This morning we come to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The question is:
What is the Chief End Of Man?
Our study of this question is adapted from a Sermon by Thomas Watson
What is our main purpose in life? What is the main purpose for which you and I were created?
The wonderful answer to that question, condensed from the teaching of Scripture is that:
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
And so here we have specified two ends, two main purposes of life.
1: The glorifying of God and
2: The enjoying of God.
This morning will focus our attention on the first purpose,
I. The glorifying of God.
The Apostle Peter in his first letter states that gifts , talents, must he used “in order that God in all things may be glorified.” (1 Pet 4:11) The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. God’s clear command is this: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31)
Everything tends to a certain end in natural as well as man made things; now, man being a rational creature, must aim at some end, some purpose for himself, and that aim should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the purpose of his living. The great truth is solemnly affirmed, that the aim of every man’s life should be to glorify God in all the persons in the Trinity; it has to do with God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Spirit, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity.
When we speak of God’s glory, the natural question that follows is,
Q. What are we to understand by God’s glory?
There is a twofold glory:
[A1] First, the glory that God has in himself, his intrinsic glory.
In the same way that light is essential to the sun, Glory is essential to the Godhead: he is called the “God of Glory.” (Acts 7:2). Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is so natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it. By contrast, the honour that Man has is not part of his very being. For example, a king is simply a man when his regal ornaments, when his crown and royal robes are taken away; but God’s glory is such an essential part of his being, that he cannot be God without it. God’s very life lies in his glory. This glory cannot increase, because it is infinite; it is that which God is most protective of, and which he will not part with. Isaiah writes “My glory I will not give to another.” (Is 48:11)
God will give temporal blessings to his children, such as wisdom, riches, honour; he will give them spiritual blessings, he will give them grace, he will give them his love, he will give them heaven; but his essential glory he will not give to another. King Pharaoh parted with a ring off his finger to Joseph, and a gold chain, but he would not part with his throne. “Only as regards the throne”, he says, “will I be greater than you.” (Gen 41:40) So God will do much for his people; he will give them the inheritance; he will put some of Christ’s glory, as mediator, upon them; but his essential glory he will not part with; “in the throne he will be greater.”
In the second place we have
[A2] The glory which is ascribed to God, or which his creatures labour to bring to him.
We read in 1 Chronicles “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.” (1 Chron 16:29) And Paul writes to the Corinthians “glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20) The glory we give God is nothing else but our lifting up his name in the world, and magnifying him in the eyes of others that he may be honoured by them. So that they can say like Paul: “Christ will be honored in my body.” (Phil 1:10)
Q. What is it to glorify God?
Glorifying God consists in four things:
This is the yearly due we pay to the crown of heaven.
[A1] First there is Appreciation.
To glorify God is to set God highest in our thoughts, and to have a venerable esteem of him. The Psalmist declares “you, O LORD, are on high forever.” (Ps 92:8) and “you are exalted far above all gods.” (Ps 97:9) There is in God all that may draw forth both wonder and delight; there is a constellation of all beauties; he is the first cause, the original and springhead of being, who sheds a glory upon the creature. We glorify God, when we are God-admirers; admire his attributes, which are the glistening beams by which the divine nature is displayed; his promises which are the charter of free grace, and the spiritual cabinet where the pearl of price is hid; the noble effects of his power and wisdom in making the world, which is called “the work of his fingers.” (Ps 8:3) To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellent, and search for all that is precious in this mine only.
[A2] Second, glorifying God consists in adoration, or worship.
The Psalmist writes “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.” (Ps 29:2)
There are two categories of worship:
(1.) First, a civil reverence which we give to persons of honour.
We read in Genesis that “Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.” (Gen 23:7) And so we learn from this that piety is no enemy to civil courtesy.
(2.) Second, a divine worship which we give to God as his royal privilege.
When Ezra read the law to the people “they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” (Neh 8:6) This divine worship God is very jealous of; it is the apple of his eye, the pearl of his crown; which he guards, as he did the tree of life, with cherubims and a flaming sword, that no man may come near it to abuse it.
And true worship must be such as God himself has appointed, or else it is offering that “unauthorized fire” (Lev 10:1) which the sons of Levi offered and for which they died. The Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle, “after the pattern for them” (Ex 25:40) which he was shown on the mountain. He must not leave out anything in the pattern, nor add to it. If God was so exact and specific about the place of worship, how exact will he be about the matter of his worship! Surely here everything must be according to the pattern prescribed in his word.
