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In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul refers to Satan as "god of this world". What does it mean that Satan is god of this world?

2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV
4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

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4 Answers 4

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You know, this is a good question. Even though I understand the concept instinctively, I wasn't able to put it into words myself.

The closest I can come in my own words is to give a bullet list of concepts that tie together to answer the question.

  • The Bible speaks of several "gods", none of whom are the true God
  • A god (idol) is anything (a being, a concept) who is worshiped and obeyed instead of the one true God.
    • In this sense, your god could be your money, the television, the Internet - anything you count to be more important than God.
  • "This world" is largely anti-God. We are more concerned with earthly pleasures than we are in God and what He wants from us.
  • When we disobey God, we are obeying and following Satan, wittingly or unwittingly. We are, in effect, worshiping him.

However, that looks completely unsatisfying when I look at it on the screen, so I cheated. I found a better answer elsewhere.

http://www.gotquestions.org/Satan-god-world.html

This article says everything I was trying to articulate but couldn't.

Here are two excerpts that say it MUCH better than I did:

The phrase “god of this world” (or “god of this age” [NKJV]) indicates that Satan is the major influence on the mind-set expressed by the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of people. His areas of influence also encompass the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions.

...

So, when the Bible says that Satan is the "god of this world," it is not saying that he has ultimate authority. It is conveying the idea that Satan rules over the unbelieving world in a specific way. In the case of 2 Corinthians 4:4, the unbeliever follows Satan's agenda. According to 2 Corinthians 4:4, the "god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." Satan's agenda includes pushing a false philosophy onto the unbelieving world—a false philosophy that blinds the unbeliever from the truth of the Gospel. Satan’s philosophies are the fortresses in which people are imprisoned, needing to be set free and brought captive to Christ in obedience to the truth.

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Look at the major people of this world. What do they care about? Money, Glory, Power, Fame, etc... These are the influences Satan has on people of this world. That's right; influence. Think of the contrast between Pop-stars and People of major companies of the world. Who do you think influences the most? Pop-stars, of course! This just goes to show you how much people are fixated on the image, not the reality. Sure, God is God, but basically when he banished Satan to this world, he basically gave control of this world to Satan for a period of time. Satan is not the ultimate power, but he basically influences unbelievers to an extent, and uses them for his bidding.

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+1 - I don't know if God gave control to Satan, as much as we have free will, God allowed Satan to roam around, so Satan tempts us, but good answer anyway. :) –  James Black Sep 29 '11 at 19:53

When we seek to give glory to God, to hold God up so others can see by the light that shines from God, through us, and we work to love God and others as Jesus commanded, then if we are concerned with earthly concerns, such as amassing wealth or having fashionable clothes, we have chosen to conform to the world. We are not in a place where we can stand apart from the world, and talk about how great God is, as there is no real difference between us and everyone else.

So, if we choose to conform then we are not going to be following God, and if we are not listening to what God is saying to us, then what voice are we following?

We don't have to explicitly choose to be part of this world, by just standing by and watching brothers and sisters in Christ do actions that would pierce Jesus' heart is enough to show that we are conforming. This is probably what most Christians are guilty of, when we listen to ministers speak in ways that Christ would not agree with. For example, when persecution of any particular group, especially those that hate you and would be happy to see you dead, is espoused, rather than laughing, or just standing silently by, we should show what it means to be willing to die for that person, and speak up, even though it costs us friendships, or isolates us, as, we are moving toward God. If we choose to value our friendships, then we have turned away from God, and conformed.

So, Satan does not want to be alone in Hell, he wants as much company as possible, so he will work to ensure that we are thinking more about earthly issues than thinking about God, which is his role.

We see how strong he can be in the story of Job, as he made Job's life miserable, took everything away from him, but Job continued to lean on God, regardless.

So, the terrestrial bonds may keep us away from our heavenly Father, and that is what Satan, as the chief tempter, works to do, to keep us grounded, as we may not explicitly worship him, but the Bible stated that we can only follow one god, so if we are not keeping our eyes on God, and shining as a beacon for others, then we are following Satan, and we have covered up the light. Satan is the examples used as the opposite of God, in that we follow God in heaven or the god of this world, and when it comes down to it, that is what is meant by Satan being the god of this world.

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Wow, very nice! I was especially convicted by the point about showing you're willing to die for someone by standing up for them. I'll +1 once the vote limit resets. –  a_hardin Sep 29 '11 at 20:41
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+1 to you! Very nicely stated. –  David Stratton Sep 30 '11 at 1:15

Calling Satan "The god of this world" stems from an ancient Canaanite religious pantheon, where Ba'al played a prominent role. He was often given the epithet "God of this World".

In ancient Israel after the founding of Judaism, Ba'al was still worshiped widely. Read 1 Kings 18 if you're interested. The word "Satan" stems from the Hebrew word for challenger, which is exactly what Ba'al was to Judaism. Eventually Ba'al's religion died out, and he was remembered as the Devil. His epithet stuck with him for a while would seem to be the case.

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