In many evangelical circles, there is no schism over the use of a plurality of deacons within the life of the church. Perhaps the only schism related to a plurality of deacons is in relation to their function. Are they servants of God who serve the local church or are they administrators who exercise power to oversee the local church?
As we read through the New Testament, we find that God established his church with a specific function and order. From the early pages of the New Testament, we find the apostles (with an “s” at the end) serving as a plurality of pastors to oversee the early church. As the missionary expansion took the gospel beyond the borders of Jerusalem (primarily with the ministry of the Apostle Paul), there was a need to put into order and establish the structure of the local church.
One clear letter that is devoted almost entirely to this task is the letter Paul wrote to Titus. Paul and Titus had a close relationship and it was Paul’s desire to charge this young man with a very important task. The island of Crete which was positioned in the Mediterranean Sea between northern Africa and southern Greece. The land mass was approximately 160 miles in length and 35 miles wide (at its widest point). It was an island that had been influenced by pagan cultures from the north, and according to Paul—it was filled with human depravity.
Titus’ job was enormous. He was given the responsibility to put the local churches in various cities throughout Crete into order. At this time, there was approximately 100 cities in Crete and Titus was charged with establishing order in the disorganized and immature churches. How would he do such a thing? Paul explains in what is perhaps the clearest purpose statement in Titus in the opening chapter:
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you (Titus 1:5).
From the very beginning, we find the need to have a plurality of elders (pastors) serving in leadership roles in individual congregations. We see this all throughout the New Testament. For instance, we find Paul addressing the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:17. We find James giving instructions to those who are sick to call for the elders of the church in James 5:14. Even here in Titus 1:5, there seems to be an emphasis upon the appointment of elders in every town—or every church in every individual town.
Why would God establish a plan for his local churches to be led by a group of pastors as opposed to one single elder?
The Need to Share in Shepherding Burdens
The work of pastoral ministry is a difficult task. When you talk to families that have a husband or wife who works in law enforcement, you will often hear them talk of the darkness that follows them on a day-to-day basis. They are tasked with enforcing law which means they consistently deal with lawless behavior and witness some of the most horrific scenes of human depravity. Such a constant contact with such depravity results in a burden that has an impact upon the family as a whole.
In a similar way, the work of a pastor is taxing on the man who serves as pastor and the family as a whole. He is often asked to give of his time after normal daily work hours for counseling. He has to walk with families through both joyful seasons and depressing sins. Beyond the shepherding, there is a need to spend long hours alone—isolated from people in an office where he can read, pray, study, and prepare to preach the Bible.
Since we remember that pastoral ministry is more than a preaching ministry—the task is so large that it requires teamwork. God has designed it to be that way from the beginning and we can see this pattern throughout the New Testament. The church that believes their single pastor can do it all has underestimated the task of pastoral ministry or overestimated the ability of their pastor.
The Purity of Church Leadership
Pastors are not perfect men. They are men who are pursuing holiness and seeking to walk with the Lord, but they are not perfect men. They make mistakes in parenting, in life in general, and even in pastoral service. With a plurality of elders laboring together, it provides a built-in system whereby the leaders can confront and bring about necessary correction when a pastor shows signs of sinful neglect or indicators of rebellion.
Church discipline is something that is necessary and mandated by Christ for his church (see Matthew 18 and Titus 3). Within the church membership is both general members as well as two offices—deacon and elder. Everyone must be subject to Christian accountability whereby the bride of Jesus remains pure and the church avoids the stamp of hypocrisy within the community. This is God’s design. It’s likewise his design for pastors to be subject to correction as well.
The Order and Stability of the Local Church
One of the characteristics of our God is orderliness. The church on the island of Crete was disorganized and filled with disorder. It was the plan of the Apostle Paul to charge Titus with the responsibility of bringing about order and stability. His plan began with the appointment of faithful men who would oversee individual local churches in order to bring the church to unity in the faith and order.
