God's Chief End For Man

What is God’s chief end for man? To glorify man and enjoy him forever. This is not quite the catechism question we are used to hearing, but it is just as true as the one with which we are familiar. God created man for glory, and he himself would bestow that glory on the man. In the incarnation of the eternal Word we see God’s intention for man realized: glorified flesh. John tells us that “the Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1.14) We behold the glory of God in flesh, the flesh of man.

The Hebrew word for “glory” speaks about something that is weighty. Glory is heavy. Glory is the regal robe and crown of the king that sits heavy on his body making him a sight to behold while also reminding him of the weightiness of his responsibility. Glory is the vestments of the high priest in Israel by which he reflects the beauty of God and his people while also carrying the tremendous responsibility to God and for his people. Wherever God adds weight to our lives through privilege and responsibility, he is glorifying us.

God gave man his glory in measure from the beginning when he created man in his image, crowning him with glory and honor, and giving him dominion over the creation (Ps 8). Man as flesh was created with the capacity to bear the weight of the glory of God. God would not put the full weight of glory on man in his infancy, but man would mature and be transformed so that he would move from glory to glory (2Cor 3.18), slowly growing stronger and wiser so that he could handle this glory. Because of sin, this growth in glory was short-circuited. Man sinned and fell short of the glory of God (Rom 3.23). In sin man cannot attain to that purpose of glory for which God created him.

When the Word was made flesh, the intention was that God would glorify fleshly man as he intended all along. In flesh the eternal Word revealed the goodness of God’s creation and the process of maturity that he intended for man. Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin woman, was given birth, and then matured through childhood on to adulthood. Jesus moved from glory to glory until he was glorified in the cross, resurrection, ascension, and coronation. He did all of this in the flesh. God made flesh to be glorified. The Incarnation of the eternal Word not only reveals this truth but is the means by which our flesh is glorified. United to the glorified man, Christ Jesus, our bodies are glorified.

The Incarnation is the validation of our fleshly existence. Yes, we learn that we must be delivered from the sin that plagues our flesh, but we are not delivered from our flesh. Our flesh, like the flesh of Jesus, is transformed. When Jesus is raised from the dead, he tells his disciples that a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones as he has (Lk 24.39). In the man Christ Jesus we see God’s intention for our flesh: transformed, glorified flesh.

It is for this reason that what you do in your body matters. In fact, we will, one day, stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of the deeds done in our bodies, whether they be good or evil (2Cor 5.10). Our bodies–these flesh and bone bodies–are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, can’t be used to join harlots to the body of Christ (1Cor 6.15-20). In baptism your physical body is washed with water, joining you to the body of Christ, the church. In the Lord’s Supper you eat and drink bread and wine with your fleshly body communing with the living God. Your body matters. Because of this, the members of your body must be presented to God as instruments of righteousness (Rom 6.13).

As you present your body and all of its members as instruments of righteousness to God, those works that you do with your body are meaningful. We are not doing good for goodness’ sake. We are doing good because it is the glory for which we were created. As God adds the weight of responsibility to us through friendships, marriage, children, job responsibilities, and relationships in the church, he is glorifying us. We are to answer the call to glory by accepting the weight of glory and responding to it in faith, looking to our God for strength to bear up under the weight.

The eternal Word became flesh so that our flesh could be glorified.