The Purpose of Life

     There comes a time in the lives of most people when they ask themselves “why am I here?” and “what is the purpose of my life?”  These are simple questions.  They are profound questions.  They are questions we can ask over and over, and spend a lifetime pondering.  To answer the questions, we must consider where we came from (origins), who/what we are (identity), and where we are going (eternity).  There are two major answers. 

  1. God does not exist and we are the accidental product of matter, motion, and time. Human worth is not intrinsic, but is arbitrarily assigned by self or others, and is most often predicated on personal likes and dislikes (i.e. personality or performance).  The existentialist believes we create meaning by an act of the will.  The hedonist argues we should avoid pain and resort to pleasure to cope with the emptiness of life.
  2. God exists and is the source of all purpose and meaning. We are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27; Gen. 9:6; Jam. 3:9), with intelligence and volition.  Human worth is intrinsic, being imputed by God, not based on our personality or performance.  God created us for purpose, to have a relationship with Him and to walk Him.  God created us to have responsible dominion over His creation and to enjoy the blessing of His provisions (Gen. 1:26-30).  God, who creates and controls our destiny, provides a future hope for all who trust in Christ as Savior (John 3:16; 14:1-3).

     The Bible provides the best explanation for the origin of the universe, mankind, and our purpose in life.  It does not answer every question, but it does answer the important ones. From Scripture we understand God created the universe and all the creatures in it (Gen. 1-2; Heb. 11:3).  The creation glorifies God by being and doing what He intended (Ps. 19:1-2).  All three members of the Trinity were involved in the creation of Adam and Eve, who were uniquely created in God’s image (Heb. צֶלֶם tselem).  Adam and Eve were created with intelligence, volition, and purpose.  They were created for a relationship; first with God, then with each other, then the animals and world around them.  God created Adam to be a servant-ruler over His creation (Gen. 1:26-28), to cultivate and keep the garden as a work-assignment (Gen. 2:5, 15), to name the animals (Gen. 2:19-20), to enjoy the vegetation as food (Gen. 1:29; 2:16), and to fellowship with Eve who was to help him fulfill God’s will (Gen. 2:18, 21-24).  Adam and Eve were created to function as a unit, to complement each other, walking in the same direction, listening to God’s word, doing God’s work, enjoying God’s provision, and together abstaining from what would injure their relationship with the Lord (Gen. 2:17).  They had a clear sense of purpose under the authority of God.  Sin damaged the relationship between God and mankind (Gen. 3:1-8), as well as the physical world (Gen. 3:9-24; Rom. 8:19-23).  All of Adam and Eve’s descendants inherited a sinful nature and live in a fallen world that is temporarily under Satan’s dominion (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13-14).  Our sinful propensity constantly pushes us to operate independently of God, using His resources for our own sinful purposes (e.g. Tower of Babel, Gen. 11:1-9).  However, human worth continues because the image of God—though marred—is retained (Gen. 9:6; Jam. 3:9).  This is why God requires just punishment for those who unjustly kill others (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:3-4). 

     Though humanity is corrupted because of sin (Gen. 3:1-24), God still loves us (John 3:16-17), and by faith we can accept our value as human beings made in His image (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:6; Jam. 3:9).  We can also learn to be content in our circumstances by trusting God to direct our lives (Prov. 3:5-6; Rom. 8:28; Phil. 4:11-13).  Our human experience is optimized when we are made spiritually alive (1 Pet. 1:3, 23), and when we walk with God and glorify Him in all things (1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 2:10; 4:1-3).

     What is our eternal future?  Scripture reveals every person will be resurrected physically and will either spend eternity in heaven with God (Dan. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:51–53; 1 Thess. 4:14–17; Rev. 20:4-6), or the Lake of Fire away from Him (Rev. 20:11-15).  God loves us and desires to have a relationship with us in time and eternity (John 3:16-17; 10:28; 14:1-3).  However, our sin separates us from God (Isa. 59:2; John 8:24; Rom. 5:12).  But God, who is merciful (Eph. 2:3-5; Tit. 3:5), dealt with our sin once and for all when He sent Jesus as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sins (Isa. 53:1-12; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:10-14; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).  At the cross, God satisfied all His righteous demands toward our sin (1 John 2:2; 4:10).  Those who believe in Jesus as their Savior receive forgiveness (Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14), the gifts of eternal life and righteousness (John 10:28; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9), and will spend eternity in heaven with God (John 14:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:1-5; Phil. 3:20-21).  Those who reject Jesus as their Savior have no future hope and will spend eternity away from God in eternal punishment (John 3:18, 36; Rev. 20:14-15).  When we turn to Christ as our Savior, we have a bright eternal destiny assured for us in heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-4). 

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

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