The Purpose of and for Life: Part I
Who is Man?
Introduction: This three-part series addresses God’s answers for the purpose of and for life by asking and answering who is man and who is God. Greek philosophers who were unbelievers headed the quest for man’s dignity by asking the question: the purpose of and for life. They did not have the right answer because they had false theology and the wrong starting point. To answer the question: the purpose of and for life we must begin with the Author and Giver of life (Acts 3:15; 17:24-29).
The term purpose seems simple enough. It refers to the reason or reasons that something is or is not done. It refers to goal, design, and intention. The term is comprehensive in nature. Purpose is part of the existence of every aspect of creation both animate and inanimate. Practically, it is accepted that everyone has purpose. Every morning begins with purpose – getting out of bed or not getting out of bed. Getting out of bed is only the beginning of the day of purpose. Even if a person says he has no purpose, he has undermined himself because the declaration of no purpose is a purpose! The idea of purpose flows from and perhaps defines the creed by which a person lives. Purpose and the standard for it are linked.
How is it possible that every being has purpose? Purpose and life are linked. The answer to the question: the purpose of and for life is really quite simple but the answer is profound. The answer rests on the reality that God is the purposeful Creator. God is purposeful and delights in His purpose because He delights in Himself. He has purpose such that His creatures and His creation have purpose. It is the very nature of creation to have purpose. Several purposes for creation are given in the Psalms: 19:1-4: the heavens declare the glory of God; 50:6: the heavens proclaim God’s righteousness; 89:5-6: the heavens praise God’s majesty, wonder, and faithfulness; 97:6; the heavens proclaim God’s glory and righteousness. Moreover, creation awaits and groans eagerly and expectantly the second coming of Christ and the redemption of man (Romans 8:19-22).
Man also has a purpose and also a delight. Man is the image bearer of God. Since God is purposeful, man is purposeful. Since God delights in Himself and His purpose, man should delight in God and His purpose. God’s purpose and delight is to be man’s purpose and delight. God exists for Himself so that His God-ness and glory is manifested to the entire world. Man is to reflect and seek God’s glory. Psalm 8 increases our understanding of purpose for mankind. David proclaimed God’s majesty in all the earth as he viewed creation (8:1). He moved from creation and the Creator to man in verse 4. After considering creation, David was amazed that God was mindful of, cared for, and put man in a position of honor, majesty, and authority (8:4-6). Man is a reflector. Therefore, one of man’s purposes, and privileges, is to reflect God’s glory.
Even though man is purposeful by God’s creative design, God did not give mankind the right to decide its own purpose. From the Garden on, mankind has had one purpose: to be in the presence of God glorifying and enjoying God forever. Man has a purpose in this life and the next. God determined it. The Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1 captures and summarizes biblical truth that underscores the beauty of man’s purpose for and in life in the following way: The chief end (purpose) of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31; Revelation 21:3-4). The question and answer is simple enough but it is a theological goldmine. It displays God as real, relational, rational, revelational, responsible, religious, and He is present, purposeful, promise-maker, powerful, planner, and provides; in all these, He is active and zealous for His own glory and He will not share it with anyone (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). We can say: He is some kind of God!
The catechism answer presupposes a Creator who loves Himself perfectly and loves His people, former enemies, into His family and kingdom (Romans 5:6-10). The answer looks ahead to man’s fellowship with God eternally, but it also emphasizes a present reality: man’s fellowship with God through union with Christ. As a result, the believer has a foretaste of heaven in this present world (Romans 6:9-10; John 17:1-5, 24-26; 1 John 3:1-3). Resurrection life begins now for the believer.
Just what does resurrection life now mean in terms of mankind’s purpose? Mankind was made for fellowship. Sin destroyed man’s pristine and unblemished position before God and others. Adam and Eve pre-fall had access to God. Initially, they were in the presence of God and did not die. They thought God’s thoughts, desired what God desired, and acted as was they were designed – as prophet (truth proclaimer), priest (sacrificial service), and king (dominion and submission). They were God’s agent in God’s world for His glory and their good. After Adam’s sin and God’s judgment, man continued to rebel as he attempted to change his purpose. As a result, he lived for self, by self, and to self. Even though life was miserable mankind refused to acknowledge that fact (Proverbs13:15b; 26:11; Rom. 1:18-23). Upon regeneration, the believer was brought into God’s kingdom and family. His purpose had changed. However, even though he was in God’s presence the tendency to please self and live for self remained. The Holy Spirit changed the believer (John 3:3-8). His grace continues to change the believer and his purpose: to grow as a believer in Christlikeness in anticipation of eternity and fellowship with God (1John 3:1-3).
1. What is purpose and from where did it originate?
2. Man is not the original. He is a reflector. What is he to reflect and how?
3. Where is Christ now? Study Colossians 3:1-3 to help define purpose.
The Purpose of and for Life: Part II
Who is God?
