Q: “What is the chief end of man?”
A: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
This is the first question and answer in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Many saints have used this confession since the late 1700s when it was written. However, this thought is not new to the Church. Since the arrival of Jesus, and before, the question of what is the purpose of mankind has always been asked. People have long asked questions such as the following:
- Why are we here?
- What is our purpose?
- Why were we created?
John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Chief End of Man
In John 15, Jesus is speaking of his character in what is commonly known as the “I AM” statements. Jesus says that he is the vine in which life and sustenance is given. The vine is the source by which the fruit receives nutrition and can grow. A fruit that falls off the vine too early will not survive. The fruit must stay connected to the vine in order to grow and form in the way it was created. The way we are fed and the way we stay connected to the vine is by abiding in Jesus, because He is the one who will be our source of joy and sustenance.
What does it mean to abide? Jesus goes on to say, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” (John 15:7). The source which we are to abide in is Jesus himself. The character of Jesus, the works of Jesus, the humility of Jesus, the promises of Jesus, and many more are what we are to live in. It is not merely just remembering, but also that we are to obey Jesus.
Abiding does not mean sitting around basking in the rays of sunshine, taking all that it gives us. Instead, it is actively living in the way Jesus called us to live by obeying the commands of the Lord. To that as God intends, we must grow in our holiness and strive to live in love with those around us. A true sign that we are abiding in Jesus properly is that God’s Word will be abiding in us. We will be meditating upon God’s Word. When troubling times come, we are able to find comfort in the Word of God – which we should be consuming on a regular basis.
Abiding in God means that we are living in obedience and submission to Jesus as Lord over our lives. We are fleeing from sin and running toward righteousness. What is our purpose, and what were we created for? To glorify God and to enjoy him. We glorify God by living in obedience to him, and we enjoy him by abiding in him.
Chief Joy of Man
We began with the question from the Westminster Confession, but I want us to think of another question. What is the chief joy of man? What is it that brings us the most joy? What we delight in, and what does our heart crave over everything else? While we were created to glorify God and enjoy him, we cannot miss the part that God himself is our supreme joy. We were created with a supernatural affection for God. Sin taints that affection within us and our hearts, being sinful, try to tell us otherwise. But, if the creator of our souls created us to glorify him to enjoy him, our ultimate joy must be him.
It is easy during times of suffering and confusion to be conflicted with joy. We struggle with happiness, contentment, and trust. However, our hearts crave that which cannot change and will never do evil. The character of God is what we need. His Word reveals himself so that we can find salvation. Prayer gives us access to him so that we can enjoy his presence. We cannot not find lasting joy in anything but God. Isaiah 61:10-11:
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.”
With everything going on around us, we have the sure anchor of the vine (Jesus) if we abide in him. In my backyard, there is a large oak tree that has been there for many years. I am pretty sure the tree is dead, which makes it scary during storms. However, there are massive vines wrapped around that might be just as old as the tree. They are thick and strong. They wrap around the tree, and I have confidence that is what is holding the tree together and upright. During times of chaos and uncertainty, we are connected to a vine like no other. Nothing will steal God’s people from his grasp. Nothing can overcome the Body of Christ. God’s people will be held tightly, and the Church will be held upright. The secret formula? Abide in him.
Each of us longs for the day that we have no more sin and suffering. One day pandemics and viruses will be extinct. The absence of sickness and suffering is not our greatest joy. Our greatest joy is the face of God. When we meet God face to face, we will experience the greatest joy our lives were created for. Our faces will be glowing! Brothers and sisters, take refuge in abiding in the vine. The Heidelberg Confession of Faith question and answer one states:
Q: “What is our only hope in life and death?”
A: “That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”