Q&A: What is the Purpose of Man?

What is the Purpose of Man?

Question

Does the Bible say anything about the purpose of man? Other religions/myths tell that man was created for a purpose or as a result of some event. For instance, a Mesopotamian myth (the story of Atrahasis) says that man was created to labor in place of the gods. Does the Bible or Christian theology specifically say if man has a purpose or not?

Answer

The Bible tells the purpose of man, and Christian theologians have agreed for a very long time on what that purpose is.

God created man (and everything else), but he did not do so out of need. God is absolutely free to do all his holy will, and does nothing out of personal requirements. Psalm 115 is a wonderful song to God's freedom, where you find verses like, "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases."

God created man a reason, though. The Scriptures say that he created his people from the ends of the earth as those "whom I created for my glory" (Isa. 43:7; Eph. 1:11-12). But this creative choice of God is passive — we passively reflect his glory by our existence. We are also created to do his will, and thereby "do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

This creative choice of God along with our joyful obedience means our lives have purpose and meaning. From the very beginning, although he did not need us, God created us with a goal, one that involves us (making our every action important) and is guaranteed by his unstoppable, insatiable desire to see himself glorified.

But there is one other aspect to our purpose — how are we to emotionally respond to this truth? The Bible is clear, so clear that the Bible (and the church) tends to join the goal of glorification with this appropriate reaction of the human spirit.
Jesus says, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). David said to God, "In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures forever more (Ps. 16:11). Asaph said, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you (Ps. 73:25).

Do a word search on "rejoice" in the Bible, and see how we are to rejoice in God's person and in his purpose. Is it an accident that God's purpose and our pleasure are connected? I don't think so. Thus, the Westminster Larger Catechism says in the first question, "What is the chief and highest end of man?" The answer: "Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." This is a wonderful summary of the teaching of Scripture on this matter.

Answer by Rev. Robert Barnes

Rev. Robert Barnes is a minister in the PCA and the Managing Editor for Bright Media.