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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, July 27, 2014

“Give me also this power” (Acts 8:19).

These words were spoken during a great revival in Samaria. But I am not going to comment on that revival. It would take our minds away from the subject which our text presents to us. In this sermon it is enough to say that Philip went to Samaria and preached Christ, and this was followed by a tremendous revival. Nearly everyone in that city was converted.

But not Simon the magician! When Peter went to help Philip in the revival, Simon came to him. And Simon said,

“Give me also this power” (Acts 8:19).

He even offered Peter money to obtain that power! Peter told him, “I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). Charles Simeon (1759-1836) said,

Simon had appeared sincere in his profession of faith, and therefore Philip had baptized him...therefore the true Christians regarded him as a brother: but [Philip] soon discovered the hypocrisy of his heart...he was still, as much as ever, in a state of nature [in an unconverted state]. Hence Peter addressed him in the words... “I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity”... [in] a state of subjection to sin... [in] a state of condemnation because of sin (Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, 1955 edition, volume 14, pp. 339, 340).

Peter told Simon to “repent of this wickedness.” But Simon did not repent. He went right on as he was. He said to Peter,

“Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me” (Acts 8:24).

Dr. McGee said,

Simon doesn’t ask to be saved. He doesn’t ask for prayer for his salvation. He just asks that none of those terrible things happen to him (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 545; note on Acts 8:24).

Dr. McGee said, “He is not converted” (ibid., note on Acts 8:21). Sadly, the ancient writings of the church fathers tell us that he was never saved. In fact, they tell us that he became a leader of the Gnostic heresy and “the archenemy of the church” (The Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries, 2005, p. 1572; note on Acts 8:9). He continued to believe in a “power,” but not in Christ Himself. As he said,

“Give me also this power” (Acts 8:19).

How does this apply to us today?

I. First, the ethos, or character, of the common belief of our time is Pelagian and Gnostic.

By “ethos” I mean the prevailing idea about how a person is saved. In his book, Christless Christianity, Dr. Michael Horton says that most Americans combine “the Pelagian emphasis on self-salvation with the Gnostic emphasis on inner experience and enlightenment” (Baker Books, 2008, p. 251). This simply means that people today think they can do something to be saved (Pelagianism). All they need is to learn the “secret” of what to say or think (Gnosticism).

I find that we are fighting those false ideas constantly in our own church. People who come in from the world, and even those born and raised in the church, have ingrained within them ideas of Pelagianism and Gnosticism.

Go out on the street and talk with ten or fifteen people, and you will see that this is true. Ask them if they are helpless sinners, and every one of them will tell you they can do something, or stop doing something, that will save them. “I’m doing the best I can.” “I’m no worse than anybody else.” You hear that all the time. They don’t even know it, but there is a name for what they believe – Pelagianism. They think a man can do something, or stop doing something, and this will save him. That is totally against what the Bible says, of course. The Bible says,

“We were dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).

“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18).

These verses show that man is totally depraved – a slave of sin, one who can do nothing to save himself from his slavery to sin – dead in sin – and therefore bound to go to Hell. Do you know anyone in your life outside the church who believes that? I don’t! Nobody, in our society believes that they are slaves to sin. Even the churches don’t preach it! That’s why everyone who is lost, including those raised in church, think they can do something, or stop doing something, and that will save them. They are Pelagianists. They have no idea that they are hopeless wretches without the slightest chance of ever contributing anything to their own salvation.

Second, they are Gnostics. That means they think they can learn something and be enlightened, and use this knowledge to be saved. We see it all the time. We have people come into our church and spend months, sometimes even years, trying to learn “the secret” that they can use to get Christ to save them. This is what Dr. Horton called “Gnostic emphasis on inner experience and enlightenment.” I tell them, over and over, that they are

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7).

But they don’t believe me. They go right on thinking that there is some “secret” Gnostic formula they can learn to become a Christian. I have even seen people cry, with tears running down their cheeks, trying to learn, trying to figure out, the “secret” formula that they can use to be saved! Recently two young men thought they “figured it out.” They both said, “I didn’t do anything – so I know I’m saved.” I asked them a few questions and found out that, indeed, they didn’t do anything! They thought that was the Gnostic secret to salvation. I told them that was not a Reformed doctrine, not a Bible doctrine. I told them that was the heresy of “quietism,” that Wesley and Whitefield preached against so vigorously in the eighteenth century. I told them that there is something they must do. They must believe in Christ. The Bible makes it so very clear,

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
      (Acts 16:31).

