The Art of Biblical Manliness

 In Bible Studies

In early summer, we all start thinking a little more about manly things because of Father’s Day. We get all the advertisements from the hardware stores just pouring in that time of year, right?

And recently, there has been a revival of sorts regarding all kinds of things which one might call “manly.” The “Art of Manliness” has come to regard anything which might be considered a manly pursuit. It includes things like:

  • Growing and grooming a beard.
  • Tying a necktie.
  • Giving a proper handshake.
  • Building a campfire.
  • Sharpening a pocketknife.
  • There are books, websites, videos and countless blog articles all devoted to this resurgence of all things “manly.”

So, have you ever considered the “Art of Manliness” from a biblical perspective?

What is Biblical Manliness?

There are many places in scripture wherein manliness – or being a man – is commended as virtuous and something worthy of pursuit.

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

1 Corinthians 16:13

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

When the Lord was preparing Job to answer His questions, he admonished him to “Brace yourself like a man.” (Job 38:3)

So, there is an inherent virtue in men behaving as men. But Biblical manliness involves much more than what the world may see as virtues of manliness. Worldly Manliness may be focused on things like handshakes and neckties… all of which can be good things… but these are all external things.

Biblical Manliness is concerned with the inner man, the true man, the heart of a man.

Biblical Manliness involves our character

Biblical Manliness involves our spiritual maturity

Biblical Manliness involves our sanctification

As we examine Biblical Manhood today, these will be the focuses of our attention.

1 Kings 2:1-4 – Words From a Father to His Son

We are going to begin our study at the deathbed of one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament, King David. He is in the midst of commissioning his son, Solomon, to the throne, as he knows his own death is imminent. 1 Kings 2:1-4 “When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, [2a] “I am about to go the way of all the earth.”

This phrase “the way of all the earth” is euphemistic, and it indicates that death is the way all things go eventually. This was a good reminder which David is giving his son that all things in this world are ultimately temporary. It also shows us what it most important to David. When a man is on his deathbed, he has limited time to express his will. So, the words which he expresses are naturally going to be the words which are the most meaningful to him.

Live a Life That Counts

There was an evangelist named John Piper whose father was also an evangelist. He tells the story of one impactful event his father related to him. He wrote, “For me as a boy, one of the most gripping illustrations my fiery father used was the story of a man converted in old age. The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone’s amazement he came and took my father’s hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and later that night he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face – and what an impact it made on me to hear my father say this through his own tears – “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!”

Piper goes on to write that this story prompted him – more than any other story – to live a life that counted. He did not want to waste his life.

As David came to the end of his life, he told his son Solomon how to live his life in such a way that it would not be wasted. He told Solomon how to make his life count.

Final Instructions – Be a Man

Most people don’t know when they are going to die. They may die unexpectedly. David, however, had a rare opportunity to give final words of instruction to his son Solomon. What would you say if you had an opportunity to give your final words?

Here is what David said to Solomon, in the latter portion of verse two: “Be strong, and show yourself a man.” He wanted Solomon to be a man.

But what does that mean? What does it mean in our culture to be a man?

Some people think that a man is someone who is physically strong. He may be athletic. He may be a warrior. That was certainly true of David.

And yet other people think that a man is someone who has built a successful career. David was extremely successful, by any standard of measurement. He expanded his kingdom.

Our culture has all kinds of ways of measuring what it means to be a man.

But what did David say to his son Solomon?

First and Foremost – Obey God’s Word

David begins to outline what this “Manliness” would include: first and foremost an obedience to the Word of God.

Verse 3 of 1 Kings chapter two,

“…and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.

For David, manhood was attained not by physical strength or a successful career. Manhood was attained by obedience to the word of God. In verses 3 and 4, David used seven different terms to describe the word of God:

  1. “charge,”
  2. “ways,”
  3. “statutes,”
  4. “commandments,”
  5. “rules,”
  6. “testimonies,”
  7. “Law of Moses.”

Each of these terms has a slightly different emphasis. David’s point to Solomon was that he was to live by the entire word of God.

Jesus once said, in response to Satan’s temptation to him,

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

David is telling Solomon that in order to show himself to be a real man, he must live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And furthermore, he tells him in vs. 2 that it takes strength to do that.

Why Obey God’s Word?

David went on to tell Solomon the reason he was to obey the word of God was

that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel’ ” (1 Kings 2:4).

