Question and Answer

Man's Chief End and the Unsaved

Question:

I was saved through an Arminian church but fairly recently I have come to understand the truth and grace that anchors Reformed theology and Calvinism. But I still have one question that I was not able to get an intelligible answer to: If part of man's chief end is to enjoy God forever, what about the unsaved? Sure, God is glorified just to send them to hell, but they will never enjoy Him. Can you help me understand this?

Answer:

Praise God for His saving grace in your life and His sanctifying work causing you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

You have, I think, put your finger on the key to solving your dilemma - the understanding of "end" in Shorter Catechism #1. The Catechism there is speaking in terms of God's revealed will for us all (see questions 2 and 3).

In His Word God reveals the glorious yet mysterious truth that He has foreordained all that comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11), and that His eternal decree even has a purpose for the wicked (Proverbs 16:4) - which you clearly understand. God's predestination of all things is a fact revealed in Scripture.

But what things God has predestined is not revealed in Scripture (except for the important contours of His plan of salvation and judgment - the coming of the Messiah, His second coming, the resurrection, the Judgment, etc.). The particulars of predestination unfold moment by moment before our eyes and in our lives under the providence of God.

Deuteronomy 29:29 provides us with an important distinction when the Lord says through Moses: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Based on this (and other Scriptures) we properly distinguish between God's secret will (His decree for all things, including the eternal destinies of the saved and the lost) and God's revealed will (by which our sin is exposed and the lives of His redeemed people are guided). By His "revealed will" we mean all that He has spoken to direct us, first to repentance for sin and faith in Christ that we might be saved, and then how to live in obedience to His commands in gratitude for His saving mercy to us in Christ.

It seems to me that Shorter Catechism #1 is speaking of God's revealed will. Had Adam kept the covenant the Lord made with him, he would have glorified and enjoyed God. That was the promise implied in their Garden-fellowship, the tree of life and also the threat of death.

In overthrowing God's rule, transgressing God's revealed will in the probationary command (don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), Adam also abandoned God's (implied) revealed purpose for his existence - to glorify and enjoy God.

In the unfolding of God's secret will, it is His work of salvation which brings elect sinners back to Himself and back to that revealed purpose for our being. Only in Christ and by the work of God's Spirit in us are we able to fulfill our calling (revealed will) to glorify God AND enjoy Him forever.

That the non-elect will glorify God and not enjoy Him (as you point out) will be part of the ultimate fulfillment of His secret will, His eternal decree. But does not contradict SC #1 any more than this: God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30 - revealed will), but only the elect will repent (secret or decretive will).

I hope this helps. Feel free to follow up and I will do my best to answer further questions.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

Return to Formatted Page