In this passage, the Sanhedrin, then Saul, and then Simon all tried to control what God was doing—or God himself. They either felt threatened by God's work and wanted to stop it, or they wanted to take God’s power for themselves.
The Sanhedrin, enraged with Stephen, stoned him to death. Then Saul, also filled with anger, started hunting down believers. He went out to eliminate every trace of Jesus and his followers, but with the scattering of the believers, there were even more places in the world that heard the Gospel. The believers never stopped sharing Christ with those they met, so the number of believers grew faster. Neither the Sanhedrin nor Saul could stop God’s work.
When Philip went to Samaria and shared the Messiah with the people there, Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized. Simon was used to being important and powerful, and when he saw that the Holy Spirit came to believers after Peter and John laid hands on them, he wanted to have that power and status for himself. He assumed that, like in his old life, such things could be had for a price, but he was wrong. Simon was warned by Peter and told to repent and beg for God’s forgiveness for still having a heart that was captive to sin. God’s power can’t be bought.
Our fight for control doesn’t look exactly like it did for the Sanhedrin or Saul, but we resist God’s will in our lives and his work in the world. Like Simon, we may see something we like or want, and we try to bribe or bargain with God. It is difficult for us to trust God’s will, ways, and timing.
Peter gave Simon this warning, “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 in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” (Acts 8:21-22). That warning is for us as well, we need to make sure our hearts are right in the sight of God. If we want to be a part of his ministry, our will needs to be in line with his. We need to trust in his wisdom and goodness.