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18).

But they both went away with confused looks on their faces, still thinking they could learn the Gnostic “secret” some day! How that breaks my heart! Jesus loves them. All they have to do is believe in Him. But they go on looking for a secret formula! They treat Jesus like a force or power, like Simon, who said, “Give me also this power” (Acts 8:19). Simon went on as a Gnostic. The Reformation Study Bible says,

Gnosticism (named from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge”) taught that a person gained salvation not by the merit of Christ’s death for sinners, but by special knowledge... (The Reformation Study Bible, ibid.).

When a person gets these ideas in their head, it is humanly impossible to get them out. They are like Hispanic Catholics who think of Christ as a judge (Cristo) rather than a loving Saviour! One elderly Catholic woman actually walked out of the church in anger when I said that Jesus was not a judge, but a loving Saviour! She would rather go on being afraid of Jesus than change her mind! And that’s the way most evangelicals are today! They would rather go on thinking of Jesus as a Gnostic “power” that they can manipulate by learning secrets, than think of Him as the Saviour who will instantly pardon their sins if they simply believe in Him! How sad!

And, you know, it is demonic! Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

There are times when the [Devil] concentrates on individual Christians, or sections of the Christian Church, almost upon countries at times (The Christian Soldier, Ephesians 6:10-13, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, p. 302).

I believe that America and the West are under the power of Satan, and even our best churches have been highly influenced by doctrines of demons. The Apostle Paul said,

“The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing [deceiving] spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Timothy 4:1).

I believe that the Pelagian and Gnostic views, that are so prevalent in evangelical Christianity, are exactly that – “doctrines of devils.”

The “Word of Faith” movement is promoted by such big names as T. D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen. They are spreading the prosperity gospel to the ends of the earth. Even our Baptist churches are influenced, often without knowing it. Dr. Horton said that there are “striking similarities between the prosperity message and ancient Gnosticism” (ibid., p. 67). He said that many churches are now preaching “a [combination] of Pelagian self-help and Gnostic self-deification” (ibid., p. 68). “[God] has some rules and principles for getting what you want out of life, and if you follow them, you can have what you want” (ibid.). That, of course, is the very essence of the heresies of Pelagianism and Gnosticism. That’s what people in general believe – if you learn the rules, and say the right words, you can get what you want – including salvation.

At the end of every broadcast Joel Osteen looks at the camera and tells the TV audience,

Just say, “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. Come into my heart. I make you my Lord and Saviour.” Friends, if you prayed that simple prayer, we believe you got born again.

Mr. Osteen gave a Christless sermon and the above prayer with no mention of the Gospel in it! No mention of Christ dying as a substitute for sinners on the Cross, in either the sermon or the prayer! No mention of the Blood of Christ cleansing the lost person’s sin, either in the sermon or the prayer! In other words, there was no mention of the Gospel at all (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Yet Osteen says, “If you prayed that prayer, we believe you got born again.” There are only two possibilities – either Osteen is a complete charlatan – or (more likely) he has given “heed to seducing [deceiving] spirits, and doctrines of demons.”

Either way, Pelagianism and Gnosticism have been scattered by Satan throughout the world – particularly in the United States. And you believe it! That’s why you aren’t saved!

II. Second, you must be delivered from these two demonic doctrines or you will never be saved!

The first false doctrine is Pelagianism. It is the idea that you can do something, or stop doing something, and thereby get saved. This is such a clear heresy that I am almost embarrassed to speak on it. But many of you listening to me tonight believe it! Have you not read these verses in the Bible?

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

Nothing that you do can save you! Nothing! Nothing that you stop doing can save you! Nothing! There is only one thing that lost sinners are commanded to do, and that is,

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
       (Acts 16:31).

