Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
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“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”1 Corinthians 10:31
1 Corinthians 10:31 is a famous verse. It is the proof text of the famous first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of men?” As our children will know very well, the answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 is usually given as the proof text for the first part of this answer, viz., “Man’s chief end is to glorify God.”
In the context of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul is dealing with the subject of food offered to idols. The Corinthian church had asked Paul whether it was alright for Christians to eat food that had been offered to idols.
Paul began to address the subject in chapter 8. There, he teaches that although idols are nothing, believers should not simply go ahead to eat food which has been offered to idols. We should instead consider how our actions might stumble the weaker brethren.
But now, coming back to the subject in chapter 10, Paul asserts that believers should never participate in any idols’ feasts. Eating in a religious context carries the symbolic significance of fellowship with the worshippers and the deity, whether imagined or real. Therefore, in answer to the Corinthian’s question of whether it was permissible for them to participate in the public idols’ feasts, Paul’s answer is a flat ‘No!’ God has exclusive rights to our fellowship.
But what if it is not in the context of an idol’s feast? What if someone invites you to his house for a meal, and the food he served was offered to idols or ancestors? What if the meat sold in the market was offered to idols by the hawker?
This is the question Paul addresses from verse 23 to the end of the chapter.
We may divide his discussion into three parts.
a. In verses 23-24, Paul states three principles we must adopt in exercising Christian liberty. We may translate the three principles into three questions: (1) Is it expedient? (2) Does it edify? (3) Is it egocentric?
b. Secondly, in verses 25-30, Paul illustrates the principles using the matter of food offered to idols. He highlights three situations: (1) If you buy food that could have been offered to idols in the market (v. 25); (2) If someone invites you to his home for a meal without telling you that the food was offered to idols (v. 27); and (3) if someone invites you to his home for a meal and tells you that the food was offered to idols (v. 28-30).
c. But now, in verses 31-33, Paul issues two directives on how we should keep the principles he has stated. First, we must seek to glorify God in everything that we do. Secondly, we must seek to stumble no one. Our text is the first of these two directives:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Let’s consider this verse by asking three questions: What? Why? How?
1. What? What Is It to Glorify God?
God’s glory is the greatness of God. When we say that a king is glorious, we mean he is rich, powerful and majestic. So when we speak about God’s glory, we are speaking about His greatness as He has revealed Himself.
In Exodus 33:18, Moses asks God to show him His glory. God’s answer is instructive. He says:
“I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”Ex 33:19
These words show that God’s glory is manifested in His infinite goodness, graciousness and mercy.
Later in Exodus 34:6, we are told how God passes before Moses, and as He does so, He proclaims:
“The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”Ex 34:6-7
Notice how the LORD is proclaiming His glory. He spoke earlier of His glory in terms of goodness, graciousness and mercy. Now He adds longsuffering, truth and justice.
Clearly, God’s glory is essentially His attribute or perfections.
In our Shorter Catechism, we confess that God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. By these terms, we are not only confessing who God is. We are also acknowledging His glory.
God’s glory, in other words, is His infinity, eternality, immutability, aseity, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth (cf. WSC 4).
But what is it to glorify God? To glorify God cannot be to make Him greater, for God is perfectly glorious. He is eternally, infinitely, immutably and transcendently glorious.
To glorify God, therefore, must be to acknowledge and to display His glory rather than to increase His glory.
We acknowledge God’s glory when we worship Him, confess Him, and praise Him for His greatness. What is it to display His glory? It is to let others know of this greatness. We must reflect God’s glory in our lives and words just like the moon reflects the sun’s glory. We must magnify and display God’s glory to all rational creatures, namely, angels or men.
God is most greatly glorified when His rational creatures acknowledge and display His glory.
As an illustration, consider how a painting glorifies its painter. The glory of the painter is in his artistic skills, his sense of balance and colour combination, his ability with the brush, his imagination, etc. The painting does not add to his glory. It simply displays his glory. But realise that he is glorified when fellow men acknowledge his greatness.
Think of it this way. Suppose there are three artists.
