In the beginning of His prayer before He laid down His life for those whom the Father had given Him, our Lord Jesus Christ referred to the gift of eternal life in the following way; “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). It is with this in mind that we begin a discussion with the goal of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord God. In other words, our purpose is to know God, to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever.
This purpose can be found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. For example, He expressed his own desire and purpose to the Philippians in this way. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”(Philippians 3:7-11). Furthermore he exhorted the Corinthians that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
I found it interesting that Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, expressed this purpose in a slightly different way at the beginning of his Confessions (written in the form of a prayer). In chapter one we read “Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resists the proud: yet would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou awake us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it finds rest in Thee. Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee? and, again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? for he that knows Thee not, may call on Thee as other than Thou art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we may know Thee? but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? and they that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find Him, and they that find shall praise Him. I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.”
Over a millennium later, during the Protestant Reformation, a number of books of instruction on the Christian faith (called catechisms) were produced that reflect this thinking. Here are three examples.
- The first question in the Geneva Catechism asks; “What is the purpose of life?” It provides a great answer that reflects the teaching of John Calvin recorded in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. The answer is “To know God by whom men were created.”
- In a similar manner, in question 6 in the Heidelberg Catechism, after addressing the effects of the fall of our first parents asks; “Did God create man thus wicked and perverse?” The answer beginnings with a simple “No” and then proceeds to teach that “but God created man good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness; that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.”
- Finally in question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, on the purpose of life we find a reflection on the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 10:31) in this way; “What is man’s primary purpose? Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.
I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and interaction on this great matter.
Pastor Michael Voytek