Thursday, February 25, 2010

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1

Question and answer:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: The chief end of man is to glorify God[1], and to enjoy him forever.[2]

Reference Scriptures (taken from New Revised Standard Version):


Psalm 86:
1Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
   for I am poor and needy.
2Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
   save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; 3be gracious to me, O Lord,
   for to you do I cry all day long.
4Gladden the soul of your servant,
   for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
   abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
6Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
   listen to my cry of supplication.
7In the day of my trouble I call on you,
   for you will answer me.

8There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
   nor are there any works like yours.
9All the nations you have made shall come
   and bow down before you, O Lord,
   and shall glorify your name.
10For you are great and do wondrous things;
   you alone are God.
11Teach me your way, O Lord,
   that I may walk in your truth;
   give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
   and I will glorify your name for ever.
13For great is your steadfast love towards me;
   you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14O God, the insolent rise up against me;
   a band of ruffians seeks my life,
   and they do not set you before them.
15But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16Turn to me and be gracious to me;
   give your strength to your servant;
   save the child of your serving-maid.
17Show me a sign of your favor,
   so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
   because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Isaiah 60:21:
21Your people shall all be righteous;
   they shall possess the land for ever.
They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands,
   so that I might be glorified.

Romans 11:36:
36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

1 Corinthians 6:20:
20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 10:31:
31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

Revelation 4:11:
11‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
   to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
   and by your will they existed and were created.’


Psalm 16:5-11:
5The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
   you hold my lot.
6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
   I have a goodly heritage.

7I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
   in the night also my heart instructs me.
8I keep the Lord always before me;
   because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
   my body also rests secure.
10For you do not give me up to Sheol,
   or let your faithful one see the Pit.

11You show me the path of life.
   In your presence there is fullness of joy;
   in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 144:15:
15Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;
   happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

Isaiah 12:2:

2Surely God is my salvation;
   I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
   he has become my salvation.

Luke 2:10:
10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people

Philippians 4:4:
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Revelation 21:3-4:
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’ 


The question deals with the chief end of man. What exactly do we mean by this question? The question deals with the very purpose of man. We are asking a question that should shape the foundations of our very lives. Our answer is what we are created for, our one, pure purpose. It is the essence of all we should aim for, it is what all of our designs should be laid upon, it is to be the root of all of our desires, our seeking, our passions. It gives us direction for all that we should obtain in life, and the method by which our happiness is obtained. We are asking "What principle should shape every meditation of our heart and lie at the root of every thought?"

Our answer takes two parts. Part one states that our chief end is to glorify God. In order to do so, we must, first and foremost, have this as the root of all of our desires, making all further things subordinate to this. Though it is true that God will obtain glory from all things, it is the purpose of man, so created, to seek, in all of the meditations of his heart, the words of his mouth, and the works of his hands to bring glory to God. We do this by putting God in his proper place: first. This should be reflected in our thoughts, our conduct, our relationships with others. It has been said that "Who we are is God's gift to us. What we make of ourselves is our gift to God." All things which we do should be done to the glory of, and in praise of, God. The hymnist Brian Wren gives us the elegant line, with proper prioritization "We'll live and speak his praise". Saint Francis poignantly states "Preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words." As we are made in the image of God, so too should we seek to image God.

Part two states that the chief end of man is also to enjoy God forever. It truly is a pleasure to be in service to God and to act in concert with the intention of our creator. Finding enjoyment in God does not mean merely enjoying God when blessings are readily apparent, but in taking joy in God as he is, for what he is. All too often, we confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is purely circumstantial and is dependent on what happens to us at the time. God, however, is not circumstantial, but ever present, and unchanging. Rather, we, as Christians, should seek to rejoice in God for who and what God is. We should seek to serve not on the promise of reward at a later time. The reward comes now, from serving with a heart of gratitude for all that God has done, and for the grace we so freely receive yet do not deserve. The reward has already been given. All that remains is to take active joy in it now, and experience the joy it is to serve God because he is just, righteous, and loving.

In dedicating ourselves to these principles, we can find a life of continuous joy, and take further joy in the reward which is to come. Through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, with the grace and mercy that stem from it, God's chosen sacrifice from us is praise alone. In itself, that is a gracious choice and a testament to the love of God. It is not in itself alone enough to give praise to God. Rather, we should, as Christians seek always to be praise to God.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo sir...I really enjoyed the happiness vs. joy discussion. Good word.