What Does the Bible Say About the Role of Men? (I Corinthians 16:13,14)

The title of my sermon today is “Questioning Your Manhood.”  If you are not a male here today, your question might be, “Why should I listen to a sermon about manhood.?”  And it is true that my sermon today is directed primarily to those of us who are males, because the purpose of my sermon is to challenge us to become the men of God that God wants us to be.  But if you are a woman or a girl, don’t worry - at the end of my sermon there will be some applications for you also.  And if you are interested, I could come back someday and preach a sermon entitled “How to be the Woman that God Wants You to Be.”

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, the Apostle Paul writes:

 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  My question for all the guys in this room is this, “Are you a real man?”  When you look into the mirror, do you see a man or do you merely see a big boy?

You say, “You wanna know if I’m a man?  Check this out.” [show muscle]  But muscles don’t make a man.  

You say, “Of course I’m a man.  I’ve moved out of my parents house, and I take care of myself.”  But money doesn’t make a man. You say, “Of course I’m a man.  I’ve had my 18th birthday.”  But milestones don’t make a man.  

I’ve know some young teenagers who were more manly than middle aged males.  

Or you may say, “Of course I’m a man.  I’ve fathered several children.”  But machismo doesn’t make a man.

So if muscles, money, milestones and machismo don’t make a male into a real man, what does?  

The answer can be found in 1   Corinthians 16:13,14 where the Apostle Paul tells his readers to “act like men.”  

The word for men in the Greek is aner (ah nare).  It means a male in distinction from a female.  Paul could have used the word anthropos which means a human being whether male or female.  But Paul carefully chose the word aner, because he didn’t want to merely describe what a human is suppose to act like.  Instead he wanted to describe how a true man acts like.  In other words, the Apostle Paul wants to describe an aner of honor.

So what does a real man act like?  Well, let me read the I Corinthians 16:13,14 to you:

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.  According to these verses, a real man is not defined by his muscles, his money, his milestones, or his machismo.  Instead a real man is defined by his morals.  And in these verses, we can see that there are two sides to a real man.  In verse 13, we can see that a real man is strong.  And in verse 14, we can see a real man is gentle.  In other words a real man is both tough and tender.  And it’s important for a male to have both of these attributes.  Because if a male has toughness, but he doesn’t have tenderness, then he’s not a real man.  Instead, he’s a self-centered brat or even worse a mean-spirited bully.  But it’s not good to have it the other way either.  Because if a male has tenderness, but he doesn’t have toughness, then he is just a wimpy boy.


So what are you guys?  Are you a brat, a bully or a boy?  Or are you a real man?  

Let’s take a closer look at I Corinthians 16:13,14 to help us evaluate how manly we really are.

First, let’s take a look at verse 13 to evaluate how tough we really are.  The four commands in this verse are all commands that military officers would have given. So this verse indicates that the Lord wants us men to be warriors.  In other words, He wants us to engage in spiritual warfare.  

All of these commands are in the present tense.

So for example the first command is not merely “Be on the alert.”  Instead it should literally be translated “Keep being on the alert.”  In other words, the Apostle Paul is saying these commands are not merely activities that we can check off our to do list when we have done them once.  Instead these are habits that must characterize our lives continuously throughout our lives.  These are all duties that every man of God should be committed to fulfill as a lifestyle for the rest of their lives.

So let’s take a closer look at each one of these four duties that we must develop in our lives if we are going to become the warriors that God wants us to be.  

The first duty is “be on the alert.”  This is the command that military officers gave to the watchmen who kept guard over their camps at night.  Paul is telling us men that we have a duty to watch out for danger. And if we can fulfill this duty we can prevent our loved ones from getting hurt.  

