The “gall of bitterness” in Acts — it isn’t resentment

In this series, I’m addressing the concept of bitterness in the Bible, how it is used to shame and blame victims of abuse who are seeking help from their churches.

The first post in this series addressed the “root of bitterness” in Hebrews, explaining how it isn’t unforgiveness, as it’s often presented to be, but is something else instead.

Update October 2016: The topic of bitterness is addressed at length in the new book Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind, which you can read more about here.

 

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In Acts 8 Peter came to a certain city—where Philip had been preaching and working miracles, where there were now many new Christians—and laid his hands on the new Christians, who received the Holy Spirit. Whatever it was that happened when they received the Holy Spirit (the Scripture doesn’t say), one new believer named Simon was so completely bowled over with astonishment and wonder and awe that he immediately offered to pay Peter to show him how to do the same thing.

But Peter said to him,

“May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” ~Acts 8:20-23

This is a pretty shocking statement, on the face of it. One might have thought that Simon had simply made a mistake, but from Peter’s Spirit-inspired words, that is clearly not correct.

Acts 8:13 had said that Simon believed Philip and had even been baptized. But here Peter makes it ever so clear he wasn’t a real believer in Jesus Christ.[1]

But what was Simon’s “bitterness”? Was it “active hatred,” as the Oxford English dictionary says? Was it “stinging, cutting, harsh, virulent” words? Was it “intense overt hostility”?

Was it unforgiveness, or resentment toward God, an unwillingness to accept God’s plan for his life, as many preachers preach?

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Sorry to cut you off! The entirety of this article is now posted at BJUGrace. 

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