Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Saved for the Purpose of Worship
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:9
This week we look again at Question 110 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the reasons annexed to the Second Commandment, the more to enforce it?” The last section of the answer reads, “The reasons annexed to the Second Commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God's sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.” Last time we considered the Catechism’s description of how God accounts those who break this commandment. Today we look at God’s gracious esteeming of those who observe it.
We have seen how worship is at the heart of God’s redemption of His people. More than ten times in the book of Exodus Moses proclaims to Pharaoh God’s reason for why he must release God’s people: “so that they may worship Me.” This purpose of worship is the pinnacle of our salvation and the crowning glory of our creation and redemption. We, redeemed bearers of God’s image, were saved in order to be qualified again to do the highest and greatest thing a rational creature can ever do: ascribe glory, praise, and honor to the One who is most worthy of all of it, forever and ever. Today’s Scripture verse speaks to this doctrine of salvation-for-the-purpose-of-worship. It says Christians (by the grace of God) “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people,” and that we are all of these for a unique and specific purpose: “in order that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” So, there is a higher purpose for the redemption of the people of God. He saved us for a reason. God saved us in order to give us something to do, something glorious and amazing to do: to worship and glorify the One Being who is alone worthy of all worship and glory.
God would have us to participate in this worship from the moment of our salvation. Remember, the Ten Commandments were given in the context of God, the Redeemer, telling His people, the redeemed, how they are to live pleasingly to Him. He does not say keep these commandments in order that eventually, someday, when you’ve done it well enough, I will be your God. No, God says, right now, today, I am already your God. I have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. By that act I have become your covenant God. Therefore, seeing that I am already, right now, your God, and you are already, right now, my people, live by these commandments. Keep them. Keep my laws, not so that I will become your God by the merit of your works, but because I already am your God by the merit of my redemption. Thus, the reward promised to those who keep this Second Commandment—mercy to many generations—is not to be earned by our perfect, sinless obedience—which is not possible to redeemed sinners in this life; nor is it earned by our imperfect, sin-stained obedience—which our holy God could never reward without compromising His own righteousness; but it is a reward entirely of grace. A reward earned by our Lord Jesus Christ in His active and passive obedience and given to all who believe with real, living faith, which by definition, will and must show itself in the imperfect yet sincere love for, and obedience to, God in this commandment.
What does the promised reward of mercy to many generations mean? I am convinced that it means that even as one’s faithless idolatry can plague one’s descendants to the third and fourth generation, so God here promises blessing forever to the descendants of those who sincerely worship Him today. This promise does not mean that all of my line will be saved, but it does mean that God will never forget to work for good in the descendants of His sincere worshipers, so long as their lines continue. So much greater is God’s mercy and blessing compared to His punishment and curse: a thousand generations to three or four generations! May both God’s threatening and His promise motivate you to worship Him alone.