But what kind of danger should we be watching out for?  Certainly we should watchful for physical danger.  For example those of us who are fathers should keep an eye out for suspicious characters that might want to hurt our children.  And all of us men should keep an eye out for things that might hurt those we love.  For example, when my daughter Elise was around two, she and I went on a train together.  She was on a seat facing backwards and I was on a seat facing forwards towards her.  When the train lurched forward, she slid quickly off the chair and almost hit the ground.  But with my catlike instincts I scooped her up before she hit the ground.  If you knew much about my personality or my typical pace, you would know that I generally am very slow so it had to be God who gave me the instincts at that moment to protect her from serious injury.

But I don’t think the Apostle Paul is primarily referring to men being alert to physical danger.  Instead I think that the Apostle Paul is primarily concerned that we are alert to spiritual dangers.

 1 Peter 5:8 says, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  It’s easy to be lulled to sleep and forget there is a spiritual battle going on in this world.  And the mastermind behind this battle is the devil.  He is determined to do whatever he can to ruin the spiritual lives of those you love.  

Do you see people dropping out of church?  

Do you see people within church being overly critical?  

Do you see people giving into sin?  

The man of God doesn’t look at these people as the enemies, but as the victims.

The man of God can detect that something sinister is behind all this.  

The man of God is able to detect the attacks of Satan.

Sometimes the attacks are really obvious.  I have seen people say very vicious things to people who don’t deserve it, and my first thought is “This is not normal.  This person is being influenced by the enemy.”  

I remember in one of my previous churches, the parents of a troubled youth called me to their house.  When I got there, the teenager was screaming profanity at his parents at the top of his lungs and threatening to beat them up.  I literally had to stand between him and his parents before he calmed down.  That was one of those times when it was obvious to me that I was in the midst of a spiritual battle.   And the cool thing now is that young man is now in his forties and is very tender to his parents and calls them up several times a week to see how they are.

But usually the attacks of the devil are much more subtle.  The enemy will use circumstances to make a person bitter.  For example, a student is put on academic probation, or a couple struggles with infertility, and then they begin to think, “God is so unfair.  It’s not worth serving Him.”  And so they might continue to attend church once in awhile out of duty, but their love for God grows cold.  Or a couple of friends have a misunderstanding.  Neither of them is totally right and neither of them is totally wrong.  But each feels disrespected.  And the friendship slowly deteriorates. And the tension spreads like yeast until the entire church community is affected.

The thing that all these stories have in common is that each person has become a victim of bitterness.  

They are all prisoners of their own sin and they have thrown away the key.

Now a lot of people would just look at these victims and think, “It’s unfortunate, but who can blame them for reacting that way?  It’s just natural.”  And then they don’t do anything about it.  

But the real man of God knows that Christians don’t need to respond to difficult circumstances with bitterness.  And so when he first detects this bitterness he will obey the commandment found in

Hebrews 12:15:  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  The real man of God is alert to the seed of bitterness when it is planted and as a result he deals with that seed before it grows roots.

Guys, when it comes to spiritual danger, are you alert or are you clueless?  

Are you able to detect the seed of bitterness in a relationship early enough so that it doesn’t sink its sinister roots into your own soul or into the souls of those you love?  Or do you only notice there’s a problem when it’s too late to do anything about it?  

There are some times that I am too nice of a guy.  I notice a person in sin, but I think that it's not that big of a deal, and I don't want to be intrusive so I let things slide.  But by the time that I deal with the sin, the person has gotten so entrenched in the sin and the sin has begun to defile others that I am unable to pull them out of it.  So as men it is our duty to set a watch over our loved ones so that they will not get hurt.

So if we are going to develop spiritual toughness in our lives,

the first thing we need to do is to be alert.  

The second thing we need to do according to verse 13 is that we need to stand firm in the faith.

The military commands continue. Paul tells us that it’s not only our duty to be like watchmen who are alert to potential danger. But it is also our duty to be like soldiers who stand firm in the midst of the battle.  

In other words even if everybody else is turning their tails and running away from the battle we need to remain entrenched without giving the enemy an inch.  As they say in the Coastguard, "You have to go out, but you don't have to come back.”  In other words, we need to be men who will stand tough when the going gets tough.

