Gods of This World: Introduction
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Paul writes to the brethren in Corinth regarding the “god of this world,” referring to Satan, explaining how he has blinded those who do not believe the Gospel. Paul’s use of the phrase is appropriate: while Jesus Christ may have all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). far too many people are in bondage to Satan, serving him as a god (Romans 6:16-18).
While a few people actively and deliberately serve Satan directly, many more serve him through the false gods that are akin to him. These would be the gods of this world, and great energy is expended toward their ends.
Men have been serving various gods for generations. In the ancient world, it was not surprising for a nation to serve hundreds if not thousands of gods! The Bible is full of the names of the gods of the nations around Israel: Baal, Asherah, Rimmon, Molech, and so forth (2 Kings 3:2, 5:18, 17:16, 23:10). The Egyptians were well known for their many gods. In the first century Paul noted how many gods were served by the Athenians; he noted also that they had an altar to the “unknown god,” in case that they had missed a god somewhere and did not want him or her to be offended (Acts 17:16-22). These “gods” would have temples built in their honor and would normally house a statue portraying the god in the middle (cf. Acts 19:24-28). To believe in only one God, and an image-less God at that, was considered all but atheistic according to the “conventional wisdom” of the day!
Yet such “gods” were really no gods at all. They were simply the invention of the men who made them: man misdirecting their awe at the creation, not recognizing the hand of the Creator behind it all (Romans 1:19-23). God had created the heavens and the earth and declared them to be very good (Genesis 1:1-2:3); mankind bought the satanic perversion of that creation and began serving it. The “god of this world” was behind these gods of this world!
Proportionally, very few people today serve the same type of “gods” that people served in Biblical times. Such does not mean that the sin of idolatry, or serving gods other than the One True God, is no longer a problem. Far from it (cf. Galatians 5:19-21, 1 John 5:21)! While people may no longer make images of gods and bow down to them, they still find “replacements” for God in their service. Money is a “god” for many people; others include sex, fame, appetite, individualism, nationalism, intellectual inquiry, nature, and a host of other concepts and things. As with creation, so with most of these: God gave them for mankind to enjoy, and man instead served them over Him. The “god of this world” is still blinding men with various gods of this world!
These “gods” need not always be separate from God. The most pervasive form of idolatry in Israel was not the service of Baal or Molech; instead, the biggest stumbling block for Israel were golden calves that were fashioned, called YHWH, and served for generations. This sin is what led Israel into captivity (2 Kings 17:1-23)! This, perhaps, is the most insidious form of idolatry: it seems to reflect the One True God, but in reality represents a distortion of His truth and His teaching! The “god of this world” did well at setting forth a fraudulent picture of the One True God, and many fell for it!
Many today also fall for distortions of the truth regarding the One True God and stand deceived. Their beliefs may be more fashioned by culture and philosophical expectations than revealed truth; they may accept the traditions of man as accurately reflecting the reality of God when it is not so. Even though their gods may seem a lot like the One True God, they still are gods of this world!
We therefore begin an examination into the gods of this world, attempting to understand how it is that people serve them and how we can help people turn from them to serve the living God while keeping ourselves from exchanging the truth of God for a lie. In order to do so, we must remember that Satan, the god of this world, is behind all of this, perverting and distorting God’s truth and God’s creation, blinding the minds of many, hindering them from hearing and obeying the life- and light-giving Gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The gods of this world serve as the bait of the god of this world, and we must do all that we can to show the light of the truth to all men who will hear. Let us turn away from the gods of this world to serve the One True and Living God!
Ethan R. Longhenry