on 2-corinthians 4 :4
In whom the god of this world, etc. - We see here that those whose minds are blinded, are they who believe not; and because they believe not, their minds continue in darkness, and are proper subjects for Satan to work on; and he deepens the darkness, and increases the hardness. But who is meant by the god of this world? It is generally answered, the same who is called the prince of this world, John 16:11. But the question recurs, who is the prince of this world? and the answer to both is, Satan. The reader will do well to consult the notes on John 12:31, and the concluding observations on John 14:30. I must own I feel considerable reluctance to assign the epithet ὁ Θεος, The God, to Satan; and were there not a rooted prejudice in favor of the common opinion, the contrary might be well vindicated, viz. that by the God of this world the supreme Being is meant, who in his judgment gave over the minds of the unbelieving Jews to spiritual darkness, so that destruction came upon them to the uttermost. Satan, it is true, has said that the kingdoms of the world and their glory are his, and that he gives them to whomsoever he will; Matthew 4:8, Matthew 4:9. But has God ever said so? and are we to take this assertion of the boasting devil and father of lies for truth? Certainly not. We are not willing to attribute the blinding of men's minds to God, because we sometimes forget that he is the God of justice, and may in judgment remove mercies from those that abuse them; but this is repeatedly attributed to him in the Bible, and the expression before us is quite a parallel to the following, Isaiah 6:9 : Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the Heart of this People Fat, and Make their Ears Heavy, and Shut their Eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, etc. And see the parallel places, Matthew 13:14, Matthew 13:15; Mark 4:12; John 12:40; and particularly Romans 11:8-10 : God Hath Given Them the Spirit of Slumber, Eyes that they Should not See, and Ears that they Should not Hear; let their Eyes be Darkened, etc. Now all this is spoken of the same people, in the same circumstances of wilful rebellion and obstinate unbelief; and the great God of heaven and earth is he who judicially blinds their eyes; makes their hearts fat, i.e. stupid; gives them the spirit of slumber: and bows down their back, etc. On these very grounds it is exceedingly likely that the apostle means the true God by the words the god of this world.
And as to the expression this world, αιωνος τουτου, we are not to imagine that it necessarily means wicked men, or a wicked age; for it is frequently used to express the whole mundane system, and all that is called time: Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither εν τουτῳ τῳ αιωνι, in This World, nor in the world to come; Matthew 12:32. In Luke 20:34, the children, υἱοι του αιωνος τουτου, of This World, mean simply mankind at large in their state of probation in this lower world, in opposition to their state in the world to come. The same meaning the word has in several other places, to which l need not refer; it simply implying the present state of things, governed by the Divine providence, in contradistinction from the eternal state: and it is very remarkable that, in 1 Timothy 1:17, God himself is called Βασιλευς των αιωνων, the King of the World; what we call King eternal; but here it evidently means him who governs both worlds, and rules in time and eternity. This character among the Asiatics is considered essential to God; and therefore in the very first surat of the Koran he is called Rubbi Alalameen, "the Lord of both worlds," an expression perfectly similar to that above. But it is needless to multiply examples; they exist in abundance. Some, and particularly the ancient fathers, have connected του αιωνος τουτου with των απιστων, and have read the verse: But God hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world, etc. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Photius, Theophylact, and Augustine, all plead for the above meaning; and St. Augustine says that it was the opinion of almost all the ancients.
Lest the light of the glorious Gospel - They have resisted the grace which God gave them, and have refused to yield to the evidences which amply prove the Messiahship of Jesus; and therefore their eyes were judicially darkened, as it is said in the prophet: He hath closed their eyes, and hath given them the spirit of slumber. That is, they have shut their eyes against the light, and their blindness and stupor are the consequence.
By glorious Gospel we are to understand the luminous Gospel; that which comes with so much light and evidence to every candid mind.
Who is the image of God - Christ is called, Hebrews 1:3, the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of his person. See the note at Hebrews 1:3.
on 2-corinthians 4 :4
In whom - In respect to whom; among whom; or in whose hearts. The design of this verse is to account for the fact that the glory of the gospel was not seen by them. It is to be traced entirely to the agency of him whom Paul here calls "the god of this world."
The god of this world - There can be no doubt that Satan is here designated by this appellation; though some of the fathers supposed that it means the true God, and Clarke inclines to this opinion. In John 12:31, he is called "the prince of this world." In Ephesians 2:2, he is called "the prince of the power of the air." And in Ephesians 6:12, the same bad influence is referred to under the names of "principalities, and powers," "the rulers of the darkness of this world," and "spiritual wickedness in high places." The name "god" is here given to him, not because he has any divine attributes, but because he actually has the homage of the people of this world as their god, as the being who is really worshipped, or who has the affections of their hearts in the same way as it is given to idols. By "this world" is meant the wicked world; or the mass of people. He has dominion over the world. They obey his will; they execute his plans; they further his purposes, and they are his obedient subjects. He has subdued the world to himself, and was really adored in the place of the true God; see the note on 1 Corinthians 10:20. "They sacrificed to devils and not to God." Here it is meant by the declaration that Satan is the god of this world:
(1) That the world at large was under his control and direction. He secured the apostasy of man, and early brought him to follow his plans; and he has maintained his scepter and dominion since. No more abject submission could be desired by him than has been rendered by the mass of people.
(2) the idolatrous world particularly is under his control, and subject to him; 1 Corinthians 10:20. He is worshipped there; and the religious rites and ceremonies of the pagan are in general just such as a mighty being who hated human happiness, and who sought pollution, obscenity, wretchedness, and blood would appoint; and over all the pagan world his power is absolute. In the time of Paul all the world, except the Jews and Christians, was sunk in pagan degradation.
