Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done….. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
The above passage is illustrative of what happens when conversion flows not from the work of the Holy Spirit, but from self will. Every time conversion is mentioned in the New Testament, it is said to be the result of God’s work and not man’s. Examples are “….And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” (Acts 2.47) and ” And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira….. whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 14.14)” In the above passage Simon’s “conversion” was brought about by his desire to regain some of the prestige he had lost as a result of Philip’s ministry. Behind any “conversion” which is not brought about by the Holy Spirit, there is always some kind of ulterior motive at work. Only God can reform a radically corrupt heart, so that it seeks God for God’s own sake, and in order to give him the service and unconditional worship of which he alone is worthy. Even a desire for salvation is a motive centred upon self, and indicative of false conversion, Unless that desire is accompanied by a prior desire to fulfil our duty to love and worship God for God’s own sake. Such a desire can never arise from within the heart of somebody belonging to fallen humanity. It can only be given by the Lord himself, and only when he is pleased to do so.