CHARACTER QUALITIES OF A GODLY MAN
- I want to turn our attention to manhood on this Father’s Day much like we looked at womanhood on Mother’s Day. I do this in order to broaden the scope just a little. But it is Father’s Day so why don’t we start briefly with fatherhood and we will expand from there.
- Let’s also begin with the same reminder I gave the men on Mother’s Day. I want to make sure that the women don’t check out this morning. The things we are going to be looking at are just as important to you as they are to the men here. If you are married, these issues will be things that you will want to encourage your husband to excel in. If you are not married, these issues will be things that you will want to look for in any potential future mate.
- No matter where you are in life, male or female, single or married; your life has been and will be influenced by a father, or fathers (perhaps men outside of your immediate family), or by men in general. So men, listen up: this is what the Bible calls you to be. Women, pay attention as well: like it or not your life is going to involve men in some way, shape or form!
- So let’s start with the question: what is a father? One boy answers that question this way: “A father is a person who has pictures in his wallet where he used to have money.” Another person says “A father is a man who is forced to endure childbirth without an anesthetic.” Or, “A father is a man who hopes to have enough money on Father’s Day to pay the bills from Mother’s Day.”
- One small boy even defined Father’s Day as “just like Mother’s Day, only you don’t spend as much on the present.” And we may laugh at that, but apparently certain statistics show that the largest amount of long distance calls made in the year occur on Mother’s Day. On Father’s Day, the largest amount of collect calls are made. Those statistics are probably about a decade old because we’re getting closer to the point where collect calls are obsolete with cell phones and voice over internet phones, etc.
- But you get the point. Manhood in general, and fatherhood in particular, has been continually cheapened for some time now. Now men, we can laugh and have a good time. We can have a sense of humor and enjoy life. We should be light-hearted and easy going. We can be fun, have fun, and maybe even make a little fun; but we don’t want to be a joke.
- Being a man in Scripture is a high calling and a great responsibility. What our contemporary culture says about being a man is vastly different from what the Bible says about being a man. And since we claim to be followers of the true God through faith in Jesus Christ we seek to be biblical men. And the women here should seek to encourage biblical manhood in the church and in the home.
- When men and women are functioning within their biblically defined roles life is best and God is honored and pleased. So, what makes a biblical man? What are some of the character qualities of a godly man? Let’s turn to Ephesians 5 to find out. We will start at 5:22 and go to 6:4.
[READ EPHESIANS 5:22-6:4]
- I’m going to give these points in the form of imperatives. And here is the first one:
MEN, BE THE HEADS OF YOUR HOMES
- Now as soon as I say that some of us immediately cringe because we’ve been influenced by our culture, and taught to abhor any distinction between manhood and womanhood. There are some out there that want us to believe that the only difference between a man and a woman is physical makeup. A man is a man because he has certain parts and physical attributes, and likewise for the woman. Aside from that, we’re the same.
- Common sense tells us that’s not true. There are legitimate, real differences. Moreover, Scripture has a lot to say to the contrary. And there is no better place to start than right here at vv.22-24 of Ephesians 5: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
- Most of us notice right away that this is not a command to husbands, but to wives. Men, you are never told to make women submit to you. But a very important aspect of the role of a husband is found in Paul’s command to women who are married. What is the command given to wives? Wives should submit to their own husbands as the church submits to Christ.
- Why? Because the husband is the head of the wife even as Jesus Christ is the head of his church. So while giving a reason for the command to women, Paul reveals the role of men in marriage – the head of the wife. And that expands when children enter the picture. He is the leader of the home.
- Gentlemen, you should officially be troubled. Because you are not just any kind of leader. And your example to follow is not just any John Doe. You are to lead, and lead like Jesus. Now what man among us is up to that task? No one. We, of course, rely on the grace of God and the power of the Spirit to lead in such a way. But there are some pragmatic things we can focus on that will enable us to be the heads of our homes.