The first one lives on a remote, isolated island with only wild animals but no other human beings. He paints beautiful paintings. Would his paintings glorify the painter? Yes, they would glorify him— but only to himself because he is the only one who can see what a great painter he is.
On the other hand, the second painter lives in a busy city where many people enjoy his paintings. Anyone who looks at the painter’s paintings would marvel at how beautiful his pieces are. Do the paintings glorify the painter? Of course, they do. Do they glorify the painter more than the hermit painter? Of course, they do. The hermit might have been more skilled, but no one has seen his art except himself and the wild beasts.
Or consider the third painter. This one lives in the city where he not only paints but also takes in students. His students each become famous. They each paint in his style, and they each acknowledge their teacher.
Which of these three artists is most glorified? It is clear, isn’t it? The more the artist’s greatness is acknowledged and displayed, the more he is glorified. The artist’s glory does not change, for that is his skill. The hermit artist could be the greatest painter. But until his paintings are discovered, he is not glorified.
So it is with God, except that God is perfectly glorious in and of Himself. We cannot add to His glory, but it pleases God that we should glorify Him. So the apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says: “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” We must both acknowledge and display the glory of God!
2. Why? Why Should We Glorify God?
Well, the basic answer must be that He is our Creator. He made us to glorify and enjoy Him. This is the purpose of our existence. We will talk about enjoying God in a separate message, but for now, let us understand that God does not need us. But if God has made us, then the primary purpose of our existence must be to glorify Him. All things that God has made glorify Him, just like the painting glorifies the artist. But it is God’s rational creatures, especially man made in His image, that must glorify Him most.
The painter, with fans admiring his art, is glorified more than the hermit painter. Yet the painter with disciples who imitate him is even more glorified than the one with fans.
So God did not only make angels. Angels do glorify God because they do acknowledge and display God’s glory. But nowhere in the Scriptures are we told that angels are created in the image of God. On the other hand, man is created in the likeness or image of God in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.
Man is not created only to admire God’s creation. They are created to reflect the glory of God! If that is so, then surely the glory of God must be the chief and highest purpose of man’s existence.
If that is so for man in general, how much more for those who are called God’s people? All men are created to glorify God, but the Fall of man into sin renders it impossible for him to glorify God consciously and deliberately.
But God has a plan. He deigns to gather to Himself a people who know and are enabled to glorify Him according to the purpose of their creation.
God says through Isaiah, Isaiah 43:6-7:
“Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”
In this context, God is referring to His covenant people, Israel (v. 1). Today, the Israel of God is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the redeemed people of God.
Therefore, by the words of God through Isaiah, we are reminded of our duty to glorify God. We must glorify Him because He is our Creator. We must also glorify Him because He is our Redeemer. As Calvin puts it beautifully: “The end of our election is that we may show forth the glory of God in every possible way.”
Therefore, beloved brethren and children, even if all men forget, let us not forget that man’s chief end is glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Your chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy God. You exist and have been gathered with the Church of Christ so that you may glorify God.
Just as a painting has no value except it glorifies its artist, so you have no value except you glorify your maker and redeemer. Or, to put it in another way, your soul will be restless and empty, and you will always feel your life meaningless until you know that you are glorifying and enjoying God.
And you can enjoy God only if you consciously and deliberately glorify Him. All of God’s creations, whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational, glorify God. The mountains glorify God by standing firm and strong, thereby displaying God’s infinite power and immutability. The birds glorify God by singing of their maker in the language of nature. They testify of His wisdom and compassion. The fish in the sea glorify God by swimming so serenely in the ocean. They bear witness to God, who knows all things and can do all things.
But man is different. He is a rational being. Therefore, He must glorify God by choice—consciously, deliberately and cheerfully.
But now the question is…
3. How? How Should We Glorify God?
Once again, Paul says:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
It is clear then that we must glorify God in everything we do, including mundane tasks like eating and drinking.
How do we glorify God in eating and drinking? In this context, Paul suggests we must glorify God by making the right choices regarding what and where we eat. For example, if we join in at an idol’s feast, we would bring shame to God’s name rather than glorify God. Conversely, if we refuse to eat food offered to idols because we do not wish to stumble a weaker brother with us, we would glorify God.