The church had been plagued by loose living and heretical teaching. Therefore, the elders would need to teach the churches how to pursue holiness in everyday living and how to recognize false teaching that created division. If necessary, the elders would lead the churches to excommunicate people who persisted in sin after being corrected (see Titus 3:9-11).
God’s design for his church is unity and order which enables the congregation to accomplish the work of discipleship, missions, and faithful weekly worship of our God. A team of pastors laboring together will be able to counsel, confront, preach, engage in missions, and plan and establish orderly worship services that bring glory to God.
This is God’s plan for leadership in the local church. This is why every local church should desire to have a team of pastors who work together for the glory of Christ in the context of their local church.
The calling of the pastor is to lead the church through a faithful teaching ministry. His doctrine must be healthy or it will have a negative impact upon the entire church. This is why Paul instructs Titus to be certain that his teaching was sound, which is another way of saying it must be healthy.
Titus 2:1 – But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
The Contrast of the Faithful Pastor and the Unfaithful Heretics
Notice how Paul begins this verse. He writes, “But as for you.” This was a means of providing a vivid contrast to the evil enemies of the cross who were plaguing God’s people. The teaching of Titus must have a completely different aroma than the teaching of the heretics. People should be able to notice the difference without being confused.
This is critically important as we consider the preaching and teaching of faithful pastors. They must be so closely aligned with God’s Word and so consumed with the gospel that there is no mistaking their teaching with the false teaching of those who seek to lead people astray with false doctrine. Sound doctrine and false doctrine must be clearly distinguished from one another.
The Calling of the Pastor
The calling of the pastor is to the task of preaching and teaching holy Scripture. Notice that Paul didn’t call Titus to entertain the people. It should be further noted that Paul didn’t instruct Titus to engage in the work of psychology or sociology. The calling of Titus was to teach the Word of God and to appoint elders to that same task in the context of local churches across the island of Crete.
Paul says, “teach” which is the Greek term, “λαλέω” meaning to express oneself by speaking. It literally means to talk. When connected with sound doctrine, this places the contextual emphasis upon imparting knowledge in a formal sense of teaching. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who once said the following:
Preaching the Word is the primary task of the Church, the primary task of the leaders of the Church, the people who are set in this position of authority; and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this, however good the cause, however great the need.
Certainly the pastor wears many hats as it pertains to the work of shepherding. The most important task and the central calling of the pastor is to the preparation for and faithful teaching of God’s Word. The pastor can do a hundred things well, but if he fails in this one area, he is an unfit pastor who fails in his calling to the office of an elder.
The Message of the Pastor
The message of the pastor must be healthy. That’s the meaning of Paul’s word to Titus when he instructs him to deliver sound doctrine. Literally he’s saying, “teach with healthy teaching.” The word used by Paul for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which came to be used in the New Testament, especially in the pastoral epistles, to mean the sum of the body of teaching by the apostles.
For that reason, we often say, “doctrine matters.” By way of contrast, Paul had warned Titus that the Cretans were known as liars. The heretics who were peddling a false gospel were not to be trusted because they had come into the community of the Christians insisting on salvation by grace plus law. In short, these two groups that were impacting the church on the island of Crete were teaching unsound doctrines.
The unadulterated Word of God is what the local church needs. Anything else will not fulfill the people and will lead to unrest, lawless behavior, and ultimately will be so dull that it will not penetrate the hearts of people and will be incapable of saving the soul (James 1:21; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 3:16). Unsound preaching leads to unsound living. Paul understood that Titus’ responsibility was to disciple elders who would disciple local churches.
As we consider the landscape of our evangelical culture today, we must avoid the popular trappings that entangle so many local church leaders and subsequently—entire churches. It was once a very popular trend to replace preaching with psychology. Today, the popular trend seems to be centered on replacing theology with sociology. What this does is place an emphasis on anthropology rather than theology. Such an unhealthy focus leads churches to become fixated upon man rather than God. This approach to the church today will result in division rather than unity and frustration rather than doxology.
