What does it mean to be a real man? According to the standards of our society, a real man is big and strong, bold and brave, confident and competitive. Through the voices of the moguls of media and the movies, young men are taught that a real man is a true stoic — someone who doesn’t show his emotions; he is apathetic about the cares of the world, apathetic to the problems of others, and, especially, apathetic to all things religious. Just about every popular television program, commercial, and cartoon portrays men as infantile, aloof, and ignorant, and if our Hollywood-inoculated culture is accurate in its assessment, then it is certainly appropriate to conclude that any man who would read an article such as this, or for that matter any man who would write an article such as this, is not a real man. Furthermore, if a man is a “man’s man,” he certainly isn’t the type of person who concerns himself with sappy, spiritual things, such as servant-hood, humility, prayer, faith, and love.
The apostle Paul was indeed a man of strength, bravery, boldness, and confidence, and he was a man who cared deeply about the world, about others, and about all things religious. He was a man who very much concerned himself with servant-hood, humility, prayer, faith, and love. He was a man of such spiritual fortitude that he understood that he was strongest in Christ when he was weakest in himself (2 Cor. 12:10). He was a man who knew that his only confidence was in Christ, not in his own natural abilities (Phil. 3:3). He was a man who cared so much for the people of God that he was willing to suffer the persecutions of men rather than be at home with Christ (Phil. 1:21). He was a man who didn’t feel the need to pound his chest and defend himself as the great apostle Paul; rather, he buffeted his body to gain an invisible crown so that he could present it to the Lord (1 Cor. 9:26). He was a man willing to be considered a fool for Christ (1 Cor. 1:27), and he was a man who wanted to be identified, first and foremost, as one graciously called to be an apostle who was a bondservant of Christ. Just as he boldly proclaimed the doctrine of justification by faith alone because of the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, so he lived and breathed the simple phrase that he wrote on nearly every page of every epistle: “in Christ.” Paul was a real man, and one of the greatest men of all time, not because he lived for his own greatness and glory but because he lived humbly before the face of God, coram Deo, for the glory of God.