Simon the Magi and Once Saved, Always Saved

Yet another example from the Bible which I think refutes the notion of Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS) is that of Simon the Magi from Acts 8.

Simon was a magician who was sort of a big shot in Samaria, popularly known as the “Great Power” (Acts 8:9-11). But then an actual big shot, St. Phillip, came through town and presented the Gospel, which put Simon’s tricks to shame. And then, significantly, Acts 8:13 tells us “Simon himself believed and was baptized.” Note that: Simon believes and is baptized. In Mark 16:16, Jesus says that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” So in Acts 8:13 Simon got saved. He didn’t just “seem to believe” or “appear to be saved,” we’re told he actually “believed and was baptized” by an author inspired by the Holy Spirit.

But then some even bigger shots came to Samaria, Peter and John. And they went around imparting the Holy Spirit upon people. And then Simon fell back to his old ways (Acts 8:18-24):

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

We don’t know how this story ends. We don’t know if Simon fully repented or not (the text seems promising), but it’s significant to note a few things. Even though Simon had previously been saved, he again becomes “captive to sin,” and is at risk of damnation – if he weren’t, Peter’s curse wouldn’t scare him. That is, if he knows that when Peter says “perishing,” he really means, “you’ll die and go to Heaven,” that’s not a curse or a threat. No, Peter’s telling him he’s not part of the ministry, he’s not right with God, and he’s at risk of perishing… as in, eternally perishing. And his best shot is that perhaps the Lord will forgive him. It’s not a forgone conclusion.

Since there’s at least a possibility that Simon’s actions will damn him, how can this be squared up with OSAS?

12 Comments

  1. I think vv. 15-16 is where the argument starts to break down…but clearly, you’ve been eating your Wheaties.

    This is good ammo, but I think it falls short. Isn’t it the RCC (and all orthodox thinking churches – Oneness churches are where the problem is, I think) that states for a baptism to be fully recognized it must be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit? The text is clear that the people were only baptized in the name of Jesus. It’s also unclear in my text whether Phillip even did the baptisms. If he did, my question would then be, to what end? Further, why was the laying on of hands required?

    I think the point of this text requiring exploration doesn’t have so much to do with a set point for salvation on a time-line but instead the nature and relationship of belief/faith/baptism/heart transformation/rebirth.

    I think the preponderance of scripture is clear that for rebirth to occur it’s a change of heart that is required. Nothing about the text leads us to believe that Simon’s heart had a trajectory change toward God. On the contrary, everything we’re told from beginning to end about Simon is that his heart desired only power.

    Lastly, I’m starting to like the terms ‘saved’ and ‘salvation’ less and less for what we’re actually talking about…but that’s for a different conversation.

    Still, nice shot across the bow at OSAS. Keep up the good work.

    DJ|AMDG

    1. I suppose your intelligence sees my heart so reading the the verse we come to more of a similar understanding. however for simon’s sorcery to cast him into hell not all were sorcerers my friend. none the less I already considered the baptism and the power to baptize was given to the apostles.!. Simon was from Samaria I have heard it is very hot in that country Why would I want to go there? It’s a land full of Samaratans and apparently sorcerers. tricks and puzzles, once saved means more to god and his holy father than it does to me. A father considered that I read this verse. but I do not like to read. did you think once saved always saved is as simple as the understanding of your comment I could not follow it. the second passage I understand and the bow shot we both see keep me posted.
      a puzzle?

  2. DJ|AMDG,

    I’m not understanding where you say that the text is unclear. Following the link provided in the OP, the translation for verse 16 has two comments on the following:
    “they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 8:16b
    The first is at the word baptized, leading back to Acts 2:38, the second is before the word “in”, where the comment states an alternate translation as “into”. I checked, and many translations use “into”, or have a note saying that the translation works either way.

    Also, I don’t understand what difference it makes if St. Phillip did the baptisms or not. He is the only one mentioned, but there is no reason to read that he was travelling alone. Furthermore, what is appropriate for baptism is the intent to baptize and that it be done in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Anyone, even a non-Christian can baptize in special circumstances, even today. As to what end, one might as well ask why John baptized. It is the first step for Christians, not the arrival.

    Laying on of hands is different from baptism. The laying on of hands is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of sending (Mt 3:11, Mk 1:8, Lk 3:16, Jn 1:33, Acts 1:5). The difference is more obvious in the catechizing of those born into the Church (baptism in infancy, confirmation in adolescents), but it is also seen for those entering the Church as adults.

    The idea of OSAS is one that does not sit well with me. It implies that once we declare our belief in Christ, we lose the freedom to withdraw that belief. It would be utter foolishness to withdraw our belief, but we must remain free to do so. If we are no longer free to choose, then all of our professions that we follow Him are empty. One could also say that a man chained to a policeman was a follower of the policeman, despite the fact that he fights to break free. We are called to Christ and we choose to bind ourselves to Him, but we must make that choice again every day of our lives.

    Good post and wonderful comment!