Unsound teaching will produce unsound churches. It would do us well to remember that the world around us is constantly seeking to deform the church. We must be striving for ongoing reformation as we seek to honor God through biblically informed worship and a lifestyle that is consistent with a pursuit of holiness.
In writing to Titus about his responsibilities in Crete with the organization of the Church—Paul makes this statement in Titus 1:9, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Interestingly, in this list of qualifications for the office of elder, Paul makes it clear that the pastoral duty of the elder is to provide sound doctrine and sound correction. It was John Calvin, in commenting on this verse that said, “A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.” 
The Voice of Edification
Just as sheep in the pasture hear and trust the voice of their shepherd, so must the people in the church recognize the voice of their pastor. They must follow his leadership and teaching so long as he is preaching and teaching the truths of Scripture. It is his calling, according to the very qualifications and responsibilities of the office, to teach sound doctrine.
What is sound doctrine? The word for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which means, teaching. The point is that the pastor must have healthy teaching. Just because a man stands before a congregation and talks doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy. The goal here is for the building up of the faith of the local church so that they will grow in their knowledge of God and become faithful contributing church members for the glory of God. This is how the pastor equips the church for the work of ministry—by teaching sound doctrine.
The Voice of Correction
The wolf hides in the shadows. Sometimes the wolf enters the church to do great damage within the body. One thing that’s sure is that the wolf never introduces himself or herself as a wolf. It’s through the faithful and diligent preaching of God’s Word that the pastor will be able to reveal who the wolf is and expose the errors of such heretics for the entire church to see. Sometimes this will involve naming names such as when Paul named Alexander the Coppersmith publicly. Sometimes it involves a more veiled description such as when he described the Cretans in Titus 1:12. In either case, the pastor’s goal is to bring about correction.
The voice of correction is also used in terms of correcting the genuine Christians who walk off into error, who are perhaps influenced by the heretical teachings of a false teacher, or engage in open sin leading to the same of Christ’s name among the people. This could involve private rebukes, public church discipline, and as necessary, the pastor can point out the errors that might be impacting the entire church as Paul does in Titus 1:10.
Notice how Paul encouraged Titus to “rebuke…sharply” those who are in error in order that “They may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). This is extremely important as Paul reveals the responsibility of the pastor and the goal of such a sharp rebuke. The goal is restoration of their faith so that they will have a healthy faith.
Through the years, I have made it known to the church I serve that my job as a pastor is not to be a life coach or religious entertainer. My goal and responsibility as a pastor is to prepare people to meet God. Such preparation should result in a life of holiness and spiritual maturity as we all journey onward toward eternal life.
If you’re not a pastor, take time to consider the responsibility of your pastors who lead you, pray for you, care for you spiritually, and diligently study God’s Word to care for your soul. Seek to follow their leadership, be open to their rebuke, and when possible—show appreciation for your pastors.
If you are a pastor, remember that it’s easy to preach and at times to make bold statements from the pulpit. What’s often very difficult is to engage with shepherding responsibilities in private where you must sharply rebuke a brother or sister in Christ with the ultimate goal of seeing them move to a healthy place spiritually. Remember, the trap of the devil is to avoid such shepherding responsibilities out of fear of man. Approach such responsibilities with care, humility, and faithfulness to God’s Word and at the same time trusting in God for the results.
- John Calvin, 1, 2 Timothy and Titus, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 184.
One of the great lessons of life is that faithful leadership matters. When leaders fail, it harms more than the leader who falls—likewise when leaders succeed, everyone who follows closely behind will enjoy the victory. Average leaders can lead when the waters are calm, but true and brilliant leaders shine when the sea is angry and the outcome is questionable. What makes a great leader? When we examine leaders and faithful leadership, there are three characteristics that stand out and such characteristics are necessary for pastors in local churches and Christians leaders who are entrusted with leadership of institutions, organizations, and denominations.
