True or False Conversion – Acts 8:9-24

23 January, 2022

Book: Acts

True or False Conversion?

Acts 8:9-24

  • Well, this morning we return to our studies in the book of Acts.


  • And the words to which I would direct your attention, this morning, are to be found in Acts ch. 8, vss: 9-24.


  • Just as you’re finding your place I’ll give you brief recap of the continuing work of Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit, thru the apostles and disciples ch.1 to ch.8


  • 1) Our Lord Jesus Christ gives the Apostles their program for ministry-outreach, before returning to glory.
    • Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Spirit has come upon you & you will be my witnesses in Jerusal’m, in all Judea & Samaria, & to the end of: earth
  • 2) Holy Spirit is poured out at Pentecost & the Apostles

Bear Witness to Christ in Jerusalem’s Streets

  • 3) A Lame man is healed and Peter-John…

Bear Witness to Christ in the Temple Courts

  • 4) Peter-John are arrested while preaching Christ & they…

Bear Witness to Christ in the Sanhedrin’s Court

  • 5) Ananias & Sapphira appear as opposition to the Church from within and The Apostles are again arrested & again they…

Bear witness to Christ thru preaching & physical suffer.

  • 6) Church is challenged with internal difficulties, leading to the rise and appointment of deacons, incl. Stephen and Philip
  • 7) Stephen preaches: Sermon of Witness to Christ, before Sanhedrin, before dying as 1st Martyr/Witness for Christ
  • And now, here in…
  • 8) We’re introduced to Saul-Tarsus who initiates the first Full-scale Persecution of the NT Church, which results in it being scattered: going out fr. Jerusalem, preaching the gospel.
  • Well, Let’s Read the Text: Acts 8:9-24

The Holy Spirit-empowered Witness to Christ has resulted in

  • 1,000’s coming to faith in Christ & being added to the church
  • Rise of opposition fr outside fr an unrepentant Sanhedrin
  • Rise of opposition fr. inside: Anan & Sapph’s sin ag H. Spirit
  • Full-scale Persecution from Saul, supported by Sanhedrin/Jews
  • Christian Church has been establ. within Jerusalem-> Judea
  • The Gospel-Witness now spreads to next phase: Samaria, (1:8)


The H.Spirit-empowered Witness to Christ, thru Gospel Preaching is God’s means of: Saving Sinners, Changing Lives,

  • Establishing, Strengthening, and Growing his Church….


The Devil hates it when the Gospel spreads, God’s Kingdom Increases

  • The account of Simon the Sorcerer, is a reminder, from the Lord, of the reality that the Devil plants Unconverted, False Believers amongst Truly Converted Believers of God’s church.
  • Remember: Matthew 13:24-30, Our Lord Jesus told us the parable of the weeds sown by the devil amongst the
    • False Believers sown amongst the Truly Believers.
    • Unconverted men/women amongst Truly Converted.
  • Remember Matthew 7:15-23, Our Lord Jesus made one of His soberest, direst warnings to us:
    • Good trees bear good fruit & Bad trees bear bad fruit,
    • 21–23, Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name & cast out demons in your name & do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
    • Lawlessness of course is John’s definition of Sin
  • The devil hates it when God’s church grows, souls are saved, and so he works tirelessly, unswervingly against it.
  • So, our text of scripture, for today provides us with a very necessary warning and challenge to our own souls:
    • Are we Truly converted?
    • Are we Truly Believing?
    • Are we Doing the will of the Father in heaven?
  • Or, Are we living as unconverted & false believers in Christ.
  • But the Great News of Hope is that the text provides the solution to that very problem: repentance and forgiveness.


Well, let’s consider this man Simon: Sorcerer.

  • I encourage you to have your bible open and follow along as we consider, and draw lessons fr. this man’s life and sad situation.


Vs.9, Simon was a practicing magician (occultic arts)

  • In the ANE there were magicians of all types
  • There were the Magi, those who’re students-scholars of ancient texts, those men who came seeking Christ at Christmas
  • There was carnival-type of magician, slight of hand, tricks, etc.
  • There’re also those associated w/ ancient Egypt. religions & the Ephesian magicians with their occultic practices. (Acts 19)
  • This was practiced in secret, for the benefit of paying customers, but mostly for benefit of Magicians, themselves.
  • These Magicians claimed to bind-loose demons, to manipulate evil powers to do their will. (Cult. Background Study Bible)
  • Simon, h-self was apparently one of these types of magicians.
  • Simon held high degree of fame and notoriety among the people of Samaria – “He amazed the people of Samaria”
    • 10, Simon held the attention of the people
  • 9, Simon, himself claimed & stated: He was somebody: great
  • Simon certainly was a very prideful, evil, dangerous man


