Today we begin our first week in the catechism. This is going to be a relatively easy week, because the first two questions are quite short and self-explanatory. Question three will require a little more explaining, but all in all this should be a nice, gentle introduction to a wonderful and beneficial document.
Your job here is to meditate on these three questions and memorise them by next Tuesday, when we will move on to questions four and five. You can memorise these questions however you like; remember the gist of what they say, remember them word-for-word (which is how I do it) – whatever works best for you. However, I would recommend memorising the questions word-for-word as it will mean that we are all working with the same questions and answers and will be more able to help each other with occasional quizzing. Memorising them word-for-word will also mean that we aren’t simply memorising our wrong interpretation of the catechism. Finally, as we will see, there’s a beautiful poeticism to the original wording.
Without any further ado, let us begin.
Question 1: Who is the first and best of beings?
Answer 1: God is the first and best of beings.
Scripture: Isaiah 44:6; Psalm 8:1, 96:4, 97:9, 1 Sam 2:2
The most logical place to begin anything is, of course, at the beginning. That’s what this question is concerned with; who is the preeminent being? Who existed before all else? Who is greater than all others?
The answer states plainly that this being is God. Let’s investigate.
Due to the huge amount of Scripture we’re going to be dealing with, it won’t be practical to provide you with quoted references. Instead, I encourage you to go to the Bible and look up these references yourself, in context.
In the Scriptures, we see that not only did God exist before all other beings, but He is above all beings. He is glorious above all things, more wonderful than man’s false gods, and all-powerful – able to establish His glory above the Heavens.
So what should our response be to this revelation? The Scriptures make it clear: we are to praise Him, adore Him, worship Him who made us, because His glory and majesty and power and all-around beauty demands no less. Praise, worship, and adoration is a natural response to God’s glory and majesty, just like getting wet is a natural response to falling into a lake; we cannot help it.
Question 2: What is the chief end of man?
Answer 2: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
Scripture: 1 Cor 10:31; Ps 16:11, 37:4, 73:25-26; Isaiah 43:7
Question two naturally follows from question one. Question one asks who the first and best of beings is, and then question two asks, ‘what of us?’ Let’s take a look.
When we ask what our “chief end” is, we are asking what our purpose is. This question could just as well be worded, ‘What is the meaning of human life?’ Of course, “man” here refers to ‘mankind’, not ‘males’.
We see that we have a two-fold answer here:
1: To glorify God
“Glorify” in this sense can be better understood by the word ‘magnify’ – we don’t make God glorious, we present God’s glory, we make it known.
2: To enjoy God forever
God also created us to delight in Him, to enjoy Him. This also fuels into point one – John Piper loves to say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. When the world sees us enjoying God, we show how glorious He is. And when the world is rolled up like a scroll and we go to be with God, we will enjoy him forever and be fully satisfied in Him.
The Scriptures referenced above show repeatedly that God has created us for His glory, and that God is our joy, infinitely delightful, and the only source of lasting satisfaction.
The implications of this are huge. When we don’t meet the standards put on us by the world, by the culture, by ourselves, and even sometimes by others in our churches, we have the tendency to beat ourselves up over it. But what is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. You didn’t get the promotion? You failed that test? You aren’t where you thought you’d be five years ago? None of that matters, so long as you’re glorifying God, and enjoying Him.
God willing, there’ll be more on that later this week.
Question 3: How do we know there is a God?
Answer 3: The light of nature in man, and the works of God, plainly declares that there is a God; but His word and Spirit only, do effectually reveal Him unto us for our salvation.
Scripture: Rom 1:18-20; Ps 19:1-2; 2 Tim 3:15; 1 Cor 1:21-24, 2:9-10; Matt 11:27
This one is a bit more complicated than the preceding two, but is quite simple in essence. Basically, God has revealed Himself in the Creation order, and by imbuing us with Heavenly attributes such as a conscience. It is only logical that He exists. However, knowledge about God is not sufficient; the Scriptures grant us knowledge to make us “wise for salvation”, and then through faith in Jesus, who reveals the Father to us, as well as the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are saved.
This means that we cannot argue people into salvation. Only a personal experience with God, only by being elected by Him, can we be saved.
I have the tendency to try to present people with arguments for the existence of God rather than presenting them with the Gospel. However, we see here that this won’t help – even the Devil knows about God. It is only through God’s word and the Holy Spirit that God saves us. Evangelism, therefore, ought to be heavily gospel-centric as well as being accompanied by prayer for God to pour out His Spirit.
As for us, we should be encouraged to read the Scriptures daily, and to be thankful to God for saving us. As the Scripture says, the only way to know the Father is for the Son to reveal Him to us.
If you need inspiration, this week:
1: Thank God that, even though He is so far above us, He gives us a relationship with Him.
2: Pray that God would help us to make known His glory.
3: Pray that God would help us to enjoy Him more.
4: Thank God for revealing Himself to us and saving us.
Thank you for joining us for the first instalment of our new series. Check back on Saturday for an article on Glorifying God in our weakness, and next Tuesday for the second instalment of this series on the Catechism – questions 4-5. May God be with you.