Who is a “real” man

8 01 2019


Several years ago a good friend gave me a t-shirt printed with the graphic “Man up”. The inference is that men need to be confident, tough, courageous, true warriors for good. Efforts are made through Christian teaching to help “weak” men become who they should be using Christ as the model.

But in his letter to the believers in Corinth Paul gives us another understanding of what makes a real man. In addressing the issues that had developed in this fellowship he makes the interesting claim that he “could not speak to them as spiritual people”… Instead, he calls them “carnal”, “babes in Christ”(1 Cor. 3:1). Rather than acting like the “sanctified”, “saints” “enriched”, gifted, Christ associates they really were (1:2-7) they were displaying “envy, strife”, and divisiveness. They were acting like “mere men”.

Who is a “mere” man? Paul says he is simply a baby in Jesus. He is NOT a natural, unbelieving man, not knowing Christ, but a spiritual man not fully exhibiting Christ. Christianity has unfortunately taught that men have to grow or man up by learning to better imitate Jesus. He is taught to develop the right behavior based on “what would Jesus do?”. But Paul is not suggesting that these believers need to grow up that way, rather, he simply wants them to realize who they really are.

A babe in Christ is not one who needs to grow more spiritually so that he eventually becomes more like Christ. That implies a man can humanly change his infinite, changeless spirit (Gal.3:3). A babe in Christ IS a spiritual person but doesn’t yet understand who he really is or what that means. Like a baby, he is still primarily concerned for his physical needs and feelings and lets those control his behavior rather than his spirit. He needs to grow in his knowledge of who he really is (2 Peter 3:18).

Is Paul suggesting that a real man must deal with his flesh? Is he suggesting that these people have two natures, a flesh side and a spiritual, and that they have to overcome the flesh side of their lives? Not at all. A person can’t be two people at the same time, he is either one or the other (Jms 4:11,12). A believer has been changed. He does NOT live in the flesh any longer but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9) but that doesn’t mean that he can’t still operate in the flesh (Rom. 8:13). It’s not an issue of trying to be one and not the other but forgetting which they are – a spiritual or natural man (1 Cor.2:14). I can be born a citizen of the US but I may chose not to act like it. That doesn’t mean I am two different people but simply forgetting who I really am. My dad would tell me when I went off to play with the other boys, “Now, just remember who you are”.

Being fleshly is not the other nature of man – the evil side, but, rather, the old version of man.

That version operated with a self for self nature which put the flesh first. He is man in reverse of what he is supposed to be. Thankfully, that old version of man died on the cross with Christ (Rom. 6:6) but, unfortunately, the memory and habits of that life still live in the mind. Men must recognize and renew their minds as to who they actually are (Rom. 6:11; 12:2).

A mere man, or baby Christian, doesn’t need to undergo all kinds of “spiritual growth steps” to become the man he is supposed to be. He just needs to better understand who he really is. To “man up” or become a real man we don’t need to better imitate Christ but realize we actually live as Christ (Gal.2:20; Col. 3:3,4). Let’s stop pretending to be real men and be the authentic men that God intends us to be (Rom. 8:29).



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