Acts 8:23 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 8:23, NIV: For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.'

Acts 8:23, ESV: For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”

Acts 8:23, KJV: For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

Acts 8:23, NASB: For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of unrighteousness.'

Acts 8:23, NLT: for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.'

Acts 8:23, CSB: For I see you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by wickedness."

What does Acts 8:23 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Simon has been a popular sorcerer in the district of Samaria for some time. He had a large following of people who thought he had God's power. When Philip comes to Samaria and preaches the good news about salvation through Jesus' sacrifice, Simon was so amazed by Philip's miracles he was baptized (Acts 8:5–13). This incident gives good reason to question his sincerity, and his original motives. Simon's error isn't just something minor; it suggests a profound misunderstanding of who God is.

There is a difference between believing things about Jesus and accepting Him as your Savior. It's possible Simon's earlier power came from demons, so it's possible Simon "believes" in the same way demons do: intellectually accepting truth without submitting to it (James 2:19). Peter calls Simon to not just believe but to repent: to turn away from his desire to use this supernatural power for his own gain (Acts 8:22). Simon may understand a little more about God than he did before Philip came, but he is still living out of the wickedness inside him.

Moses referred to bitterness as a result of idolatry (Deuteronomy 29:16–20). He spoke of how idolatry pushed people to think they could reject God with impunity, even though their wickedness was leading to "poisonous and bitter fruit" (Deuteronomy 29:18). When our primary goal is to get what we want, we're liable to use any means to do so. In that frame of mind, if God doesn't serve us sufficiently, we'll turn to idols like money or fame or even security. When those false idols don't work, we become bitter against God and life. We do what we think it will take to get us what we want, but become captive to our sin.

When we repent of our self-delusion and accept that God is sovereign over us, we can rest easier. He is in control, not us, our desires, or the idols upon which we inappropriately rely. And only He has our best interests at heart and the ability to give us what we need. He wishes to free us from the prison of our wickedness (Isaiah 58:6).

Like Simon, recognizing that our sin has imprisoned us is the first step to being free of it.