[A3] Third, glorifying God consists in reverent Affection for him.
This is part of the glory we give to God, who counts himself glorified when he is loved. One of the ten commandments is “you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5)
There is a twofold love:
(1.) One is a self-centered love,
as when we love another, because he does us some good. A wicked man may be said to love God, because he has given him a good harvest, or filled his cup with wine. This is rather to love God’s blessing than to love God.
(2.) The other is a love of delight,
as a man takes delight in a friend. This is to love God indeed; the heart is set upon God, as a man’s heart is set upon his treasure. This love is exuberant, not a few drops, but a stream. We give God the best of our love, the cream of it. True saints burn in holy love to God. The bride in the Song of Solomon was “sick with love.” (Cant 2:5) And so to love God is to glorify him. He who is the chief of our happiness has the chief of our affections.
[A4] Lastly, glorifying God consists in Subjection to him.
This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and are ever ready to enter his service. In this way the angels in heaven glorify him; they wait on his throne, and are ready to take a commission from him; therefore they are represented by the cherubims with wings deployed, to show how swift they are in their obedience. We glorify God when we are devoted to his service; our head studies for him, our tongue pleads for him, and our hands take care of his members.
The wise men that came to Christ did not only bow the knee to him, but presented him with gold and myrrh. (Matt 2:2, 11) So we must not only bow the knee, give God worship, but bring presents of golden obedience. We glorify God when we hesitate at no service, when we fight under the banner of his gospel against an enemy, and say to him as David to King Saul, “Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” (1 Sam 17:32)
A good Christian is like the sun, which not only radiates heat, but follows its path around the world. In this way, he who glorifies God, does not only have his affections heated with love to God, but he has a path to follow too; he moves vigorously in the sphere of obedience.
This brings us the question of
Q. Why must we glorify God?
[A1] First, because he gives us our being.
The Psalmist says “It is he who made us.” (Ps 100:3) We think it a great kindness in a man to spare our life, but what kindness is it in God to give us our life! We draw our breath from him; and as life, so all the comforts of life are from him. He gives us health, which sweetens our life; and food, which is the oil that nourishes the lamp of life. If all we receive is a gift from him, is it not reasonable we should glorify him? Should we not live to him, seeing we live by him? “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” (Rom 11:36) All we have is of his fullness, all we have is through his free grace; and therefore to him should be all. It follows, therefore, “To him be glory forever.” (Rom 11:36) God is not only our benefactor, but our creator, as rivers formed by rain from the sea empty their silver streams into the sea again.
In the second place, we must glorify him
[A2] Because God has made all things for his own glory.
“The LORD has made everything for its purpose:” (Prov 16:4) that is, “to the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:12) As a king receives a tax out of all that is bought and sold, so God will have glory out of everything. He will have glory out of the wicked. If they will not give him glory, he will get glory over them. “I will get glory over Pharaoh.” (Ex 14:17) He says in Exodus 14. But he has especially made the godly for his glory; they are the active instruments of his praise. “People whom I formed for myself”, he says, “that they might declare my praise.” (Is 43:21) It is true, they cannot add to his glory, but they may exalt it; they cannot raise him in heaven, but they may raise him in the esteem of others here. God has adopted the saints into his family, and made them a royal priesthood, that they should proclaim the excellencies of him who called them. (1 Pet 2:9)
In the third place, we must glorify him
[A3] Because the glory of God has intrinsic value and excellence;
it surpasses the thoughts of men, and the tongues of angels. His glory is his treasure, all his riches lie here; as Micah said “what do I have besides?” (Jdg 18:24 NASB) So, what has God besides? God’s glory is of more worth than heaven, and of more worth than the salvation of all men’s souls. Better kingdoms be thrown down, better men and angels be annihilated, than God should lose one jewel of his crown, one beam of his glory.
In the fourth place, we must glorify him since
[A4] Creatures below us, and above us, bring glory to God; and should we be exempt?
Shall everything glorify God but man? It is a sad thing then that man was ever made.
(1.) Creatures below us glorify God: the inanimate creatures and the heavens glorify God.
“The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Ps 19:1) The amazing workmanship of heaven displays the glory of its Maker; the firmament is beautified and pencilled out in blazing colours, where the power and wisdom of God may be clearly seen. The heavens declare his glory. We may see the glory of God blazing in the sun, and twinkling in the stars. Look into the air, the birds, with their chirping music, sing hymns of praise to God. Every beast in its kind glorifies God. As he says in Isaiah, “the wild beasts will honor me.” (Is 43:20)
(2.) Creatures above us glorify God: the angels are “ministering spirits.” Heb 1:14.
