Does creation have a purpose? Is there a purpose for the existence of humanity? And, more specifically, do I have a purpose, a reason for being? This article will look at what answers the Bible can provide to these important questions.
Google defines purpose as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” This definition gives us two distinct ways that “purpose” is used. The first has to do with why something is done. And the second concerns why something exists.
The first of these usages is pretty straightforward. Nearly everything we do is for some reason, even if that reason is not a good one. The purpose of going to work nearly every morning for over 40 years was to be able to buy food and clothes as well as provide my family a place to live. There was a concrete reason for my employment.
The second usage of purpose concerns the reason for existence. The purpose of my gardens is that they bring me pleasure. I enjoy their peaceful beauty. The purpose of my kitchen is much more practical. It allows me to prepare my meals.
But there are other things around my house that have no purpose, although they might have at one time. The dust bunnies under the couch serve no purpose, at least as far as I am concerned.
Much of what occupies my garage had a purpose when I put it there. But that purpose has been lost over time. While it might be useful to someone else, it no longer has value to me.
When we look at the question asked in the title of this article, we are mostly concerned with our reason for existence. Were we created for a purpose? Is there a reason for our existence?
From an Atheistic Perspective
An atheist would answer this question in two distinct ways. They will often first address what they see as their own purpose.
Essentially what they mean by this is the purpose they have assigned to themselves. What they are trying to accomplish in this life. But that is not the question being addressed here.
When asked more specifically why they exist, rather than not existing, they have to say that they have no purpose. There is no reason why they exist. If there is no creator of the universe, then the whole cosmos is without purpose. It just is.
The Purpose of Creation as a Whole
A Christian will have an entirely different answer to this question about purpose. Believing that there is a God who created the universe changes how we view its purpose. If the universe is just an accident, then it can have no real purpose.
But if it was intentionally created, as Scripture affirms, then the creation would have a purpose. The creator was trying to accomplish something in his creation. But what was it?
I do not believe that Scripture gives us an explicit purpose statement for the creation. While it does clearly affirm that God intentionally created all that is, the purpose is not directly revealed.
Some might argue that it was simply something for him to enjoy, like an artist painting a picture. And he did indeed find the creation to be good and desirable.
But I believe that God’s purpose in creation was not creation itself. Rather it was something that would come out of the creation. In this case, creation itself is only a means to an end. You might think of this universe as being like my kitchen.
The purpose of the kitchen is to produce a meal. In the same way, the purpose of creation is to produce something. And I believe that something is humanity. Not what we are now. But what we were made to become.
The Purpose of Humanity
If the focus of creation is on humanity, the logical question would be why? What purpose would God have in creating humanity? In the context of the whole creation, we are pretty insignificant. Why create all of this for us?
The first chapter of Genesis does give us an answer concerning the purpose of humanity. In this chapter, there are eight creative acts spanning the six days. In three of the creative acts, there is a given purpose.
On day two, a vault is created to separate the waters above from the waters below. On day four, the celestial bodies are created to institute a way to track time. And, finally, the eighth creative action produced humanity.
When God created humanity in his image, it was to rule over the other creatures that God had made. Humanity’s initial purpose in creation was to be God’s vice-regent, caring for God’s creation under God’s authority.
Our Ultimate Purpose
But being caretakers for the rest of creation is not the end purpose for our creation. It is only an intermediate step toward God’s final purpose. You can find that final purpose expressed in Ephesians 1:13-14.
This inheritance does not belong to all of humanity. But only to those who have believed in Christ and given their lives to him. Paul here calls us God’s possession.
Like the kitchen that exists to produce a meal, so the creation exists to produce a redeemed humanity for God. What purpose we will have in eternity is unclear. But we can be assured that we are precious to God. And that he has a purpose for us.
A redeemed humanity has an eternal purpose. But what about me as an individual within that redeemed humanity. Not just in eternity, but here in this life? Does God have a purpose for me now?
I believe that there are two distinct purposes for our lives as believers today. The first is to function within Christ’s church as an active and healthy member of the body. All redeemed humanity makes up Christ’s body.
And each of us has a role within that body to fulfill. Ephesians 4:16 tells us that the body is healthy and growing when each member of the body is doing what God has called us to do. Each of us has a different role within the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), and our purpose here is, at least in part, to fulfill that role the best we can.
The second purpose I see for us here is to prepare for our eternity. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 talks about building our lives on the foundation of Christ. And Paul tells us that in some way our eternal future is impacted by the way we have built now. It is not an issue of salvation. But it does make clear that the life I live now is preparing me for my future.
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Ed Jarrett is a long-time follower of Jesus and a member of Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and regularly blogs at A Clay Jar. You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Ed is married, the father of two, and grandfather of three. He is retired and currently enjoys his gardens and backpacking.