Principalities and False Gods

The bible says there are dark spiritual forces at work behind the scenes and even implies these spirits are what the various polytheist cultures around the world worship as gods. In the book of Titus, Paul quotes Epimenides describing Cretans as untrustworthy and corrupt, and if we look closely we may see the spiritual source of their behavior.

Ep 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

A way to understand the word principalities in Ep 6:12 is that false gods often represent human desire like gods of sex, money, war, pride, drunkenness, etc. So we can also think of them as philosophies or principles. People worship these same things today it’s just not personified in western secular cultures.

In Titus 1:12 Paul referenced a Greek poem by Epimenides (a Greek prophet and philosopher). Titus 1:12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This letter was written to Titus who was to guide the church in Crete, the Cretans. Then Paul continues to say that this is true and that those who are Christian Cretans need to distinguish themselves from their unbelieving counterparts.

The people of Crete had reputation for being corrupt greedy liars. In fact, the English word “cretin” is a derogatory term today, based on Cretan for this same reason. In addition, the Greek word associated with liars is “kretizo” which sounds similar to Crete. In ancient Crete, they primarily worshipped Zeus, who was known for being promiscuous and deceptive. Cretans even claimed Zeus was born in Crete, so they worshipped the principal (principality) of lying, cheating, rape, and all kinds of drama, and called it Zeus. You know the saying you are what you eat? Well, you are whom you worship and Paul is saying that to Cretan Christians. He encourages the Cretan believers to distinguish themselves from normal pagan Cretans and develop a good presentation of Jesus Christ and the Most High God. Otherwise, they look no different than pagan idol worshippers and people will get the impression that Jesus is just another idol. Paul also says believers are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20-21) and ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). An ambassador is someone that lives in one country but represents another. When Christians are born again they are made citizens of the kingdom of heaven and represent that kingdom on earth.

In 2 Cor 4:4 Paul writes that the “god” of this world has blinded the minds of the people in reference to Satan. Believers are not supposed to be conformed to the world but transformed into having a renewed mind by the holy spirit (Rom 12:1-2). Believers are supposed to stand out as light in the darkness representing the light and fighting against the dark spiritual forces (Ep 6:10-17). Jesus is the light (John 1:1-14, Matt 4:12-17) that freed people from sin (John 8:31-36), but these false gods keep people enslaved to deception.

The Bible Project in-depth article on this subject