Sinful humanity is at war with God but they cannot actually reach Him, so they hate His image in human beings and seek to destroy it. This is what abortion and transgenderism are all about, but that impulse begins much earlier, in refusing to give thanks to God our Creator, which includes His infinite wisdom in making us male and female (Rom. 1:21). Today we look particularly at the glory of men, and the Bible teaches that the glory of men is their strength. That strength is for sacrificial love and leadership in homes, churches, and the broader world.
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
It’s striking that Paul gives this charge to the entire church at Corinth, made up of men and women. There are four imperatives, but arguably, two of them are subsumed under one of them. Being watchful and standing firm in the faith is how the Corinthians must “act like men.” And the final command, explains what that requires: “be strong.” It takes strength to remain watchful through the night, over the course of many days or many years. It takes strength to standfast in the faith, trusting and obeying God and not wavering even when it hurts, when it is hard. This is the duty of all Christians, but it is the particular glory of men to lead in this.
THE GLORY OF MEN
“The glory of young men is their strength” (Prov. 20:29). “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 Jn. 2:14, cf. Ps. 19:4-5). Glory is what makes someone shine. This can certainly include appearance, but in men it primarily points to action. The Bible does not mind pointing out when men are “handsome” (Gen. 39:6, 1 Sam. 9:2, 16:12), but the glory of men is not their appearance. It is their strength. It is what they do with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength that God has given them. And this requires courage. C.S. Lewis says that courage is not merely one of the virtues, but it is every virtue at its testing point. So biblical masculine strength is the commitment to virtue to the pain, to the suffering, to the death. Biblical manhood is constantly watchful and steadfast in the faith, and courage holds the line, standing fast, when everything seems to be falling apart, when it doesn’t look like it’s working. This masculine courage fundamentally trusts in Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life. He will raise us from this moment or else He will raise us from the dead.
THE SHAME OF SOFT MEN
Effeminacy is softness in men, particularly at the very places where we are called to be hard and strong and courageous. This is sometimes as simple as cowardice and fear (Dt. 20:8, Jdg. 7:3), but that trembling, especially in the face of battle, the Bible describes as acting like a woman (Is. 19:16, Jer. 48:41, 49:22, 51:30). This softness can also be a confusion of glory, seeking the glory of a woman through inordinate care and concern for appearances and luxury (Dt. 22:5, Mt. 11:8, Lk. 7:25). The woman is the glory of man, and this glory is in her beauty and beautiful way of cultivating life (Gen. 2:23, 1 Cor. 11:7). This is why it is right and proper for a woman to have longer hair, and it is shameful for men to do so (1 Cor. 11:14-15). And this softness in men is not at all unrelated to homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9). And so we must practice strength and courage as men and teach it to our boys.
While we certainly do have a plague of sexual rebellion and confusion in the world, driven by many soft men in the Church, we should not miss the fact that men can often hide their softness in veneers of sacrificial strength. But God calls men to use their strength obediently, and this means taking responsibility and choosing the obedient sacrifice. God created Adam first, so that he could be cut open first. Man was made first so that he might bleed first. Men love courage and heroism, and so they do not usually embrace pure cowardice openly or immediately. Instead, a man will choose a disobedient sacrifice and decorate it with suffering (which sometimes includes tattoos and piercings), but this is just cowardice masquerading as courage. So a man may go hunting or work on the car instead of pursuing his wife, disciplining his children, or starting a new business, school, or church. And by the same token, sometimes a man needs to go hunting or learn to work on his car and get out of the office. The point is responsible obedience.
DO NOT GIVE YOUR STRENGTH TO WOMEN
“Give not thy strength to women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings” (Prov. 31:3). Lemuel’s mother is particularly warning the king against sexual immorality. Think of the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson literally gave his strength to a woman in exchange for sex. But this is what all sexual sin is: an offer of fake respect in exchange for empty pleasure. Real respect is shown in commitment, loyalty, obedience, encouragement, praise, and service. A wife swears to honor and obey you in the Lord, which makes you a stronger man. But “by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread” (Prov. 6:26). “For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her” (Prov. 7:26).
In 1 Kings, there are a number of chapters dedicated to the building of the Temple, many details describing the massive building project, where the materials came from, how it was constructed and so on. And then in 1 Kings 11 it describes how Solomon took hundreds of wives and concubines, how they turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord, and how Solomon built high places and shrines for all of their gods (1 Kings 11:4-8). It’s mentioned almost in passing, but you really need to think about the contrast between building the Temple to the true and living God and then building hundreds of worthless, pagan shrines. Think about all that wasted energy, thought, money, materials, plus all the harm it caused Israel. What are you building? And do not despair if you have been building the wrong things. Christ died to take away the sins of men.
CONCLUSION: DO HARD THINGS
The glory of men is their strength. Men were made to do hard things. Men were made to bear heavy loads. When men work out physically, they get stronger. When men push themselves to do more, they generally get better at it. It’s trendy in our world, even our Christian world to warn one another about burnout and over-doing it, but where in the Bible are we warned about that? The Bible certainly instructs us to take a weekly Sabbath, a day of rest, but beyond that, it says we are to be known for hard, diligent work, and it warns us against sloth, laziness, and cowardice over and over. David fell into sexual sin in the springtime when kings were supposed to go out to battle. So where is the battle that God is calling you to? Is it dealing with a sin in your life? Is it leading your wife or family more intentionally? Is it starting some new venture, a new project? Does it look hard? Will it require suffering? Might you mess up along the way? You were made for this. This is your glory in Christ.