The great Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that everything – object, animal, person, or plant – has telos. Telos is the ultimate purpose or end of an object’s existence. For example, a knife’s telos is to cut. The purpose and telos of an acorn is to someday grow into a tree. Aristotle believed that the key to understanding ethics was discovering the telos of humanity. While the famous Greek ultimately concluded that contemplation was the true end of man, Christianity has a different story to tell. How does the Pagan idea of telos help us understand the truths in the Word of God?
God’s purpose in creating was to display His glorious, powerful, loving, and holy character. All throughout the Scriptures we are told of God’s passion for His glory, but Paul’s letter to the Romans most clearly lays out the purpose of God in Creating the world.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Not only are all things made and sustained by God, but the world is to Him as well. The testimony of Scripture is that the telos of the whole universe, including humanity, is to worship and glorify God. Knives are made to cut, acorns to grow into trees, and people to bring glory to God.
This all sounds very well, but what does it mean practically for us to glorify God? What does it mean to worship Him? It is common-place in churches to have a “worship team” help lead singing during the service. This is often a really helpful thing – I have no problem with people using their gifts to lead music in church! But I do worry that we in the church often think this is the full extent of worship. The Biblical record is very different. Immediately after Paul finishes his passionate praise of God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Object of the universe, he tells us,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
The Holy Spirit is continually conforming the Christian’s heart to the heart of God, as we die to sin and grow in union with our Lord. The cry of our soul must always be, “To him be glory forever!”. Worship isn’t something we do on Sunday when the music starts – worship is done with our whole life.
Jesus did not suffer rejection and pain solely to save us from hell. The redemption accomplished by the cross and the resurrection is so much bigger than that. Not only are we legally declared righteous in the sight of a spotless and holy God, but we are by His Spirit being restored to a place where we can once again fulfill our telos. The reality that our whole life is to be lived as worship is why the Spirit elsewhere inspired Paul to write,
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
There is no part of our self that can be isolated from the call of Christ. We cannot compartmentalize our life into religious and secular segments. Everything is His! We have no rights. We have nothing of our own, because we serve a Master who is the supreme Lord over every aspect of life. Think of the price of our ransom! Think of the price He paid! How can we withhold service from the King who bought us with His blood?
Adam and Eve were told that the price of sin was death. Not at the end of a long and fulfilling life, but immediate death. Sin is an act of treason against the only true Good in the universe. It is jettisoning the telos of our existence, and working against our very purpose. The fact that our all holy God didn’t wipe out humanity immediately is an amazing act of grace! We are desperately fallen. And our God is full of grace beyond our understanding.
It may seem challenging to focus every aspect of our being on the person of Christ, but ultimately He is the only one who satisfies. We were created to serve Him, and as Christians we are being molded back into that purpose. The more we fulfill our telos, the greater the joy we find. Not because we will achieve “success” as the world defines it, but because we were created for Him, and can only find fulfillment in Him. Therefore brothers and sisters, let us joyfully acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus over every crevice, nook, and cranny of our lives. Let us pray that God would give us the strength to honor Him in all that we do. We were ransomed from death, let us live as we were made to live. How can you be more intentional about glorifying God in all of life?
Sola Deo Gloria.