As a young convert, just verses old [verse 13], but probably minutes old, Simon the Sorcerer had supposedly laid down his "magic wand" for belief in Jesus as Christ. However, Simon still operated under his old thinking even though he believed in Christ's first gift - the gift of salvation.
This first gift had been taken by faith. The second gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit, "was given at the laying on of the apostle's hands" (v.18). Simon's past and old nature still haunted him strongly. He evidently was a man who used to learn tricks, deception, or his trade by paying for the right of the next new "power". I suggest this because now, Simon offers money to Peter and John for the "power" he sees on and in them - The Holy Spirit. Simon is doing what he has always done in these situations. His old habits and lifestyle still govern his steps. His belief in Christ is merely intellectual consent. His belief is not from the heart as well as from the brain.
In addition, Simon's attempt to purchase God's free gift not only temporarily moved him out of the picture until he got right with God once more, but he tempted others. If the Mind of Christ was not on and in Peter and John when Simon offered that money to them, then I see Peter and John easily "cashing in" on using the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a money maker. To the detriment of our spiritual condition and future I have seen this in my lifetime.
Peter's answer is right on target. He said -
"May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 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. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." (verses 20-23)
Don't hold anything back Peter. Speak your mind brother. Please, let us know where you stand on this. I am glad that he did. And I believe he did under the control of the Holy Spirit. The old Peter might have picked up a sword and tried to cut off his head or just gotten into a fist fight. Now, notice Peter instructs Simon on what he has done wrong ("you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!"), tells him the consequence and reasoning ("You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God."), and supplies him with the solution ("Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord.").
The next two sentences have more of a Peter flare to them but still ring true. From reading about the personality of Peter and being able to see the hot temper and first to act nature in other Scripture, I can hear Peter saying, (in between the lines or maybe in his thoughts) "Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart [because if I were God I sure wouldn't]." At least Peter left Simon in the hands of a forgiving God ("Perhaps he will forgive you...") and did not take matters into his own hands this time (i.e.- a certain High Priest servant's ear).
The second sentence Peter seems to be very perceptive. Of course he and John were filled with the Holy Spirit - that helps. Peter says to Simon the former Sorcerer, "For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." Observing that Simon did not get his wages the good ole fashion way, through hard work, but instead used deception to get through life and profit, the root of that lifestyle is called out by Peter - Bitterness. Once bitterness got a firm grip on Simon's life "and captive to sin" was no hard feat.
Bitterness, according to Peter who was full of the Holy Spirit, was the root, but Peter tackles the main issue mid-way through his answer to Simon. Peter says, "your heart is not right before God." As I have mentioned earlier, Simon the Sorcerer had previously accepted the message of Jesus as The Messiah. But his heart did not grasp what that meant for his soul, therefore a lifestyle change did not occur.
When any of us truly allow the knowledge of what Jesus did for us to sink into our hearts, our lives will change for the best. Our thinking, actions, and speech will all change because the message has made it to our hearts and then to our behavior. "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." (Matthew 12:33) I believe this not only talks about the seeds you might have planted in others that come to fruition, but also that which I can "pick right off of you" (i.e. - Good speech, your help with anything, your treatment of others, etc...). God calls us to be in the world but not of the world. "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (John 15:19) "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (John 17:15)
The case with Simon was he did not even let the message of God's love, through Christ, reach his heart. The wheels or gears in the head may be the starting point for many when making the decision to follow Christ and live a Christian lifestyle, but sadly that decision never goes any further. It is commonly called "lip service". I encourage all "Simons" out there to open up the highway between the brain and the heart concerning Christ's love for you. That will be the first real step in authentic belief in Christ Jesus. Then you can seek the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that Peter and John were displaying in their lives that Simon wanted so bad, but went about the wrong way of receiving it. I encourage all "delayed believers" (Philippians 2:9-11) to allow the head knowledge of Jesus' sacrifice for you to reach your heart. I encourage the seasoned or veterans of The Faith to perform a "systems check". Make sure that when you are studying the Word of God or listening to a speaker that you slow down and soak in what God has for you in that moment instead of going for that "instant feeding/gratification". Let us make sure we have a Genuine Faith established in our lives and the right perspective on the Holy Spirit's empowerment SO THAT our witness will be full of integrity and our desire will be to minister to others.
*This is what I received from The Lord in my study of just His Word today (Acts 8). No supplemental texts were used. I feel like saying this was "all naturale" or should I say "all spiritual". In any case, it came from my heart and The Holy Spirit. I hope it ministered to you. God bless you.