To understand what it means to be a mature man, we must ask this question: “What saith the Scriptures?” Or, to put it differently, “What does God say? What does He demand of me as a man?” Our view of manhood may not be formed on the basis of culture, the expectations of society, or tradition. We need a foundation that is more solid than any of those. Our understanding of masculinity must be grounded in the bedrock of God’s Word.
The fact that we need to turn to God’s Word for this instruction ought not to surprise us, but this approach is not popular. Many will scoff at this idea, claiming that to understand what it really means to be a man we need the latest findings of science, psychology, and sociology. To base our understanding on some outdated, old-fashioned Bible, they say, is laughably ignorant. It is the proverbial head-in-the-sand mindset.
But their mockery does not move us. We take our stand unashamedly on the inspired Scriptures, which is the Word of the thrice-holy God Himself.
Back to the beginning
To begin in our description of biblical masculinity, we have to start at creation. For a right understanding of anything, it is helpful to go back to its origin. To understand what it means to be a man, we have to go back to the beginning and God’s creation of all things to learn what was God’s original design and intention.
The account of God’s creation of man is found in Genesis 1-2. Genesis 1 gives a briefer description of God’s creation of mankind, and Genesis 2 gives a more detailed, in-depth description of God’s creation of man and woman.
It is important to remember that these two chapters are not giving two separate accounts of creation. Many who hold to theistic evolution will claim that these chapters are two different and even contradictory accounts of creation. They make this claim in the interests of undermining the literal interpretation of these chapters and promoting the idea that this history cannot be trusted as factual.
But these are not two separate accounts. Genesis 2 is not even a mere retelling of the creation account in Genesis 1, nor is it an appendix to that chapter which gives a few extra details. In Genesis 1 God describes broadly His work of creating all things. Then in Genesis 2 God begins to describe in detail the history of man. Genesis 2 describes God’s creation of man, the garden that God made for man, the two important trees of the garden, and the creation of the woman and her relationship to the man. God is setting the stage for the history of mankind that is to come.
What we learn from this history is that God made man and woman with many similarities, but also with many differences. They are similar, but not identical.
Let’s start with the similarities. There are especially three things we can identity.
First, men and women are similar in their creation.
They were both made in a special way by the hand of God. When God made all the other creatures, He simply spoke and those things came into exist. But when God made human beings, He, so to speak, “got His hands dirty.” When He made the man, God scooped up the dust of the ground, formed a man, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). When He made the woman, God caused Adam to fall asleep, removed one of his ribs, and from that rib formed the woman (Gen. 2:21-22). Both were made in a special way with God’s own hand.
Both male and female were also necessary parts of God’s creation. This was true of Adam as the king of God’s creation. But this was also true of Eve. On the sixth day, after God had already created Adam, He looked down at His creation and for the first time said, “It is not good” (Gen. 2:18). What was not good was that man was alone and there was no woman yet. Only after God created the woman did He look down and say, “Behold, it [is] very good” (Gen. 1:31).
Both male and female are created to be similar creatures. They have similar bodies made up of brains, eyes, ears, mouths, hands, fingers, hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, legs, toes, blood, bones, skin, and so on. They both have a soul, a conscience, a will, an intellect, and emotions.
Second, men and women share in the Fall into sin. Although both were created by God perfect and without sin, they were also created in such a way that they were capable of falling. Some have suggested that the reason why the devil came to tempt Eve and not Adam was that she could more easily fall into sin. But that is not true. It was not the case that the woman was somehow morally weaker. She was no more inclined to sin than the man was.
Although they had different roles in the Fall, the reality is that man and woman both fell into sin. Both disobeyed God’s command, both ate of the forbidden fruit, both covered themselves in fig leaves, and both ran and hid from the presence of the Lord.
Although there were different consequences of the Fall for man and woman (Gen. 3:16-19), they both shared in the primary consequence: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Today man and woman alike are conceived and born dead in trespasses and sins. Today man and woman alike are by nature the children of wrath.
Third, (elect) men and women share in salvation.
In the beginning, God made both man and woman in His image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). This meant that God made them both to resemble Him spiritually. He made them to be His son and His daughter, and caused them both to enjoy covenant friendship with Him.
The same thing is true after the Fall for redeemed men and women. The apostle Peter exhorts husbands to honor their wives “as being heirs together of the grace of life” (I Pet. 3:7). As we will come to see, there are many differences between man and woman, but in this area there is no difference. They are equally recipients of God’s grace and and the life and salvation of Christ. “[T]here is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
For all these reasons, we men may not look down upon or think less of our sisters in Christ. They must be treated with honor and respect.
While there are many similarities between men and women, there are also many differences. God did not make them identical. The male/female distinction is the most basic distinction in the human race.
The most obvious difference between men and women is in their physical anatomy, particularly their different sexual organs. This is so obvious a point that you might wonder why I bring it up. But, sadly, it has to be said today because this most basic point is denied today. Many today claim that gender is not based on one’s anatomy but rather on how they feel and the way that they have always identified themselves. So, a young man born with male genitalia feels more feminine and wants to identity as a woman; therefore, he must be viewed as a she. Or, a young woman born with female genitalia feels more masculine and wants to identity as a man; therefore, she must be viewed as a he. Both then are encouraged to mutilate their bodies in order to bring their anatomy into line with their feelings. The result is that Joe becomes Jane, and Jane becomes Joe.
But this is not only a wicked mutilation of the body, it is an attack on the Creator. In the beginning God created them male and female, and blessed them with the ability to be fruitful, to multiply, and to replenish the earth (Gen. 1:28). He made them with distinct physical traits, traits that complemented one another in such a way that they were able to conceive and bear children. What distinguishes men and women is, first of all, their anatomy. Any feelings that a person might have to the contrary are to be brought in line with their anatomy, and not the other way around.
There are further differences in the makeup of men and women. Generally speaking, men have greater physical strength than women. I Peter 3:7 calls the husband to give honor to his wife “as unto the weaker vessel,” which implies that the man is stronger. There are also many passages of God’s Word that connect manhood with strength (Prov. 20:29; Is. 40:28-31; I John. 2:13-14). Even the world grudgingly recognizes this; there is a reason why women use a smaller basketball than men and why the ladies’ tees are moved forward on the golf course. As a whole women, do not possess the raw strength that men do.
Another difference in men and women is in regard to reasoning and emotions. Generally, men are guided more by reason and logical thinking and less by their emotions. Generally, women are guided less by reason and logic and more by their emotions. I have heard numerous women say, “There’s a reason why God didn’t call us women to serve in church office! We couldn’t handle these situations emotionally! We would let our emotions get in the way!” This is not a criticism of women; it merely acknowledges the differences in the way God has formed us.
Another of the key differences between men and women is the roles that He calls them to fill. I would argue that the chief role of a mature men can be captured by the word leadership. And the chief role of a mature women can be captured by the word support. God has given men and women different responsibilities, and then He has also created them in such a way that they are uniquely qualified to carry out these responsibilities.
This idea is biblical. In the beginning, God made the man first. He created Adam to be the head of the human race and the king of the creation. The woman was created after the man, out of the man, and for the man (I Cor. 11:8-9). She was uniquely designed to be a complement and helper to the man (Gen. 2:18, 20). This also is the emphasis of passages that address the calling of the husband as the head and leader of his wife (Eph. 5:23). This is the emphasis of passages that address the place of men as leaders in the church (I Cor. 14:34-35; I Tim. 2:11-14).
But what does it mean that men are to be leaders? For that we wait until next time.