For many years in my life, I was led to believe that God and the Bible were like a magic wand. I remember using this analogy numerous times as I “witnessed” to them. “If I had a magic wand and could wave it and get you anything you wanted, would you pay me $$$ for the wand”. Very good sales techniques used there. Appeal to the greed or need of the person you are talking to. Ask them a question they have to answer in such a way as to open the door for you to “close the sale”. Perhaps sales techniques are fine when you are a professional salesperson selling a car, but are the things of God to be “sold”?
In Acts chapter 8 there is a record of a man who wanted to purchase the power of God. Philip had gone to Samaria and preached Christ unto them. The people with one accord gave heed to what he preached and the result was an explosion of the power of God as recorded in verses 6-8. Before Philip came and turned the area upside down, a man named Simon had the city under his control through sorcery. He had tricked the people into believing that he was “the great one”. All the people, it says in verse 10 “gave heed from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘this man is the great power of God’.”
When Peter and John heard about all the great things going on in Samaria, they left Jerusalem and went to Samaria to help. The first thing they did was pray that the people might receive the Holy Spirit, for they had only been water baptized and not baptized in the Holy Spirit. They laid their hands on the new believers and they received the Holy Spirit.
Watching all this happen was Simon the sorcerer. He had actually believed also and had been water baptized. In fact, it says back in verse 13 that he continued with Philip and stood in awe as he beheld the miracles and signs which were being done. Now, these two men come down from Jerusalem, lay hands on the people and they receive the Holy Spirit into manifestation. Not trying to sound Pentecostal, but there is no other explanation for what Simon saw other than the people spoke in tongues just as the apostles had on the Day of Pentecost.
Remember that Simon had for quite some time tricked the people into believing HE was the great power of God. Now he sees the true power of God in operation and he figures if he can just purchase it, he can get back to being Top Dog in Samaria. In Acts 8:18, 19 it says:
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive (into manifestation) the Holy Ghost.”
What Simon requested of Peter and John was quite logical. It may have been logical but it was dead wrong. You cannot purchase the power of God, and Peter makes that point loud and clear in verses 20 through 23, where it reads:
“But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish (rot) with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart in not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray god, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”
I do not believe there is any doubt as to what Peter was telling Simon. Simon asked Peter “How much to buy this power of God?”. Peter proceeds to basically tell Simon, “Go to the grave with your rotten money”. To be “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity” means he was full of bitterness because he lost his authority over the people and he was held captive, as if chained in a prison, by sin.
If you cannot purchase the power of God; it is not for sale. God’s power is only available through grace. It is far too expensive for anyone to afford, which is why it has to be a gift. Since the power of God is not for sale; anyone trying to buy or sell it is as guilty as Simon. Oh the thin ice many ministers and ministries are treading on.
Peter’s direct confrontation of Simon’s sin brought immediate results. We read in verse 24 that Simon said to Peter: “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me”. Simon was smarter than he may have looked. He could tell that Peter meant business and he better do what Peter said or he was in for an awful lot of trouble. The Bible never tells us if Simon truly repented. It never tells us how Peter responded to Simon’s request. I would assume Peter prayed, but whether Simon escaped the things mentioned is something only God and Simon know for sure.
Let me be brutally honest here; I do not think it is right to peddle the Word of God, Christian music and books as just more merchandise at the market. I quit buying most “Christian” music years ago because the artists and record companies were obviously in it for the money and fame. I refuse to pick up every book someone writes on some religious subject to make a few bucks at the Christian book store. I’ve been to countless meetings and conventions where the hallways are choked with tables full of books, classes and CDs being sold at prices a king would balk at.
There is a fine line between “selling the gospel” and paying the costs to produce a product. I do not believe people should be paid to preach and teach the Bible. I do not believe a person should have to pay through the nose to receive instruction on spiritual matters, listen to Christian music or read a good Christian book. I believe we are to simply announce the glad tidings of Jesus Christ and those who want to hear will stop and listen. Those who don’t want to hear will leave.
This whole subject reminds me of what has happened to the “volunteer” groups where most of the people doing the work are paid a salary. How can you be a volunteer and still get paid to do the work? I certainly pray that those who are becoming very wealthy by “preaching the gospel” (too many names to list) would stop and look at the record in Acts chapter 8 to make sure they have not turned into a Simon in Peter’s clothes