Conviction Over Courage
Courage is the willingness to take a risk, but conviction is the willingness to subject yourself to risk after having considered both the positive and negative outcomes that may result. One man who exemplified great conviction in church history was Jonathan Edwards. After becoming the successor to his grandfather in the church in Northampton and serving faithfully for more than 20 years, a source of controversy regarding the Lord’s Supper created a division between he and his people. Although Jonathan Edwards desired to make his points clearly known through a sermon series to the people, the leadership thought it would be best for him to put his theological positions in print. Before the book was finished, printed, and delivered to Northampton, the controversy reached a boiling point. In a letter to John Erskine on May 20th 1749, he writes the following:
A very great difficulty has arisen between my people, relating to qualifications for communion at the Lord’s table. My honoured grandfather Stoddard, my predecessor in the ministry over this church, strenuously maintained the Lord’s Supper to be a converting ordinance, and urged all to come who were not of scandalous life, though they knew themselves to be unconverted. I formerly conformed to his practice but I have had difficulties with respect to it, which have been long increasing, till I dared no longer proceed in the former way, which has occasioned great uneasiness among my people, and has filled all the country with noise. 
The result of this controversy is that Jonathan Edwards was fired. We often remember him for his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and how God used him during a season of revival—but it must be remembered that although Jonathan Edwards lost his pulpit as a result of his convictional stand, we still remember Jonathan Edwards to this very day and are grateful for his willingness to stand firm with a rugged conviction.
Communication Under Control
Without question, words matter and how we employ the words we choose matters even more. Great leaders learn to use words like great soldiers learn to use their swords. A master craftsman learns to use his tools well, and a great leader learns to use his words well. Without question one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world was Winston Churchill. He emerged as the leader of England during it’s darkest hour. With conviction and self-determination—Churchill stood when many men refused. When other men remained silent—Churchill spoke, and when he spoke people listened.
Winston Churchill was a man who understood the value and the power of words. Edward Murrow explained, Churchill did far more than commission troops into war, he also “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” As a leader, he understood he would be quoted in the newspapers and that people would gather around their radio to hear him make his public addresses. For Churchill, words were his tools and weapons that he would use to lead England to victory. Many people believe that a man of great words was used to save England during its darkest hour. At one point, Churchill suggested that the British people themselves had the heart of a lion, but he went on to say, “I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”
Church leaders and pastors must always remember the value of words and how they should be employed—especially during times of controversy. When leaders speak during seasons of controversy, people are often listening with eager anticipation. The words chosen will be used for clarity, light, heat, warnings, and exhortation to stand—even when the cost may be high.
Commitment to the Truth
What separates an average politician from a great leader is one who is unwilling to capitulate on the truth. During seasons of controversy, people need faithful leaders who understand that the truth matters. The church needs far more than an average politician. The church has seen enough political characters come and go—rise and fall. Bold and convictional leadership within the church is characterized by a firm commitment to the truth of the gospel. Once man who exemplified such commitment in church history was Martin Luther.
After attempting to have a conversation within the Roman Catholic Church on issues of indulgences in 1517 by nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Door in Wittenberg, Luther would eventually be converted and come to the daunting realization that no such internal conversation or opportunity for reform would be possible. What really sent the Reformation into full motion was Luther’s courageous stand at the Diet of Worms. While Luther’s stand exemplified conviction and the proper use of words—he made it known that the truth of the gospel must be defended and is worthy of more than a courageous stand—if necessary it’s worthy of death.
As the Royal assembly publicly accused him, he was commanded to be silent until called upon to speak. Then the moment came. All of Luther’s books were on tables before him. He was asked if these were his books. He was then asked to recant of everything he had written. Luther, in a humble voice, spoke up and asked for additional time to consider his answer. He was given until the following day.
On the next day, Luther is once again brought before the assembly. Late the following afternoon – he stood before the table of books once again. Upon being asked to recant, he responded with these words:
I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God; I cannot and I will not recant of anything. Since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience, I cannot do otherwise, here I stand — May God help me. AMEN.
