Read Acts 8.
Back in Acts 1:8, Jesus said that the disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the earth. Here chapter 8 of Acts, persecution (vv. 1, 4-5) moved the gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria.
Phillip, one of the first deacons (see Acts 6:5) went to Samaria, preaching the Gospel, and God began saving some of the Samaritans (v. 12). In verses 14-17, two of the Apostles–Peter and John–came up to Samaria to confirm that these Samaritans were genuine Christians. Many charismatic brothers and sisters of ours, and some non-charismatics, too, think that what Peter and John did is the normal Christian experience. In other words, some Christians think that every Christian needs to receive the Holy Spirit after they believe in Jesus. This is sometimes called the “Second Work of Grace” or the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
I don’t agree with the interpretation that this is the normal Christian experience. I think this passage records an important phase in the development of the early church. It showed the Samaritan believers that their salvation was the same salvation that the Jewish believers in Jesus had. God withheld the Spirit until the Apostles prayed for the new Christians to unite the church and demonstrate that the Samaritans had the same salvation, the same Spirit, the same Lord Jesus Christ as the church in Jerusalem.
What stands out to me is how Simon the Sorcerer (vv. 9-11) believed the gospel (vv. 12-13), yet wanted to buy the apostles’ power for himself (vv. 18-19). Peter rebuked him (vv. 20-23) and he repented (v. 24), so it looks like he was a genuine Christian. Had he not repented, it would have shown that his confession of faith was false (v. 20: “May your money perish with you”).
Yet, despite being a genuine Christian, he desires spiritual power for selfish reasons (v. 23). Verse 9 told us that Simon “boasted that he was someone great” so it seems, based on Peter’s rebuke (vv. 22-23) that he still had this desire in him. He wanted power to do ministry so that people would look up to him as a great man.
While they may not seek supernatural power like Simon did, many Christians do ministry for the same reason that Simon wanted the power to give the Holy Spirit. Some ministries–preaching, teaching, music. leadership–give people the opportunity to be looked up to, admired, and obeyed. When we aspire to serve God for ourselves, our hearts are “captive to sin” (v. 23). It is only a matter of time before our false motives will be revealed.
Because we’re all human, we all have mixed motives at times. Just as Peter confronted Simon and called him to repent, you and I may, at times, need the corrective rebuke of other believers when our ministry motives are mixed up and sinful.
Are you serving God for the right reasons? Do you regularly assess your heart and ask God to purify your motives? Are you willing to receive godly rebuke when your sinful motives slip out?
A healthy faith–and a healthy church–is not made up of perfection. It is made up of genuine believers who are growing. Part of that growth comes from having our movies purified, even in response to the rebuke of others.