You say, “But that’s so easy!” Yes, but that is the one thing a lost sinner will not do – no matter how you beg him! no matter how often you preach it! the lost sinner rejects Christ and does something else. He believes so thoroughly in his own ability (Pelagianism) that he will refuse to believe on Jesus every time. Instead, he will believe a Bible verse, or an attribute of Jesus, but not Jesus Himself. HE WILL NOT BELIEVE IN JESUS HIMSELF! Why? Because Pelagianism is a lie, that’s why! Without the grace of God a lost sinner will never come to Jesus and trust Him alone! He will reject Jesus Himself every time – because he is totally depraved!

“Dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

The second false doctrine is Gnosticism. It is characterized by the idea that God is an impersonal force or power that can be manipulated or "used" by those who have special knowledge (the Greek word “gnosis” means “knowledge”). This idea runs all through popular evangelical thinking. Dr. Horton says that evangelical Gnosticism has us “looking within ourselves to create out of our own imagination an idol that we can manipulate and control” (ibid., p. 167).

Young people today do this without even realizing it. They make Jesus into an imaginary “force” that they can manipulate. Isn’t that exactly what Simon the Magician did? He said, “Give me also this power” (Acts 8:19). So God was just a “power” that could be given or received by a man.

This Gnostic emphasis leads to “white magic.” In black magic the magician uses certain words to control and manipulate evil spirits. In so-called “white magic” the magician uses certain words, incantations or prayers to control and manipulate good spirits – even God. Notice that Joel Osteen’s “sinner’s prayer” is really an incantation of white magic,

Just say, “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. Come into my heart. I make you my Lord and Saviour.” Friends, if you prayed that simple prayer, we believe you got born again.

If you say those words, power flows into your heart! You can make yourself be born again by saying those words! It is pure Gnosticism! It is pure white magic! It’s name it and claim it! It’s the Word of Faith message! Name it and claim it! It’s all through evangelicalism, and it is white magic! Remember that Simon was a sorcerer, a magician (Acts 8:9), one of the fathers of Gnosticism! So he said, “Give me also this power.”


Jesus Christ is not a “power” that you can control, or manipulate, or use! He is a man, in human flesh.  He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. You cannot “figure out” or “learn” how to “get” Him to save you! You can try to learn the “secret” of how to be saved for the rest of your life – but you will still be lost, like Simon the Magician. You must come to Christ as a sinner who cannot “figure” this out. You must fall before Him and believe in Him. You must be saved from sin by the Christ of the Cross! You must be cleansed from your sin by His precious Blood. There is no other way to be saved from sin! There is nothing more to learn! no “secret key” or special words to learn! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Why haven’t you believed in Jesus? The answer is very simple. You haven’t been convicted of sin! Your sin has never troubled you and kept you awake at night! Your sinful heart has never seemed repulsive to you!

Without conviction of a sinful heart there is no real conversion. Until a man is deeply troubled about his sinful heart he will never see his need for Jesus.

So, we are praying for revival and for real conversions. But what point do we emphasize in our prayers? Are we just praying, “Oh God, bring more people in” – or “Oh God, send revival”? If we are, then we are not praying for the exact thing we need. We are just praying a hazy, general prayer. God gives what you ask for in prayer. If the prayer is general, you usually don’t get anything! Let us pray for the one thing most needed – conviction of having a sinful heart. Say that with me – “conviction of having a sinful heart.’ That’s it! That’s what we need most! That’s what we need the Spirit of God to do! Until you are convicted of having a sinful heart, the Gospel will seem muddy and unclear! not real!

We are going to fast and pray for that next Saturday until 5:00 PM. Then we’ll come here to church for a few more prayers and a meal together. That’s what we need to fast and pray for – “conviction of having a sinful heart.” When God does that, we will see more people trusting Jesus! When that happens to a number of people at once we will have revival! Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 8:18-24.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Depth of Mercy! Can There Be?” (by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788;
altered by the Pastor).




by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Give me also this power” (Acts 8:19).

(Acts 8:23, 24)

I.   First, the ethos, or character, of the common belief of our time
is Pelagian and Gnostic, Ephesians 2:5; 4:18; II Timothy 3:7;
Acts 16:31; John 3:18; I Timothy 4:1.

II.  Second, you must be delivered from these two demonic doctrines
or you will never be saved! Ephesians 2:8, 9; Acts 16:31;
Ephesians 2:1; Acts 8:9.