And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.
The structural church has always been a source of wealth and power, and, as such, has often attracted those who love money. Most ancient temples conducted widespread economic activities in which land and donations made the temple and its priests wealthy.
The New Testament shows us a culture that was aware of the connection between wealth and religious elitism; hence, the disciples of Jesus Christ were forbidden from giving or receiving money for spiritual teachings or for the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit. Jesus expressly told them, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Even more, Jesus later on says, …sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven…
In the early church, and still until this day, the teachings of Christ were not meticulously practiced. After seeing those Christians who had received the power of the Holy Ghost to perform miracles, Simon Magus attempted to purchase this power. Peter rightly told him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. This account is the origin of the term “Simony.”
The early Christians were often poor, but, during the reign of Emperor Constantine, bishops and other church leaders became civil servants; chosen by the state and paid by the state. Church leaders now had access to wealth and power; often residing in the luxury of state-purchased palaces. Over time, “Simony” became menacingly widespread. Many church leaders either sold church offices or gave them to their relatives. This is why we have “Daddy-Called” and “Momma-Sent” church leaders even in this day and age.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Simony is a sin that amounts to the deliberate intention of buying or selling for a temporal price such things as are spiritual. So how does a Christian writer or composer or evangelist, or a printing ministry justify using copyright laws, which are manmade, to generate income? If the mission of the church is to spread the gospel and evangelize for the faith, what possible rationale could there be for charging for the right to reproduce and publish that which is spiritually beneficial? In “Simony” the person tries to equate material things, such as money, with spiritual things, and considers the latter as though they, or some other human being, had full ownership of what really belongs to God.
I pray you do not overlook how the Body of Believers, the church, in every age, has been infiltrated upon, by ungodly people. There are those, like Simon Magus, rising up among the people, and professing great things. We have been warned, For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Simon Magus, like so many others, gave the outward appearance as being saved. He expressed a belief in the preaching of Philip and was baptized. Simon also continued with Philip and attended meetings of the church. But when Peter said, Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God, it is clear that Simon’s belief was superficial and his baptism just a ceremony. Throughout the ages, many have been intellectually convinced of the supremacy of Jesus and many have adopted his ethical ideals; some going as far as to imitate the perfection of his example. Unfortunately, these things do not make them Christians. How many of the character of Simon Magus, have there been, and now are, in the midst of professing Christians?
Our clarion instrument, the Scriptures, sounds the call to remind us Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Look inward for divine teaching; judge not things by their outward appearances, regardless of how promising they may appear.
What prevented Simon from coming to a genuine belief in Jesus Christ? It was pride. Before the coming of Philip and the Gospel, Simon was a revered holy man there in Samaria and had been admired for such a long time, that the people declared, This man is the great power of God. A proud person might give an outward display of faith because it is the “right” thing to do in the eyes of others, but in the secret place of their heart, they fail to submit to Jesus Christ.
Simon Magus used sorcery; magic, wizardry and enchantment. Local wizards and sorcerers used enchantments (charm, attraction, allures, delights, fascinations, etc.) to prey on the ignorance and superstitions of the common people. And such continues even today!
Intellectual conviction does not mean spiritual conversion any more than good words and fair speeches mean you are called of God.
So how then, does the ungodly business of trading temporal things for spiritual continue to flourish? Simple! Through skillful elusions, people bring themselves to break the spirit of the law while they keep within its strict letter.
There are many who would never dream of offering money in order to obtain a position in the structural church, or would have been horrified at the very suggestion; yet, they have resorted to other methods just as effective and just as wrong. Some have obtained positions by political methods. They have “glad-handed” everyone in the congregation and showered the current leadership with flattery, hoping thereby to gain their ends. They may not have given money to gain spiritual position, but they relied on mere human consideration, and sought by its help, to obtain that which is spiritual.
How many a speech is spoken, how many a sermon is preached, how many a vote is given, not as the Holy Ghost directs, but under the influence of that unholy spirit of sheer worldliness which led Simon to offer money that he too might be enabled to exercise the power which was given by the Holy Spirit to the apostles.
The spirit of “Simony” may just as really lead a man to give a vote, or to make a speech, or to preach a message, just as it led men to give bribes for the attainment of precisely the same ends.