Notes to Pilgrims #11
No doubt our own experiences with our fellow humans teach us that a pronounced sense of self-centeredness and superiority are among the top things to disdain in others and to weed out of our selves. Consequently, we tend to be uneasy around such self-absorbed people, viewing them as conceited self-aggrandizers. And rightly so, because no one deserves to think of him or herself more highly than others. In fact there is much reason to believe that it is such kind of self-centeredness that engenders all forms of evil in the world, such as selfishness, bigotry, corruption (both in individuals as well as in collective elitist societies), and all such sorts of human oppressiveness. But the same could not be said of God. In fact, the Bible consistently affirms the truth that God is most concerned for Himself and for the spreading of His honor and name. As a consequence, humans too are expected to regard God as supreme over all. God demands our allegiance to Him to be unsurpassed by our allegiance to anything else because God’s own utmost allegiance is to Himself alone.
And just so we can do the necessary bubble bursting in this note early on, let me say categorically that the romantic ideas of God’s being supremely concerned for the salvation of souls (a notion very much repeated and loved by many in the evangelical Christian world) is largely misplaced and ill informed. Yes, God is extremely committed to saving sinners in Christ. The Bible is clear that God is extremely bent on saving a people for Himself through the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. But what we need to understand is that even this great redemption He is working out in history has for its ultimate goal and end His own glory and honor. And there just can’t be any two ways about it. God is either supremely committed to Himself and the spread of His fame, or He is committed to something or someone else ultimately. And the latter option in that either/or statement would disqualify Him as God. Here is what I mean and here is why it is important to maintain God’s fierce commitment first and foremost to Himself: to think otherwise would be to deem God an idolater.
And idolatry, as the Bible so plainly makes clear to us, is one of those things that God is madly offended by in both the Old and New Testaments. In a sense, we could say that the main problem of fallen humans is that they have shifted their allegiance and devotion from God and turned instead to idols (i.e. goods that become an ultimate good). We have abandoned the ultimate Good for lesser things. We have exchanged the eternal for things that do not last. And this is why God is offended and this is why He is so determined to save blind sinners into His kingdom, where the truth of His infinite beauty and excellence drown out all the blundering lesser passions of our sinful hearts. And if idolatry in humans is unacceptable to God because He does not want His creatures to settle for lesser things, then so much more can God not settle for anything less than Himself. He must glorify and exalt Himself above all because He cannot be an idolater of His own creation. Above Him there is nothing greater, thus His allegiance must be for Himself alone. This is why our catechism teaches us thus: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.”
—Pastor James (email@example.com)