Back in 1517, the German priest, Martin Luther, nailed 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. He was protesting the practice of priests charging people money to have their sins forgiven. He insisted that God forgives people freely, based on their faith in Jesus. Sadly, leaders in the church had ignored this truth so clearly taught in the Bible. The Apostle Peter forcefully stressed this point to a man named Simon. Simon heard Philip preaching the Gospel in the city of Samaria. He responded to Philip’s preaching, but he had an ulterior motive. We read in Acts 8 that “He saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people. He offered them money to buy this power. ‘Let me have this power, too, so when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!’ But Peter replied, ‘May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.” Simon thought he could buy spiritual power but he failed to grasp how God operates. God’s Spirit freely bestows gifts and abilities on those He chooses. We can only recognize and affirm the gifts that God bestows.
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