Be Watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
~1 Corinthians 16:13~
What does it mean to be a “man of God?” The church ever seems to be wrestling with the issue. Many men undoubtedly read the command above in 1 Cor. 16:13 to “act like men,” with confusion. There might perhaps be a willingness to obey, but what does that actually mean? What does that look like? Certainly the world is of no help.
Contemporary society has worked tirelessly to blend gender distinctions and blur the biblical differences between a man and a woman. They perceive different roles, simply because they are different, as necessarily chauvinistic. They equivocate patriarchy to oppressive hierarchy. Back in 2009, Johanna Sigurdardottir (kudos if you can pronounce her last name) became the first openly lesbian head of government and prime minister of Iceland. You know what her campaign slogan was? A promise to “end the age of testosterone.” According to many, she successfully turned Iceland into the most feministic country in the world. But lest you think this has gone without affect on the church…
In July 2010, Anne Eggebroten wrote an article titled, “The Persistence of Patriarchy: Hard to believe, but some churches are still teaching about male headship.” Eggebroten is a professor in the religion department at California State University, Northridge and is the founding member of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus. She is also a self-acclaimed feminist and “Christian.” She begins her article as follows:
Today, I’m attending a megachurch – Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California – where God is male, all the pastors, deacons, and elders are male, and women are taught to live in submission to men.*
First of all, a quick FACT CHECK: Grace has deaconesses! So… the deacons aren’t all “male.” I couldn’t help but point that out… it gives you an idea for how carelessly Eggebroten did her research, which is disconcerting for a renowned “scholar” and distinguished professor. In fact, my wife Melody was even a deaconess, but who’s asking?
The point is, besides that she is right. Grace Community, along with many churches, actually believes in the biblical principle that God is male** and the role of pastor/elder is excluded to that of men.*** Evidently, Eggebroten isn’t aware of this, hence her subtitle, Hard to believe, but some churches are still teaching about male headship. She wasn’t saying that complimentary. Her assessment communicates what our culture believes, that gender distinction cannot exist in harmony with gender equality.
However, not only is that not true, but it cannot be true. To say that a distinction cannot exist in harmony with equality would be to deny equality among the Persons of the Trinity wouldn’t it? Each member of the Trinity has a distinct role, and yet they are equal. Not only that, but it took the same atoning sacrifice through the death of Christ to purchase women from the bonds of sin as that of men, didn’t it? If women were of lesser value, wouldn’t they have demanded a lesser sacrifice? Nevertheless, Eggebroten is baffled that there are actually churches still out there that believe in gender distinction. The fact is, women are of equal value to men! Just ask any God-fearing man who loves his wife! If anything, he would adamantly defend that she is of greater value (we say that affectionately, not theologically). But even so, we have become largely confused about what it means to be a “man of God.”
Quite honestly, we fear being accused that we are “chauvinistic hierarchical snobs” who suppress women and view them as second class citizens. That’s far from the truth, but that’s what they say. As a result, we forfeit our convictions and surrender our leadership – all to avoid false accusations and controversies. We do not “act like men,” nor do we, in many circumstances, know how.
Christianity has tried to confront the problem, but as we saw in Part 1, they have looked more to psychology than the Scriptures to discern biblical manhood. We also saw that, unfortunately, many evangelical pastors do not model biblical manhood either, so there are very few to look to as an example. They often look more like pseudo-teens. But Paul very clearly instructs us on what it means to be a “man of God,” so we aren’t left in the dark. Indeed, He has a high calling for men, and by the way, He has a high calling for women. To ignore that calling is to have a low view of God because it is to say you know better how His creation should function.
So, what should we look like?
We began to unpack that last time from Titus 2:2, 6-8. If you’ve not read that article yet, go back and do that. We looked at the first three characteristics of the man of God that Paul gives, which already stands in stark contrast to what we see in most men today. We are to be temperate, dignified, and sensible.
Today we’re looking at the remaining six characteristics of a godly man Paul gives. We are to be:
- Sound in Faith – That’s interesting isn’t it? The word “sound” means “to be healthy, free from error, to be correct.” In other words, Paul is admonishing men of God to be deep in their theology and doctrine, with a veracity for accurate truth. That’s not restricted to the pastor or elders in the church. Every member of the church should be digesting the meat of the Word, but men should be especially aware that as leaders of their families, they are specifically responsible for the spiritual training of their wives and children. That demands discernment and an ability to clearly and faithfully explain the Scriptures.
