What Does It Mean To Be A Man?



Let me start this Father’s Day message with a story about a mother, one that I think we can relate to in our rural, farm and ranch, culture. John Piper writes,


When I was a boy growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, my father was away from home about two-thirds of every year. And while he preached across the country, we prayed—my mother and my older sister and I. What I learned in those days was that my mother was omni-competent.


She handled the finances, paying all the bills and dealing with the bank and creditors. She once ran a little laundry business on the side. She was active on the park board, served as the superintendent of the Intermediate Department of our Southern Baptist church, and managed some real estate holdings.


She taught me how to cut the grass and splice electric cord and pull Bermuda grass by the roots and paint the eaves and shine the dining-room table with a shammy and drive a car and keep French fries from getting soggy in the cooking oil. She helped me with the maps in geography and showed me how to do a bibliography and work up a science project on static electricity and believe that Algebra II was possible. She dealt with the contractors when we added a basement and, more than once, put her hand to the shovel. It never occurred to me that there was anything she couldn’t do…


But it never occurred to me to think of my mother and my father in the same category. Both were strong. Both were bright. Both were kind. Both would kiss me and both would spank me. Both were good with words. Both prayed with fervor and loved the Bible. But unmistakably my father was a man and my mother was a woman. They knew it and I knew it. And it was not mainly a biological fact. It was mainly a matter of personhood and relational dynamics.


When my father came home he was clearly the head of the house. He led in prayer at the table. He called the family together for devotions. He got us to Sunday School and worship. He drove the car. He guided the family to where we would sit. 


He made the decision to go to Howard Johnson’s for lunch. He led us to the table. He called for the waitress. He paid the check. He was the one we knew we would reckon with if we broke a family rule or were disrespectful to Mother. 


These were the happiest times for Mother. Oh, how she rejoiced to have Daddy home! She loved his leadership…


The question that we are going to ponder today is: What does it mean to be a man? One way of answering that question would be to look at some stereotypical traits, such as:


Men are competitive.

Men are goal-driven.

Men are hunter-gatherers.

Men are risk takers.

Men refuse to ask for directions when they’re lost. 


But another way is the biblical approach, Starting from the Bible and developing the definition from it instead of what we’ve always heard or seen.


Today I donʼt want to just give you the traditional answer of what does it mean to be a man, I want to give you a biblical answer. I really believe that the Bible is completely true in everything that it discusses. 


We are told by the world not to trust the Bible. But I have entrusted my life to Christ and to the words that he has preserved in this book for me to read, study and live.


For the Bible, the competitiveness, work-orientedness, hunterlikeness and risk-taking of males are not the core of masculinity, but they are sometimes the results of a man being biblically masculine.


One startling thing that we discover is that the Bible defines masculinity in terms of a man’s relationship with women in his life.


Ladies, you are going to wonder how this message will apply to you. Let me, as we begin, point to two ways it does.


If you are single, this message will help you develop a picture of the sort of man that you should marry. It’s important to marry a believer in Christ, but it’s also important to look for one who is grounded in what it means to be a biblical man.


If you are married, or if you are a mother, let me encourage you to help your husband and sons to be biblical men. The culture that surrounds us demands that men fit their mold, not the Bible mold. So guys who are trying to be biblical men need all the encouragement we can get.




Let’s start by giving what the biblical definition of what it means to be a man, and then showing where in the Bible it comes from. Here is how the Bible defines masculinity, or what it means to be a man: A sense of responsibility to lead, protect, and provide.


You can see this definition in the very first chapters of the Bible:


Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 


Right away we see that Adam is given the responsibility for providing, even before Eve is even in the picture. When Eve does come, she is called a “help-meet.” She is not to bear the responsibility for providing primarily, but to help Adam in his responsibility.


Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 


Here God gives Adam some moral instruction—do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Stop and think about this for a moment. Why didnʼt God wait until Eve was in the picture and give them both the moral instructions at the same time? Because he gave Adam the responsibility of leadership. Adam was to teach Eve these commands.


In the next verses, watch and see how God continues to give the man leadership responsibilities.


Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. Genesis 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 


Genesis 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 


What does God do here? First, he shows Adam that a helper appropriate for him will not come from the animal kingdom. But also, what we see here that God gives Adam more leadership responsibilities—naming the animals. He is in charge of them…to care for them.


Genesis 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; Genesis 2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 


Genesis 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.


In verse 7, we read that God created Adam from the dirt and breathed life into him. Why didnʼt God create Eve from the dirt like he did Adam (2:7)? Because in creating Eve from the rib of the man, God indicated the responsibility of the man to lead, protect and provide for Eve. She is a part of him, to be watched over, cared for and loved.


