What is a Biblical Man?

Growing up, I remember being clearly taught that to be a true man was to be godly and to strive for Christlikeness.  We were taught that being a man is not summarized by “being macho”.  It is not about how many weights you can lift, going hunting, or fixing cars.  The quintessential quality of biblical manhood was Christlikeness.

          I find this teaching to be thoroughly biblical and I want to demonstrate how below.  Unfortunately, we live in an age where the pendulum seems to have swung in the complete opposite direction.  Due to the rise of post-modernity, there has been an overly-aggressive response to unmanliness.  This is understandable, but sadly prevents true manliness from flourishing since the movement now focuses on external works.  No longer are young men and boys being told to look towards Christ as their prime example of manliness.  Instead, they are directed towards gyms, hard work, and raising children.  These things might be good, in and of themselves, but they are not what the Bible teaches about manliness.

The Bible shows us what a man should look like.  Stuart Scott notes:

“Jesus, the God-Man, is portrayed in the Scriptures as the only perfect man (1 Pet 2:21-22).  This being so, He is the perfect picture of what one should strive to be as a man.  Christ is the pristine example of masculinity in every way (1 John 2:6).  Surely no one would say that any quality He possessed was unmanly.”[1]

This being true, we cannot but agree with Scott.

          A passage which comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”  All that men do is to be done in love.  What better model of love is there than Jesus Himself?  The God-Man went to the cross to die, all so that we could have salvation.  Husbands are to model this for their wives (Ephesians 5:25); and make sacrifices for their children (Ephesians 6:1-4) all in the name of manly love.

Yet, if we only focus on the married and on fathers, then what can be said for those who are single?  Are they doomed to not be manly until they marry and have children?  Obviously, this cannot be the case and is one of the biggest issues with wrong views on manliness.  Most of what people say fails to address single men.  Obviously, we cannot base our understanding of manliness on what married men can do.  This would mean failing to realize the true essence of manliness.

Christ Himself was single, He never married.  Why, then, do manliness movements want to make it all about sex and child rearing?  It is a mystery to me.  Singleness is clearly a good thing, according to the Scriptures (where it applies to those who are called to it - 1 Corinthians 7:27).  The Bible would not call males to be men while also calling some to remain single, meaning that true manhood is out of reach.  No, something else must be in view.

Again, we return to 1 Corinthians 16:17.  Love seems to be one of the major characteristics of manliness.  Men, whether married or single, fathers or without children, have the ability to express manly love.  This will find expression in friendships, in relations to mothers and fathers, and also to coworkers.

A biblical man will, therefore, stand strong on the truth of God’s Word, loving people to share it with them (Romans 10:14-15). He will accept the difficulty of the task, admit his fears, and trust in the Lord to work through him. He will humbly admit his shortcomings and ask for help with those things he cannot resolve himself (1 Peter: 6-7).  He will not pridefully try to solve all his problems on his own.  Not all men know how to fix their cars or household things.  He will know where he is limited and will seek help and learning wherever necessary and applicable.  Likewise, husbands will work to provide for their wives (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Fathers will cultivate a godly attitude in their children (Ephesians 6:1-4).  Knowing that men are biologically defined differently from women, they will apply these gender-specific roles to their lives and households.  Where those roles do not specifically apply (due to singleness), they can still express them through how they relate to women and children in loving graciousness.  None of this is done in the legalistic, external sense of “macho manliness”, but merely because living a loving, Christlike life will naturally result in such an attitude.

The point is, therefore, clear.  Men must work hard, first of all, to cultivate a Christlike attitude in their lifestyles.  After this, they must work hard to be loving in all that they do.  Finally, this will result in various external works which are the fruit of true manliness.  We must understand this properly.  Do not confuse the root with the fruit.  Christ is the root, everything else is the fruit.

R D. Norman is a missionary in Romania.  He is married to Ema and serves most predominantly through evangelism and counseling.  He is also the author of two upcoming books; Phenomenal Grace and Restraint and Freedom: Biblical Advice for Self-Control.

[1] Scott. S. W. Profiling Christian Masculinity in Think Biblically!: Recovering a Christian Worldview. Crossway. Wheaton: IL. (2003). 161