The Chief Aim

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The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a document written between 1646 and 1647 by theologians in the Church of England.   It was designed to bring the Church of England and the Church of Scotland into greater conformity.

It reads simply: “Man’s chief aim is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

As I comment on the use of thankful prayers in the book The God Who Hears I would also like to comment on this famous document that gives Christian life a focus. The words give all of us a reason for living; obviously it is to glorify God.

The catechism begs the question. Why do we need to glorify God? W. Bingham Hunter says the obvious answer is that “God is to be glorified simply because of the splendor and perfection of His own nature and character. He is personally worth it.”

Then he says that there are three other reasons.

First of all, we should glorify God because we exist. God did not have to make you or me but He did. Even though we all go through hard times, it is far better to exist than not to exist at all.   Hunter cites Scripture from Revelation 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.” To glorify God in this circumstance means we are thankful to be alive.

Secondly, we should glorify God because He made us in His image with individual personalities, unique abilities and the capacity to think and communicate.  We have all this but we also have a great deal more.   In Psalms it says “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet.” Therefore God is seen in our lives, in nature, the sun and rain, the seasons, human nature and history [Hunter, 112]. The Apostle Paul gives a clear answer about how man is to glorify God in the words: “In Him you live, move and exist.”

Finally, Christians should glorify God because of the covenant relationship we have with Him. He not only made us and has given us so much, He also loves us. He sent his Son to redeem us from the penalty of our sins and by Jesus’ blood and the power of the Holy Spirit that resides in all of us, God has become our Father. Hunter uses capital letters to emphasize what we have become because of this covenantal relationship: “A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION.”

Now one would think that the three previous reasons are reasons enough to glorify God but let’s return to the catechism that opened this post and let’s examine it closely. It says “man’s chief aim” is number one, to glorify God and number two, to enjoy Him forever. Grammatically if one has two of something it would be proper to says aims instead of aim. In the statement it implies that glorification and joy go hand in hand.   They are one and the same.

To extend this even more, what may be implied is that if you glorify God, you will also enjoy Him. Joy in this life is within our grasp if we could just learn to live a life that is devoted to God.   Again, the Apostle Paul says in First Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” From the most complex of human behavior to the most mundane, honor God in all that you do and you will be able to enjoy Him forever.

What more can a Christian want?

Indeed, we do have a lot to be thankful for.

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