between those who preach the truth and those who do not. Those who seek their own glory rather than the glory of The Lord are not preaching from a true heart. Those who seek power over others and seek to glorify themself are not preaching from truth. These are the wolves who will come to you clothed as sheep.
But those who preach the truth at whatever level they may have been given by The Lord will preach from humility seeking the glory of God. Their desire is not their own advancement or benefit, but the advancement of the gospel and the betterment of those who hear the word. They come in humility to teach. Their desire is to give, not take.
So here is a test that each of us can use when we listen to someone or something new. There are many things spoken and taught in the name of Jesus, but not all of them accord with the truth of the gospel. We can begin to assess the worthiness of the words by considering the points mentioned above. By doing this we can stand firm in the word and stand against those who would seek to bring us into bondage rather than add to our freedom that comes through Jesus Christ.
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