Q2: What is the chief end of God?
A: God’s chief end is to glorify himself and enjoy himself forever
The second question of our catechism continues to ask questions, not about us, but about God. It might seem unnecessary to ask a question about God’s main purpose, his “chief end”, but we don’t think so. If God is the first and most important being, then he is also the one whom we ought to desire to know more than anyone else. We want to know who he is and what he wants. And in question 1, we look at who he is, and so in question 2, we look at what he wants. What does God want most? To glorify and enjoy himself.
What that means is that God wants to make himself known as the greatest and most wonderful being. In effect, what God enjoys doing most, is showing that he is the first and best of beings (see question 1). He wants to display himself as the amazing treasure that he is. And so, his greatest pleasure is to glorify himself.
Now, you might be thinking that for God to have that as his chief goal sounds kindof selfish, but it’s not, and there are at least two reasons why.
First, if God made it his aim to glorify someone else more than himself, he wouldn’t be God. If God didn’t acknowledge that he is the “first and best of beings”, if he instead chose to glorify someone or something else more than himself, then he would be saying that the thing he chose to glorify more than himself was more glorious than himself. In order for him to be completely truthful, he must acknowledge the truth that he is supremely glorious. And so he does this – he says through his actions and words that there is no one greater than him. It’s not selfish for him to do this, it’s simply stating the truth and acting in accordance with it. God isn’t an egomaniac, he is utterly committed to speaking the truth and loving the truth and acting in accordance with the truth. But, there is yet another reason why it’s not selfish for God to seek to display his glory.
The second reason is specifically related to human beings. People might be tempted to say that God should not put himself first, but instead put others first, and therefore not seek to make much of himself, but to make much of others. Well, this would again become a problem for the first reason given – God would by saying through his actions that something else is more worthy of honor and praise than he is. But, even more than that, it is actually loving for God to display his glory to us. Consider it for a moment, if knowing and experiencing God is the greatest thing you could ever know or experience, then for God to make himself known is the most wonderful thing he could ever do. For him to display what an amazing and wonderful treasure he is actually brings us great joy. So, by God working to glorify himself, he is also working to bring us joy! Far from it being selfish of God to make much of himself and display himself as supremely glorious, it is giving of God. It’s as if God is a fountain – if he were to keep himself from us, if he were to not tell us that he is the most wonderful treasure, then we would be deprived of the “waters of joy” that he overflows with. It is more loving for him to make his glory known to us than to glorify someone else more than himself.
So, both because it would make God cease to be God (by not telling and acting in line with the truth), and because it would be supremely unloving to keep himself from us, it is right for God to make his supreme goal to glorify and enjoy himself.
And this is in line with what scripture shows us:
Romans 11:36 -For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.
Psalm 115:3 – Our God is in the heavens, and he does all that he pleases.
Psalm 135:6 – Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
Psalm 104:31 – May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works
Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim his handiwork
I hope you can see that it is clear from scripture that God is deeply committed to displaying his glory, for his joy. And this is not selfish, but loving and true and right for him to do!
(for a fuller explanation of how it’s loving for God to show us his glory, you can listen to this sermon)