Matthew Henry, a Puritan Christian from the 1600’s, put this truth into a poem:


That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; 

not made out of his head to rule over him, 

nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, 

but out of his side to be equal with him, 

under his arm to be protected, 

and near his heart to be beloved.


This is just a quick survey of Genesis 2 and how it shows the man given the sense of responsibility to lead, protect, and to provide. What’s really interesting is that, in the next chapter, which describes the fall of man, we see confirmation of this definition of masculinity. 




Genesis 3 shows us the breaking of the mold of masculinity that God had instituted in Genesis 2.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 

Genesis 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:


Who did Satan come to first? Why? The reason that Satan came to the woman first is because he does not respect Godʼs ways. Remember that when you are tempted to argue against Godʼs ways of doing something…Satan is cheering you on. The first woman was not more gullible or less smart than Adam (she was a perfect, sinless human being, after all), but by going to her first, Satan broke Godʼs order of the man being the leader.


Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.


Adam failed in more than just taking the fruit and eating it. The Bible says that Eve was tricked, but Adam was not (1 Timothy 2:14). He knew that what he was doing was disobeying God. Why did he go ahead? We might never know. Some speculate that he loved Eve and did not want her to face God’s judgment alone. But that makes his sin to be noble.


Whatever his reason, what is plain is that Adam failed in protecting the woman and in leading her spiritually.


Now hereʼs the part that gets me every time I read this account: who does God go to first?


Genesis 3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 

Genesis 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 

Genesis 3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 

Genesis 3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 

Genesis 3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.


Adam, in Godʼs eyes, is still the one who is to lead, protect, and provide for the woman. God does not rush to Eve, he goes right to his appointed leader and provider and protector and asks him, “What have you done?”


Adam fails again; instead of bearing his responsibility, he blames the woman and God; “…the woman, whom thou gavest.” He failed to be a real man; to live up to his sense of responsibility to lead, protect, and provide for Eve.


Now, let’s flesh out the definition of what it means to be a man.




A man must have a sense of this responsibility to lead, protect, provide. 


Single men will have this “sense” in that they will want to protect their mothers or sisters or nieces. They will respect and honor the women in their lives. They will avoid things that denigrate women, like pornography.


A husband should step up to the plate and feel a special responsibility to lead, protect and provide for his wife and family.


A father is a man who extends his loving leadership, protection, and provision to the arrows that God places in his quiver. 


Men, no matter what the culture tells you, this world still needs you to be a man, a biblical man who leads, protects, and provides for his family.


Even if you are in situations where you are not able to be the “leader” (perhaps at work, or you are a young boy, or perhaps you are disabled), you still can have this “sense” to lead, protect, and provide. A man will express this sense in the best and most loving ways he can.


  • He will treat women with the respect that they deserve as fellow beings created in the image of God.
  • He will lead women as a servant; he will open doors and show them other courtesies as he is able.
  • He will protect women physically, emotionally and also mentally in his thoughts.
  • He will provide for women not just in financial ways, but also in emotional and relational ways also. A man will neither be lazy nor work so much that the woman he loves is neglected.
  • He will lead, protect and provide for all the women he is in relationship with. His wife is obvious, but he will also lead, protect and provide for his mother and his sisters as appropriate.




How do you become biblically masculine? Men, you can look to Christ as your model. Follow Jesus. Following Jesus starts with admitting that you have come short of who God wants you to be; God wants you to be like Christ! But all of us, men and women, boy and girl, have sinned and come short of the glory of God.


And sin isnʼt a mistake that you can brush aside and forget—because sin is a rejection of God—our immortal, invisible, infinite Creator—the penalty is steep. 


23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)


But Christ came, and lived a sinless life, so that he could be a perfect payment for sin. All we need to do to start following Jesus is to trust him and receive him as our personal Savior. When we trust Jesus, God says, “You are justified…you are made right with me again.” Have you trusted Christ as your Savior?


When we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are set on a path of following Jesus. Progressively, day by day, we start becoming more and more like Christ. This is true for both men and women, but because Jesus was a man, we men have a special responsibility to become masculine like Jesus was masculine.


Christ was a leader of both men and women…but he led as a sacrificial servant. He spoke with authority but also with tenderness.


Christ was a protector of women. When the woman who committed adultery was thrust on the ground before him, he stood his ground and protected her from those who thought they were real men.


Christ was a provider. On the cross, he assigned his disciple John to care for his mother Mary for the rest of her life (John 19:26-27). Jesus felt the sense of responsibility (as a single man) to lead, protect, and provide for his mother.


Men, look to Jesus Christ, the man, and walk in his footsteps. Read the gospels carefully, and notice how he responded and related to women. Let his example, not the current culture we live in, shape you as a man.




Piper, John, and Wayne Grudem, Editors. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006. Print.

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