Q. What is the chief end of man?Westminster Shorter Catechism
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
Why do human beings ultimately exist? To give God glory and delight in him. Christians who have been in the faith for some time have a sense of this, understanding that we are supposed to do all things for God’s glory (1 Cor 10:31). I wonder if we understand what that means. How do we glorify God?
Thomas Watson (1620–1686), an English Puritan pastor, wrote about this in his classic work A Body of Divinity (one of my all-time favorites that I commend to you to read devotionally). He says that glorifying God consists of four things:
1. Appreciation. We glorify God with our minds when we set him highest in our thoughts. We are to admire him in his attributes, promises, wisdom, and beauty. We see this time and again in the Psalms, as the writers simply reflect on the greatness and goodness of God. Watson says, “To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellent, and to search for diamond in this rock only.”
2. Adoration. Appreciation of God gives way to adoration, that is, worshiping him as the most excellent God. We glorify God when we worship him as the only true God and the one who is alone worthy of such celebration. We adore God in that we refuse to worship any other created or imaginary thing.
3. Affection. We glorify God with our hearts when we love him. In obedience to the greatest commandment (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37-40), we love God with all we are and we love him for all that he is. We love him first, most, and best. We do not primarily love God for his blessings, but we love him for himself. In doing so we are glorifying and enjoying him. We are to delight in loving him. Says Watson, “He who is the chief of our happiness has the chief of our affections.”
4. Subjection. We glorify God with our bodies when we obey and serve him. We glorify God in our full allegiance to him. We bow our heads and knees before him, and offer up our hands to whatever work he demands. We dedicate ourselves to him and stand ready at his service (2 Tim. 2:3-4). His word is the defining standard for our lives and all our opinions, experiences, and preferences submit to it. Anything in us that does not conform to God’s will must go. Glorify God by joyfully submitting to him who is the most wise, good, and trustworthy Lord.
In addition to Watson’s four items, I would add a fifth:
5. Proclamation. God is glorified when all his excellencies are proclaimed throughout the world. Let our gospel proclamation be a God-glorifying exercise in practice. Do not only focus on man’s need, but also the glory of Christ. The gospel does not end with a bloody cross and sinners forgiven. The gospel is also death conquered by an empty tomb; it is Satan bound; it is all authority in every realm in the hands of Jesus (Matt. 28:16); it is a crown upon the King who rules forever against every foe, and a kingdom that cannot be shaken. God is glorified when we let the world know about his Son, and invite them to glorify him too.
Glorify God, and enjoy him in these ways.