Vs.10, Simon was believed to be God, or very close to God, by the people of Samaria – “this man is: Power of God, that is called Great”

  • Scholars understood the phrase to equate Simon with God.
  • But, Simon’s sorcery: Satan-empower’d to glorify Satan/Simon
  • That was the state of things in Samaria w/ Simon & Samaritans


Vs.5, H. Spirit led Philip the evangelist to Preach Gospel in Samaria

  • Philip proclaimed Christ to them: the anointed Holy One of God
  • 12, Phil. Preached the Gospel of the K. of God, & the Name of Jesus Christ.
  • Now That’s biblical ‘shorthand’ to say He preached
    • the Good News of the Sovereign Rule, Reign & Authority of our Lord, Jesus Christ
  • It is the Good news about our Infinitely Great God and Saviour
    • Who came into the world,
    • Who was born of a virgin,
    • Who lived: obedient, sinless, holy & righteous B4 God
    • Who suffered and died on a cross to free us from God’s eternal wrath against sinners for our sin.
    • Who rose triumphantly and has ascended on high, to rule-reign on His father’s exalted throne
  • Jesus Christ is the King of kings & Lord of lords to set all people free from the domain of darkness & from slavery to sin.
  • That’s Great Good News!
  • Philip’s Gospel News was validated by the signs, wonders, miracles that the Spirit of God performed thru him, for the glory of God and Christ alone.
  • And notice the result of his preaching…..
  • 6, Samaritans heard: Gospel, saw: Signs & were all amazed


Vs.13, Even Simon, himself Believed the Gospel.

  • They believed Philip’s Message about Christ & Salvation.

Listen, Beloved: Not all belief is True Saving-Belief!

  • Simon’s Belief was only an Intellect. Belief, not w/ whole heart,
    • U say: How do we know that?
  • Look at Peter’s wds 21, his “Heart is Not Right w/ God.”
    • And, Simon had “no part-lot in this matter”
    • Peter discerned, that Simon not truly saved-converted
  • So, how do we account for words: “Simon himself believed”
  • To Believe something is true, does not necessarily change the state of our soul – the state of our heart – before God!
  • We use the words ‘belief, believing’ in different senses
    • -Belief &         Whole-Hearted Belief
  • -Belief-only, is not saving belief, becoz as the Bible says, Rom.10:9, if we confess w/ mouth & believe w/ heart – saved


  • Intel-Belief: God exists, as Bible describes: Does Not Save Us
  • Intel-Belief: O-NT Stories: true & accurate: Does Not Save Us
  • Intel-Belief: Jesus is the Son of God who Came, Lived, Died, Rose again, Does Not Save Us
  • Intel-Belief of theology, even Ref. Theo., Does Not Save us
  • Believing, Knowing, Agreeing w/ facts is Not Saving faith!
  • So, what is saving faith?


Whole-Hearted Belief is Saving Faith… True Faith

  • It is based on knowing: Truth of the Gospel, and in light of it,
  • It is to throw ourselves fully & completely on Christ,
  • It is to Trust in Christ, & Christ alone, to Save us from the Righteous Anger of God, which is surely coming… and very Soon


  • 1) Saving Faith is the result of God’s work to Regenerate us
  • 2) Saving Faith is a Deep Rooted Assurance, created in us by God’s Holy Spirit, thru the gospel, that by God’s Grace alone
    • My sins are Forgiven
    • My heart has been Forever Made Right with God
    • I’ve been granted salvation fr. God’s wrath, thru Christ
  • 3) Saving Faith results in Conversion-Change:
    • changed desires,
    • changed inclinations,
    • changed habits,
    • changed behaviours
  • Not always Great, Immediate Change,
  • Saving Faith always brings change, conversion fr. sinner -> saint
  • Conversion is the old word used by older preachers – very good word, indicates the change that results from whole-hearted saving belief-Faith.


Beloved, R U truly born again?  R. U Trusting fully in God to save u

  • Are you trusting in Christ to save U fr God’s wrath: to come?
  • Do you have that deep-rooted assurance fr. God’s H. Spirit, that you are forgiven, Saved from wrath, Adopted by God?
  • Do you see in your life change being worked and produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit?
  • Sadly as we consider Simon’s Life – we’ll see there is no change.


