What is the ultimate purpose of being a Christian?
What things come to mind?
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “To glorify God and to enjoy him for ever”?
To win others for Christ?
To live a life of love?
To live a holy life?
To serve the Lord, using whatever gifts you have been given in service of others?
To work hard at transforming this broken world?
Paul, I think, would affirm most of the above. But I also think that he would subsume them under his primary concern for the believers under his pastoral care – that ‘Christ is formed’ in his ‘dear children’ (Gal.4:19).
In this sense, the goal of the Christian life is spiritual transformation – to be conformed to the image of the Son (Rom.8:29; 2 Cor.3:18).
And this transformation happens in the context of relationship with God and others – in the power of the Spirit. It is the Spirit whom God sends into believers’ hearts and who enables them to call God abba (Gal.4:7).
On this theme, I came across this quote by Bruce Marshall (in a MA diss being written by one of our students at IBI – tks M)
This conforming of human beings to the crucified and risen Christ is a unitary action of the whole Trinity, and indeed seems to realize the most interior and primal purposes of the triune God. The Father has eternally and effectively willed – predestined – our conformity to his Son (cf. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:5), who, by accepting incarnation and the death from which the Father raises him, constitutes that original form of which we are the intended images. The Spirit is the agent who, poured out from the Father by the risen Son and dwelling in us, immediately joins us to Christ and makes us his icons (see Rom. 8:9-11, 14). The New Testament of course talks about the outcome of Jesus’ resurrection in many other ways, but the notion of “bearing the image of the man of heaven” seems to express both the final aim and the original intention not only of the resurrection, but of the totality of divine acts involving creatures. While for now we are icons of the risen Christ in fragmentary and partial ways, in the end the Spirit will enable us to see him as he is, and so be as much like God as it is possible for creatures to be (see Jn. 3:2). With the perfection of this work of the Spirit will coincide the liberation of all creation; no further divine aim for creation will remain to be realized (see Rom. 8:22-3). B. Marshall, 2000. Trinity and Truth. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Wonderful – the astonishing agenda of the triune God is personal and cosmic redemption.
And radical – Marshall says God’s goal is that believers are “as much like God as it is possible for creatures to be.” Possibly – though I’d put it differently. I think the goal is better put that they will be as fully human as it is possible to be.
Humanity without death, sin, selfishness, violence and hate.
Humanity with love, wholeness, relationship, service, joy, self-giving and creativity.
Humanity, in other words, as embodied by the living man Jesus Christ.
Humanity which has been remade in the image of God as it is conformed to the image of the Son.
Comments, as ever, welcome.