by Andrew Hillard
The book of Acts contains a lot of well-known statements. There are Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” There is the oft-quoted description of the early church near the end of chapter 2, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Then Peter and John before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:19-20, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” The list goes on, including Stephen’s words right before the crowd moved to stone him in Acts 7:56, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” One well-known statement after another inspired by the Holy Spirit for the spread of the gospel.
Then there are the words of Philip to Simon the Magician in Acts 8:20, words just as bold and just as Spirit-filled, even if they aren’t as often quoted or remembered, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” While Simon’s offer of money in exchange for the gift of the Holy Spirit shows his misunderstanding of who the Spirit is, Philip’s response leaves little room for confusion. God is not a commodity to be bought or sold. The Spirit of God is not a magician who performs on demand. He is the breath by whom all things were made. He is the eternal and sovereign God. The Spirit of God was not and is not for hire. Throughout the book of Acts, we see the Spirit leading the apostles and the early church in powerful witness to the truth of the gospel, just as Jesus had promised. Philip’s words might not be as widely quoted or memorized, but maybe they should be. Let us beware of those who treat the Holy Spirit as One hired for their own purposes, and let us beware of our own temptations to substitute our purposes for the Spirit’s power.