Vs.13, Simon was Baptised by Philip

  • Simon: clearly self-deceived into thinking he was true believer
  • Simon presented himself for baptism by Philip
  • Philip, saw no reason to doubt Simon’s conversion
    • Remember: Wheat and Tares look so much alike
  • Self-deceived & Unconverted men and women can look like the genuine article, and deceive themselves:
  • remember 7, “Lord, Lord…
    • did we not cast out demons, in Your Name?
    • did we not prophesy (preach), in Your Name?
    • did we not do many mighty works, in Your Name?
  • These men (Mat.7) and Simon, and who knows how many others, were self-deceived, they had… they have an Intel.-Belief.
  • Satan’s favourite tricks to play, is to create counterfeits of what is true, giving mere men power to do what looks like the real thing – but in fact it is not at all.
  • So, Simon present. h-self for baptism, believ. his conversion


Listen, Beloved, Being Baptised is no Proof of True Conversion

  • Baptism does not, cannot guarantee/impart Salvation to us.
  • Baptism is a mark of obedience, it is an external physical demonstration of an internal reality
  • If there is no internal reality, it’s just a public bath!


Vs.13, Simon continued with Philip, staying close at hand,

  • Simon had a devotion to Philip and the church
  • He continued with Philip
  • And, there is here, a great warning for us, as well.
  • Devotion to the Church and its leaders, Preachers, Pastors is Not proof of True Conversion.
  • Claiming that because you attend such and such a church as proof of your conversion – totally invalid – Judas Iscariot.
  • Claiming that you adhere closely to the ministry of great teachers/preachers/apologists of the church is not proof of Conversion to Christ.
  • Buying, reading, knowing their ministry is not proof conversion


  • 13, Simon saw and was amazed at the great miracles

(the Spirit was performing thru Philip)

  • 18, Simon saw: Spirit given thru laying-on of apostle’s hands
  • Now, here we see the truth of Simon’s heart beginning to show


Listen, Beloved: An unbelieving heart will eventually reveal itself

  • An unbelieving heart will not be able to cover, to hide its true state from the eyes of others, 100% of the time.
  • In an unguarded moment, a natural, unspiritual, unbelieving reaction will reveal the true state of the heart of that person.
  • An unbelieving heart will eventually turn and walk away fr. Faith


  • Sometimes True Believ. Backslide briefly, but always return.
  • Unconverted, Unbelievers, will Not Continue Steadfast in Faith.
  • Nobody, who is truly saved, can lose their salvation….
  • Question is: Were they… were U truly saved to begin with?
  • Clarification: all true believers will have moments when their fleshly nature will arise and appear, but never without a subsequent realisation, repentance, seeking forgiveness and return to striving to put off that old nature…


But that is not what we see here!

  • 13, Simon’s focus is on signs & miracles perform, by Philip.
  • His unconverted, magician’s heart focussed on signs, not reality they pointed to: Christ, the Gospel, the Holiness of God.
  • 18, Simon’s focus was on the laying-on of hands by Apostles
  • Simon’s focus was on the benefits, the blessings of the Gospel


Vs.18, Simon offered money to apostles to buy authority-gift of imparting the Spirit to others

  • Now Simon’s Unconverted Heart is fully in view
  • He clearly saw that the Gift of God was able to be Purchased, much the same as other pagan priesthoods could be purchased.
  • It was common practice in those days to purchase priesthoods in various pagan religions, incl. Judaism, …and then, to exercise that priesthood for money and/or personal profit.
  • Simon believed: he was still Able to Manipulat/Control Spiritual Powers, include. Almighty God in Heaven for his own Profit.
  • Simon was, in effect, still practicing his magician-ship just as he had been doing before, seeing opportunity to increase his fame.


  • Simon’s sin is indeed a grievous sin against God!
  • Simon’s sinful words displays a heart not humble before God!
  • They displays a heart not submitted to Christ as Lord, over all
  • They displays a heart still at enmity against God.
  • There was an intellectual, belief, but there was no change within, Simon the Magician is still Simon the Magician


Beloved!  How many of us have done… are doing just the same thing?

  • We have an intellectual belief.
  • We know Scripture, We know the Gospel, We know Theology
    • but there is No Change of heart
    • there is No Change of ways
    • there is No Desire for God,
    • There’s only a desire for the benefits: gospel supplies


Praise be to God in Heaven, the text does not end there.


Luke, under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, has given us this text and story as a sober, serious warning, with the Great, Gospel News of the Resolution to the Problem the story presents.