This was a conditional promise: If David’s sons obeyed God and his word, then he would not lack a man on the throne of Israel. Sadly, however, David’s sons did not obey God and his word. The earthly kingdom of David eventually fell.

But God’s word did not fail. God also gave David an unconditional promise. God said to David,

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom…. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12, 16).

This is the promise that gave us David’s greater descendant Jesus, who is the king forever ruling on David’s throne.

But let us come back to David’s initial words to his son Solomon, when he said to him, “…and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn” (1 Kings 2:3).

In effect, David was telling Solomon that to make his life count, he needed to live by God’s word. Solomon would prosper in all that he did and wherever he turned, if he lived by God’s word.

Defining Success in Biblical Terms

The same principle holds true today, especially if we define success in biblical terms. People who follow biblical principles will prosper (see Psalm 1:1-3; cf. Matthew 7:24–25). This does not mean that we will never suffer, or that every difficulty we face in life is the direct result of our own personal sin. But it does mean that obedience has God’s blessing.

This was David’s charge to his son – to maintain the instruction in the ways of God to the next generation.

We know Solomon was one who would be especially blessed by God, being granted a special gift of wisdom. Yet, we also know that Solomon failed in many areas, including sin of the flesh (as had his father before him). And the generations which followed Solomon were not obedient as David had admonished them to be. As a result, after Solomon, the nation of Israel split apart into two factions, the northern Kingdom of Israel, the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Never again would the Kingdom see the glory that it had in an earthly King as it had in David and Solomon.

A Commission to Continue in the Ways of God

But what we have in this passage is a commission from a father to his son to continue in the ways of God. He tells him to be strong like a man (v.2) And then he tells him that true manliness comes in obedience to the Word of God (v.3-4).

Now, I want to address something else regarding David’s interaction with Solomon. David is obviously concerned about the Kingdom. But he is also concerned about his son. He is seeking as best as he can to ensure that his son does not fail in the same ways he did, and he knows the direction that he needs to be pointed —> The Word of God.

Shepherd in Your Own Home

Be the shepherd in your own home.This should stand as a reminder to we who are fathers about our responsibilities to our children. We have the responsibility both to TEACH and MODEL the Word of God to our kids. As the Father of the home, YOU are the Shepherd of your house.

What the elder is to the church, the father is to the home.

I submit to you that absolutely every responsibility our shepherds (elders) have to the church, also belongs to fathers in their own household. The father’s role in the home is a “PASTORAL” role. So, WHAT type of pastor, elder, or shepherd does the Bible commend?

  • One who loves Christ
  • One who seeks to be conformed to Christ
  • One who studies Scripture
  • One who seeks to lead and teach in accord with the Bible’s precepts
  • One who is mature in his behavior
  • One who seeks to be above reproach in his relationships

This is the SAME type of man the Bible commends fathers to be. The Bible tells us the characteristics of an elder. This not a list of some specially sanctified group of super-Christians. Instead, it is simply the qualities of what EVERY MAN SHOULD BE.

1 Timothy 3:2-7

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, [3] not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. [4] He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, [5] for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? [6] He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. [7] Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

There is NOTHING in this passage which would not qualify as a godly aspiration for all men.

All Christian men should desire to be:

  • Above Reproach.
  • Faithful to his wife.
  • Sober thinking.
  • Self-controlled.
  • Respectable.
  • Hospitable.
  • Able to teach.

And what is this “aptitude in teaching”? It may not be in the sense of having the ability to preach to the body of the church, but you should know God’s word well enough to guide your family biblically.

Likewise, all Christian men should avoid:

  • Drunkenness.
  • Being quarrelsome.
  • Greed.
  • Conceit.

Desire to Learn

The majority of people who have a true desire to learn something will put out the necessary effort to learn it. If a man wants to become good at golf, he will read books, watch videos, research techniques, and spend more time on the golf course. Or whatever it might be. The point is that if we want to do something, we find a way.

But for some reason, when a man is challenged to get up and learn Scripture so that he can better lead his family, many look at it as an insurmountable task.

The Role of Manly Leadership – As Fathers

Some men say, “Well, my wife knows more than me, and I will never catch up.”

Let me address that directly. There are some men whose wives have been believers longer, and it stands to reason she knows more Scripture. But, first, this does not negate your role as the spiritual leader of your home. And second, there is a solution… STUDY THE WORD!

