I believe there is a manhood crisis in America. I believe that much of the problems we see facing our county and within the church are directly connected to a lack of men acting like men, a distortion of manhood and what it means to be a man. My sermon today is going to be directed toward the men present here today, but women, it will be useful for you too as you see God’s good design for manhood, so that you can discern and detect the fake and counterfeit manhood the culture is trying to sell us.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home. Research shows that when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in the following ways:
- 4x greater risk of poverty
- 7x more likely to become pregnant as a teen
- More likely to have behavioral problems
- More like to face abuse and neglect
- 2x greater risk of infant mortality
- More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
- More likely to go to prison
- 2x more likely to suffer obesity
- More likely to commit a crime
- 2x more likely to drop out of high school
In addition, LifeWay research states that in 2017, 66% of teens polled who attend church regularly in high school stated that they had left the church between the ages of 18-22. While 69% say they were attending at age 17, that fell to 58% at age 18 and 40% at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, around 1 in 3 say they were attending church regularly.
In addition, LifeWay research says that when both parents attend Bible study in addition to Sunday service, 72% of their children attend Sunday school when grown and out of the house. When only the father attends Sunday school, 55% of the children attend when grown. When only the mother attends Sunday school, 15% of the children attend when they are grown. Finally, LifeWay reports that when neither parent attends Sunday school, only 6% of the children attend when grown.
What do these statistics tell me? They confirm to me the importance of having a man in the home, and not just a male presence, but men truly acting like men. These statistics are our present reality because men have often forfeited their God-given duties and roles for what is easy and comfortable. Men have, rather than acting like men, acted like women, boys, and even animals. Statistics like these are the fruit we reap when men neglect to act like men.
Today I want us to hear God’s charge, through the apostle Paul, to the men in the Corinthian church. The men in Corinth face much of the same things we face in today’s culture: sexual immorality, false doctrine and teaching, a distortion of roles between men and women, and an ignorance toward God, sin, and the Scriptures. So what does Paul do? He charges them to act like men in a culture seeking to destroy their God-given manhood, roles, and responsibilities, just as it is today. The charge to act like men has never been more important for us now in the church than as it is today, and by God’s grace and mercy, we can regain biblical manhood in our homes, churches, and communities.
Please stand, if you are able, for the reading of the word of God: 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV.
- Be Watchful (v. 13a)
The apostle Paul first calls the men in Corinth to “be watchful”. What does this mean? If we look throughout the New Testament, we see that to be watchful means to be alert for two things: 1) the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and 2) the awareness of an enemy.
- The Return of the Lord
In Matthew 24:42, we see Jesus give the command to stay awake, or to be watchful. Jesus says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” and again in chapter 25:13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Paul reminds the Christian men in Corinth to be watchful not just because Jesus could return at any moment for His bride, but to remind the men to live worthy of the gospel that has saved them as they live in a city overrun with sin. We read in Matthew 24, Jesus reminds his disciples how people behaved in the days of Noah. Scripture says, “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away.” Paul knows that it is easy for men to make a profession of faith, be zealous for a few months for Christ, and then fall right back into the sin Christ has delivered them from. To be watchful is not a call for men to guess when the Lord might return, to be watchful is to live in such a way that you are ready for the Lord to return at any moment. It is to live worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27), to turn from sin and to resist temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).
No one knows the day or hour of Christ’s return. We are to wait expectantly for this Second Coming or Second Advent of Christ, but we are not to wait slothfully, ignoring the duties and commands the Lord has given us here and now. We are to wait with vigilance for the Lord’s return, keeping watch for signs of His nearness. Though Christ has tarried for centuries, causing the hopes of some to wane, each day that passes is one day closer to His promised return. Until then, we must be watchful, staying awake, and heeding the words of Solomon in Proverbs 4:26, “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”
Men, when was the last time we pondered the path of our feet? When was the last time we stopped, evaluated the course of our life, and prayerfully considered — am I being a faithful follower of Christ? Am I being a faithful husband? Am I being a faithful and present father in the life of my children? Godly men do not accidentally fall into faithfulness. They intentionally pursue it by watching over the path of their words and deeds. Be watchful of how you live your life, for by being watchful and pondering the path our feet are on, we can discern with the wisdom God provides if we need to change course, repent of sin, and turn back to Him. So that when the Lord does return, we may be found faithful.
