Q2: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him forever
We come now to the third question in our catechism, and if you are familiar with other catechisms, you will notice a couple things.
First, this is the first question in many catechisms, including the Westminster shorter and larger ones, instead of the third question. Also, you’ll notice that it’s slightly changed from it’s original formulation. The answer in older catechisms says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God AND enjoy him forever.” So, why the change?
I’ll answer about the first change now, and then as I explain the answer itself, hopefully the answer to the second question will be seen.
Why did we not start with this question? Simply, because we believe there are other things that are more necessary to consider before we consider this. This question implies things that we wanted to make explicit. For example, it implies that God is the best being in existence because he is worthy of a person’s full love and service. And it also implies that God’s purpose is in line with our purpose, because, as I said in the last post, for God not to work for his own glory would say something else deserves glory more than he does. So, because we wanted to state both of those things explicitly instead of them remaining implicit, we placed this question third. Now, on to the explanation of this question.
There are two parts to this answer, though I hope to show why that’s only true in one sense and not in another shortly.
So, first it’s important to see that man’s chief end is to glorify God, and we can prove this in multiple ways.
First, human beings are made in the image of God – meaning this: we are supposed to reflect God. We are supposed to live our lives in such a way that people would look at us and see what God is like. This is why, for example, we are called to live in a way that as people see our good works, they don’t glorify us, but glorify God (Matt 5:16). Now, if this is true, then we should be living our lives the way God lives his life – with his glory being our chief end, because it is his chief end. Thus, man’s chief end is to image God – meaning to glorify him.
Second, we can see this chief end in the nature of salvation. God sent his son, Jesus, into the world, into to save sinners. The gospel is good news about what Jesus has done to save us, and the gospel is news that is to be given to all people (Matt 28:19-20). Of course, all may not accept this news, but any who hear it are commanded to repent and believe it. So, there is a universal nature to the gospel that shows us something about the very nature of mankind. If God is commanding that the gospel be proclaimed to all people, and is commanding all who hear it to repent and believe it, then whatever the purpose of the gospel may be would apply to all people. And Paul, in Ephesians 1:11-12, tells us that the reason we were saved was so that we might “be” or “exist” to the praise of God’s glory.
In him we were also chosen as God’s own, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, would BE for the praise of his glory.
Man’s chief end, therefore, is to “exist” for God’s glory.
Third and finally, it is the clear theme of scripture that all things would find their chief end in the glory of God, including humans. The heavens exist to declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1), we are commanded in ALL we do to “glorify God” (1 Cor 10:31), and Paul says that from him and through him and to him are ALL things (Romans 11:36). All things exist for his glory, and thus, we exist for his glory.
So I hope you can see that for many different reasons, man’s chief end is to glorify God. But, right here is where the reason for the change in the answer from the old catechisms becomes apparent.
The original answer says “man’s chief END” is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. One end, but two answers. Why is that? Well, it would be my contention that if you were to spend very much time reading the works of the reformers and puritans, you would see that they believed that EITHER answer is the right answer. To say “man’s chief end is to enjoy God forever” would be right, as would “man’s chief end is to glorify God.” Why is this? Because glorifying and enjoying God are actually the same thing! This is why it’s one “end”, answered two different ways, and I want to show this in a few different ways as well, but first, I need to give you a definition of “glory”.
I will do that, and finish explaining our answer…in my next post.