The man who has the desire to shepherd his home will seek out and find the proper and necessary education he needs because it will be important to him. There is too much good information available to us through books and videos and articles for any man to make the EXCUSE that he just can’t learn enough to lead his family.

We have a job, HUSBANDS and FATHERS! It is more than just putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads.

We also have the task of filling their souls with the nourishment of the Word of God.

Every husband is a small group minister.

Every father is a children’s minister.

Every father is tasked to be a children’s minister and small group leader.

The Role of Manly Leadership – As Husbands

I would like to point out an often-overlooked aspect of Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, [34] the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. [35] If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Many people hear that passage from the Bible and assume Paul to be a male chauvinist. They don’t understand the context, which concerned the speaking of prophecy in the worship assembly. As is so often the case, people focus on the wrong portion of the message and get hung up on the wrong detail in this passage. Everyone gets stuck on the part about “women keeping silent,” but they miss the part that addresses the men.

The part that gets my attention in this passage is not Paul’s command that women are to be silent in church. What gets my attention is Paul telling married women to “ask their husbands” if they have questions.

Do you realize what that implies about their husbands? Paul is saying that our wives ought to be able to ask us questions about the Bible and about godliness and WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER THEM! Otherwise it defeats the purpose. And whose responsibility is it to make sure we have that ability? It isn’t our wives’ responsibility, that’s for certain!

While EXPLICITLY this is a command for women not to have roles of speaking authority in the assembly, IMPLICITLY, this is a call for men to shepherd their homes – to be the spiritual leader of their families – to show themselves to be men!

David’s Simple Message to His Son

When David is there preparing for his death, his commission to his son was very simple when you boil it down:

Know and Obey the Commands of God.

The Word of God was the concern of David’s heart. So, too, should the Word of God be the concern of every father’s heart when he considers his responsibility to his family.

Biblical Manliness comes from being a Biblical Man.

So, what are some practical things that we can begin doing as husbands and fathers to help cultivate our own Biblical Manliness?

  • Private Prayer – We need to be on our knees before God on behalf of our family every single day. Pray with your wives also, for your children. Get off your feet and get on your knees together and pray.
  • Family Worship – We need to lead our families in the reading of Scripture, times of devotion, praising God, and prayer. Your children need to know what it is like to hear you praying for their salvation, praying for their godliness, praying for their protection.
  • Bible Study – We need to be in the Word, listening to good preaching, and seeking learned men to help us better understand the Word. As Jesus mentored his apostles, and then they mentored the next generation, so too we need to be mentored in the Word.

The world says a man is a good father if he keeps his children well fed, keeps a roof above them, and ensures they are getting a proper education. And all these things are commendable; but they lack one vital thing: All of them can be done without reference to God. There are many atheists who feed, shelter, and educate their children well, but these children have no knowledge of God.

As David lay dying he knew that his son would also come to the end of his life one day. David wanted his son to be able to look back in contentment and satisfaction over his life also. To know the blessing that comes from living a life in the will and word of God.

To prove yourself a man in God’s eyes means following God’s ways.

David found his wisdom, strength, and blessing in obeying God’s Word and he wanted his son to find them also. You can only be a strong man of God by ordering your life by God’s commands. Are you doing that? Are you willing to do that?

All God’s requirements have been written down for us. The written Word is our sole authority for faith and practice, and we are responsible before God to govern our self by it.

King Solomon himself was charged to do as was written in the law of Moses. David charged him to study the Word and to follow the Word, so that he and the kingdom would do well. The same goes for us as an individual, as a family, as a church, and as a nation. We are to govern our self by that divine will.

Consider this for your family.

What good would it be for your child to be a doctor, or a sports star, or some other highly paid professional… and yet have no knowledge of the Word of God?

There is nothing in this world that you can teach your children that is more precious than the Word of God.

No one wants to live a wasted life. Everyone wants his or her life to count. The only way to keep yourself from wasting your life and make it count is to live by the word of God.

The Challenge

I want to challenge all men.

I challenge you to take up the cause of Biblical Manliness — to become the shepherd of your home that your wife and children need.

If you feel that you haven’t lived up to that, and you need prayers for your strength, reach out to us, we can pray for you together. But it might be that this is impossible for you (to shepherd your family) because you have yet to put on Christ yourself. If you need to learn more about that, send us a note. You can’t pass on what you don’t possess. So, if that is the case, it is my prayer that you’ll take this opportunity to put Him on in baptism through faith. We can help.

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