What is “the faith” that Paul is referring to?  The faith refers to what Christians believe about theology and morals.  In other words, Paul is saying that real men will not compromise what they believe when the going gets tough.  You see, perseverance is doing what is right even when you don’t feel like it.

It’s easy to be passionate about God when everybody around you is on a spiritual high.  I remember back in the 90s, going to Promise Keepers events in which thousands of men would pack football stadiums to hear men of God preach the Word of God.  

Everybody seemed so pumped up for God.  Everybody seemed to be singing to God with all their lungs.  And that was great, but that’s not when it’s hard to be passionate for God.  In a sense it’s the cool thing to do.  And events like that are great, but they shouldn’t be ends in themselves.  Instead, they should be catalysts to launch us into standing tough when the going is tough.

You see the true test of manhood is whether you will remain true to God even when nobody around you is passionate for God.  For example, what do you do when your peers start compromising their standards in the area of relationships with women?  They seem to be happy and you feel lonely.  Do you do what’s right or do you do what feels good?  What do you do when your friends start dropping out of church activities?  First they drop out of Sunday school, then they drop out of small group ministry and finally even their worship service attendance is infrequent.  They have their excuses.  They have to get up early every other day of the week, and so Sunday is their time that they need to catch up on their sleep.  But the funny thing is that they find time for their recreational activities.  The voices inside your head say, “Maybe I’m being too fanatic.  If they don’t feel like they need to be so active, maybe I don’t need to be so active either.”  

But the man of God says, “I’m going to remain entrenched.  I’m going to stand firm in the faith even if nobody else does.”

We live in a very liberal part of the country.  I grew up in Kansas, and as Dorothy once said, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”   And so you’re going to hear people say that the biblical worldview is naive and unscholarly.  They will tell you that the Bible is filled with contradictions.  Or you’re going to hear that Jesus was a great religious leader, but He never even claimed to be God.  Or you’re going to read a newspaper that has an article that reports that the Resurrection of Christ never really happened.  And so it’s natural to wrestle with doubts.  But in the end will you renounce your faith, or will you stand firm in your faith by seeking out answers to your questions?  Are you involved with a band of brothers who helps you stay entrenched in your faith even when the attacks of the enemy are intense?

So if we are going to develop spiritual toughness in our lives,

the first thing we need to do is to be alert.  

The second thing we need to do is stand firm.  

And the third thing we need to do according to I Corinthians 16:13 is to act like men. 

Or as the 1984 NIV says, we need to be men of courage. Unfortunately, the newer NIV has demasculinized the meaning of this phrase to be "be courageous."  But as I mentioned to you earlier, the original Greek uses the word for male here, not human.  Now according to one author, “Aristotle used this phrase [act like men] to describe the preferred mean between fear and recklessness. It describes serious, measured battle conduct.”  So the 1984 NIV describes this accurately as being men of courage.

Whereas perseverance is when we do the right thing even when we don’t feel like it,

courage is to do the right thing even though it’s the scary thing.  

Guys, we’re going to have to face a lot of scary things in our lives.  What are you going to do when your friend is drifting away from God?  Are you going to confront him and risk losing your friendship?  

What are you going to do when the Holy Spirit convicts you to talk to your non-Christian father about the Lord?  Are you going to witness to him and risk offending your father?  

For you guys who are single, what are you going to do when you are attracted to a godly woman?  Are you going to try to win her heart and risk being rejected?  

Many of us will choose the easy way.  But the man of God will choose the courageous way.  Many of us will be passive boys, but God wants us to be courageous men.

So if we are going to develop spiritual toughness in our lives,

the first thing we need to do is to be alert.  

The second thing we need to do is stand firm.  

And the third thing we need to do is be men of courage.  

And the fourth thing we need to do according to I Corinthians 16:13 is to be strong.  

It sounds like Paul is saying, “Stop being a baby.  Instead suck it up and be a strong man.”  But that’s not what Paul is saying at all.  

The NASB and almost every other English Bible does a lousy job of translating this phrase.  You see, in the original Greek the first three commands in verse 13 are in the active tense.  But this fourth command is in the passive tense.  

