The corruption of the church by pagan mystery religions and false religious system began very early some say even at the time with Pentecost in 31 A.D. In Pauls epistles, he says that "the mystery of iniquity DOTH ALREADY WORK" (II Thess. 2:7 cra). Paul wrote this in 50 or 51 AD The plot to supplant the Truth had already begun. In the later epistles of Paul and in those of the other Apostles, we find it gaining considerable momentum. So were did these mystery religions come from and how did they find their way into the early church. Well we dont have to go far to find one of the perpetrators of these false beliefs that crept into the church.
The book of Acts was written by Luke about 62 AD some 31 years after the True Church began. Acts goes over events which affected the church and especially tells us about the beginnings of matters relating to Church history. Now read the incident recorded by Luke, of the first encounter of the Apostles with Simon the Magus:
Acts 8:5-28 King James Version (KJV)
5 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.
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 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.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
The reason Luke describes the intentions of this man so thoroughly is the profound effect this man, and his followers, had on Gods Church. Actually, this man by 62 AD, (when Luke composed the book of Acts) had caused the so much trouble and confusion that Luke had to show the people that he was not, as he claimed to be, a part of the Christian Church.
All scholars realize that Luke tells about Simon Magus beginning because of his later notoriety and danger to the Church.
In this regard, notice the comment of Hastings Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, Vol. 2, p. 496: "It seems beyond question that Luke knew the reputation which Simon acquired, and that he regarded the subsequent history of Simon as the natural result of what occurred in the beginning of his connection with the Christians."
If we assume that Luke recorded this encounter of the Apostles with Simon Magus simply to show that "simony" was wrong, we miss the point completely. There is a score of places in other parts of the Bible to show the error of buying ecclesiastical gifts. Lets take a look closer look at Simon the Sorcerer or Magician, in Latin Simon Magnus. He was a Samaritan magus or follower of Zoroaster, magi who claimed the ability to read the stars, and manipulate the fate that the stars foretold and a convert to Christianity.
Notice the points Luke gives us. Simon was a Samaritan, and used unknown powers to do miracles and wonders (Verse 9) "which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one".
The whole population of Samaria gave heed to him (Verse 10) "To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God."
He was looked on as the greatest prophet in Samaria. The Samaritans saw him as "the Great One" -- a god. Luke is also careful to inform us that Simon had become firmly established in Samaria as "the Great One" and had practiced his powers " for a long time" (Verse 11) " And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries"..
Luke wants us to understand that he nominally became a Christian ("Simon himself believed") and was baptized -- that is, he physically, outwardly "entered" the Christian Church (Verse 13).
Simon even recognized that Christs power was greater than his but wanted to be associated with that great name (Verse 13).
Simon, seeing the potential of the Christian religion waited until the authorities, Peter and John, came to Samaria and then offered to pay them money to get the power the apostles had.(Verses 18-21).
It appears that after being cast out by the Apostles he came to Rome where he became influential and well known. He was a danger and if you read between the lines, Luke was clearly showing that Simon was not truly converted or a part of God's Church, even though in Rome, many people were being fooled that Simon was truly a Christian. Instead he begun a false religion which history says formed into Gnosticism, which was from ancient religious ideas which spread in the first century among Jewish and early Christian groups.. Next lets take a look at what it did to destroy the truth and faith among the early believers.