Another way to answer the question the purpose of and for life is to remember that all of is relational. God created man for fellowship with him – for man to be in the Divine Presence forever. In fact, dwelling in God’s Presence is a major theme of redemptive history that moves from the Garden of Eden to Mount Ararat to Mount Sinai to Calvary and eventually to the New Jerusalem and the new heavens and the new earth (Genesis 1 to Revelation 21-22). Purpose is a key concept throughout redemptive history.
The Biblical narrative documents God’s work of creation, re-creation, and redemption. The Old Testament points to the New Testament and the New Testament points back to the Old Testament. In the Garden of Eden, God was present with Adam and Eve. He walked and talked with them (Gen 3:8a). The Garden was a place of worship, joy, and fellowship with God. It was a place of holiness and the fullness of life. Man’s purpose as image bearer and reflector of God was man’s modus operandi.
Man was created by God, for God as His image bearer. Adam was placed in the Garden with purpose – to worship, to enjoy, and obey God. The three are linked. A right view of God and His glory reflected a right view of man. Adam had a prophetic function (proclaim and live by truth); a priestly function (heartfelt, sacrificial devotion to God), and a kingly function (subduing self and others for the kingdom).
Initially, Adam and Eve were in God’s Presence properly. They were in relationship to God and to each other. God was in right relationship to them. Because of Adam’s first sin and God’s judgment, he and Eve were expelled from the Garden. They lost God’s Divine Presence. This loss is the most devastating fact of human history. Adam was expelled from the Garden never to return to God’s Presence, UNLESS…. We are faced with the dilemma: how is man able to enter God’s Presence? The question is sounded in Psalm 15:1-3 and 24:3-5: who can ascend God’s holy hill? Who can enter in His presence and not die? God is holy and man is not. Adam was exiled out and barred from Eden and God’s Presence because of his rebellion and disobedience. He chose to please himself. The daunting question before all mankind is and will continue to be: can anyone ascend to God and dwell in God’s Presence? The ultimate answer is yes but it is only in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came with a purpose as did the Holy Spirit. Purpose runs throughout redemptive history. The issue is not purpose but whose and how is it accomplish.
The theme (purpose) of God returning to His people and being present intimately covers the pages of the Old Testament but began in eternity past (John 6:37-43; Ephesians1:4-11). After Adam’s exile, man did not change and his corruption was continual and inward. Mankind focused on self at the expense of God and mankind. Mankind corporately and individually moved away from God (Genesis 6:5-7; 8:21). Mankind’s heart was evil.
God ushered in another exile and exodus via the flood. Only a remnant, Noah and his family were saved. They were brought through the waters to Mount Ararat because of God’s presence and His favor on Noah (Genesis 6:8). God favored Noah because God is God. The earth was purged but as a whole, man continued far from God. The redemptive story is one of God fulfilling His original, eternal purpose: bringing man to dwell in the Divine Presence. Only God could bring mankind into His presence. God’s purpose remained even though sin and anti-God-ness had entered into the world. God did not deviate from His initial and eternal redemptive plan. Sin did not destroy it but only highlighted it.
The theme “God with His people” was manifested in Egypt and at the exodus; at Sinai with the giving of the law and the building of the tabernacle (God’s dwelling place); the building of the temple by Solomon (God’s dwelling place); and the coming of the new Israel and the new temple – Jesus Christ (John 2:19-22). Redemptive history is a story of purpose in the context of exile (separation from God) and exodus (a return to God). The New Testament teaches that the ultimate fulfillment of the presence of God on earth was God Himself. The second person of the Trinity incarnated (took on) human flesh and dwelt among His people (John 1:14, 18). Immanuel – God with us – was among His people, initially the nation of Israel (Matthew 1:23). But His own people did not receive Him (John 1:9-11). Even though Israel perceived of Jesus as a loser, God was and did fulfill His purpose through Him. The Triune God continued the work of redemption applied by sending the Holy Spirit. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the promised of the Triune God with a purpose: to complete the work of salvation in individuals and the Church (Isaiah 9:6; 11:1-3; Acts 2 and 15),
Christ’s purpose was to save a people for Himself by bringing them into fellowship and union with the Triune God. As the second Adam, Christ lived according to covenantal faithfulness – He trusted and obeyed motivated by the desire to please His Father. In so doing, His people were ushered into the Divine Presence. He restored man to Eden which was a foretaste of the New Jerusalem and the new heavens and new earth (see Revelation 21:1-7; 22:1-5).
1. As you ponder God’s overarching plan of salvation, question yourself regarding God’s presence. Are you His and is He yours? What is the basis for your answer?
2. If the answer to both of those questions are yes – and they will be if you are a believer – determine how living in God’s Presence – not simply living under the “eyes” of an omniscience God – influences you daily in thoughts, desires, and actions.
