Hearing Philip’s preaching of the gospel, Simon “himself believed also” and was then baptized (Acts 8:13). A close look at the subsequent record of his life (8:18-24) brings out an important point that is often overlooked in current discussions of evangelism.
Upon observing that believers had received the Spirit through the laying on of hands by the apostles, Simon offered them money to obtain the same authority (8:18-19). Peter sternly rebuked him for his ungodly request: “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish 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 is not right in the sight of God” (8:20-21).
Peter then instructed Simon what he needed to do in order be forgiven by 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” (8:22-23). Simon showed that he was unrepentant by refusing to pray (8:24).
This account explicitly records an apostle’s demanding that a sinner do more than just repent (and believe) and thereby trust in the finished work of Christ. Peter demanded that Simon repent and pray to God for the forgiveness of his sin.
This passage does not support the assertions that some have made that Scripture has no evangelistic accounts where someone was directed to pray in order to receive the forgiveness of their sins. Peter’s evangelistic dealing with Simon provides us with explicit biblical basis for directing sinners to repent (and believe) and pray to receive the forgiveness of their sins.
Moreover, in the flow of thought of the passage, Peter’s directive to Simon was not just a demand that he pray generically concerning his sinfulness. Peter specified that Simon repent and pray in order that his wicked thought, which Peter had specifically confronted him about earlier (8:20), might be forgiven.
From Peter, therefore, we learn not only to direct the sinners that we evangelize to pray in addition to their repenting (and believing) but also to direct them to pray specifically for the forgiveness of their sins that God has confronted them with through the previous evangelistic ministry that they have received. The account of Peter’s evangelizing Simon thus provides valuable instruction that needs to be accounted for properly in contemporary discussions about what we should do in evangelizing sinners.
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