Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
I think it goes without saying that Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to “act like men” is primarily directed at the men of Corinth. Certainly he is not telling the women to act like men! But neither was he telling the ladies to tune out what he was saying - so ladies keep reading!
The reason Paul targets the men is they are the ones ultimately responsible for leading their homes and leading the church. That doesn’t mean women play no role of leadership, but that at the end of the day, the responsibility is laid at the feet of men. Men have a duty and calling before God to love their wives, to lead their homes spiritually and to make sure they are spiritually healthy themselves. When he exhorts them to stand firm in the faith, he is also exhorting them to be sound in the faith. Spiritual health is assumed in the same way physical health would be assumed if Paul was a football coach exhorting his team to play hard and win the game.
God wants Christian men to take their roles seriously, in the home but also in the church. But part of the reason Paul is compelled to say this is because the tendency for men is to do the opposite. Men tend to leave the spiritual responsibilities of leading their families and leading in the church to their wives.
According to a 2016 Pew Research report, “In the United States...women are more likely than men to say religion is “very important” in their lives (60% vs. 47%)...American women also are more likely than American men to say they pray daily (64% vs. 47%) and attend religious services at least once a week (40% vs. 32%). On all the standard measures of religious commitment examined in the study, Christian women are more religious than Christian men
Often when I have talked to families about what their spiritual lives look like in the home, I have found if the wife/mother does not initiate family devotions, or prayer and so forth, then it doesn’t happen. The husband is willing to go along but he is not willing to take the lead. This is to follow in the way of Adam who deferred the matter to Eve who then ate of the fruit they knew they were not supposed to eat. He failed to stand firm in the faith and to act like a man. So now there is this tendency in men to neglect their God-ordained responsibilities and to cast them off on their wives. Brothers this is not good for your families, nor is it good for the church.
Here’s another example. Many years ago I was involved in a church plant. The pastor was working on identifying potential elder candidates. I was with him in a meeting with another pastor who asked if he had any potential candidates. He quickly and jokingly replied “I have a few women who would make great elders!” Though we chuckled about it, it revealed a very sad reality - that men were not taking their faith seriously, and not growing in Christ.
1 Timothy 3:1 - "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task."
I believe every man in the church ought to aspire to leadership in the church. That doesn’t mean every man will be called upon to lead, or that every man is qualified and gifted but every man should have a willing heart and even pursue meeting the requirements in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 regardless. And I say that because technically these qualifications are more than the standard for qualified leaders - these qualifications describe the ideal Christian man! So Christian men shouldn’t say “I don’t aspire to be an elder or deacon, so I don’t need to strive to meet these requirements.” No - every man in the church should be striving towards the level of maturity, faithfulness and godliness described by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Now, I will be the first to say it is hard to serve in leadership on many levels and sometimes this deters men. I get that but Jesus made it clear that following him involved self-denial and carrying our own cross. This cross represents many things and one of them is bearing the burden of leadership. In fact what was Jesus doing when he went to the cross? He was leading! And so we should not expect leading in the local church to be easy. Jesus has shown us leadership involves our dying to self and following him down the path of suffering that leads to glory!
The point is there is no better example of what it means to “act like men” than Jesus. He is the man every Christian man should desire to be like. And that naturally includes being men who lead. Men! Brothers! I urge you to take Paul’s words to heart. Be men of God. Lead your families. Teach your kids. Seek the Lord and strive for spiritual growth. Make it a priority to grow in the faith so that you can stand firm in the faith, and so you can be in a position to lead God’s people when he calls you.