They are still waiting to serve at God’s throne, and do their part to display his glory. Surely man should be much more diligent about God’s glory than the angels since God has honoured him more than the angels, in that Christ took man’s nature upon himself, and not the angels. Though, with respect to creation, God made man “for a little while lower than the angels,” (Heb 2:7), yet with respect to redemption, God has set him higher than the angels. He has married mankind to himself; the angels are Christ’s friends, not his spouse. He has covered us with the purple robe of righteousness, which is a better righteousness than the angels have. If then the angels bring glory to God, much more should we, being dignified with honour above them.
[A5] We must bring glory to God, because all our hopes hang upon him.
The Psalmist says “My hope is in you,” (Ps 39:7) and again “my hope is from him.” I expect a kingdom from him. A good-natured child will honour his parent, by expecting all he needs from him. “All my springs are in you” (Ps 87:7) declares the Psalmist. The silver springs of grace, and the golden springs of glory are in him.
And now we come to another practical and searching question:
Q. In how many ways may we glorify God?
[A1] It is glorifying God when we aim purely at his glory.
It is one thing to advance God’s glory, another thing to aim at it. God must be the ultimate end of all our actions. Thus Christ says “I do not seek my own glory” (John 8:50) and “the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true.“ (John 7:18) A hypocrite has a shifting eye, for he looks more to his own glory than God’s. Our Saviour sees through such people, and gives a warning against them in Matthew 6 “when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you.” (Matt 6:2) A stranger would ask, “What does this trumpet noise mean?” It was answered, “They are going to give to the poor.” And so they did not give gifts, but sell them for honour and applause, that they might have glory from men; the breath of men was the wind that blew the sails of their charity; “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
The hypocrite may update his ledger and write, “payment received in full.” One writer calls vain-glory one of the devil’s great nets to catch men. Another says, “Whom Satan cannot prevail against by intemperance, those he prevails against by pride and vainglory.” And so let us take heed of self-worship! Aim purely at God’s glory.
But that leads us to another question.
Q. How shall we know when we are truly aiming at God’s Glory?
We do this,
(1.) When we prefer God’s glory above all other things;
above the praise of men, worldly possessions, relations. When the glory of God comes into competition with these things, if we prefer his glory before them, this is to aim purely at God’s glory. If relations lie in our way to heaven, we must either leap over them, or tread upon them. A child must unchild himself, and forget he is a child; he must know neither father nor mother in God’s cause, when it comes to obeying God’s clear commands. Moses in his final blessing on Israel blesses Levi “who said of his father and mother, ‘I regard them not’; he disowned his brothers.... For they observed your word and kept your covenant.” (Deut 33:9) This is to aim at God’s glory.
(2.) We aim at God’s glory, when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross ours.
Lord, I am content to be a loser, if you be a gainer; to have less health, if I have more grace, and you more glory. Let it be food or bitter medicine, if you give it to me, Lord, I desire that which may be most for your glory. Our blessed Saviour said, “not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39) If God might have more glory by his sufferings, he was content to suffer. His desire is “Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:28)
(3.) We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem, so that his glory may be increased.
A man that has God in his heart, and God’s glory in his eye, desires that God should be exalted; and if this takes place, no matter by whom it comes about, he rejoices.. As Paul can say to the Philippians “some indeed preach Christ from envy: What then? ... Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” (Phil 1:15) They preached Christ of envy, they envied Paul that gathering of people, and they preached that they might outshine him in gifts, and steal away some of his hearers: well, says Paul, Christ is preached, and God is set to have the glory, therefore I rejoice; let my candle go out, if the Sun of Righteousness may but shine.
And so if the first way we may glorify God is by aiming purely at his glory, in the second place,
[A2] We glorify God by a sincere confession of sin.
The thief on the cross had dishonoured God in his life, but at his death he brought glory to God by confession of sin: He could declare that “we indeed are suffering justly.” (Luke 23:41 NASB) He acknowledged he deserved not only crucifixion, but damnation. A humble confession exalts God. How is God’s free grace magnified in crowning those who deserve to be condemned! The excusing and minimizing of sin casts a reproach upon God.