- We will get to them in just a moment. First, one other foundational command:
MEN, LOVE YOUR WIVES LIKE JESUS LOVED HIS CHURCH
- Well this task just gets better and better, doesn’t it? Verses 25-28: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
- There are actually two ways in which men are instructed to love their wives here. The first is that we are to love our wives like Christ loved his church. The second is that we are to love our wives like we love ourselves. And that first one is enormous. Let’s talk about what it means.
- Notice it says that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church. There is no doubt that Christ still loves his church. And that even now, he is watching over his people; caring for us and working out his saving plan through us. But the past tense there refers to a specific act of love that Jesus accomplished. What was that act? He gave himself up for her.
- Some other time we will have to come back and look at this in more detail because there is just an incredible amount of truth in these few phrases. We see for whom Christ gave himself up, why he did so, and what the ultimate outcome will be.
- But for now, let’s focus on the fact that Christ gave himself up for the church out of his eternal love for his chosen bride; and that husbands are called to love their wives in a similar vein.
- The verb for “love” used here is the familiar ἀγαπάω, which, remember, indicates volitional, willful love as opposed to emotional attachment or sexual attraction. We could say this is more a love of the hand than a love of the heart; with the hand being a symbol of action. This kind of love does things as opposed to simply feeling things.
- Of course, then, the crucifixion is the action spoken of when Paul writes that Christ gave himself up for the church. His care and concern for sinners went beyond feeling sorry for them. He did something about it. And the parallel is easy to pick up. Husbands are to love their wives with more than emotion or physical attraction.
- Paul also mentions that husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, or like they love and care for themselves. Narcissism or self-infatuation isn’t in view here. The Apostle is not encouraging men to be full of themselves when he mentions their love for their own bodies. He’s making another comparison. Just as men are concerned for their own well being, when they marry they take on the additional responsibility of the well being of a wife.
- So now those are the two foundational imperatives: lead like Jesus and love like Jesus. Be the heads of your homes and love your wives as Christ loved his church. Let’s talk about how to do that. Look at vv.29-30: For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
- This is a continuation of the concept of a man loving a woman like he loves himself and like Jesus loved his church. From those verses I get this straightforward command:
MEN, NOURISH & CHERISH YOUR FAMILIES
- What Paul is saying here is very simple. Husbands, it’s only natural that you care for your own body. He uses the words “nourish” and “cherish” here. When you are hungry, you feed yourself. When you are tired, you sleep. Whatever your body needs, you provide. Jesus does the same thing for the church, which is metaphorically his body. He meets the needs of his people.
- That is what a man is supposed to do for his family. Now we need to be cautious here just as we were when we talked about the role of women. Religious or cultural stereotypes are not our concern. We’re looking for biblical functions.
- So when I say that men are supposed to nourish and cherish their families I do not mean that women cannot work outside the home. I don’t mean that men make all of the important decisions. I don’t mean that men have to handle the finances. In fact all of those things are really secondary issues in this text. Those are topics of physical provision. The emphasis here is on relationships.
- Paul is concerned with how a wife relates to her husband; how Christ relates to his church, how children relate their parents, and slaves to their masters. So the point here is that men are to be the relational and spiritual nourishers in a home.
- Now physical provision is important; it is very important. In fact, in 1 Timothy 5 Paul writes that: if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
- So I don’t want to undermine the importance of a man providing for the physical needs of his family. But I also don’t want to suggest that wives cannot help in that. But a person can provide for physical needs without nourishing and cherishing his family. Just because physical needs are met doesn’t mean there is cherishing going on.
- One of the first things a man will resort to when his fatherhood is questioned is this: “I put food on the table and clothes on your back.” Now there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, those things are needed. But if that’s all there is, the most important pieces of a marriage or family are missing.
- Men, what are you doing to nourish and cherish your families? Do you care for them just like you care for your own body? Do you lift them up in prayer? Do you encourage biblical living in the home? Do you watch over what is being said? Do you monitor what’s coming through your television. Is Christ simply given lip service when church folk are around, or is he truly honored by all that your family does and is?
- Nourish and cherish your wife and kids if you have them. And remember that there’s so much more to that than providing for physical needs.