- The Awareness of an Enemy
Secondly, in Paul’s charge to be watchful is the call to be aware of the enemy, Satan. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Godly men stay alert and watchful because they know there is one who is seeking to destroy their faith, their family, and their lives.
Think of an ancient fortified city, like Corinth, for a moment. Cities would not have soldiers on guard only when they were under attack, but there were guards standing watch at all hours of the day, why? Because there was the reality that an enemy could attack at any moment, and the city wanted to be ready. Likewise, men, we too must be watchful for spiritual attack. We must be watchful over our own walk, but also the walk of those whom God has entrusted us with — our family. How are we to be ready and prepared for such a battle?
Paul tells the church in Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” The Greek word behind “continue steadfastly” means “to be courageously persistent” or “to hold fast and not let go”, referring here to courageous persistence in prayer. The way to be watchful is to be persistent in prayer. It is the way we stay alert for specific needs in which we ought to pray.
To be watchful, men, is to daily come before the Lord in prayer, asking for God’s help in living in a manner worthy of the gospel; asking for God’s help in leading our families and bringing our families each day before the throne of grace, praying for their growth and protection in the Lord. Men of God are men of prayer. The reality of the presence of an enemy and the sin that crouches at the door for each of us should not bring us to boasting in our strength or personal commitment to Christ, rather it should drive us to our knees knowing our weaknesses and inability apart from Christ (John 15:5).
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Therefore, let us look to the Lord and His strength and seek his face always (1 Chron. 16:11), that we might be watchful and know how to stand firm in the faith.
- Stand Firm in the Faith (v. 13b)
Paul’s next charge to the men in Corinth is to stand firm in the faith. Paul is not just referring to a steadfast commitment and trust in the Lord Jesus, he is also calling the men to be theologically orthodox, sound in doctrine and teaching, for many false teachers are making their way into the fellowship of the saints, distorting the sound teaching of the gospel. Paul therefore calls the men to stand firm in the faith, to know what you believe and hold fast to your biblical convictions. Why is this significant? Paul knows that what we believe directly influences what we do and what we tolerate.
We have heard it said, “All theology leads to doxology”, in other words, sound doctrine leads to passionate and holy praise; but here in Corinth we see that poor theology leads not to praise, but sin. Here in Corinth we gain a front row seat at witnessing the consequences of thinking doctrine is irrelevant. Because the men had not stood firm in the faith, they opened the floodgates for false teaching and immorality to seep into the church gathering.
Paul tells us there are divisions and factions among whom believers should align themselves with, confusion on their unity together in Christ through the gospel. Some believers claim to be of Paul, some Apollos, some Cephas, and some of Christ (1 Cor. 1). There is flagrant sexual immorality being tolerated as a church member is having sexual relations with his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5) – a sin even unbelievers do not tolerate. There is confusion on whether or not it is sinful to enter marriage (1 Cor. 7); there is food being offered to idols (1 Cor. 8); confusion with regards to Christian freedom and spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 9-12), and even the denial of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15).
Their theological errors gave birth to sin in thought, word, and deeds. Paul here is picking up where he left off in chapter 14, verse 20, which says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” Men, we ought to be growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior every day, not growing in our disobedience and sin, remaining spiritual infants in the faith. Christian men, providing the intellectual capability and the access to Scripture, are men of the Bible.
We cannot love Jesus and not love His word, men. Charles Spurgeon once said, “If you love Christ but little, you will hate error but little. If you do not love the truth at all, you will not hate error at all.” Godly men have a love for the Bible because unity at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.
I have yet to come across a man with a well studied Bible living in gross sin. Why is this? It is because the “word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It is no wonder that Paul when writing to the church in Ephesus he tells them to take up the whole armor of God, to resist evil and to stand firm (Eph. 6:13). Do we remember what the only weapon the believer has against cosmic powers of darkness? It is the sword, the word of the living God.