As Luther was being escorted out, the shouts of protest and requests for Luther’s life were ringing in his ears. As he was taken back to his quarters, upon entering the room – he was relieved that he had come through. He turned to a friend and said:
If I had a thousand heads I would rather have them all lopped off than to abandon my gospel.
Luther boldly took his stand for the truth, and as a result the Reformation continues to march forward to this very day. When the church experiences seasons of controversy, men of conviction who understand that truth matters must be willing to stand firm. Pastors and church leaders must learn from the example of Luther. During seasons of controversy, far too many leaders refuse to stand because they’re attempting to protect their own legacy or their little empire within evangelicalism while ignoring the fact that God’s truth is being assaulted.
Will you be remembered as a leader who stood courageously to defend the truth or will you be remembered as a sleeping lion who refused to roar? Faithful leaders are willing to defend the truth because they recognize that something far greater than their platform is at risk. The souls of men, women, boys and girls are assaulted when the truth is compromised.
During seasons of controversy, people look for leaders to stand up, speak up, and lead forward through the fog of controversy. May the Lord be pleased to raise up faithful leaders in our day.
- Jonathan Edwards to John Erskine (May 20, 1749), in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Letters and Personal Writings, (Yale University Press, 1998), 271.
One of the ongoing debates within Christian circles is centered on the subject of government and authority. Should Christians submit to civil authorities or simply focus on their relationship to the divine King and Ruler—Jesus Christ? In a lawful state where governing authorities are placed into office as those who lead and oversee the people—Christians have a responsibility to submit. However, the Christian is also called to submit to Christ at the same time. So, how does this balance play itself out in the ebb and flow of everyday life?
One of the most difficult things to do as an American Christian is to submit. Red blooded Americans enjoy freedom and abhor the idea of submission, therefore, as a Christian who lives within that culture, it’s often difficult to strike a balance between the freedoms that we do have and the absolute necessity to submit both to Caesar and Christ. One is for our temporal good and the other is for our eternal life. In this life, there are laws and structures of authority that must be followed, and Christians are not to live as lawless rebels while passing through this temporal world.
The Civil Government
Like marriage, the civil government is temporal, but given for a purpose and for our good. According to Romans 13, God instituted the leaders who rule over the people and their authority comes from the Lord himself. The sword (ability to exercise authority and enforce law) has been placed into the hands of the government by God himself. Until such time that the civil leaders ask us to violate God’s law, we are to submit and live in an orderly and lawful manner.
It was Mary Queen of Scots who once remarked, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” A study of church history and the Reformation will reveal how John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots clashed, but she feared Knox because of he feared God. When the earthly leaders press the people to live in such a way that would violate God’s law—it’s time to obey God rather than man. We see a clear example fo this in the Scriptures as Peter and the apostles were arrested for preaching the gospel. They were threatened and commanded to cease their preaching. Peter spoke up by saying:
“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:29-32).
The government is instituted by God and points to God as the ultimate Judge, Ruler, and King. Whenever an earthly judge violates his seat and power of authority—we are called to obey God rather than man. Until then, we are to live peaceably in this world as lawful followers of Jesus Christ.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (1 Pet. 2:16-17).
The Divine Government
We live in this world with an eye on the finish line. We don’t live as ignorant nomads, but as servants of God who are merely passing through this temporal world that is currently ruled by God’s sovereignty and divine providence. One day, Christ will return and will make all things new by ushering in his visible Kingdom. Although all authority has already been given to Christ (Matt. 28:18-20), he will one day return visibly and all things including death, the devil, and all ruling authority (including all human beings and angelic beings) will be placed under his divine rule.
Consider the words of the Christmas carol penned by Isaac Watts which states the following:
He rules the World with Truth and Grace,
And makes the Nations prove
The Glories of his Righteousness,
And Wonders of his Love.
