Connections 06.03.2017: “The god of this world”

2 Corinthians 4:1-12

Being an editor of Christian writings, I’m constantly alert for references to the Creator. In the Old Testament, the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (the translation used by Connections curriculum) refers to the Creator God as “LORD” or “GOD” with the name appearing in small caps after the first letter. This format indicates the name of the One True God, also called YHWH (or Yahweh), El Shaddai, Elohim, and more. The name appears this way in the Old Testament to set it apart from the title “Lord” and the descriptor “God.”

In the New Testament, Bible translations drop the small caps, indicating a more personal knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

In my editing work, I constantly refer to the Bible to be sure the format of God’s name is correct according to the verse the writer uses. So, when I read today’s Scripture, the word that stood out to me the most appeared in verse 4—lowercased “god.” I read the verse several times: “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.” The ways the highlighted word is presented communicate two very different meanings.

god refers to any authority submitted to by the people
God refers to the one supreme authority in whose image people are created and who desires their love and service

Both the “god of this world” and “God” are real. Both demand allegiance. It’s impossible to worship both of them. We can, however, love the world without making it our god. In fact, we can only fully love the world God made if we love the God who made it. That is what I believe we are called to do—to love God so much that we make the life of Jesus visible in us (vv. 10-11).

Discussion

1. What is the difference between god and God?
2. Do you have any “gods” in your life? If so, why do you think you have allowed them to control your thoughts and actions?
3. How can you transfer your allegiance from gods to God? In what ways would your life change?
4. How is your loyalty to God made evident in your daily thoughts and actions?
5. What does it really mean to make the life of Jesus visible in you?

Reference Shelf

Rome (with the cooperation of its puppets in Judea, the religious leaders in the temple) crucified Jesus for proclaiming a different gospel (euangelion) than that of the Pax Romana, for declaring that the kingdom (basileia) belonged to God not Caesar, for announcing the dawning of the age to come. Following Jesus had, in turn, meant suffering for Paul. Kraftchick argues that Paul’s understanding of his suffering and its relationship to his life were “shaped by the relationship of death and life found in the paradigm of the Christ-event.” That is, Paul’s belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection functioned to interpret his own experiences of (near) death and life. Thus his suffering for the gospel (i.e., “because of Jesus,” v. 11) was, in his mind, neither shameful nor meaningless. It was bearing the death of Christ in his own body (vv. 10a, 11a).

As a sharer in Christ’s death, Paul further understood himself as a recipient of God’s life, but not for himself alone. The dawning of the new age is not just in his heart but in all of creation. Allison’s words offer a framework for reading Paul here. Allison refers to human ordering of the world as “the dominion of death,” for, he claims, the “fatal secret” at the heart of human ways of being is “our need to kill, to persecute, to purify and cleanse in order to maintain security and order.” Thus Rome’s practices. By contrast, God is “completely and entirely alive, living without any reference to death. There is no death in God.” Jesus, imbued with belief in God’s complete aliveness, lived “as if death were not”—he ignored purity rules, welcomed those who had been cast out, called disciples to love those who persecuted them rather than respond in kind, and did not respond violently when violence was done to him. Then God raised him from the dead, showing the power of God’s life. Whenever anyone sees Jesus living as if death were not and sees the power of God to raise him to life, then it becomes “infinitely and creatively possible” for that person to “be possessed by the same dynamic that was at work in Jesus, and so do the same as he.” In so doing, the follower shows others the possibility of living in the power of God’s life even in a world marked by the “dominion of death.” Or, to use apocalyptic language, such a person lives in the age to come even now. Paul certainly would not have used the same words as Allison, but a similar perspective appears to have guided his thinking as he declared that he bore the death of Jesus in his body “so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body” (vv. 10b, 11b). He is, in the words of N. T. Wright, “a walking visual aid of the gospel of Jesus.” The conclusion Paul draws, then, is in v. 12: “death is working in us, but life in you.”

Mitzi L. Minor, 2 Corinthians, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2009) 90-91.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).

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