3. Passages such as 1 John 3:1-3 and Colossians 3:1-3 will be helpful in answering questions 1 and 2.
God and Man Interface: Part III
The first two blogs of the series: The purpose of and for life, addressed God as purposeful and man as a reflector of God and therefore the possessor of purpose. Because God is by nature purposeful, so too, is man, His image bearer. God’s purpose before all creation was fellowship with His creatures (John 6:37-43). Sin and God’s judgment did not change God’s design for God’s people. In fact, mankind’s lost condition of deadness, darkness, and defiance was the backdrop for God’s supernatural activity to bring a people into His presence.
Entering into God’s presence is the single most monumental activity of all mankind. The psalmist reminded himself and his people of this fact when he asked who can ascend the holy hill into God’s presence (Psalm. 15 and 24). David had both a temporal and an eternal perspective. In the eternal sense he looked forward to the teaching of Paul in Colossians 3:1-3 and John in 1 John 3:1-3. God did not simply restore His people to a simple presence with Him. He accomplishes more than redemption when He brings His people into perfect and eternal fellowship with Him. God’s design and desire shapes all of redemptive history.
God’s purpose is to be man’s purpose. The glory of God excites God and so it should excite man. God glories in Himself. Why shouldn’t He? He happens to be the King of kings and Lord of lords – Creator, Controller, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Father. Man, and only the believer has the desire and capacity to glorify God, has been created to serve God, glorify Him, and rejoice in Him. How is it possible for the believer to desire to accomplish this task? How is it possible for the believer to accomplish this task?
First, the believer must recognize that God has a deep passion for His glory and His name (Exodus 20:4-7). He is zealous for both. He will not share or give His glory to anyone (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). God’s zeal for Himself and His glory is summarized as covenantal faithfulness. He is the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper. In His commitment to Himself, He committed to save a people. His glory and the good of the people are inextricably linked.
Second, salvation is not simply releasing the sinner from bondage. Salvation opens the gateway into God’s presence and the joy of salvation. The believer is a child of the King and is ready to enjoy the pleasure that comes from that reality. Salvation is linked to peace and joy. Bondage and freedom are linked.
Third, God is not pleased with man. What man was initially he lost by Adam’s sin and God’s judgment. Man became God’s enemy, a rebel, for self, by self, to self. Man was God’s image bearer but he was woeful and a stench in God’s nostrils. He refused to bow the knee to God; he would rather have God serve him (Romans 1:18-23). So how could man be saved? God’s relationship to and with man had to change. Man’s relationship with God had to change. Man had no desire, capacity, or ability to move closer to God. The triune God from eternity past planned to save a people for Himself – through Christ, by the Holy Spirit. Being true to Himself, God moved close to man.
Fourth, the believer must ask and answer the question: who is the only person with whom God was well-pleased? It is Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). God is most glorified when His people are most satisfied in and with Him. How can that be? Certainly the Son and the Father were one (John 10:30). The Oneness is both in ontology (being) and function. Jesus had one purpose (there is our word again!) while on earth: to please the Father (John 4:31-34). Please Him He did all the way to the cross and beyond! God is glorified when God’s people desire to please Him by imitating Christ. God was committed to bringing the Son home to heaven as the exalted One (Hebrews 12:1-3). Humanly speaking, and perhaps divinely speaking, it must have been a joyous occasion (no time in heaven!) when Christ ascended into heaven and took His seat at the right hand of the Father. God was most glorified when the Son returned to heaven as the exalted Son. But God’s glory is further magnified at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and His indwelling of the Church and individual believers. Both the Son and the Spirit had one function – to glorify the triune God. And God is most glorified when His children are in His presence worshipping and fellowshipping with Him.
Fifth, since the Son is the only person that God is truly satisfied and the Son’s mission was to please and thereby glorify the Father, believers glorify God when they imitate Christ and only when they imitate Him. The believer is in Christ. He is a new creature in the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20). Developing the character of Christ in terms of motivation, thoughts, desires, and actions glorifies God because God is most magnified when His Son and former enemies function as true children of God by choosing to please Him.
The depth of God’s righteousness, justice, mercy, love, and power are in evidence when God saves His people (Romans 3:21-26). Theologians such as Jonathan Edwards taught that God is the believer’s good (Psalm 34:8). If God is and does the believer good, and He does, God directs His people to His worth and not theirs. He motivates His people to focus on Him. He helps His people to develop zeal for Him.
God’s worth is not in saving a people. God is worthy and He demonstrates that worth in the greatest possible way by saving a people who humanly speaking doesn’t deserve to be saved and can’t be saved. God is the God of the impossible. He has purpose. At salvation, man’s purpose changed so that he desires to please God not simply out of duty but privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3-4). Jesus desired nothing less than to please and glorify the Father. Believers follow Christ when they purpose to please God.
1. If God is glorious both in creation and re-creation what is your response and why?
2. How satisfied are you I the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit? Give reasons for your answer.
3. God’s glory and the good of the believer are linked – how?