Man’s Chief End
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (First Corinthians 10:31, ESV)
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, ESV)
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
What is the meaning and purpose of life? Who are we, and why are we here? The consistent atheist would have to admit that, based upon the atheist worldview, there is no ultimate, objective, transcendent meaning and purpose to life (all silly and irrational drivel about “creating your own meaning” or “creating your own reality” aside — such talk being brainless mush that might work in a sentimental Disney movie, but which could not for a moment withstand genuine rational scrutiny). Life just is, we just are, and there is neither rhyme nor reason for our existence. Likewise, the consistent atheist would have to admit, based upon his own worldview, that we are nothing more than cosmic accidents, highly evolved star dust that somehow developed self-consciousness through an impersonal process involving enormous amounts of time (“billions and billions of years” as Carl Sagan used to say) plus random chance mutations. We came from nothing and we are destined for nothing. We evolved from pond scum, and we are destined to take a never-ending dirt nap. Our infinitesimally brief lives (from the standpoint of the enormous ages of cosmic time) are tiny blips on the radar screen of existence. We show up for a tremendously brief time, usually live pathetically ordinary and mundane lives, and then decompose back into the matter from whence we came. (So much for “self esteem,” eh?)
In comparison to this dreary, depressing picture of reality as offered by the atheist worldview, the biblical and historic Christian worldview stands in sharp contrast. According to the Bible and historic Christian teaching, a sovereign, loving, personal God created the universe and all that is in it, for His glory and for the good of His creatures. This God exists, not as an isolated, solitary Being (as in unitarian conceptions of God), but rather as an eternal trinitarian Community of love, for this one eternal God exists eternally in three co-equal, co-eternal Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who share fully in the Divine Essence, and who enjoy perfect fellowship and communion with one another within the unity of the Godhead. This loving, sovereign, personal Creator God created mankind (male and female) in His own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and with dominion over the creatures. And even when mankind fell in Adam (man’s original covenant head and representative), God set in motion a process of redemptive history which would ultimately culminate in the Father sending His Son to this earth to become Incarnate and to redeem a great multitude of elect sinners by means of His obedient life, His atoning sacrificial death, and His glorious bodily resurrection and ascension. Jesus Christ, the Son of God Incarnate, is the “second Adam” who undid all the harm caused by the first Adam for those whom He represented as the new covenant Head and Representative of the new humanity (the elect church). In the gospel (the “good news” about salvation through Christ) God promises forgiveness, justification and eternal life to all who repent and believe in Christ alone for salvation.
Furthermore, this God has sent the Holy Spirit upon the church, and by His Spirit He brings new life (eternal life!) to spiritually dead sinners. Having redeemed us believers by His blood, and having renewed us by the Holy Spirit, Christ continues to work in us by His Spirit, sanctifying us that we might be conformed more and more into His image. One day, when we believers pass away from this life, and ultimately at the resurrection of our bodies on judgment day, He will glorify us so that we will be completely freed from sin and established unchangeable in holiness, and will live in perfect joy forever in the new heavens and the new earth wherein righteousness dwells.
Rather than being cosmic accidents with no objective meaning and purpose in life, we are tremendously significant creatures. God created us in His image. That image has been marred, twisted and grossly distorted through sin, and thus we deserve God’s righteous judgment. But out of love for sinners like us God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for sin and to provide eternal life to all who would believe. God created us for His glory (it’s not about you, it’s about Him!), and He will be glorified in our lives either in grace or in judgment. In the case of the elect, who come to believe the gospel with true faith, they glorify God by being trophies of His sovereign grace, and thus they are to the praise of His glorious grace. In the case of the reprobate, who are wicked and who disobey the gospel, they glorify God by being the objects of His just and righteous wrath, and thus they are to the praise of His glorious justice. (The reprobate unwittingly glorify God as the objects of His righteous wrath, but they do not enjoy God, as they only know Him in wrath; whereas the elect both glorify and enjoy God forever as the objects of His sovereign grace, for they know and experience His saving love and grace unto eternity.)
Why are we here? What is the meaning and purpose of life? For believers who know the Scriptures and sound doctrine derived from the Word, answering those questions is easy. God’s Word teaches us that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever” (as the Shorter Catechism so excellently summarizes the teachings of Scripture on this matter). Reader, if God created you for His glory, should you not seek to live your life for His glory and to do everything that you do for His glory? And if you are a believer in Christ, should not your motivation for glorifying God in all of life be gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s wonderful gift of salvation, which you enjoy by His pure, amazing grace? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (First Corinthians 10:31, ESV)