by Dr. Stephen Kim
Now, more than ever, we must know what a real man is. Unlike some, I do not equate “manhood” with marriage (or “marriage preparation”). The quintessential man, Jesus Christ, was Himself never married. However, it goes without saying that most Christian women will want to marry a real man. By “real man” I am referring to a man who is spiritually mature. I get this notion from the fact that most philosophers acknowledge God as the “Ultimate Reality.” God is The Reality who accounts for all other realities (e.g., men, women, planet earth, the universe, etc.). Without God, nothing would be real—especially not manhood. Nothing would even exist. And since God is the “Ultimate Reality,” the “real man” is the male who is spiritually mature. But what does spiritual maturity look like? If a young woman of marriageable age came to me and asked “Pastor, what does a spiritually mature man look like?” I would give her this list:
1. HE BELIEVES THE TRUTH.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Cor 16:13)
I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (Gal 5:12)
An evil life is simply the natural by-product of a heart that believes in lies. Central to being a real man therefore, is believing and obeying God. It might sound bold and even strange to some, but the truth is, a non-Christian is not a real man. The non-Christian will believe in lies about God and will inevitably therefore, believe in lies about himself. Some, like Bruce Jenner, will even believe lies about his own sexuality. It is useless to speak of spiritual maturity if the man is not “spiritual” (in the 1 Cor 2:13 manner). In other words, the man must first be saved. (If you want to become a Christian, click here.) A spiritually mature man believes in the gospel. He also believes in the virgin birth of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Substitutionary Atonement, the inerrancy of Scripture, and other key truths. Additionally, as he grows in his faith, the spiritually mature man (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) learns of and believes other key biblical truths for the health of his soul. Real men stand on the truth and do not emasculate themselves when cultural pressures command them to.
2. HE PUTS GOD FIRST AND OBEYS HIM.
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).
This means that a godly man loves God more than his wife, his parents, his children, and himself. God is thoroughly the prime priority in the man’s life and as a result, he will lead his wife and kids to do the same. If a man is married, that means he’s calling the family together each day for worship. A man who does not lead his family into worship clearly does not love God with all his heart. So serious did Reformed Christians take the duty of family worship that they regarded the neglect of family devotion to be “covenant-breaking with God, and betraying the souls of their children to the devil” (Thomas Manton, “Epistle to the Reader,” in Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 2013, 10).
Is the man pre-occupied with his looks or his God? Does he strive to keep the women around him holy? Where does he spend the bulk of his cash? Does he truly love God with all his heart? If you’re struggling to answer that question about the man in your life, then chances are, he probably isn’t a real man. This sort of love for God is very easy to detect in a person. This sort of love for God can most clearly be seen in the man’s unwavering obedience to God’s Word.
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
3. HE IS GENETICALLY “XY” AND IS HETEROSEXUAL.
“Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” (Job 38:3)
“So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall [a phrase used to refer to males].” (1 Sam 25:22)
We were not born disembodied. Yes, God made us with a body and spirit. Our bodies matter. (Even our hair matter to God!) Inherent to biblical Christianity is the belief that at the Incarnation, God became an “XY” body in the person of Jesus Christ. Additionally, Jesus, in His resurrected body, will forever remain a man (so begin embracing your sex for it is not a “mistake” and you shall retain it into eternity–there are no sex changes in heaven or in hell).
It might sound obvious, but nothing’s obvious anymore in our culture today so listen closely. Fundamental to being a man is that you were born with the genetic make-up and with the reproductive organs of a male. A real man keeps his hair short (1 Cor 11:14) and never dresses like a woman (Deut 22:5). Additionally, all real men are heterosexual–they wish to mate with a female. This point is proven by the word “therefore” (Gk. heneka) in Matthew 19:5.