How many red blooded Americans will stroll through shopping malls mumbling the words to this classic hymn while believing that Jesus is a King in a storybook sort of way, but he certainly isn’t King in the way that will have an impact on their lives today. At least, that’s they way they think of Jesus (if they think of him at all). If submission is hard for the ruler that you do see, how much more difficult is it for the Ruler whom you don’t see?
This present world is filled with lawlessness and corrupt government. However, even the ruling authorities today point to an eschatological hope that we have in Christ Jesus. We must remember the promise of Isaiah which was penned seven centuries before the birth of Jesus as the prophet wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). Because this promise is true that one day the government shall be upon his shoulder—we live on this side of the cross in the era of time between the first and second coming of Jesus. Therefore, there is a constant tension between the already and the not yet.
But, because of the promise and the hope that Christ will return and make all things new (Rev. 21), we can sing the words of Isaac Watts during this festive and celebrate with hearts of joy! This temporal world is filled with earthly thrones, but we have joy because one day Christ will bring his throne to a renewed earth and rule his people with Truth and Grace.
Joy to the World; The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every Heart prepare him Room,
And Heaven and Nature sing.
Satan delights in denigrating what God created as good. It has always been God’s plan for his Church to possess a certain masculinity in leadership and that masculinity flows into the general membership as well. One of the depressing realities of our modern culture is the assault upon masculinity as if it’s somehow a bad thing. While we can all certainly agree that male dominance is not God’s plan for his Church—the plan to extract male leadership and characteristics from God’s Church is certainly not healthy—in fact it’s downright sinful.
When Paul was closing out his letter to the church in the city of Corinth, he wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” We must recall that Paul was writing to a church that was in desperate need of theological and practical correction. The apostle took a firm stance against their sin, and then pointed them to the proper means of living out the gospel of Christ. Apparently one of their struggles was centered on love and their lack of manliness. William Robertson Nicoll observes that these exhortations are “directed respectively against the heedlessness, fickleness, childishness, and moral enervation of the” church at Corinth. 
Today, we continue to see the Church of Jesus Christ suffering from a lack of manliness. This has been the result of the radical feminist attack as well as the problem of perpetual adolescence that continues to prevent men from rising up and taking lead roles within the local church. These problems together create added friction over offices, giftedness, and the need for strong leadership. We would do well to remember Paul’s words to the church in Corinth—”act like men.”
The Feminization of the Church
The liberal agenda has masculinity in its sights and has for many years dating back to the radical women’s liberation movement. From this rank liberal ideology, they teach that God is not a male, Paul was a sexist, and Jesus was a feminist. This agenda took aim at Bible translations in an attempt to produce gender neutral texts while removing references to God’s masculine characteristics. However, the progressives of our day within evangelical circles have adopted that type of language and it has continued to soften the church. Today’s social justice agenda is moving rapidly through evangelicalism beneath the banner of liberation. They claim to work for the liberation of oppressed segments within our evangelical circles—and women are at the center of this debate.
Apparently, we have done a poor job of allowing women to flourish and use their gifts for God’s glory so we must tear down our hierarchies and develop new leadership structures to allow women to bloom. With varying degrees of opinions on this subject—including an eclectic array of interpretations on biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-15; Titus 2, do we stand in need of clarification on complementarianism? Is The Danvers Statement (1987) unclear? More importantly, is the Bible silent or insufficient to answer these questions?
In her article “God’s Feminist Ideals” published in Christianity Today, Wendy Alsup writes:
Gloria Steinem famously said a feminist is “anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Is God then a feminist by her definition? If feminism in its purest sense is the quest for justice and equal rights for women, then, yes, God was the first feminist. God created woman in his image and bestowed on her equal dignity with man. By a woman’s mere existence, God has bestowed on her dignity and privileges that transcend race, economic status, and physical ability.
