I was recently asked in essence “Was Simon Magus really a believer and how should we understand Peter's rebuke of Simon and Simon's response?
To which I replied.
Nope just can’t see it.
When considering the Salvic disposition of Simon Magus (or anyone for that matter) we must examine his life for his heart is hidden from man’s view except as it is made manifest by his life. So that when anyone is confronted with the gospel they must by necessity have one of two responses; they will respond in acceptance or rejection. However, and there’s the rub, rejection can and often does masquerade as acceptance as demonstrated here in Acts 8 by Simon. We only need to look at Christ’s parable of the sower to see that.
Also as a side note, this passage demonstrates the need for discernment in order to keep the assembly as pure as possible. Yet today it is considered loving to not demand someone actually adhere to the Scriptural teaching, to the faith …once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). This position far from loves but actually leaves them in their sin which also makes those with that attitude culpable in that sin but I digress.
Now the greater context of Acts 8 contrasts a false profession with that of a genuine one, Simon’s profession opposed to the Ethiopian’s. And the Scriptures accordingly teach that saving grace is accompanied by three things, the professor has to believe (Heb 11:6), to obey (Jn 14:15), and to continue (1 Jn 2:19). We must admit Simon looked good for v 13 states he “believed” was “baptized” (displaying obedience), and “continued” on with Philip. However what he believed we are not told, he was baptized but did not receive the Holy Spirit, and his continuing with Philip was more of a following puppy dog than a continuance in observing and obeying the teaching of Philip. And that’s key, a faith that saves is a faith that obeys.
In outward appearance Simon was fine but his heart was far from God (v21) and quite frankly Simon displays a faith that does not and cannot save but actually damns the soul. The key to understanding this is found in v18 notice: he “saw,” he “desired” which is implied by he “offered money” just to get the power the apostles were displaying. As we note that the Holy Spirit was not given to him v16, v17 does not necessarily include Simon and if he had received the Holy Spirit it doe not seem likely he would be attempting to buy Him. More revealing though Peter’s rebuke in v21 indicates he had not.
It is therefore difficult to see him as saved, at least from this occasion.