    1. Kerath25 I read your post and I follow along its only the scripture we can use in our translations while you do not need to be christian it is our choice and free will to believe in god. John. you said in the bible well that was all in the past and I do not remember so well. but when we consider the passage of will we remain faithful I know this. I go right. as opposed to left. it is a choice do you doubt me? lets not talk philosophy because I have been baptized and my sin is greed. To quote the psalms would be a gift. to receive a gift listen to one. I have heard the name of Simon twice in my life. but I do not have all day to consider these things.

      left or right. may my question not disturb you you see I am rude sometimes and I grew up in america my favorite color is yellow because it will not hurt you. but we have too many words for living. all I have is my faith I am a sinner. the father knows this. I will make more mistakes and I am walking a trail taking one step at a time. how I feel is what I do it is easy sometimes there are two equal choices and I believe our paths are not in discourse we must act or else we take heart and mind and we bicker. i make my choice may I be wrong I end up in Samaria.

      what is there if you are baptized or not? Americans have no formal religion. another time.

  3. Joe,

    I was reading the end of Mark this morning (for a different reason) and went over the Peter passages specifically. I seem to recall you using v. 16:7, before, maybe in support of the papacy, but I read it a little differently today. In light of yesterday’s comments and post, could v. 7 be a better argument against OSAS? …Especially in light of the purposeful and intense restoration story of Peter in John 21:15-19?

    Maybe you’ve mentioned these before and I just forgot.

    DJ|AMDG

    1. The Gospel Mark? I have never owned a bible since I was child. and my french girlfriend says I am not allowed to read so I will not other than live the passages of Samuel and the acts i think you see me clearly padre pascal 1660 v26 I have greed and selfishness for example I heard Simon was a templar I am not I want a comic book. I am 31 years old and my confessions are only to a priest. my confessions gave me peace.

  4. DJ | AMDG,

    You’ve got my interest piqued. What’s your take on this that lead you to this question?

    The only thing I see is that they say to tell “His disciples and Peter,” and that sounds at first brush like Peter may have lost his office. This is the direction it sounds like you’re going, since you say that John 21:15-19 is his “reinstatement.”

    If that were the case, it would be a pretty good argument against OSAS (provided that we assume that Peter went from being saved to unsaved when he went from Disciple to non-disciple). But I think it’s a misreading of the text. In fact, “the disciples and Peter” is an honorific.

    In Acts 12:17, St. Peter says, “Tell James and the brothers about this.” It signals that St. James is the #2, a conclusion which is supported at least somewhat by St. Paul’s reference to these two as three of the “pillars” of the Church in Galatians 2:9. I covered this in a bit more depth in a post back in October, which is probably the post you were remembering about the papacy tie-in: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/10/restoration-of-peter.html

    Is that responsive to how you were reading it, or did you have a different take?

    1. Father Joe, Joseph?
      Louie. Hello to answer your question I am easily misled by anticipations but only Jesus the christ is the son of god. I have read the bible that is why we read OSAS and who knows the meaning? the acts which speak of it peter? yes the first pope. I am not allowed to read who was the next pope? I ask for a comic book on Simon Magus I am 31 tomorrow I have a meeting with an army recruiter and maybe my Lieutenant application will go in. much work goes into artists essences and I have a plan to read them with patients, Father I will not lie but every detail in the definitions of the Simon comics I will not see I do not think I feel but study each one for one month? that I will do as 2nd Lieutenant. unless I do not have the time between my job and Christina. so my promise is to never use magic and beware the traps that we follow along in the adventure. that is my question father I am not christian and I live in imagination of french knights the 37 of us call ourselves the knights of the yellow and we have all foughten together. they are Christina, Peter, 7 company of the peace, Alex, my squire Little wolf, Edwardo,3 Bugler company mike abel and Jesus, Christopher, Joel, David, Ali, 6 Skeleton company Hail ceasar! Laird, Joshua, Curtis, Quinn, Vincent and Bishop. I believe thats all of them. and I am the most accomplished Louie.

    2. father joseph;

      i just reread your post and i do not want to get out of bed. i am cronicling my search for this question who is simon? and it led me to reread the posts. i have sinned against the first commandment. the first pillar. to quote parde pascal truth and error walk side by side. and it is best to walk in error than to stand and wonder. so proceed with each of your steps as they are the paths of those before you or those already set in nature. can you answer me a question as you are from England. is there a catholic book of a knight named simon? it was a gossip among the people of france in my imaginations.

  5. I think you’re right that it could support both. I also think concepts of “saved” and “unsaved” are starting to become unhelpful for talking about what we’re really saying. Again…different topic.

    I do think for those who wish to affirm a theology which says you can choose separation from Christ AFTER having been made a new creation in perfect relationship with Him – then this stuff on Peter seems the best argument I’ve yet found.

    DJ|AMDG

    1. Another posting DJAMDG? you were not my confession i do not lie. you were samrter than me. do you see my concern? I see yours. all I remember is Peter thats a start.Simon Peter! I hadn’t thought of that yet then it then it just ocurred to me. be good. because Peter said to be good. I am so I used the inter-net and I ask you what year was jesus born. forgive my question If you get my drift. if I offended you I am sorry. I neednt worry I will strike again. your words are like a maze and I am Louie Jerry the rat. try memory. if you have it remember the feelings and know you had them. I have lived so much life but have yet to see. i just saw the date of this posting if this gets to you or if I get my Simon Comic book Padre Pascal is going to help. v26 paraphrase not the half second before you speak, your meaning. have your heard of simon magus the knight who could open doors? or is that a different man. Someone toldme to look it up.

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