At least that’s the language being used by leaders in evangelical circles today. In a recent article on SBC Voices, the question of a woman leading the SBC has once again emerged for discussion and debate. William Thornton critiques our current culture within evangelicalism by stating, “Seems we can’t celebrate women doing much of anything without inserting ‘in biblically appropriate ways.'” Apparently it’s taboo to appeal to the Scriptures and to uphold God’s original design for men and women within the local church and society as a whole.
Make no mistake, complementarity is under assault today and it’s a divisive agenda fueled by ancient errors that not only degrade masculinity—but they call into question God’s sovereign design. Does God need to revise his design for women and men and their roles to align with our modern culture? That type of thinking depicts our God as an aged grandfather in the sky who is not up with the times and apparently hasn’t been reading the latest blogs on his iPhone. In short, it’s a blasphemous assault on God and his sovereignty.
The fruit of this assault will be the feminization of the church. Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, in their book Megatrends for Women wrote the following back in 1992:
Women of the late twentieth century are revolutionizing the most sexist institution in history—organized religion. Overturning millennia of tradition, they are challenging authorities, reinterpreting the Bible, creating their own services, crowding into seminaries, winning the right to ordination, purging sexist language in liturgy, reintegrating female values and assuming positions of leadership. 
The leading chatter within evangelical circles suggests we suddenly have a need to liberate women in 2018 and swing all doors open for our sisters to flourish in God’s grace. Was Paul sexist in his appeal to the church in Corinth to act like men? Certainly not since we understand that Paul is driving at spiritual maturity. Therefore, spiritually mature men and women will desire to serve God within their roles as God designed from the beginning.
Today, men are behaving as if they must apologize for being created as a man and desiring to lead in the home and in the church. Is it sexist or is it Scriptural for men to desire to act like men and desire offices of leadership in the church while humbly leading in the home as well? Another question should be asked at this juncture—is it oppressive to women for men to act like men? Today’s church doesn’t need softer hands—it needs humble men who act like men and lead with biblical conviction.
The Childishness of the Church
Notice Paul didn’t say, “Act like boys.” There is a pervasive trend among many men today who desire an extended childhood. They avoid responsibility, delay marriage, downgrade family, and elevate play-time far above the need to work. That mindset has crept into the church long ago, and in many ways that’s why we have worship services that look like extended children’s church for adults. Furthermore, that’s why we have such a disconnect among leadership roles in the church in many cases where women are taking the lead because the men want to focus on delaying adulthood and the necessary responsibilities that come along with being a man.
Paul thunders over and over through the New Testament about the need for maturity. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he placed it as a central goal of pastoral ministry that labors to bring the church to spiritual maturity—to mature manhood (Eph. 4:13). Here in his closing words to the church at Corinth, Paul simply writes—”act like men.” We read Paul’s words today, and seek to make application to our context while the radio and television is providing another message that says growing up and becoming an adult is a really bad idea.
In many church cultures, men find no problem getting together to watch MMA fights or to have video game parties, but they find it extremely awkward to get together and talk about the doctrine of God, the meaning of the atonement, or the meaning and purpose of marriage. We have adopted delayed adulthood and created the “forty-something teenager” mentality—a perpetual adolescent who finds no value in adulthood and maturity. What an appropriate time to read and mediate on Paul’s words to the church at Corinth as he says, “act like men.” Paul had already written to them earlier in his letter providing them a warning:
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature (1 Cor. 14:20).
We would do well in our day to heed this warning and to obey Paul’s words to “act like men.” One of the most loving things that a church can do is to pursue maturity and celebrate masculinity which produces true love. This is where both men and women can flourish within God’s original design. Biblical manhood is not defined by how much a man can bench press, the thickness of his beard, or how many tattoos he has about Jesus on his arm. It’s not even connected to his love and affection for cigars. Biblical manhood is rooted in the gospel and has a profound submission to Christ and a love for the roles of men and women as God has designed.
- W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Commentary, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 949.
- Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, Megatrends for Women (New York: Villard Books, 1992), 119.