Adam did not deny that he tasted the forbidden fruit, but, instead of a full confession, he blamed God. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate;” (Gen 3:12) In other words, if you had not given me the woman to be a tempter, I would not have sinned.
Sincere confession glorifies God, because it clears him; it acknowledges that he is holy and righteous, whatever he does. Nehemiah vindicates God’s righteousness. He says “you have been righteous in all that has come upon us.” (Neh 9:33) And a confession is sincere when it is free, not forced. “I have sinned against heaven and before you.” (Luke 15:21) The prodigal charged himself with sin before his father charged him with it.
[A3] We glorify God by believing.
Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” (Rom 4:20) Unbelief insults God, it makes him out to be a liar; The word of the Apostle is “whoever does not believe God has made him a liar.” (1 John 5:10) But faith brings glory to God; it testifies that God is true. (John 3:33) The one who believes runs to God’s mercy and truth, as to a place of refuge; he envelopes himself in the promises, and trusts all he has with God. “Into your hand I commit my spirit” (Ps 31:5) says the Psalmist. This is a great way of bringing glory to God, and God honours faith, because faith honours him.
It is a great honour we do to a man when we trust him with all we have, when we put our lives and estates into his hand; it is a sign we have a good opinion of him. The three friends of Daniel glorified God by believing. “Our God whom we serve,” they said “is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” (Dan 3:17) Faith knows there is nothing impossible with God, and will trust him where it cannot trace him.
In the fourth place,
[A4] We glorify God, by being concerned for his glory.
God’s glory is as dear to him as the apple of his eye. A sincere child weeps to see a disgrace done to his father. The Psalmist cries out “the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” (Psa 69:9) When we hear God reproached, it is as if we were reproached; when God’s glory suffers, it is as if we suffered. This is to be concerned for God’s glory.
[A5] We glorify God by fruitfulness.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” (John 15:8) As it is dishonouring God to be barren, so fruitfulness honours him. Paul prays that the Philippians may be “filled with the fruit of righteousness ... to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:11) We must not be like the fig tree in the gospel, which had nothing but leaves, but like the lemon tree, that is continually either mellowing or blossoming, and is never without fruit. It is not profession, but fruit that glorifies God.
God expects to have his glory from us in this way. “Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? (1 Cor 9:7) Trees in the forest may be barren, but trees in the garden are fruitful. We must produce the fruits of love and good works. “Let your light shine before others,” we are told, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16) Faith sanctifies our works, and works testify our faith; to be doing good to others does much to glorify God. In this way Christ glorified his Father; “he went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38)
By being fruitful, we are pleasant in God’s eyes. Jeremiah writes “the LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’” (Jer 11:16) And we must bear much fruit; it is an abundance of fruit that glorifies God: we are told to “bear much fruit.” (John 15:8) Though the lowest degree of grace may bring salvation to you, yet it will not bring much glory to God. It was not a spark of love Christ commended in Mary, but much love; Our Lord’s description of her is that “she loved much.” (Luke 7:47)
[A6] We glorify God, by being contented in that state in which Providence has placed us.
We give God the glory of his wisdom, when we rest satisfied with what he carves out to us. In this way did Paul glorify God. The Lord cast him into as great a variety of conditions as any man, “with... far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death,” (2 Cor 11:23) yet he had learned to be content. Paul could sail either in a storm or a calm; he could be anything that God would have him; he could be content in either “plenty or hunger.” (Phil 4:12)
A good Christian speaks to himself in this way: “It is God that has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased, but that might have been a snare to me: he has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition.” Surely this glorifies God much; God counts himself much honoured by such a Christian. Here, says God, is one after my own heart; let me do what I will with him, I hear no murmuring, he is content. This shows abundance of grace. When grace is in plenty, it is not so difficult to be content; but when grace is in conflicting with inconveniences, then to be content is a glorious thing indeed.
For one to be content when he is in heaven is no wonder; but to be content under the cross is like a Christian. This man is bringing glory to God; for he shows to all the world, that though he has little of the comforts of this world, yet he has enough in God to make him content: he says, as David in Psalm 16, ”The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; ... The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” (Ps 16:5)
[A7] We glorify God by working out our own salvation.
God has twisted together his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; in this way his free grace is displayed, and God has the glory of his mercy; so that, while we are endeavouring for our salvation, we are honouring God.
What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory. Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, You will honour and please me very much, if you will go to such and such a mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away? So, for God to say, Go to my stores, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I will count myself glorified.
