Significant Male Roles
All men are called to be spiritual leaders in their homes. This means they must be spiritually mature or else accept guidance from mature men until they are able to lead others to faith and to help their family grow in their faith.
Men also need to be in accountability relationships with other men who are spiritually more mature than they are and to partner with other men of similar maturity in pouring into younger men. And all of these men are to be ultimately submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ himself as they live out their roles.
Specifically, men are to be worshipers, disciples, witnesses, husbands and fathers, leaders, providers, and protectors. As they grow in their faith, they will also get more involved in mentoring and training men; further develop their spiritual gifts and exercise hospitality; participate more actively in public worship; teach men, women, and children; and in some cases serve as elder or deacon. As a foundation for living out their roles as husbands and fathers, men should follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Humbling themselves to learn from God and to submit to his authority and his lordship in their own life will provide the source and power for their mission. If they aren’t first and foremost disciples— learners—themselves, they won’t have much to teach to their children.
Men may feel under great pressure at times as providers and leaders. Without God, living out all their roles adequately, or even with excellence, is virtually impossible. It’s a high calling to be ultimately held accountable for all that occurs in their family (and in the case of elders, the church). It is at this point that men must learn to trust God to provide for all their needs and to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33), and God will provide everything they need. Their primary goal in life should be to serve God with all their heart and to care adequately for their family by his strength, guidance, and enablement. God is faithful, and he will enable them to be faithful as they put their trust in him. God has also provided the church to be a source of support and accountability in all of their important tasks.
In light of all this, they should aim to excel as husbands and fathers. It’ll more than likely happen that men outgrow the initial wonder of being a newlywed or a new father. Men might gradually get drawn disproportionately into their work or various hobbies, whether golfing, fishing, or watching sports on television. Even ministry can become an obsession. However, as they continually, by God’s grace, seek to nurture their wives and children, both physically and spiritually, God will provide. As husbands, they should love their wives, be faithful to them, and be sensitive rather than harsh with them. As fathers, they should be consistent in the discipline and instruction of their children, in love and for their own good. They should draw their entire family into God’s mission in and through their lives—both as a family and individually. They should also be aware of the spiritual warfare that is a constant reality and encourage all the members of their family to put on the full armor of God (see Eph. 6:10–18).
True and mature masculinity will be grounded in a man’s underlying God-given purpose and expressed in his God-given roles.
As men mature in their faith, and as they prove themselves in the way in which they manage their own household (1 Tim. 3:4–5), they may aspire to serve in a leadership role in their local church. Whether or not they’ll be chosen to serve in a leadership capacity in their church, all men should strive to meet the qualifications for church leaders set forth in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Most of these qualifications are relevant for all men in terms of maturing in the faith. Men should also be committed and consistent in their witness to their faith in Christ to others and to be faithful in worshiping God in the company of others. If they strive to obey the Great Commission (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”) and to follow the great commandments (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself”), they will do well. Such a man’s wife and children will be blessed to have this kind of husband, father, and godly example.
What, then, does it mean for a man to be a man? By making him male, God has built into the man a masculinity that is very different from the femininity designed for women. In our culture, masculinity is often defined by external traits: a man rides a motorcycle or a pickup truck; goes fishing or golfing; is loud, aggressive, and boisterous; hangs out with his buddies; likes NASCAR and fast cars; and so on. Is this really what it means to be a man? Those activities may be limited expressions of masculinity in our particular culture, but being male goes a lot deeper than that.1In keeping with God’s original design, as restored in the Lord Jesus Christ, a true man, as rooted in his essential, Godgiven identity, will reflect characteristics of his design as a man in his concern to provide for, protect, and lead responsibly those entrusted to his charge.
Husband-and-wife biblical scholars set forth a robust biblical theology of gender, examining key texts, employing sound hermeneutical principles, and considering important historical influences related to the Bible’s teaching on manhood and womanhood.
In this way, true and mature masculinity will be grounded in a man’s underlying God-given purpose and expressed in his God-given roles. He will, with courage, conviction, and faithfulness, be seen as a man who engages in activities and tasks that are in keeping with his masculine identity. He will not only “hang out with the guys” but bond with other men in various ways to accomplish God-given purposes. He will mentor his sons and others in what it truly means to be a man and leader. He will take godly, energetic initiative in leading his family and nurture and provide for his wife and children. He will exercise his spiritual gifts in humility and submission in the context of the local church. In all this, he will model proper respect for authority and will discipline his ambitions and drives, physical and otherwise, in order to honor God in all of his life. If the body of Christ is functioning properly, he’ll receive the respect from his wife, his family, and other people in the church that God has designed for him, and there won’t be a void or need to seek significance in any way from empty, boisterous, and wasteful external pursuits to express his manhood.
- See, e.g., Kevin DeYoung, “Play the Man,” Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood16 (Fall 2011): 12–13: “I know conservatives want to push back the tide of feminism and fight against the emasculation of men in our culture, but offering stereotypes is not the way to do it. It is not fair to say, without qualification, ‘Real men hunt and fish. Real men like football. Real men watch ultimate fighting. Real men love Braveheart. Real men change the oil and chop firewood.’”
This article is adapted from God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger.
Men, we will never get anywhere in life without discipline, and doubly so in spiritual matters.
Our value comes from God and he has good purposes for every role and circumstance he puts us in.
We won’t be able to say everything in one conversation, and we certainly won’t say everything perfectly.
Scripture is clear that all earthly fatherhood finds its origin in our heavenly Father, but it also reveals more than that.