- Sound in Love – This too is interesting, because the object of our love is not qualified. We are to have a “healthy, pure, sound love” for what or for whom? Of course a man of God should have a pure love for Christ and His Word, expressed by his devotion to it, and manifest by his soundness in faith. But because the object is unqualified it doesn’t end there. Let’s paint this in as broad a category as possible, because that’s what Paul does here. Suffice it to say that we love those who are undeserving of our love, those who reject our love, or those who even cause us to suffer because of our love. That’s the kind of love expected from a man of God – love without qualification (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
- Sound in Perseverance – This is only natural. If we are to love those who don’t deserve our love, those who reject our love, or those who cause us to suffer; and if we are “sound in the faith,” we will experience hardship. Thus, we must be able to endure the hardship associated with being “sound in faith” and “sound in love.” Picture for a moment the tremendous suffering of Job. After all he had been through, the death of his children, the loss of his home and wealth, and finally, his own health, Job complained. And you know what God said? “Gird up your loins like a man” (Job 38:3)! Make no mistake, every time we complain – about anything – we are teaching our wives and children to distrust the providence of God. We are not “persevering.”
- An Example in Good Deeds – Many have erred here. You MUST, as a man of God, understand that it does not matter how sound your theology might be or how biblical your teaching might be. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re right. What matters is that your theology and beliefs correspond with your life. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe, if by your deeds you deny Him (Titus 1:16). By your behavior, your wives and children will know your priorities. Are you more motivated by self-interest than righteousness? Are you more concerned with your own emotional well-being than being “sound in faith, love, and perseverance?” Is there anything in your life that takes precedence over your worship of God? If there is, than that’s what you’re truly worshiping.
- Pure in Doctrine – This is somewhat of a restatement of being “sound in faith,” but with a different emphasis. I hope you understand your individual responsibility to know the Scriptures well, inside and out! Is there any question that this is a priority for the man of God? The ESV translates this as having “integrity in teaching.” This can also be translated as being “without error in your teaching.” Not only does Paul presume that every man is actually teaching (there is a reflexive pronoun that carries throughout verse 7 – thus, “You yourselves be pure in your teaching”), but he also requires that we teach with precision – the kind of precision that demands rigorous and consistent study. Getting back to our previous point, “Do you do that?” If it’s an act of obedience and you don’t do it, what is taking the priority in your life that makes you disobedient?
- Sound in Speech that is Above Reproach – Men, this cannot stressed enough. We need to take foul speech very seriously. Actually, being “sound in speech” is a broader category than the mere avoidance of (shall we say) “colorful” language. It means you speak with integrity, truthfully, winsomely, and with purity. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word come forth out of your mouths.” The word “unwholesome” literally means “foul,” “rotten,” or “putrid.” You need to understand that this includes what you say and how you say it. Is your speech always with grace, seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6)? Do you speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15)? I don’t care how much a man of God you may think you are. If you cannot bridle the tongue, I have serious cause to question the condition of your soul. It is, after all, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Prov. 4:23; Matt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45). Your speech must be sound, and above reproach. That means that your speech must not be good. It must be beyond good!
So, rise up, men of God!
Let the Scriptures define who you are!
Be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, love, perseverance; model Christian living, be pure in doctrine, and be sound in speech that is above reproach. Men, the church needs you to “act like men.” God demands that you “act like men.” I hope you will. As I wrap up this series, take a moment to read the words of the great hymn, Rise Up, O Men of God. Don’t gloss through the words. Read it slowly. Contemplate what these words mean:
Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.
Rise up, O men of God! His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O men of God! The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task, Rise up and make her great!
Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where His feet have trod;
As foll’wers of the Son of Man, rise up O men of God!
The question is, “Will you?”
*You can read a more complete critique of her article by Dr. Al Mohler here.
**By the statement that “God is male,” I am responding to Eggebroten’s apparent objection that Grace Community and many others still refer to God as “Father” and “Son.” I have no idea what precisely she may have been trying to express beyond that, simply because she doesn’t say so. Her issue is our belief that God has ordained different roles for men and women.
***Unfortunately, the current trend in evangelicalism is moving to abolish Scriptural references to male leadership. In fact, even the TNIV (which removed all masculine pronoun references to God) and the NIV2011 blurred gender role distinctions in it’s (*ahem*) “translation.” You can read more about that here.