So this command literally means be strengthened.

In other words, the Apostle Paul is indicating that none of us have the strength within ourselves to fulfill the first three commands.  

Our natural tendency is not to be alert.  Instead, our natural tendency is to be clueless.  

Our natural tendency is not to stand firm.  Instead, our natural tendency is to be quitters.  

Our natural tendency is not to be courageous.  Instead, our natural tendency is to be cowardly.  

So Paul is indicating that since we do not have the strength within ourselves to do these tough manly things, we need to be strengthened by an outside force.

So how can we tap into that outside force?  

Take a look at Ephesians 6:10"...Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might”. Both of those commandments are also in the passive voice. In other words, the Apostle Paul is saying that if we want to have the strength to be alert, to persevere and to be courageous, we must submit ourselves to the Lord so that he can strengthen us.  

This is going to require humility on our part.  It’s going to require that we become so broken that we cry out to God, “Give me the power to be alert, to stand firm and to be courageous.  Because in my own strength, I am clueless, I am weak and I am cowardly.” And it’s at this point that the Lord can strengthen us in our weakness.  So in other words, if we are going to be strengthen in the Lord, we need to develop our prayer life in which we are seeking the Lord's strength.  Guys, how's your prayer life?  Are you daily before the Lord seeking His strength or is your prayer life virtually non-existent?

But in order to be a real man, we must not only be tough, we also need to be tender.  

Take a look at verse 14:  Let all that you do be done in love.  In order to be a real man, we must do all things in love.  What is love?  

Some people think that love is a warm fuzzy feeling.  

Some people think of love as naturally clicking with somebody.  

But the word that Paul uses for love is neither a warm fuzzy feeling or a natural clicking.  And it’s a good thing, because it is impossible to have a warm fuzzy feeling for everybody and to naturally click with everybody.  Instead Paul uses the word “Agape.”  A biblical meaning for agape is the “self-sacrificial commitment and desire to bring joy into another person’s life.”  So the Apostle Paul is saying that this commitment to love must permeate every area of our lives.  The Apostle Paul is saying that we must not allow anything to keep us from fulfilling this duty to love.  Or as he said in 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Is there anybody in this church that you have stopped loving?  When a group of people have been around each other so long, sooner or later everybody is going to disappoint each other.  When we are first disappointed, we might try to work on the relationship to improve it.  But after disappointment builds upon disappointment upon disappointment upon disappointment, after awhile it wears a little thin and it doesn’t seem like it’s worth working on the relationship anymore.  And so we settle for tolerance.  We are not openly mean to the other person, but we are not very warm hearted to them either.  

But the man of God doesn’t give up on love.  Everything he does, he does in love.  He’ll continue to love even when everybody around him is self-centered.  It's because he’s more concerned about the needs of the other person than he is about his own needs.  And I believe that’s the true test of maturity.  That’s the true test of manhood.

So guys, are you a man of God or are you just a big boy?  

What do you need to do to become the man that God wants you to be?  

Do you need to become tougher or do you need to become more tender?  

Or do you need to get better in both?

What specifically will you do to become the man of God that you were created to be?  Some of you may need to find a godly man who can mentor you.  Some of you may need to mentor a younger man so that he can become a godly man.  Some of you need to find a band of brothers who will keep each other accountable to be the men that God wants to be.  

The pastor of the Chinese congregation and I have decided that we are not going to be satisfied with a superficial relationship with each other.  We're not going to be merely coworkers.  Instead, we're going to be accountability partners.  We're going to ask each other tough questions about our personal lives.  We are going to be like iron sharpening iron.  And it is our hope that we can set a good example to the other people in our church so this type of authentic relationship will trickle down to influence others to have a similar relationship with others.  Guys, who is another guy that you could ask to hold you accountable?

What are some things you can hold each other accountable for?  

Some of you have been spending too much time fighting fictional battles on your computer screen.  

Man, you need to get off your desk chair and get involved in a real fight.  