Stand firm in the faith, men! Know what you believe. Know the doctrines of Scripture, study, study, study the Scriptures for your own sanctification and the purity of the Church. We ought not to study the Bible for the sake of head knowledge, but we should pray that sound doctrine would take root in our heart. Sound doctrine cherished will change us, but sound doctrine dismissed will leave us remaining immature, spiritual infants.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith…. Let’s go back to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:13.
- Act Like Men, Be Strong (v. 13c)
I want to join the two phrases, “act like men” and “be strong” together because they both point to the same thing: courage. The Greek word for “act like men” is andrizomai, which was a frequent command, especially for men going out to battle, to be courageous. Paul’s charge to act like men and to be strong is a command for the men in Corinth to be courageous in the face of certain opposition.
Listen men, Paul knows that if men are going to be watchful and stand firm in the faith then they are going to enter a battle over truth and face opposition. This is why Paul says to act like a man. Paul is using here the word “andras” the Greek word for man. Paul is calling the men in Corinth, and us, to act like men — to not be wimps. To not be cowards. Godly men cannot have a spine that is as flimsy as a wet noodle, we must have a spine of iron as we stand bold for the truth of God in a post-modern age. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you have to be a “keyboard warrior” online making harsh comments in the name of courage. I am talking about the day to day decisions each man faces to be faithful or unfaithful, bending to the knee to culture’s demands or to Christ.
Courage is a necessity for acting like a man. It will take courage to lead your family in the Lord; it will take courage to confess and own your sins before others; it will take courage to bow the knee before the Lord every day in humble submission; it will take courage to be the spiritual leader in your home; it will take courage to call what is wrong evil and what is right good; it will take courage to make objective truth statements in today’s culture. We are witnessing a moral and sexual revolution take place in America where the values of the family are becoming increasingly more liberal and anti-Christian.
If we are to act like men, we know we cannot change the course of culture on our own, but we can decide the type of world-view and values taught under our own roof. If we are to act like men, we must be courageous enough to not be concerned about being politically correct. Our supreme allegiance is not to a political party or even to the American nation itself, but to Christ and His kingdom. The godly man does not just echo the commands of Scripture, he also faithfully lives them out by God’s grace. Any man can make a comment, but it takes a man walking with the Lord by grace through faith to live in obedience. Talk is easy, walking the walk is costly.
To act like a man is to own your sin, failures, and mistakes. When a man falls into sin, he openly confesses it and owns it, committed to turn from his wrongdoing. I recall a lady saying that the greatest memory she had of her father was not of all his accomplishments or successes, but it was when he failed, he would look his daughter in the eye, confess his sin and ask for forgiveness. The power of genuine repentance created a legacy his daughter would never forget. You see, acting like a man is not just about standing up for the truth, it is also about lowering ourselves in humility.
Much of the problems we see today not just in society but also in the church are directly connected to a lack of fathers and men in the home leading their families and local churches as they ought, grown boys not acting like men. The family, and the church, are only as strong as their men are faithful. I am a firm believer that not every Christian man is called to preach or be a pastor, but every man is called to live up to the godly qualifications of one.
Paul says to Timothy, his elder in training, “Therefore an overseer [pastor/elder] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:2-5).
Charles Spurgeon said, “The home is the grandest of all institutions.” Men, we teach our children every day. They see what we tolerate and what we accept. They see and smell fake religion a mile away. They know church on Sunday morning for an hour, maybe two hours if you’re Baptist, means little to nothing if the Lord has little of us Monday through Saturday. The way to create healthier communities, healthier churches, and healthier homes is by calling men to rise up to act like men and not boys. To take responsibility for their own spiritual development but also for the development of their families.
One of my favorite moments of the day is when my wife and I get together for “family worship”, which will one day soon, Lord willing, include our daughter Anna Beth. During this time Alley and I read Scripture, discuss what we have read, and pray. Are there days we miss? Of course. But by making it a priority in our family, we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ far more than we would if we had not made any plans for the sanctification of those in our home. Men if we want to lead well, we must be intentional.