The point is: if we sincerely endeavour, in our actions, at all times and in all situations, to exalt God’s name and to promote the interest of His kingdom in the world, we glorify Him.
Thus, apart from the example alluded to by Paul, giving thanks before we eat, especially when we are in the presence of unbelievers, surely glorifies God, for, by the simple act, we acknowledge that God has blessed us with the food. Likewise, not grumbling and murmuring about the food we eat glorifies God because God gives us our daily bread.
Beloved brethren and children, are you glorifying God in your day-to-day activities? Do you glorify Him in your speech—in your words and manner of speaking? Do you glorify Him in your choice of recreation? Do you glorify Him in your demeanour and dressing? Do you glorify Him in your relationships? Do you glorify Him in your Facebook and blog posts?
We are to glorify God in our day-to-day activities.
But secondly, let us not forget to glorify Him in worship—whether personal, family or corporate worship.
The Psalmist says: “Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me” (Ps. 50:23a; cf. Heb 13:5).
The apostle Peter enlarges that idea by reminding us that we are gathered together so that we may be a worshipping community to show forth the praises of God:
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”.1 Pet 2:9
To show forth the praises of God is essentially to worship God. It is to acknowledge God’s glory, exalt His name, magnify Him, and make His glory known to all. Worship is the principal activity we must engage in to glorify God.
Are you worshipping God? Are you doing so privately in your daily devotion? Are you worshipping God daily in family worship? Are you worshipping Him publicly? Are you sincere in your worship?
Furthermore, we must glorify God by imitating God. The Lord Jesus himself says: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mt 5:48). Likewise, the apostle Paul says: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Eph 5:1).
Remember the analogy of the painter who has disciples who imitate him? This painter is more glorified than the one who only has art enthusiasts and collectors who appreciate his work.
So it is with God. God is glorified not only in our acknowledgement of His greatness. He is glorified when we imitate Him and become like Him.
How do we imitate God? We imitate God by imitating Christ. We imitate Christ by cultivating the mind of Christ and by bearing the fruit of the Spirit of Christ in our lives.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”Gal 5:22-23
If we would be imitators of Christ, we must cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts. We must pray and use the means of grace to that end. We will fall short of the glory of God, but the question is: Do we seek to glorify Him by cultivating the right attitude and making the right choices?
1 Corinthians 10:31 is a simple verse but an important one. It meets us at the most mundane and basic level of our existence, but it leads us to the most critical question that confronts each of us, namely, the purpose of our existence.
It leads us to understand that we are different from the rest of God’s creations. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Beloved brethren and children, remember this. But let us also make sure that it becomes part of our life.
Calvin says: “There is scarcely one among a hundred who makes the manifestation of God’s glory his chief end.”
My question is: are you among the one per cent that Calvin speaks about? Do you make the manifestation of God’s glory your chief end? Do you consciously make choices with the glory of God in mind?
Unless you seek to glorify God in your life, you will still be in the bonds of iniquity and sin. You see, we are redeemed so that we may fulfil the original purpose of man. This is why God’s Spirit restores the image of God in us when Christ saves us from our sins.
Thus, all who are born again and redeemed will have an inclination and desire to glorify Christ, whereas all who are not will not care about God’s glory. Therefore, if you don’t care for God’s glory, you must still be in the bondage of sin and Satan.
If so, would you not awake from slumber and repent of your sin? You know in your heart of hearts that your life is empty, meaningless and restless because you do not know your Creator, and so you are without direction in your life. Oh, will you not turn away from your sin? Go to Christ. Seek His forgiveness and cleansing for your sin. He alone can restore you. He alone can give you meaning in life and can enable you to fulfil the very purpose of your existence.
But beloved brethren and children in Christ, if you believe in Christ and find a desire to glorify God in your heart, then thank God for that inclination. It is not natural. Thank God that He has begun a good work in your heart. Do not despise the day of small things. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged by your failures and your inner struggles. He who has begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only keep looking to Him for help. Keep believing Him. Keep trusting Him. Keep imitating Him. In this way, you shall glorify God in your worship, in your day-to-day activities, and in your attitude, character and demeanour. He makes everything beautiful in His time. Amen.
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