The Shorter Catechism, part 1
Return to The Shorter Catechism main page
In this series, named "The Shorter Catechism", the questions and answers are taken from the book
The Shorter Catechism
Ö agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, with the assistance of Commissioners from the Church of Scotland, as a part of the covenanted uniformity in religion betwixt the churches of Christ in the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland. And approved anno 1648, by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to be a directory for catechising such as are of weaker capacity, with references to the proofs from the Scripture.
Ql: What is the chief end of man?
A: Manís chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
Our chief end is twofold:
1. To glorify God forever.
2. To enjoy God forever.
The first end, glorifying God, is expressed in the text: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor.10:31) Whatever you do, do all to Godís glory. Not to your own glory, but to Godís. The proud people glory in themselves, but so shall it not be with you. You shall glorify God forever. You shall praise God with your words, with your works, yes, with your whole life. Not one part of your life is to be excluded. There are no things, which you have for yourself. Your time is not yours, but Godís. Your money is not yours, but Godís; it must be used in His service and for His glory. Your life is not yours, but it shall be used to praise God always and ever. Your husband, wife, or children are not yours, but Godís. Exhort also them to live to the glory of God.
The second end, enjoying God forever, is expressed in the text: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." Ps.73:25. The Psalmist, Asaf in this case, says that he has nothing in heaven but God. So, there is nothing in heaven that Asaf has, except God. In other words, Asaf does enjoy nothing in heaven but God. And how is it on earth? What has the Psalmist on earth? "There is none upon earth", says he, "that I desire beside Thee". So, also on earth, he desires nothing but God. He can not find joy in anything but in God only. That is the right condition of his mind, of his desires, and of his life. To have nothing besides God. All his delight is in God, and in nothing else. Let we take this man, Asaf, as our example. Let all our joy be in God only. That is our main goal.
It can be that we find some joy in any creature. And when it is not forbidden by Scripture, this joy is allowed. But let is not prevail over the joy we find in God. Let that Godly delight be the greatest, far above any other sort. "Whom have I in heaven but Thee?" Nothing, Thou are the only, Whom I have in heaven. There is none besides God; not in heaven and not in earth.
It is said in another place: "God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice". (Psalms 108:7) When you hear somebody speak, whom you love, and in whom you find joy; when you hear him or her speak, you will rejoice much. So also said the Psalmist, that when he heard God speak in His holiness, that he will rejoice.
We find joy in God; that is our main goal. But we also find joy in the things of God. For example His Word. The believers, when they read the Scripture, and their faith is functioning, they experience much delight therein. This is it, what Jeremiah said. "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." (Jeremiah 15:16)
Q2: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A: The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
When we shall glorify God, and enjoy Him, we need directions. Without direction, we do but what we think good; and since we are always erring, we will then also err. We are then doing things, which we consider to be to the honour of God, but they are then in fact own inventions, and to our own honour. Without solid directions, we always go astray, after the imaginations of our own heart.
Without a good rule, we err. God has given us one reliable rule, and that is His Word. Therein He has expressed Himself, and according to that Word, we have to direct our lives. When there is any, seeking how and in what way to glorify God, let him then search the Word. That is, let him or her read the Old and the New Testament, the infallible truth of God.
When Paul addresses the Ephesians, he says that they "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner[stone]". (Ephesians 2:20) They are built upon the prophets; meaning the Old Testament. And they also are built upon the apostles, meaning the New Testament. And the chief cornerstone thereof is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They direct our lives, and say how we have to glorify God. The prophets said it, for they were Godís mouth. Also the apostles told it, for they spoke Godís words. And Jesus Christ, being God Himself, has taught us the same truths.
If anybody has invented own ways, according to which he things to glorify and enjoy God, let him then forsake those ways. Let he read the Scriptures, which are able to teach him the right ways, and which correct his errors. These things, and others, Paul said to Timothy, when he wrote: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness". (2 Timothy 3:16) They give us the right doctrine, which also describes the way to glorify God. They serve for reproof, namely when we err. They correct us our errors, at least when we obey what is written therein. They give us the right instruction in righteousness, the main goal of which is glorifying God.
Q3: What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Of the several things Scripture teaches, the main ones are:
1. What man is to believe concerning God.
2. What duty God requires of man.
It teaches us, in the first place, what we have to believe of God. That is the reason why we read so much stories in the Old Testament, regarding the works of God with Israel and the surrounding nations. All these stories show us Who God is, how He works, how infinite His grace is, and how righteous He is. They show that there is no god besides our God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the eternal God. Also the New Testament, still clearer, shows us Godís nature, attributes, grace, truth, infinity, mercy, righteousness, majesty, power and wisdom. These are the things we have to believe concerning God. Let we then reject all human inventions. Many philosophise about God, but let we reject that. Only the Word is our foundation, and all other falsehood we treat with contempt. Let all human wisdom vanish, so that we keep over only the Word and the Spirit, as our Instructors.
The Bible teaches us, in the second place, which duty God requires of us. You will read laws in Scripture, which tell us what we have to do. They reveal us the will of God, and the way wherein we have to walk. Only believing something of God is not enough. We also have to fulfil our duties; namely those God requires of us. These are duties regarding God and our neighbours. Both Old and New Testament say us what we have to do.
Let then all, what we do, be to the glory of God, and done according to the Word, in true faith.