Revealed in Power
The opening question of John Calvin's Genevan Catechism has a familiar ring to it — "What is the chief end of man?" The question gets to the root of anthropology and theology. The Westminster Divines apparently were familiar enough with the catechism to spot a spectacular foundation for Christian education.
Across the history of the world, nations, cults, and trendy groups attempt to answer the question of man's purpose. Peace. Prosperity. Mercy. Kindness. These are some of the most elegant answers. While others drinking heavily from atheistic philosophy find cruder answers. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Me.
In typical Calvin fashion, he answers with no subtly. Though, I do love the subtle difference of his answer compared to Westminster — "It is to know God his Creator" (Q.1). For Calvin, this knowledge is effectual and gracious. This knowledge of God "should advance his glory" (Q.2) as we acknowledge him as "almighty and perfectly good" (Q.9). But ironically, Calvin says this is not enough. God has revealed more than pure power. He reveals His full character. Calvin states it like this,
10 M. Is this sufficient?
C. By no means.
11 M. Why not?
C. Because we do not deserve that he should exert his power for our assistance, or manifest his goodness for our benefit.
12 M. What more is needful?
C. That each one of us be fully convinced that God loves him, and that he is willing to be to him a Father and a Savior.
13 M. But how will that be evident to us?
C. Truly from his word, in which he declares to us his mercy, and testifies his love for us, in Christ.
14 M. The foundation and beginning of confidence in God is then, the knowledge of him in Christ?
Knowing and recognizing the power and authority of God is not sufficient Christian knowledge. To know of a powerful deity is merely theism. Calvin's chief end is to know the God who "manifest his goodness for our benefit" (Q.11). It is this knowledge of God stemming from the revelation of Jesus Christ that moves to advancing the glory of God. Knowledge of God-for-us is the "chief good of man" (Q.3) precisely because it encourages men to glorify God. Or as Calvin elucidates in Genesis 17, God command Abraham to "walk before me" on the basis of God appearing before him as El Shaddai (the Almighty God).
God reveals Himself as almighty and yet merciful towards us. Similarly, God commands obedience only after He has revealed Himself as the Almighty God on our behalf. God has done both of these things for the Church. He has revealed Himself as the eager Father and the source of our obedient love for Him (1 John 4:19). It is as Calvin says, truly "living piously and justly" is nothing more than "depending upon God."
"Now, from these words, we learn for what end God gathers together for himself a church; namely, that they whom he has called, may be holy. The foundation, indeed, of the divine calling, is a gratuitous promise; but it follows immediately after, that they whom he has chosen as a peculiar people to himself, should devote themselves to the righteousness of God...Wherefore, let us know, that God manifests himself to the faithful, in order that they may live as in his sight; and may make him the arbiter not only of their works, but of their thoughts. Whence also we infer, that there is no other method of living piously and justly than that of depending upon God." (Commentary on Genesis Volume 1)
In denying the God who reveals Himself (Rom 1:18-23), the world places themselves in an endless struggle to find themselves and their purpose. They are unaware that the God who reveals Himself desires to be their Father and empower them to walk in gladtiddings before Him.