In the eight place,
[A8] We glorify God by living to God.
Paul can write “That those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died,” (2 Cor 5:15) and “if we live, we live to the Lord.” (Rom 14:8) The Miser lives to his money, the Epicure lives to his belly; the goal of a sinner’s life is to gratify his lusts, but we glorify God when we live to God.
We live to God when we live to his service, and lay ourselves out wholly for God. The Lord has sent us into the world, as a merchant sends his representative beyond the seas to trade for him. We live to God when we work to promote his interest, and propagate his gospel. God has given every man a talent; and when a man does not hide it in a napkin, but makes use of it for God, he lives to God.
When a father in a family, by counsel and good example, labours to bring his children to Christ; when a minister spends himself, and is spent, that he may win souls to Christ, and add to the crown which graces Christ’s head; when the magistrate does not wear the sword in vain, but labours to cut down sin, and to suppress vice; this is to live to God, and this is glorifying God. That “Christ,” Paul wrote, “will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil 1:20) Paul had three wishes, and they were all about Christ; that he might be found in Christ, be with Christ, and honour Christ.
[A9] We glorify God by walking cheerfully.
It brings glory to God, when the world sees a Christian has that within him that can make him cheerful in the worst times; The people of God have good reason to be cheerful. They are justified and adopted, and this creates inward peace; it makes music within, whatever storms are without. (2 Cor 1:3-11, 1 Thess 1:6) If we consider what Christ has brought about for us by his blood, and brought about in us by his Spirit, it is a ground of great cheerfulness, and this cheerfulness glorifies God.
It reflects upon a overseer when the subordinate is always drooping and sad; for sure he is being overworked; his overseer is not giving him what is fitting; so, when God’s people hang their heads, it looks as if they did not serve a good master, or have repented of their choice, which reflects dishonour on God.
As the flagrant sins of the wicked bring a scandal on the gospel, so do the un-cheerful lives of the godly. “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps 100:2) says the Psalmist. Your serving him does not glorify him, unless it is with gladness. A Christian’s cheerfulness glorifies God; religion does not take away our joy, but refines it; it does not break our signing, but tunes it, and makes the music sweeter.
[A10] We glorify God, by standing up for his truths.
Much of God’s glory lies in his truth. God has entrusted us with his truth, as a master entrusts his servant with his purse to keep. We have not a richer jewel to trust God with than our souls, nor has God a richer jewel to trust us with than his truth. Truth is a beam of light that shines from God. Much of his glory lies in his truth.
When we are advocates for truth we glorify God. Jude appeals to his readers that they would “contend earnestly for the faith.” (Jude 1:3 NASB) The Greek word for contend means great contending, as one would contend for his land, and not allow it to be taken from him; so we should contend for the truth. Were there more of this holy contention, God would have more glory. Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies, but not for the truth. We should count him foolish that would contend more for a picture than for his inheritance; for a box of dominos than for his box of title deeds.
[A11] We glorify God, by praising him.
Doxology, or praise, is a God-exalting work. “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; (2) sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!” (Ps 66:1) exclaims the Psalmist. Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display the trophies of his excellence. In this way the angels glorify him; they are the choristers of heaven, and continually sing forth his praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men; in praise we act like angels.
Believers are called “God’s temple.” (1 Cor 3:16) When our tongues are praising him, it is as if the grand organ in God’s spiritual temple is sounding. How sad is it that God has no more glory from us in this way! Many are full of murmuring and discontent, but seldom bring glory to God, by giving him the praise due to his name. We read in Revelation of the saints having harps in their hands, the emblems of praise. (Rev 15:2) Let us honour God this way.
Lastly, as we come to a close this morning,
[A12] We glorify God, by being zealous for his name.
We read in Numbers: “Phinehas ... has turned back my wrath..., in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them.” (Num 25:11) Phinehas is the priest in Numbers chapter 25 who, when he saw an open act of rebellion being committed against God, took a spear in hand and immediately put the offenders to death. Zeal is a mixed affection, a combination of love and anger; it displays our love to God, and our anger against sin in an intense degree. Zeal cannot stand to see God dishonoured; a Christian fired with zeal, takes a dishonour done to God worse than an injury done to himself. Revelation says of a believer that he “cannot bear with those who are evil.” In this way, our Saviour Christ glorified his Father when he drove the money-changers out of the temple. On this account the disciples remembered that it was written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)