- Now there’s something that must go along with that. Simply for time’s sake, we’re going to pass by vv.31-32 where Paul quotes Genesis and makes a profound statement about Jesus and the church. I want to look at v.33 next: let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
- Here I find this command:
MEN, EARN THE RESPECT OF YOUR FAMILIES
- The first part of this verse is merely a repetition from the previous few verses. The man is to love the woman as himself. Then the wife is mentioned again and she is told to respect her husband. Paul has already told the wives to submit to their husbands; but he uses a different word here. The word here is not “submit”, but actually “fear” or “revere”. The wife is to show reverence to the husband; to honor him; to, as the ESV states, respect him.
- I want to flip this around on the men, and remind us of one very important thing: respect must be earned. You cannot successfully demand respect. Submission is one thing. Submission can be forced upon someone. Authority figures can force those under them to submit to them. But while submission can be forced, respect cannot be coerced.
- Now women, don’t take this as an excuse to disrespect men if you don’t feel they’ve earned respect; but men in general, and husbands in particular – listen carefully: if you want to be respected as a godly man you’ve got to put in the work. Don’t expect your family to portray you as some Christ- like disciple of Jesus in public if in private you look nothing like Jesus.
- Being a biblical man means being in private what you act like you are in public. Wives will follow the lead of husband they respect. Why? Because they know he’s the real deal. They know that he’s genuine. They can see it in his everyday life. They know he’s not perfect. All of the women here, married or single, know without a doubt that men aren’t perfect. But they also know whether or not a man is authentic. And authenticity breeds respect. No one wants to follow a fake.
- Well there’s one other imperative I want us to see before we wrap this up:
MEN, TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO LIVE
- For this we move into chapter 6 verses 1-4, especially v.4: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
- I don’t want there to be any so called elephants in the room, so let’s remember that I don’t currently have children. So there are things about parenthood that I have yet to experience. But I’ve been a child, of course. And I do know what the Scriptures have to say about parenting. And one need not be a parent to understand the command Paul gives here.
- Men, if you have children, whether they be young children, teenagers, or adult children, you have a responsibility to teach them the things of God. Whatever your sphere of influence may be, you are to use it to exemplify godliness. If you have young children perhaps you are around them every day or every week. If your children are older then maybe you see them once a month, or a few times a year. Whatever the case may be, fathers never stop being fathers.
- Take seriously your responsibility to train your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Because who you are as a man will be defined, in large part, by who you are as a father.
- So teach your children how to pray. Show them how important it is to read and understand God’s word. Demonstrate for them what it means to follow Jesus. And most important of all, explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. It is a tragedy that any child growing up with Christian parents first hears about Jesus dying on the cross for their sins from someone outside of their family.
- Don’t rely on other people, even the church, to teach your children how to live for the glory of God. You are the primary teacher. What the church does is a supplement to the training that goes on in the home. This means, men, that we have a lot of work to do; and a lot of growing to do.
- As we close, let me just be frank with you all. My big beef with sermons for Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day, or any other holiday or special occasion is that the message inevitably misses some people. Not everyone is a Father; or will even be a husband. And I take the responsibility I have to feed the entire flock seriously. So I don’t want to section off certain sermons for certain groups of people when we are all gathered together.
- However, marriage and fatherhood is the biblical norm. It is not the biblical mandate, because even Paul said that he’d rather be single than married, so that he could concentrate on ministry. But it is assumed in Scripture that most men will become husbands and fathers. So what is taught here by Paul as he is writing to the Ephesian church is important.
- It is important for everyone – men and women, bachelors and bachelorettes, husbands and wives. Because while these principles paint us a picture of a godly man, they also give us great insight into godliness in general. They show us a thing or two about the kind of lives we all should be living.
- After all, we all have some sort of family. So we can all lead and love like Jesus in some way. We can all cherish our families in some way. All of us can earn the respect of our family members by living godly lives. So while we honor earthly fathers today; let us seek to honor our heavenly Father every day; by developing character qualities that are desirable for anyone claiming to follow Jesus.