Simon the Sorcerer

By Royce Frederick

A man named Simon had been receiving great attention from the people of Samaria. After the gospel came, they turned their attention to God. But the Bible then gives some special attention to Simon.


“But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, (10) to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God.’ (11) And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries [magical arts] for a long time” (Acts 8:9-11).

The Bible does not tell us the “source” of his “sorcery,” or what kind of “magical arts” he performed. To entertain, magicians today perform many kinds of tricks which deceive the eye. But Simon deceived hearts. Jesus warns us: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matt. 24:24-25).


Simon had been “...claiming that he was someone great” (8:9). Even in our own time, I have heard that same sermon — preachers proclaiming their own greatness instead of the greatness of Christ. Paul wrote, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...” (Gal. 6:14; see 2:20). Simon’s sorcery amazed, but did not help the people. And he did not try to teach them how to follow God. He only wanted them to follow him.

What is your message? Do you talk more about yourself than about God, Jesus, and His word?

Simon’s sermon succeeded: “to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God’” (8:10). Almost any doctrine can gain a following. Even today, cult leaders arise and lead people into error, and sometimes death.


A notable “turnabout” came in Simon’s life. “Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done” (8:13). Simon had been their cult leader. But he obeyed the gospel and became their brother in Christ!

Because of his experience with “magical arts,” Simon probably would have been able to detect many forms of trickery. But when he saw Philip performing miracles, he was amazed! He stayed close to Philip and found no trickery. This is evidence that the healings were not trickery at all, but real miracles!


The apostles could lay hands on disciples and give them miraculous abilities. Only the apostles had that power. When two apostles, Peter and John, came to Samaria, Simon saw them lay hands on the disciples and give them miraculous abilities. Simon wanted the power to do the same, and he offered them money. But Peter rebuked him for trying to buy a gift of God, and he told Simon to repent and pray (8:14-23).


Simon regretted his sinful request, and he asked Peter to pray for him (8:24). Even after we have obeyed the gospel, all of us sin sometimes (1 Jn. 1:8, 10). We must confess our sins to God and to each other, and pray for each other (1 Jn. 1:9; Js. 5:16).

When we continue trying to obey God, He will continue forgiving us: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).