Question #1: Why are we here? (pause) Think about your answer. Question #2: What are we here for? (pause, again) Still working on your first answer? Now you’ve got two mind benders. Admittedly, these are two difficult questions, ones that have been pondered for generations. Man’s ultimate quest to find his purpose in life, his reason for being. For some this search is maddening, while others give up and fill the void with any and every fleeting pleasure, never truly discovering the happiness that is found with knowing purpose of one’s being. This is such a relevant question in our society, that a popular mega-church pastor used it for the launch pad of his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. Did that book have all the answers that everyone had been searching for? I’ve never read the book, but I’d be willing to bet the answer is no. There is only one book ever written that will tell you your purpose in life. It details the why and what so beautifully it’s unmistakable. It’s no mystery, this book is The Bible, the Holy Spirit inspired written Word of God and I’m going to share with you what it says about our purpose.
In attempting to biblically answer the first question of “why”, I searched the Bible for a passage that I had heard recently, that I think was in Ephesians, but while searching for the exact verse, I kept coming back to one passage in Romans 9. I want to add a caveat here, this chapter, specifically, is often a difficult one for Christians and non-Christians alike to grasp and fully understand. I don’t pretend to know and comprehend everything that Paul is teaching here, so it is with much grace and humility that I endeavor to answer our question today beginning with the verse from Romans. In this passage, Paul is tackling a monumental topic, and hidden in his monologue is the very reason why each of us has been created.
Before we look at the Scripture, it’s important for us to understand and grasp two critical points, the first of which is God’s Sovereignty. Our finite minds cannot even begin to grasp the infiniteness of God. It’s impossible for us to know all of God, if we did that would make us equals and that simply isn’t possible. But we must understand how sovereign He is, that in all things He has a hand. He is not a hands-off God. He didn’t create the world and everything in it to just sit back and watch as we do whatever we please. This is not to say that we don’t have freewill in the choices we make, but instead to affirm that God has a sovereign purpose in all things that happen, including our choices. Consider the following passage from Isaiah 40:12-31 ESV:
12Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
18To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.
21Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
27Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
The Lord is absolutely sovereign in all things and while it may not be at all times within our grasp of understanding, it nevertheless is so and nothing, nor anyone, can take that from Him. He is equally sovereign in all of His attributes and this includes mercy, wrath, grace, and love, each of them equally Holy.
The second critical point that we must understand is that Hell is a very real place and that those people who reject God and refuse Jesus as Lord and Savior will incur God’s wrath and be sent to Hell. If everyone had accepted Jesus in their lives, then there would be no need for Hell or final judgment, but it does exist and judgment is coming, so we know that this acceptance simply isn’t true for everyone. Just as we pointed out in the discussion of God’s sovereignty, He is equally just in His wrath as He is in mercy. In fact, how could we come to the full realization of what mercy is, unless we know from what it is His mercy saved us. Because we were born sinful, we are under God’s wrath, yet for those that repent of their sins and accept Christ, God’s mercy cancels out His wrath and grace and love abound in us through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul speaks of God’s wrath in judgment in Romans 2:5, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” In verse 7 he confirms, “He will render to each one according to his works” while in verse 11 Paul concludes, “For God shows no partiality.” God’s wrath is just and fair.
So with that as our background, we are biblically prepared to answer our question of “Why are we here” and for this we turn to Romans 9:23 where Paul provides the answer for all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. “In order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” Every vessel of mercy, meaning those who have accepted Jesus as Savior, and who now fall under the mercy of God, was made in order to “make known the riches of His glory.” The riches of His glory are on display through His mercy and grace given to everyone who has accepted Christ as Savior. That is our purpose for being. However, just as we discussed earlier God is perfectly righteous in His mercy, yet also in His wrath and in the preceding verse Paul describes the alternative situation. Let’s read both verses in context, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. In order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” Romans 9:22-23 ESV It’s clear that in Paul’s analogy of the Potter and the clay vessels that each were created for God’s glory. God uses His creations to display His just wrath, His omnipotent power, and His glorious mercy.
How can we understand mercy if we do not understand what mercy saves us from? How can we know grace if we do not know of God’s wrath? In order to fully understand one we have to fully understand the other. This passage doesn’t have to be one of condemnation, but one full of hope for those who have yet to trust Christ, because all you need to do is call on Him, believe that He died for your sins, repent of those sins and trust Jesus as Savior so that you too may realize the riches of God’s glory. At the same time, this isn’t a haughty, puff out your chest verse for those of us who are Christians, instead it’s an on your face, bowing before God in all humility thanking Him for granting mercy when we deserved death.
What’s the answer to the “Why Purpose” for you? God’s wrath? Or the riches of His glory that He makes known through His mercy? Choose.
Isaiah 1:18-21 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth.”
Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”
Next: The What Purpose- What are we here for?