Find a worthy cause to battle for – whether to fight against human trafficking or abortion or racism.  The Holy Spirit may be nudging some of you single men to starting a relationship with a particular lovely and godly young lady.  But your fear of rejection has paralyzed you.  Perhaps God wants you to man up and ask her out.  Some of you may need to make a commitment to evangelize.  Some of you need to ask forgiveness to your wife or your children because instead of being a strong and gentle leader, you have either been too mean or you have been too passive.  

But don’t go away from this sermon today complacent in your manliness.  Instead commit yourself to become a man of God who is both tough and tender.  And you can be that man of God if you pursue the character qualities of alertness, steadfastness, courage and love.

Now I’d like to speak to the ladies.  You have just heard that a real man should be both tough and tender.  So what does that mean to you?  

First of all, let me talk to those of you who are not married yet.  I’d like to challenge you to keep your standards high, but realistic.  In other words, when you get into a relationship, you need to ask yourself,

“Is this man both tough and tender?  

Will he be alert so that he can protect me from both physical and spiritual danger?  

Does he have the perseverance to keep on doing the right thing even when he doesn’t feel like it?  

Will he keep loving me even during the dry periods of our relationship?  

Does he have the courage to do the right thing even if it’s the scary thing?  

And will he sacrificially love me, instead of being self-absorbed?”  

Some women start with high standards, but once they get into their 30s and 40s they lower their standards.  But it is better to remain single for the rest of your life than to be married to a man who is not both tough and tender.

But on the other hand be careful that you don’t have unrealistic expectations.  God’s best for you may not be Prince Charming.  God’s best for you may be a diamond in the rough.  Don’t wait for the perfect man, because he will never come.  But if he is a genuine Christian and a man who truly desires to be both tough and tender, it may be good to give him a chance.

Second, ladies pray for us.  It’s hard to be a man of God in today’s society.  It’s hard to be both tough and tender.  So we need your prayers.

And thirdly, if you know a man who is both tough and tender, show your appreciation to him.

Many of you may have husbands or fathers who are tough and tender.  Remember to let them know that you admire them for those qualities.  You know they say that far more gifts are given to mothers on Mother’s Day than Father’s Day.  In fact, the National Retail Federation projects that the total spending for Father’s Day will be $12.5 billion this year, compared with an estimated $19.9 billion for Mother’s Day.  In other words we spend about 50% more on our moms than on our dads.  And maybe that’s just as well because women tend to be more sentimental.  I know that I would prefer that my daughters put more effort into Mother’s Day than Father’s Day.  But if you have a father or husband who is tough and tender remember to show him your appreciation.  So consider writing him a card or giving him a phone call.  Perhaps you had a father who was neglectful or even abusive, but you had another man invest in your life.  Perhaps an older brother, or a coach or a pastor.  Think of someway you can show your appreciation for investing in your life.

One final thought.  The only man I know who is perfectly tough and perfectly tender is Jesus Christ. Sooner or later every other man is going to disappoint you. Jesus is the only man who is worthy of our worship, because He is not only 100% man, but he’s also 100% God.  He came to this earth and lived the perfect example of a man.  That’s why if you want to know how to be a man, just ask yourself WWJD? – What would Jesus do?  Jesus was alert to the physical and spiritual dangers around Him.  And yet He stood firm in His faith in His father and His commitment to the people He came to serve.  And so He courageously defended them from the attacks of the enemy.  And He loved them so much that he died on the cross for their sins.  And He died on the cross for your sins and He died on the cross for my sins.  The Bible says that while we were still yet sinners, Christ died for us.  He took the punishment for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to.  He is the only one who can help us become the men of God that we should be.  If you would like to have a relationship with this God/man please pray this prayer with me…

If you decided to put your trust in Jesus as your savior, talk to one of the Christian leaders in this church so that you can get the help to become the man or woman of God that God wants you to be.

Tough but tender.  Strong but gentle.  That’s what Jesus is.  And ladies isn’t that what you are looking for in a man?  And men isn’t that what you want to be?