The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) has become one of my favorite documents. Outside of the Abstract of Principles (SBTS) and the London Baptist Confessions, no other statement of faith captures the theology of the Bible better than the WCF. The WCF is a doxological exposition of the Christian faith. The confession of faith is accompanied by two catechisms designed to bring children up in the Lord. The Shorter Catechism famously states:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
I know of no other statement that shows the true nature of the Christian’s salvation and life better than this statement. The fact that we exist not for our own glory/honor but that we have been created and indeed saved by the grace of God in Christ for His glory. The cross is not intended to make much of us, but much of God. God’s glory, though, is not the antithesis to our happiness. Instead, God’s glory is best seen in our enjoying of God and His glory forever. The question does ask what are the chief “ends” of man and yet there appear to be two ends given in the answer. The Westminster divines were not giving two ends but one end: God’s glory is best shown in the believer’s enjoying God for God’s sake. In other words, God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. It is the glory of God that satisfies our souls, showing Him to be supremely valuable.
Unfortunately this sentiment and even this confession have fallen on hard times. This age is no friend to theocentric theology (which seems redundant to even write). It is has been said that the chief end of man is not to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Loving God is replaced as the highest good of the human. I would like to suggest that how you answer the question, “What is the chief end of man?,” is telling on how you view God. Who is God for, primarily? What makes the gospel good news to you? I’d like to show that Bible stands with the WSC (better yet the catechism stands on the Bible) and that our main end is glorifying God by enjoying Him forever.
Created/Recreated for the Glory of God
God doesn’t need us. He didn’t create us because he was lonely. Whatever reason you think God created the Earth is quite telling of your doctrine of God. As Matt Chandler said, “Why wouldn’t God want us? A bunch of lying, cheating, stealing, idolatrous people.” We were not created for an equal partnership with God. God created the world to the praise of His glory. Edwards put it so wonderfully when it he said,”It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain that is inclined to overflow.” God has been ever-blessed for all eternity with the Godhead. God satisfies Himself. His sufficiency is not determined by external factors. God is not served by human hands (Acts 17:25).
God created the world and takes delight in it. But Psalm 19 tells us that all creation is pointing to the glory of God. Colossians 1:16 says that all things were created by Christ. That seems fine enough, as most would agree. But the end of the verse says that all things were not only made by Jesus but also for Jesus. All things created find their end in the glory of Jesus. God created humans in His image. Think about the implications of that. What do most highlight when they consider the imago dei? Most say that since we are created in the image of God we have worth and dignity. YES, YES, YES. That is a beautiful truth. We fight abortion with that truth. We love our neighbor with that truth. But something is missed if we only consider that one facet of what it means to be made in the image of God. When we create an image, who are we trying to pay homage to? The person whose likeness the image was created in. Exactly! God has created 7 billion people to reflect His glorious character. God help us that we have not done this. Thanks be to Christ who took our penalty for exchanging the glory of God and has imaged God perfectly on our behalf. So we were created for the glory of God. Isaiah 43:6-7 reads: Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.
It is clear from the Bible that God is radically God centered. The world, humans and even salvation is meant to point back to Himself. Is God a megalomaniac? No, He is holy. God is not an idolater. He has no other God before Himself (Exodus 20:3). God is seen to act, even savingly with His glory in mind (Eph 1:4-6; Isa 43:6-7, 49:3; Ps 25:11, 106:7-8; 2 Sam 7:23, Eze 36:22-23, 32; Mat 5:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, and the list could continue). “Our lives exist for the glory of Jesus Christ alone,” to put it how Lecrae does. If our lives and salvation, if God Himself, are for God’s glory ultimately, it stands to reason that the chief end of man is to glorify God. Indeed it is the chief end of God to glorify God. We will see in the next section that God has not chosen to glorify His name at the expense of our joy.
Enjoying the Greatest Joy Imaginable
The WSC is aiming at a doctrine of affections. Namely, that God is see to be great when we esteem Him great in our affections. You cannot love God if you do not adore Him. If He is not your greatest pleasure, you do not know Him. It is impossible to love without enjoying. How do you love your friends? Do you not enjoy them? The question is raised as to wether this is selfish on our part. But this is Christian Hedonism, not philosophical hedonism. Our joy is not an end but a means to the end of God’s glory. We come to God and in our coming to God we are satisfied by Him. God is our rock and our portion (Psalm 73:25-26). God satisfied us (Isa 26:8). We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8)!
It is in this treasuring of Christ that God is seen to be supremely valuable. Think of Paul in Philippians alone. Philippians 1:20-21 says, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” It is Paul’s hope that Christ would be honored/magnified/glorified in his life or death. We magnify Christ, not make him be or seem more glorious than he is, but to show Him to be supremely valuable. He goes on to explain in verse 21. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Christ will be magnified in Paul’s life because to live in Christ. Knowing Christ is the end goal of his life (3:8). Paul wants nothing more than to be found righteousness in Christ, to know Him and magnify Him forever. This is what makes Philippians 4:13 so profound. Christ is Paul’s life and so it matters very little what goes on around him. In poverty and abasement, Christ is sufficient. In wealth and prosperity, Christ is sufficient. Even to die is gain! How un-human is that?! Naturally we cling to this life. But Paul knows His life is hidden with Christ (Col 3:3). He knows that Jesus is His treasure and that on the other side of defeated-by-Christ-death is fullness of joy. If God’s presence brings fullness of temporal joy now (Ps 16:11), then imagine when we do not see through a sin-darkened lens (1 Cor 13:12). Then face to face, seeing Christ “through some real eyes” (Thanks Trip Lee and 1 John 3:2).
The climax of history is Revelation 5:8-14. Read this, it’s unbelievable:
The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
This is the heaven we are being groomed for: a place where Christ is supremely magnified by the praise of ransomed sinners. The work of Christ on the cross never gets old in glory. On this day, the end for which God created the world will be realized and that will only begin the eternal joy of God’s people. God’s glory can never be exhausted and our joy will never run out. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him; now and then perfectly for all eternity. May we pursue God, not just as savior and Lord but treasure too. God’s glory is our ultimate end and our greatest joy. May God grant us the eyes to see this as good news. I want my heart to truly cry out: “soli deo gloria.” Glory be to God alone. He won’t give His glory to another (Isa 42:8) and that is the source of our rejoicing.
Rejoicing with you as we have been enabled to make much of Christ,