I realize that this post is ridiculously long, and should really be two, maybe even three posts. Alas, I hope you get the chance to catch up on your lost time.
Every student and graduate of The Master’s Seminary is intimately acquainted with the hymn, “Rise Up, O Men of God!” It’s a frequent song we sing together in the seminary choir led by Clayton Erb for Shepherd’s Conference or graduation. There is great theological richness and profundity in the words:
Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind 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!
Have you ever sincerely taken the time to meditate on what those words are calling us to? That’s no easy task! But what does it mean to be a “man of God?” The church seems to be wrestling with the issue more now than ever. Many men read passages like 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? The world is no help in the matter.
Our culture has worked tirelessly to blend gender distinctions and blur the biblical distinctions 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.1
First of all, 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? Maybe we should rely on a more dependable source…
The point is, besides that she is right. Grace Community (along with many churches) actually believes in the biblical distinction between male and female roles in the family and the church. 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 in a complimentary manner. Her assessment communicates what our culture believes, that gender distinction cannot exist in harmony with gender equality.
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 my last post, it doesn’t help when many 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?
A great starting point is in Titus 2:2, 6-8. Paul gives nine characteristics that stand in stark contrast to what we see in most men today; we actually looked at three of them in the context of pastoral ministry last time, but I’m restating them again here in a more general way:
- Temperate – This is rarely seen in men of our age, even among ministers. It stands in sharp opposition to the one who is loud, obnoxious, snarky, and hot-tempered. Originally, this word in secular Greek referred to someone who was “free from intoxication.” In the New Testament though, it came to describe someone who was “moderate.” In other words, you are “restrained in conduct,” or “self-controlled.” You are “level-headed.” The basic meaning is that you are able to keep your cool and think clearly even in otherwise volatile situations. It is one who is not given to pugnaciousness. Why is this important? Because we are called to be spiritual leaders in the church and our families, and as such we need to be able to make wise and discerning decisions based on truth, even if our emotions are screaming at us otherwise.
- Dignified – This is an interesting word too. It carries the idea of “seriousness,” but it might be helpful to think of this in terms of your “character,” rather than “behavior.” It isn’t saying we can’t have fun, laugh, or be funny. After all, if we have the joy of the Lord, we should be generally happy! Sometimes we might need to remind our faces! This is not a call to walk around grumpy with a scowl all the time. What it does mean is that we don’t treat serious matters flippantly or trivially. We take no pleasure in what is immature, ungodly, immoral, vulgar, or sinful. The word “dignified” can also be translated as someone who operates in a “mode or behavior that is extraordinary and therefore worthy of respect.” I find that interesting because very often, we try to demand the respect we think we deserve. In actuality, we should command it, not by our words, but by our character.
- Sensible – There is overlap in this word’s meaning with “temperate” and “dignified,” but here the emphasis is on the expectation that we be self-controlled. It carries the idea of one who is “distinguished,” or “set apart for a specific service.” You are thoughtful in your behavior. You are in control of your passions. We don’t allow our emotions to dictate our decisions. We know that sin causes us to think and behave irrationally, but we refuse to allow it to control us. We resist the lust of the world and all it has to offer, and work to “think so as to have sound judgment” (Rom. 12:3). We think rationally, because our eyes our fixed on the race before us (Phil. 3:13-14). Interestingly, we also see this same same root word used in verses four and five of Titus 2. In verse five, it’s again translated “sensible,” but verse four also translates the word from its verbal form as an one who “encourages.” Well, if we’re using the adjectival form to describe our character, then what Paul is saying is that our lives should be of such reputation that it admonishes others to follow in our steps. We should be able to say like Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I also follow after Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Can you say that? When another man asks you, “How do I be a good husband?” “a good father?” or “a man of God?” can you say, “Model my life; do what I do?”
- 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.