21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:21–24, NKJV).
This clear statement of sin was said to a Christian, Simon, who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12-13). This passage helps expose and defeat two false doctrines. The first error is denying the necessity of water baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16). Some say Simon was never really saved in an attempt to deny this. But, Acts 8:12-13 says he believed, was baptized, and continued following Philip’s teachings like others in Samaria. If Simon was not saved when he believed and was baptized, neither were the Samaritans. And if they were lost, then the apostles gave the Holy Spirit to those who had not “received the word of God,” which they had (Acts 8:14-17). Yes, Simon was a Christian. It is postulated by those who reject baptism’s necessity for salvation that Christians would have to be baptized when they sin repeatedly. This text denies that. Peter told Simon the Christian to repent, not to be baptized again. The second error exposed is the impossibility of apostasy (a Christian cannot fall away and be lost). But Simon was poisoned and enslaved by sin, needing forgiveness. Simon was lost unless he repented. His plea for Peter’s prayer indicates his repentance and confession of sins (v. 24; 1 John 1:9; James 5:16). Sinners must believe and be baptized to be saved. Christians are forgiven by repentance and prayer. Otherwise, the sinner and saint remain lost in sin.
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4, NKJV)
Acts 8 is a chapter about preaching the gospel. Those who preached in this chapter were the persecuted, scattered saints (8:4), Philip the evangelist (8:5, 35, 40), and the apostles Peter and John (8:25). The message they preached was “the word” (8:4), “Christ” (8:5), things concerning the kingdom, the name of Jesus Christ, and baptism (8:12), “the word of the Lord” (8:25), “the gospel” (8:25), and “Jesus” (8:35). The result of their preaching was the conversion and salvation of souls. People believed and were baptized, and by doing so, they “received the word of God” (8:12-14). A sinning Christian learned from hearing the apostle’s teaching that he needed to repent and pray for God’s forgiveness (8:18-24). A lost Ethiopian came to believe in Jesus Christ and was baptized, resulting in great joy (8:35-39). One cannot read Acts 8 without being impressed with gospel preaching’s central role in saving sinners. The Samaritans, Simon, and the Ethiopian eunuch were brought to faith, obedience, and salvation from sins through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sinners cannot hear the word of God, believe it, call on the name of the Lord, and be saved without gospel preaching (Rom. 10:13-17). Why and what are you preaching, preacher? What kind of preaching do you want, Christian? Gospel preaching is not entertainment. It is not a psychology session. It is not the pleasing pabulum of positive platitudes. It is not a sharing session of opinions. It is the proclamation of the gospel, God’s power to save the lost (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). We need more gospel preaching, not less.
12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 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. (Acts 8:12–13, NKJV)
Was Simon really saved? If not, neither were the Samaritans we read about in this passage. He heard the same preaching they heard. He believed the same word about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ they believed. Were they saved when they believed and were baptized? According to Mark 16:16, yes, for there Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” The Samaritans were saved when they believed and were baptized, and so was Simon. Any attempt to cast doubt upon the credibility of Simon’s conversion throws the same shadow of doubt upon all the Samaritans. There is great assurance and abiding joy that when sinners hear the word of Christ, believe it and are baptized, they are saved (Acts 8:5-8). Take heed to the plan of salvation Jesus preached in Mark 16:16, and that saved the Samaritans and Simon in Acts 8:12-13. Otherwise, you will find yourself fighting against God.