This is my first blog post for 1646 Covenanters. With that in mind, let’s begin by thinking about the first question of the The Westminster Confession of Faith Shorter Catechism. Q.1 What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Simple enough for even a child to understand. How do I know a child can understand this? Because I understood it as a child (thanks Mom and Dad). Now, as my daughter, Ruby, (10 months) gets older, I look forward to teaching her the catechism. Part of glorifying God is to bring children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). The covenant that God made with Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Testament church was for the people of God and their children (Acts 2:39). Teaching children the ways of the Lord glorifies God and could not be more of a joy.
Secondly, this question and answer covers the gamut of scripture, creation, and the relationship between God and man. The second scripture proof that accompanies Question 1 is Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” This verse is mind boggling to think about now matter who you are and how sanctified you are in the faith. Did you get that? All things? All the stars in the sky, all the fish in the sea, all the birds in the air, every human being, everything is from him and through him and to him and for his glory.
All the terrible things too? Yes, all the terrible things are for his glory. Though we should not use this truth to give a flippant, unloving response to someone who is dying of cancer, for instance, by saying something like, “Hey man, it’s for God’s glory! Don’t worry about it.” Instead, we should be driving home the truth with these comforting words that the cancer has purpose and that God is with you in the pain. For Jesus knows the pain, the sting, the awful experience of death and suffering (1 Peter 3:18). The purpose is God’s glory and maybe we cannot understand that in the moment of pain and suffering or even death. But, we can understand it, certainly, if there is recovery from the cancer. We can see God’s glory when someone recovers from cancer and is able to help someone else in pain. We can also see God’s glory when a person does not recover, but is glorifying God by trusting in Jesus to their last day.
Another scripture proof with this question is 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This includes suffering. It is easy to feel like the glory of God is nowhere in sight when we suffer. I suffer from Crohn’s disease. I was diagnosed when I was 17 years old and by the time I was 25, I had to have life-saving surgery. The pain was so great before that surgery that I wanted to die. I asked God to let me die. Looking back, that was a pathetic thing to say because that was not for God’s glory, but only for my comfort and ultimately for my glory. God overruled. God kept me alive for now. To God be the glory. All things are for his glory.
Finally, we are to “enjoy him forever.” I recently came back from a beach trip with my youth group from Old Peachtree Presbyterian Church (PCA). The water was clear, the waves were calm, the sun shining, the beach was bright, the kids were laughing, and we were all eating great food and worshipping God in song and the preached word. It was joyful. God was glorified in everything. We enjoyed God in everything. But, you don’t have to go to the beach to enjoy God. In fact, there were many people on that beach who were not enjoying God. Why? Because they did not know him.
The last word in the answer to this catechism question is “forever”. That is, eternal. Jesus uses the word αἰώνιος (aionios) in John 17:3 from where we get the english word “eon” meaning an indefinite amount of time or a very long time. In this verse Jesus sums up the glory of God and the enjoyment of Him. (John 17:3) “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” What is the most glorifying thing you can do? Know God. What is the most enjoyable thing you can do? Know God. How do you know God? The only way to know God is through Jesus Christ whom He has sent. No one, who has truly known God in Jesus Christ, would say, “I used to know God, but I don’t know what happened to Him.” Knowing God is eternal life. It is forever. It is the definition of enjoyment.
It has been said many times by many people, but it bears repeating. The Christian should be the happiest person on earth. If that statement sounds false to you right now, I understand. But, think about what that statement is talking about. If you know God, what or who else do you need to know? The final scripture proof from this catechism comes from Psalm 73:25-28 and sums it up. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But, for me, it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”