Saul’s persecution of the church caused a great scattering of God’s people … and His Word. One such example of a scattered believer preaching about Jesus as the Christ was Philip the Evangelist, one of the Seven who had been chosen by the church and confirmed by the apostles. Philip went to Samaria, and the content of his preaching and the amazement of God’s miracles wrought through him caused the Samaritans to intently listen to Philip’s message. Philip’s Christian ministry caused great joy among the people of Samaria!
However, there was a magician named Simon who had been holding the Samaritans captive to the forces of spiritual darkness for quite some time through dark magic before Philip arrived. Thus, the stage was set for a cosmic spiritual battle with the Christian message being brought to a spiritually blinded people. However, the people believed Philip’s message to be true, believing the Good News of the gospel, with many men and women professing Christ and entering the waters of baptism. Quite shockingly, even Simon made a profession of faith and submitted to the waters of baptism! He then followed Philip around, continually amazed by the miracles Philip performed.
When word of the amazing grace of God being poured out in Samaria came to the Jerusalem church’s attention, they sent Peter and John to investigate and report back. These 2 apostles came down to Samaria, and they prayed over these believers who had not yet visibly received the Spirit after conversion. They then physically laid their hands on the believers, who then received a tangible experiential indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This was not a normative conversion event, but it was significant in the history of salvation, proving that these hated Samaritans HAD received the same Spirit as the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
Simon was so enamored with this spiritual power that he perceived in Peter and John that he greedily offered them money so that he could acquire the same power. Peter responded with a forceful holy rebuke to Simon, invoking a curse upon Simon for his foolish belief that he, a mortal man, could manipulate God Almighty for his personal gain! He urged Simon to recognize he was in the shackles of sin and to cry out to God in repentance. In response, Simon asked them to pray for him, desirous that none of these destructive things fall upon him. Luke concludes this shocking narrative of great cosmic spiritual conflict by describing Peter and John preaching the gospel all throughout Samaria on their journey back to Jerusalem to report the work of the Spirit in Samaria!