“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” — Acts 8:1
Jesus promised that his disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them, and he said they would be witnesses for him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and across the earth (Acts 1:8). As Saul and many others begin persecuting the church, we see a clear movement of the church from being centered in Jerusalem to spreading out to Samaria. But even though believers in Jesus are suffering persecution, God’s church continues to grow.
Philip, one of the seven new leaders chosen in Acts 6, begins a ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing in Samaria. Many people believe and are baptized, including a man named Simon who had practiced sorcery. Peter and John visit to see what God is doing there, and as they pray and lay hands on the new believers, they receive the Holy Spirit.
Simon, however, offers money, saying he wants to buy the ability to give people the Holy Spirit. And he receives a lesson in grace. Peter instructs him to repent and pray for forgiveness. God’s power cannot be bought. Grace is not for sale.
Simon was impressed with the power he saw in Philip, Peter, and John. But following God is not about gaining power. Simon needed a heart change. Peter saw bitterness lurking in Simon’s heart, and until that was gone, he could not be part of the Lord’s ministry.