SPECIAL TOPIC: THE GOD OF THIS WORLD (from 2 Cor. 4:4)

This evil personality noted in 2 Cor. 4:4 is called by several names by Paul.

1. Satan (cf. Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14; 12:7; 1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:9; 1 Tim. 1:20; 5:15; see Special Topic: Satan)

2. Devil (cf. Eph. 4:27; 6:11-12; 1 Tim. 3:6,7; 2 Tim. 2:26; the plural used of the demonic, 1 Cor. 10:20-21; 1 Tim. 4:1; see Special Topic: Devil)

3. "the prince of the power of the air" (cf. Eph. 2:2)

4. "the god of this age/world" (John calls him "the ruler of this age/world," John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)

5. "the tempter" (cf. 1 Thess. 3:5)

6. "the evil one" (cf. 2 Thess. 3:3, this title is common in Matthew's and John's writings)

7. "an angel of light" (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14)

This verse caused great concern to the early Church Fathers because it was used inappropriately by the Gnostic and Arian false teachers. Therefore, unfortunately, they (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theodoret, and Augustine) changed the Greek of this text to: "in who God has blinded the mind of the unbeliever of this world." Now Satan is obviously referred to as the prince and power of this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; Eph. 2:2). These early Church Fathers were not reacting to the concept of a personal force of evil, but to the theological concept of the Gnostic Demiurge and the Arians' view of a less-than-divine Christ. See Special Topic: Personal Evil.

▣ "of this world" This is also the Greek term for "age" (i.e., aiōnos). This seems to refer to the Jewish view of two ages: the current evil age dominated by sin and the age to come, set up and dominated by the Messiah (cf. Matt. 28:20; Eph. 2:2). For the full discussion of the two ages see Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come.

▣ "has blinded the minds of the unbelieving" This is an aorist active indicative. The term is used of spiritual blindness in Matt. 15:14; 23:16; 1 John 2:11 and the concept is the focal point of John 9. This same term is used in a quote from the Septuagint of Isa. 6:10 in John 12:40. It is a rather rare term in Paul's writings (cf. Rom. 2:19; 2 Cor. 4:4), but common in the Gospels.

In the Isaiah passage (i.e., Isa. 6:9-10) it is God's judgment that blinded the Israelites' spiritual eyes because of their continual unbelief. This same truth is expressed in Rom. 1:21, where the passive voice implies God (cf. Rom. 11:8-10, quoting Isa. 29:10 and Ps. 69:22-23). It is difficult to balance

1. human unbelief

2. divine hardening

3. satanic blinding

Belief is both a gift and a necessary response! The covenantal paradox is the mystery of predestination and free will. We must let God be God but demand human accountability. See Special Topic: Election/ Predestination and the Need for A Theological Balance.

Can you imagine the power that the evil one must have that he is able to blind the eyes of humans to the compelling beauty of the gospel (cf. Matt. 13:19) and to thwart the wooing of the Holy Spirit to respond to it (cf. John 6:44,65)? Paul uses several metaphors to describe unbelief:

1. hardened hearts

2. blinded minds

3. seared consciences

4. blinded eyes

There is an ongoing spiritual conflict (cf. Eph. 6:10-19).

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