4. HE KEEPS HIMSELF SEXUALLY PURE.
A play “boy” is not a man. He has none of the strong restraints of manhood and cannot be trusted. He is a boy “playing” the part of a man. There is a reason why Paul uses the word “youthful” (Gk. neoterikas) when he instructs Timothy saying, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). Real men don’t flirt. Instead, real men actively flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18).
If a man is married, this means that he keeps himself from adultery and that he is sexually active with only his wife (1 Cor 7:5). If a man is single, this means that he keeps himself from any form of sexual activity (e.g., fornication, pornography, masturbation, and any other form of sexual immorality). The spiritually mature man, like Joseph, flees sexual immorality because he fears and loves God (Gen 39:9)—even (and especially) when no one is watching.
5. HE KEEPS HIS ANGER IN CHECK.
“A man who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down” (Prov 25:28).
“Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools” (Ecc 7:9).
Boys throw tantrums, men control their anger. The fruits of the Holy Spirit include love, patience, and self control. Men who continually have fits of anger are in danger of hell fire (Gal 5:19-21).
6. HE IS ABLE TO SOCIALLY CONNECT APPROPRIATELY.
The stoic man without expression is not spiritually mature. Neither is the weepy man who incidentally breaks down at every little thing. A spiritually mature man is able to emotionally connect appropriately to a situation. This connection must be natural and not awkward. He doesn’t over-do it, nor does he stare off in conversational settings as if he has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Healthy emotional display is the mark of a real man. God commands us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15). Spiritually mature men know when to be strong for the sake of the women who are weeping around them. Yet, they also know when to shed a tear, laugh for joy, or say things such as, “I love you and I really care about you.” Your wife should not be the one instructing you to, “Share your feelings.” Communicate. Don’t gossip effeminately, but communicate effectively.
7. HE WORKS.
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17)
If any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thess 3:10)
Boys play. Men work. Men are made to earn a living for their families. A spiritually mature man recognizes that man was created to work (Gen 2:15); and he embraces work (1 Thess 4:11). He enjoys the fact that he is blessed with the opportunity and ability to provide for himself (Acts 20:34), his family (1 Tim 5:8), and others (Acts 20:35). A real man does not shirk back from work. God the Father works and so will all real men.
8. HE OBEYS.
Authority flows from authority. Before a man can lead effectively, he must learn to obey joyfully. A real man respects authority and obeys them because he loves God. Boys who do not learn to respect and obey authority grow up unable to hold down jobs, get in trouble with the law, and have difficulty inculcating discipline to their own sons. (Girls, don’t date the rebel! You’ll pay for it dearly.)
A spiritually mature man obeys his parents, obeys his employer, and obeys church leadership. He does all this because he ultimately seeks to obey God. A man who will not obey God-instituted human leaders will not obey God (Rom 13:1). How can he obey God that he has not seen, if he cannot obey leaders that he has seen?
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1).
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13).
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17).
9. HE LEADS OTHERS TO CHRIST.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19)
Does the man lead others to Christ? Is he a disciple-maker?
First and foremost, a married man will lead his wife and family to Christ. Oliver Heywood (1630-1702) once wrote, “As holy Jacob, the famous patriarch, was a prophet to instruct his family in true religion, and a king to govern them for God; so a priest to set up an altar, offer sacrifices and perform religious worship for and with his family: even the poorest man that has a family is to be a prophet, priest, and king in his own home.”
Furthermore, all real men, when they reach a certain level of Christian maturity, will begin desiring to lead other men to Christ. Christ commanded us to make disciples of all nations and all spiritually mature men wish to fulfill the Lord’s command. The man after God’s own heart, King David, once cried, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). That is every real man’s cry.
10. HE LOVES THE CHURCH.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the CHURCH and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25).
A spiritually mature man serves the church, loves the church, and never misses church. Real men of the past (e.g., Jesus, Paul, Peter, or John) gave their all for the establishment of churches and in like manner, real men of the present strive to do the same. A spiritually mature man is all about “seeking first the Kingdom of God.”
