What is the Chief End of Forgiveness?

Pastor Michael Bowman

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:4)

When I ask my son, “What is the chief end of man?” He responds by singing, in the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” It really is one of the great joys I have as a father. Why does the shorter catechism start this way? It’s because it touches everything else. It’s because that is the final purpose for which God created mankind, and why in fact he created the world. God is glorifying himself through writing this story of life that we call history, revealing through it his character and person, calling forth from all of creation that praise and honor which he is due. 

What is the chief end of forgiveness? Forgiveness plays a central role in this story God is writing (and has already written) because it is central to his very character. He makes himself known as a forgiving God and he does so ultimately for his own glory. That might rub you the wrong way. If we knew another person who spent all of their life seeking to glorify themselves we would think very little of them. That’s because they aren’t God. The difference is he actually deserves it. When one of us acts as though we deserve to be glorified it looks bad because we are creatures and our created purpose was to glorify another, namely the Lord himself. But the Lord is the creator, sustainer, infinitely marvelous God who is, as we often sing, beyond all praising. 

It’s only right and good that forgiveness would ultimately be done for the glory and honor of our God. So it is. “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (1 Jn. 2:12). Forgiveness is given for the Lord’s name’s sake, in order that he would be glorified and honored, and that he might be seen as both just and loving, because that is who he is. Was this a new idea that John came up with? No, he was familiar with the Scriptures and knew that the Lord had said this himself. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Is. 43:25). 

Everything that we think, say and do is to be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). This is what we were created to do. We do this more and more in our lives because we are being renewed after the image of God, and this is what God does. He seeks to glorify himself. His forgiveness leads to us fearing him, seeing him as he is, obeying him, and thus glorifying him in our lives. Once you get a glimpse of the greatness and glory of the infinite God, the natural response is to want to do anything and everything for his glory. The natural response is to worship him and to want everything and everyone to join in. 

Forgiveness thus serves alongside everything else that the Lord does. It points us back to him and what he has done. It turns our eyes heavenward to the Lord on his throne. It brings us back to glorify him as he deserves and as we were made to do. The chief end of forgiveness is to glorify God.