I confess that, once upon a time, I read a bunch of Jonathan Edwards. What is even cooler is that, on occasion, I understood what Jonathan wrote. When I did, it was totally worth the hours of effort I had to put into it. One such work that I understood, mostly, was The End for which God Created the World.
In this work, Edwards observes that every action we take is a means to a calculated end. That is, we always have some goal in mind when we act, some larger purpose. Somehow, each action we take fits into our larger plan that we are attempting to achieve. If we understand the "end goal", be it our own or someone else's, then we will be in a better position to determine who that person really is and what motivates them to act as they do.
For example, let's take something simple act like helping an old lady across the street. Is this a good action? Is it a good deed? What if the boy is helping the lady across the street because he wants to earn a Boy Scout badge for community service? But that badge isn't really his end. He wants to earn the badge because he wants to become an Eagle Scout, and he wants to become an Eagle Scout because it will garner him praise. Also, being an Eagle Scout might help him get into the college he desires, a prestigious college, and a degree there will get him praise as well. This boy, then, has helped the lady across the street because he desires praise.
My intention here is not judge this particular boy, it is only to make a point. That point is that everything we do is motivated by a goal, whether we are directly conscious of that goal or not. God, too, has a goal. That is what Edward's book is about. He is exploring the end for which God created the world. His conclusion is very, very important for us if he is correct. Here is Edwards' conclusion: God created the world, and everything in it, in order to glorify Himself.
God, then, created the world, we might say the universe, for Himself. God wanted to display his glory. That means that we are only a means to an end, not the end itself. The universe, if Edwards is correct, is not about you and me. It is about God. Salvation is also not about us, our salvation is also a means to God's end. That is, salvation is about glorifying God. We are not the center of God's universe. God is the center of God's universe. We are a means to an end, and that end is to display the awesomeness of God. That is God's end. To put it jarringly, God's plan is to show off.
I believe that Edwards' thesis is solidly confirmed in Scripture. We know that the Father's plan is to unite all things under His Son, Jesus Christ. As Paul puts it, in Christ God is "making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth" (Eph. 1:9-10). God the Father's end is to unite all things in Christ, to the praise of His glory.
For his part, the Son seeks to glorify the Father. That is his chief end. The Son seeks to glorify the Father through the very act that the Father brings glory to the Son. Nowhere are their "ends" clearer than in Philippians 2:9-11, "Therefore God (the Father) has highly exalted him (the Son) and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." See that? God the Father exalts God the Son who turns the glory to God the Father who continually turns every eye to His Son. And what does the Holy Spirit do? He joins the Father and the Son in their pursuit. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit is not glorified? Certainly not, for as the Father and Son are glorified, so is the Holy Spirit because, in the end, they are all One.
That means that salvation, evangelism, the church, our children, and everything else in all of creation is moving towards one all-encompassing end: the exaltation of God Almighty. Our privilege lies, not in that we are indispensable as the chief end, but in the fact that we are privileged to get to see God's glory. This is the essence of eternal life. Jesus said it like this, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3). This is what eternal life is: to know the glory of God.
The good news is, as many have said before, that God's self-revelation of His own awesomeness is a very, very good thing. It is something that will keep us eternally satisfied and happy, and it is so wonderful that it will blow to smithereens any idols we have crafted and coveted here on earth.
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