God made men to have tremendous influence upon their families. Biologically, it is our seed that determines a baby’s sex. Theologically, it is our words that often determine a child’s future faithfulness to God. Both girls and boys innately value the words of dad more than the words of mom (unless the dad has proven himself unreliable over time). Fathers are therefore, uniquely charged with bringing their families to church and raising their children up in the instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4).
The 2nd greatest curse [outside of damnation in hell] upon a woman is a marriage to a man who doesn’t go to church. Such a marriage will virtually ensure that her kids will never become Christians and be damned in eternal hell. No matter how faithfully a woman attends church herself, children (both boys and girls) will likely not attend church as adults if daddy never attended. Such is the God-given power of dads.
11. HE READS THE BIBLE AND PRAYS DAILY.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).
If a man is not daily reading the Bible and praying, then he is not a spiritually mature man. If someone has to always tell him to eat, then he is not a man. Spiritually mature men take care of themselves spiritually. They read, pray, fast, reflect, and evangelize. And they keep it up. No one has to remind them.
I once saw a man who stopped eating food for a while. He was as skinny as a stick and as weak as one too. A man’s physical strength comes from right eating and exercise. Likewise, a man’s spiritual strength comes from right eating (i.e., the Bible) and exercise (i.e., spiritual disciplines). Chances are, a man who has stopped reading his Bible is living in sin(s).
12. HE LOVES LEARNING.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5).
Boys hate studying. Men love it. Men believe God when He says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold” (Prov 3:13-14).
Spiritual maturity increases as one increases in his knowledge of God. A spiritually mature man therefore, is always reading his Bible and learning more from it. He is also striving to read other godly books for “iron sharpens iron.” Finally, the spiritually mature man attempts to surround himself with godly teachers who will help him become wiser. “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov 13:20).
13. HE HAS THE RESPECT OF OTHERS.
“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
Light cannot be hid. A city on a hill will shine. Likewise, a godly man will have witnesses. Usually, a man’s pastor, friends, parents, and church members will be able to tell you about a man’s life. The Christian life was meant for community and the beauty of this is transparency. Don’t just take a man’s word for it (some men are great pretenders). Instead, ask around. Who is he at church? Who is he at home? Who is he at work? Where does he go for recreation? Godly men cannot be hid because godliness cannot be hid.
14. HE DOES NOT CURSE.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Eph 4:29)
Cursing is a sin. There seems to be an unwritten consensus around barbershops that real men curse. For some reason, when men get alone with other men—whether it be on the basketball court or in the military—the presupposition is that “real men curse.” This is a dastardly lie. The manliest man that ever walked the face of this earth (i.e., Jesus) never cursed. On the contrary, Jesus said that every idle and foul four letter word spoken will reap accountability on the Day of Judgment (Matt 12:36). Furthermore, Jesus informed us that if we want to get to know a man, then we just have to listen to him speak for a while for “…the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” (Matt 15:18). Real men keep their mouths pure.
15. HE GETS THINGS DONE.
Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” (Ruth 3:18)
Real men are like Boaz—they get things done. Don’t let projects, deadlines, paperwork, or repairs lapse. Our God is a God of completion. Don’t just talk about doing things. Get it done! Finish that degree. Lose that weight. Get that car fixed. Let me nuance this a bit because there’s a big difference between simply getting things done, and doing things right. Real men get things done the right way. They are not impulsive (e.g., King Saul)—merely jumping into action without seeking God’s guidance. Real men pray, seek God’s guidance, and when they receive it, they move decisively. Questions such as: “Should I take this new job,” “Should we relocate to another state,” “Should I go into foreign missions,” “Should I marry this girl,” “Should we have another child,” “Should we attend this church,” or “Should we buy this house” are major life questions that will separate the boys from the men. Real men, by God’s grace, are given the capacities to not only make right decisions (most of the time), but they also have the power and wherewithal to execute those decisions. Real men are not impotent.