For many of us here today, the most courageous act we can do as men is to take the first step in making a commitment to lead our families in the Lord. Confess the sin of letting culture shape the world-view of your family, and by God’s grace take up the word in the power of the Spirit and lead them in it day by day. Walk with the Lord by faith every day. Be a witness for the gospel where the Lord has placed you. Act like men.
Paul then concludes this verse with the charge to “be strong”. Strength is a common cultural value for manhood in today’s culture. If I were to ask you what made a man strong, maybe some of you would say strong willed, physical strength, or a certain resilience. However, the strength Paul is referring to here is a divine strength that can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul says be strong, he is calling the men to find their strength in the Lord. Be strong in the Lord.
Paul knows the weight and difficulty of what he has just asked the Corinthian men to do. Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. It is as almost Paul has forgotten the nature of man, how we are weak and constantly struggling with the flesh and its desires. But this is exactly why Paul says to be strong. Find your strength men not in yourselves, but in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
2 Timothy 2:1
Men, we simply cannot be watchful, stand firm in the faith, or act like men without Christ. We must have the perfect and sinless God-Man living inside of us, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our only hope of being godly men can be summarized in this one statement – Christ in us (Gal. 2:20).
The gospel is typically spoken of at the end of sermons, but here I believe it must be spoken now. Paul’s manly charge to the Corinthian church is not a “do-better” message, leaving the men in Corinth to find a way within themselves to fulfill these commands. Paul knows that if men are to act like men, they must take their refuge in Jesus – the ideal man, the perfect man, the standard for manhood. In Jesus Christ, we see what manhood truly is. Jesus is our standard, but more than that, He is our substitute.
Dear friends, God does not love you because of your performance as a man. For those in Christ by faith, God has set His everlasting love on you and approval not because of what you have done, but because of what Christ has done for you. You are justified not because of your work, but His. Not your performance, but His obedience. In Christ you have all you need to be a faithful disciple, husband, and father. At the end of our lives, it is not our righteousness that the Father looks upon, but Christ’s perfect righteousness given to us by grace through faith. Rest in His sufficient grace.
Jesus is a friend of sinners. When we gather into this place every Sunday, we do not have to pretend to be strong, macho-men. We can be honest with our weaknesses knowing that Jesus is our only hope in being faithful. He is our strength, our confidence, our peace in this quest of being the men He has called us to be.
Finally, let us look at Paul’s final marching order to the men in Corinth…
- Let all that You do be done in Love (v.14)
Paul ends with what may be the most important charge to the Corinthian men. Let all that you do be done in love. All that you do… Do you know what this means in the Greek? It means all that you do. To act like a man is to be controlled by the supreme ethic of God – love.
Jesus says in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Paul says to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Likewise, if we are watchful, or stand firm in the faith and the truth of Scripture, are courageous and strong, but fail to do it all in love, we indeed are nothing and do nothing of eternal significance. To act like a man does not mean we coerce people into doing things our way. We do not abuse, neglect, or harm anyone in order to get our way. In fact, if we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the standard for manhood, we must become a servant to all. Jesus, who would have been just in demanding the service of others as God in the flesh, chose to empty Himself and take the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8). But why? Because of a love for God’s glory in the redemption of sinful men like you and me.
May our love not be defined by the culture, but by the example of the Lord Jesus. May our love be covered in mercy, grace, forgiveness, and truth.
As I come to a close, you may be feeling like I often am when I read this passage. “Lord, you know my frame. I am weak. I cannot lead my family as I ought, I have failed too many times.” Maybe that is your thought process right now. Maybe you are thinking that it is too late to start acting like a man, your kids are grown and you feel like you have no more influence in the life of anyone. That could not be further from the truth. It is never too late to act like men. The best time to act like a man is in early childhood, the second best time is now.
We have the ability to change the fatherless statistics, maybe not globally, but surely in this community. We have the ability to raise a generation of children who do not have to wonder what manhood is, raising them in the instruction of the Lord and modeling the gospel before them. We have the ability today to lead our wives well, loving them as Christ loves His bride, the Church. We have all that we need to act like men, because we have Christ.
Therefore, rise up, o man of God. Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love; by His grace and for His glory.