(3) he rules in the hearts and lives of all wicked people - and the world is full of wicked people. They obey him, and submit to his will in executing fraud, and rapine, and piracy, and murder, and adultery, and lewdness; in wars and fightings; in their amusements and pastimes; in dishonesty and falsehood. The dominion of Satan over this world has been, and is still almost universal and absolute; nor has the lapse of 1,800 years rendered the appellation improper as descriptive of his influence, that he is the god of this world. The world pursues his plans; yields to his temptations; neglects, or rejects the reign of God as he pleases; and submits to his scepter, and is still full of abomination cruelty, and pollution, as he desires it to be.
Hath blinded the minds of them which believe not - Of all who discern no beauty in the gospel, and who reject it. It is implied here:
(1) That the minds of unbelievers are blinded; that they perceive no beauty in the gospel. This is often affirmed of those who reject the gospel, and who live in sin; see the 2 Corinthians 2:13 note; Matthew 23:16-17, Matthew 23:26 notes; Luke 4:18 note; John 9:39; John 12:40 notes; Romans 11:7 note. The sense is, that they did not see the spiritual beauty and glory of the plan of redemption. They act in reference to that as they would in reference to this world, if a bandage were over their eyes, and they saw not the light of the sun, the beauty of the landscape, the path in which they should go, or the countenance of a friend. All is dark, and obscure, and destitute of beauty to them, however much beauty may be seen in all these objects by others.
(2) that this is done by the agency of Satan; and that his dominion is secured by keeping the world in darkness. The affirmation is direct and positive, that it is by his agency that it is done. Some of the "modes" in which it is done are the following:
(a) By a direct influence on the minds of people. I do not know why it is absurd to suppose that one intellect may, in some way unknown to us, have access to another, and have power to influence it; nor can it be proved that Satan may not have power to pervert the understanding; to derange its powers; to distract its attention; and to give in view of the mind a wholly delusive relative importance to objects. In the time of the Saviour it cannot be doubted that in the numerous cases of demoniacal possessions, Satan directly affected the minds of people; nor is there any reason to think that he has ceased to delude and destroy them.
(b) By the false philosophy which has prevailed - a large part of which seems to have been contrived as if on purpose to deceive the world, and destroy the peace and happiness of people.
(c) By the systems of superstition and idolatry. All these seem to be under the control of one Master Mind. They are so well conceived and adapted to prostrate the moral powers; to fetter the intellect; to pervert the will; to make people debased, sunken, polluted, and degraded; and they so uniformly accomplish this effect, that they have all the marks of being under the control of one mighty Mind, and of having been devised to accomplish His purposes over people.
(d) By producing in the minds of people a wholly disproportionate view of the value of objects. "A very small object held before the eye will shut out the light of the sun." A piece of money of the smallest value laid on the eye will make everything appear dark, and prevent all the glory of mid-day from reaching the seat of vision. And so it is with the things of this world. They are placed directly before us, and are placed directly between us and the glory of the gospel. And the trifles of wealth and of fashion; the objects of pleasure and ambition, are made to assume an importance in view of the mind which wholly excludes the glory of the gospel, and shuts out all the realities of the eternal world. And he does it:
(e) By the blinding influence of passion and vice. Before a vicious mind all is dark and obscure. There is no beauty in truth, in chastity, or honesty, or in the fear and love of God. Vice always renders the mind blind. and the heart hard, and shrouds everything in the moral world in midnight. And in order to blind the minds of people to the glory of the gospel, Satan has only to place splendid schemes of speculation before people; to tempt them to climb the steeps of ambition; to entice them to scenes of gaiety; to secure the erection of theaters, and gambling houses, and houses of infamy and pollution; to fill the cities and towns of a land with taverns and dram-shops; and to give opportunity everywhere for the full play and unrestrained indulgence of passion; and the glory of the gospel will be as effectually unseen as the glory of the sun is in the darkest night.
Lest the light ... - This passage states the design, for which Satan blinds the minds of people. It is because he "hates" the gospel, and wishes to prevent its influence and spread in the world Satan has always hated and opposed it, and all his arts have been employed to arrest its diffusion on earth. The word "light" here means excellence, beauty, or splendor. Light is the emblem of knowledge, purity, or innocence; and is here and elsewhere applied to the gospel, because it removes the errors, and sins, and wretchedness of people, as the light of the sun scatters the shades of night. This purpose of preventing the light of the gospel shining on people, Satan will endeavor to accomplish by all the means in his power. It is his "grand" object in this world, because it is by the gospel only that people can be saved; by that that God is glorified on earth more than by anything else; and because, therefore, if he can prevent sinners from embracing that, he will secure their destruction, and most effectually show his hatred of God. And it is to Satan a matter of little importance what people "may be," or "are," provided they are not Christians. They may be amiable, moral, accomplished, rich, honored, esteemed by the world, because in the possession of all these he may be equally sure of their ruin, and because, also, these things may contribute somewhat to turn away their minds from the gospel. Satan, therefore, will not oppose plans of gain or ambition; he will not oppose purposes of fashion and amusement; he may not oppose schemes by which we desire to rise in the world; he will not oppose the theater, the ballroom, the dance, or the song; he will not oppose thoughtless mirth; but the moment the gospel begins to shine on the benighted mind, that moment he will make resistance, and then all his power will be concentrated.
on 2-corinthians 4 :4
4:4 The God of this world - What a sublime and horrible description of Satan! He is indeed the god of all that believe not, and works in them with inconceivable energy. Hath blinded - Not only veiled, the eye of their understanding. Illumination - Is properly the reflection or propagation of light, from those who are already enlightened, to others. Who is the image of God - Hence also we may understand how great is the glory of Christ. He that sees the Son, sees the Father in the face of Christ. The Son exactly exhibits the Father to us.