Every generation has had to contend with flimflam men and con artists. A century ago they came in the guise of rain makers and snake oil salesmen. Today, this genre has found a home in charismatic churches.
One of the greatest stories of conversion in the book of Acts involved a shyster called Simon the sorcerer. Luke records his conversion in Acts 8:9-13.
Prior to his conversion, Simon would have made a good Pentecostal preacher. He would have looked at home on a stage with Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts or Benny Hinn. Simon the sorcerer had everything going for him. His credentials as a "faith healer" would have been impressive. Let's notice a few things about his life.
Acts 8:9 tells us Simon claimed that "he was someone great." Every Pentecostal preacher I have ever met claimed some miraculous power. I've heard of folks in padded cells claiming to be Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. But these charismatic preachers claim to have a hot-line to the Almighty! Great claims mean absolutely nothing. Simon the sorcerer made great claims, but he was a fraud.
The residents of Samaria "all gave heed" to Simon (Acts 8:10). Preachers who command a large audience really impress some folks. No doubt, they would have loved the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:19, 20). Just because a preacher has a large following it does not mean he is pleasing to God. Simon the sorcerer had a large following, but he was a world-class con artist!
Simon's followers came from all classes, from "the least to the greatest" (Acts 8:10). Some people get real excited when a famous politician or Hollywood star is a member of their church. While God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), some so-called Christians are. Simon had "great" people follow him, but he was a charlatan!
If you dared to question the claims of Simon, he would have provided you with a list of folks willing to give personal testimony about his ability. The people of Samaria said, "This man is the great power of God" (Acts 8:10). Every Pentecostal church has folks ready to give moving personal testimony about some alleged miracle. Simon the sorcerer had many testimonials, but he was a flimflam man!
Simon was able to "astonish them with his sorceries" (Acts 8:11). Simon's sleight of hand and Houdini-like powers amazed many individuals. Like modern charismatic preachers, Simon could probably cure everything from headaches to vertigo. Of course, Simon could not make the lame to walk or raise the dead like the apostles (Acts 3:6; 9:40), but neither can any man today. The whole time Simon was astonishing the people he was nothing but a fraud!
Simon was not a new-comer to Samaria. He had been able to dupe the people "for a long time" (Acts 8:11). Some think longevity in a town is proof that God is with you. Simon was a long time resident of Samaria, but he was an impostor!
We are grateful that when the people of Samaria "believed Philip as he preached the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ... 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). When Simon saw the genuine power of God, he, along with many others, gave up his religious scam. I pray to God that people of our day will soon give up on "healing ministries" and put their faith and trust in God.
I am tired of seeing "faith healers" take advantage of good people. I know they claim the power is not in them, but in God. However, I deny that God uses these men to carry out His will today. The age of spiritual gifts passed with the completion of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). God will allow people to "believe a lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thes. 2:11, 12).
We are not ashamed of the truth. We are willing to defend what we teach in public. Is your preacher? If you disagree with what we have said, please ask your preacher if he is willing to engage in a public debate on spiritual gifts.
God does not want men to hide behind a pulpit. Like the apostle Paul, I am set "for the defense of the gospel" (Phil. 1:17). Is your preacher willing to defend his beliefs in public, or is he too busy planning the next church social?