The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. (The Westminster Shorter Catechism)
Has anyone ever put you on the spot and inquired, “Why do Christians insist on trying to convert people?” Trust me, if it ever happens to you, you’ll remember it.
Questions like these, no matter if its tone is one of cheekiness or just plain curiosity, really make you reflect on the overall purpose of evangelism. Should we be motivated by results—seeing more people go to heaven? That’s important, right? Or maybe the reason for evangelism should simply be duty—being obedient to God’s command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28). After all, the Great Commission isn’t just a suggestion. What if our incentive is rewards—to one day hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” and receive jewels in our heavenly crown? Sounds selfish, but it’s biblical. Or, perhaps a better motive is that of love—love for God and love for people’s souls, compelling us to share the good news.
While all of these are legitimate reasons to proclaim the gospel to people who don’t know Jesus, they all seem incomplete. They kind of miss out on the big picture.
Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. (1 Chronicles 16:23-25)
Scripture makes a really big deal about God’s glory. So much so, that if you search for the word “glory” in the bible, you’ll see it over 280 times. If quantity and repetition are indicative of importance, then God seems to care about his own glory a lot.
I used to be confused by the word “glory.” Didn’t it have something to do with the brightness of God’s face or maybe something you shouted out at church if you agreed with the pastor? What did it mean to “glorify God?” If what the Westminster Catechism (by the way, it’s pronounced “Cat-uh-kiz-um”, and it has nothing to do with a dog show) said was true—that the chief end of man is to glorify God—then I knew I’d better get this figured out soon, or I’d mess up that whole “chief end” thing.
Fortunately, this confusion was cleared up a few years ago when a really smart Cru staff person explained the concept of God’s glory while speaking to staff and students at a winter conference I was attending. It went something like this:
God’s glory is chiefly about his reputation or honor. In scripture, the glory of God refers to the revelation of his being, his attributes, and his presence to humankind. You see, God’s character—his nature, his personality—never changes. That truth is foundational to our faith: God doesn’t change. But how people perceive God can and does change. And, by the things we say and do as followers of Christ, we can influence people (both nonbelievers and believers) and help change their perception of God. Basically, that’s what it means for us to glorify God: to enhance his reputation.
It’s really just as simple as that—to glorify God is to enhance his reputation. This is helpful to keep in mind as I consider sharing my faith. Because if I exist for God’s glory, then glorifying God isn’t just the main reason to share my faith—it’s the main reason I’m alive. That’s the big picture.