Vs.20-21, 23 Simon is Rebuked by Peter

  • Peter does not merely let him go on unchecked & unchallenged
  • Peter is not at all concerned with numbers or church growth
  • Peter is most concerned about the state of his soul, concerned enough to say these blunt, confronting, offensive words to him.
  • Peter has a true pastor’s heart!
  • His love for Christ,
    • for the gospel,
    • for the church,
    • and for Simon,
  • …brings him to rebuke him, in hopes of his conversion, even yet.
  • If you, today are one, who has not been truly converted, I plead with you to hear these words as given in love for you & your soul
  • 20, may your silver perish with you!
    • He recognised Simon’s unconverted state and the reality of his imminent peril, of eternal death, perishing in Hell
    • Without Change-conversion: Simon will perish in Hell
    • Without True Conversion, True Genuine Belief, we will all perish in hell.
  • 21, you have no part-share in this matter
    • What is Peter referring to? He’s speaking of:
    • Saving Faith in God, Salvation, Conversion, Spirit-filling
      • Clearly the Spirit had not come upon Simon.
    • Peter made it clear: You are Not a Christian!
    • Peter made it crystal clear: You are outside of Christ
    • He has no fellowship, relationship w/ Christ
    • w/o conversion, we have no fellowship w/ Christ-Church


  • 21, your heart is not right before God
    • Peter nails his hypocrisy on the head…
    • Your heart is not right before God.
    • You may have a “right heart” before men…
    • You may have impressed the Samaritan Church…
    • You may have deceived yourself, up until now…
    • But you have not deceived God – He sees your heart as unrepentant, unconverted – no part/share in Christ
    • Your heart is still at war with God.


  • 23, you are in the gall of bitterness
    • just as the gall bladder produces the bitter stomach acids that break down food for digestion,
    • so also an unforgiven, unconverted heart produces bitterness, effecting themselves those around them.
    • Peter is saying that Simon’s unconverted state has produced a bitterness, rather than the sweet fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness….


  • 23: you are in the bonds of iniquity
    • He is in enslaved to sin
    • You have not the freedom of forgiveness from God!


Beloved, For the sake of your eternal soul, Please Listen!

  • If there is only an intellectual belief & assent to the gospel…
  • If there is No co-ordinating Change of heart….
    • No change of inclinations towards God, away from sin…
  • If there is no change of life, of practice, of habits….
  • If there is, in you, a greater desire for the benefits of the gospel, than a desire for Christ….
  • Then on the auth. Of scriptuer, I tell you you are not saved, not converted, without Christ and unforgiven.


But, Listen to the words of Peter – Listen to His Words of Hope!

  • Acts 8:22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.
  • Repent and Pray for forgiveness!
  • 3:9 God is not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to Repentance.
  • Peter simply tells him to repent and to seek God’s forgiveness
  • Simon had heard the gospel and believed it intellectually
  • Simon knew the truth of Christ, the Kingdom of God, the Name of Jesus Christ, He knew intellectually the message of the Gospel…. Like so many… if not all of us, sitting here today
  • We know God has found us guilty of sin
  • We know that God has condemned us to eternal hell for sin
  • We know that Christ has come, and lived, and died, to pay our penalty for that sin
  • We know that in whole-hearted belief followed by repentance, which is to change, a conversion of life, character, practice and mindset, there is forgiveness and salvation…


  • So, the Holy Spirit’s words, spoken by Peter, recorded by Luke, from God’s heart and mind to you and me, today are these:
  • Why are you here today? Because God is not wishing for any, including you, to perish, but for all to come to repentance!
  • Repent! and Pray for forgiveness from God
  • Repent! Change your Heart and Your ways. 
  • In the enabling power of God’s holy Spirit, Repent! Turn away from Sin and turn toward God
  • Pray! Plead with God for the forgiveness that he offers, because of Christ’s death, because of Christ’s blood, because of Christ’s resurrection, there is forgiveness and grace and mercy for you and I….
  • Plead for it.


  • Do Not be like Simon…
  • 24, Simon is unwilling and so unable to pray for forgiveness.
  • 24, we see His focus is still all wrong, rather than seeing the main point which is God and His forgiveness, all he is seeing is what might happen to him.
  • Extra-biblical Hist. tells us Simon Magus was a leading heretic in early church, possibly: founder/promoter of early Gnosticism
  • From the biblical record,
    • Simon never experienced genuine conversion
    • Simon never knew real forgiveness from God
    • Simon never knew conversion, for where there is true, whole-hearted belief, repentance will always happen.



  • Is Your Heart right with God?
  • Are You truly Converted?
  • Do you have forgiveness from God?