Acts 8:11

ESV And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.
NIV They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.
NASB And they were paying attention to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic arts.
CSB They were attentive to him because he had amazed them with his sorceries for a long time.
NLT They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic.
KJV And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

What does Acts 8:11 mean?

This sentence could be considered a tragic summary of modern culture. We are naturally drawn to charming people who seem to have abilities we lack. This can apply to politicians, athletes, entertainers, or even scientists and doctors. We often ignore things like the person's moral character, how much they demand from us, or if what they do is helpful or harmful. We like the show.

The Samaritans are no different. A man named Simon has lived in the city for a long time, seducing the residents with his magic (Acts 8:9–10). We aren't told what kind of supernatural miracles he performs; we just know they aren't empowered by the Holy Spirit. Considering how many times Jesus rescued people from demon possession, we know that demonic activity is a real problem at this time. The Samaritans may be thankful for someone who promises to give them relief—not noticing the source of his power is the very thing they need relief from.

The Bible gives us several things to look out for when we're in danger of being seduced by a celebrity. Jesus says to judge people by their fruit. In part, this means if what they do is harmful to others, they're not from God (Matthew 7:15–20). This isn't a comprehensive rule, however; some ungodly people seem to do great things for the world. John says we need to see how they talk about Jesus—if the person admits that Jesus is the Son of God, that's a good sign (1 John 4:15). And Paul says that demonic forces will not claim that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). They know He is, but they will not worship Him in adoration (James 2:19).

Fortunately, the Jesus-follower Philip has come to Samaria and he is more than willing to talk about Jesus. The people immediately respond. Simon's example proves that while it's hard to con a conman, you can convict him with the truth.
What is the Gospel?
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