Not for Our Worldly Enrichment
I have heard testimonies of Christians who testified that when they first came to saving faith in Christ Jesus, they looked upon their salvation as, well, “fire insurance” or perhaps as a “ticket to heaven.” It was only by maturing in the faith that they came to see that salvation is so much more – that it’s really about God and not ourselves. This is what Simon Magus did not know.
But before we tackle that topic, we have something to address at the beginning of this passage that makes us stop. The mother church at Jerusalem had received word that the Samaritans (of all people!) had received the faith. Therefore, the Jerusalem church dispatched Peter and John to verify, but more important, “pray for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The apostles then laid their hands on them and thereby bequeathed the Holy Spirit unto them. Wait a minute. Was the Holy Spirit not given to them already? Why was he not given until the arrival of Peter and John? We did not see this on the day of Pentecost, nor do we see this at the house of Cornelius when the Spirit fell while Peter was preaching (10:44-48)? (There is a parallel case in 19:1-7, but we leave that for now.) How are we to understand this passage?
We know that no one comes to saving faith in Christ Jesus unless the Holy Spirit first convicts that one of his need for salvation (John 16:8-11). The Samaritans came to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit on their hearts, as with everyone else. But it seems that they did not yet have the fullness of the Spirit, his visible presence, or his gifts. We cannot know why God would alter the rule of His way of doing things; He is God and can do as He sees fit. Some suggest that the apostles’ coming to the Samaritans from Jerusalem was to lend credibility to the event and cement the relationship between the two warring factions, Jew and Samaritan, so that they were now one body in Christ Jesus. In other words, God was healing the rift between these ancient brethren through the gospel. I like the sound of that.
Back to Simon who wanted to “obtain the gift of God by money,” Peter had some harsh words. Of course, we profit from our salvation: What is greater than eternal life under the rule of Christ. But salvation is the means whereby God brings us back into loving fellowship with Him, not a means for our worldly enrichment. And the greatest gift of all is the Holy Spirit, himself.