Christian Men Spiritual Growth and Christian Living

What Is the Biblical Definition of Manhood?

  • David Sanford Contributing Writer
  • Published Sep 26, 2019
What Is the Biblical Definition of Manhood?

Like many biblical questions, when we ask “what is the definition of manhood?,”we’re often tempted to raise our hands, wave them eagerly, smile big and answer, “Jesus!”

My good friend Todd Miles, author of Superheroes Can’t Save You, would be quick to disagree. Jesus wasn’t the ‘best of’ men, or the ‘greatest of’ men, or the ‘ultimate’ man. Instead, Jesus was and is fully God and fully man.

Imaginary superheroes can’t measure up. The greatest biblical heroes can’t measure up, either.

So, how does each biblical hero define manhood?

I’m so glad many biblical heroes of the faith define manhood with conviction and determination, faith and fortitude, strength and resolve, vibrancy and vitality. Together, they define the kind of man who follows Jesus Christ wholeheartedly, and loves others well, no matter what—until his dying day.

That’s the kind of man I want to be.

Let’s discover how 16 men in the Bible demonstrate manhood:

1. Adam: A man worships his wife and the Lord his God for life (Genesis 4:25-26).

In the closing two verses of his story, we see Adam engaging in both forms of worship. Yes, the idea of worshiping your wife may sound strange.

If you’re a traditional Anglican, however, you say these words as you place a ring on your bride’s finger: “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

There’s no greater purpose than worshiping your wife and the Lord your God for life.

2. Abraham: A man believes what God says (Genesis 15:6).

When this key verse took place, what time of day was it? At first, the answer seems obvious. It’s the middle of the night, right? Abraham is in his tent praying. The Lord speaks to Abram (as he was called at that point). The two have a little chat. The Lord reinforces His promise and takes Abram outside. They’re no longer in Abram’s tent.

Before the Lord further reinforces His promise, He instructs Abram to do something. All is well with the world, it seems, until the Lord adds that pesky phrase, “if you are able.”

As we see in Genesis 18:1—and as we see throughout that region and across southern Europe, southern Asia, and Latin America—many people rest during the hottest part of the day. It turns out that’s the best explanation for what time of day it was in Genesis 18:5.

The Lord was saying, in effect: “Abram, I’m asking you to do something that you can’t see now, but you’ll be able to see it tonight, just like almost every other night.” Then the Lord adds, “So shall your offspring be.”

As Abraham proves, there’s no greater faith than believing what God says.

3. Joseph: A man trusts God’s guiding hand (Genesis 50:19-20). 

When I decided to become a sold-out follower of Jesus Christ at age 13, I opened my Bible and began reading. Imagine encountering Scripture’s most famous stories for the first time, without any clue what happens next. That was my experience reading God’s Word cover-to-cover for the first time.

By the end of Genesis chapter 44, for instance, I expected Joseph, Prince of Egypt, to tell his armed guards to slaughter his brothers—men who had betrayed their own flesh and blood years earlier.

Instead, in the first three verses of chapter 45 Joseph barks at his guards, orders them to leave, reveals his true identity to his brothers, and then forgives them. I instantly started weeping. How could I have guessed? I’d never seen that kind of love.

As Joseph proves, there’s no greater trust than the assurance of God’s guiding hand on your life no matter what happens.

4. Moses: A man has received the Holy Spirit (Numbers 11:29).

After Moses complained how hard it was to lead the Israelites, the Lord told him He would “take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them” referring to 70 elders (Numbers 11:17).

When Joshua expresses alarm, Moses says, in effect, “My wildest dream is that the Lord would put his Spirit on all of His people.” Of course, that wild dream came true on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). There’s no greater gift every Christian could receive—from God the Father and His Son, Jesus—than the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).

5. Joshua: A man experiences God’s power (Joshua 10:12-14).

What power when the Holy Spirit leads us to pray for God’s will and glory. This is exactly what Joshua does in verse 12, and garners a spectacular miracle in verses 13-14. Like Joshua, the righteous man who obeys the Lord wholeheartedly eventually receives supernatural answers to prayer (James 5:16-18). May you and I know this experientially for the rest of our days.

6. Samuel: A man prays and is prayed for (1 Samuel 12:23).

In the midst of national upheaval, the prophet Samuel assures the people: “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” Samuel himself was a miraculous answer to his mother’s prayers (1 Samuel 1:1-20).

As a young man, I always knew several older friends prayed for me daily. Many years later, God gave me the gift of loving to pray for others daily in specific, detailed ways. Few things are more exciting than when God answers with specificity—even though only He and I knew what I had been praying. That’s why a man loves to pray!

7. David: A man worships God exuberantly (2 Samuel 6:14-15). 

You can imagine my surprise when I opened my first Bible and discovered my name attached to many of the psalms. You can imagine my further surprise when I started reading my Bible cover to cover and discovered how exuberantly he loved to worship God. How good that we can thank the Lord daily for His sovereignty (greatness), providence (guidance and goodness), holiness (glory), love (graciousness) and mystery (“God alone knows”). I do that every day with an uplifted heart full of joy and praise.

8. Solomon: A man walks in God’s wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7).

If only Solomon loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength and mind for a lifetime. Instead, Solomon compromised left and right, and eventually walked away from his devotion to the one true God.

In contrast, a wholehearted man steadfastly walks in God’s wisdom for the rest of his days.

9. Elijah: A man stays faithful to God to the end (2 Kings 2:1-11).

Yes, Elijah was as human as any other man (James 5:17). He sometimes became exhausted, despondent, and ready to give up. Then again, Elijah never gave into that last temptation.

As a result, the Lord allowed Elijah to bypass death and go straight to paradise. True heroes of the faith stay faithful to God to the end, whether we die or meet the Lord in the air.

10. Daniel: A man thrives in end times (Daniel 12:3-4).

Some Bible scholars think we may be living in the last times. If so, how should we respond? The last chapter in the book of Daniel tells godly men living in such times: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). In other words, men of God won’t cower in fear. Instead, they will thrive in the end times.

11. Ezra: A man treasures the Scriptures (Ezra 7:8-10).

The godly and wise man imitates Ezra. We read that “the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:9-10).

Since age 13, I have read the Bible cover-to-cover scores of times, and it never stops enriching me. No wonder I treasure the Bible daily!

12. Nehemiah: A man does great works (Nehemiah 6:15-16).

When we say “Solomon built the Temple,” we don’t mean he did any of the physical work. No, 150,000 other men did that, but we don’t know any of their names.

In contrast, when we say “Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem,” Nehemiah wrote down the names of those who did (and didn’t) do the labor, and he worked right alongside them every day. True, he wasn’t the king, but he was the governor.

More importantly, Nehemiah was the answer to his own fervent, earnest, daily prayers for four straight months. He knew dreaming great dreams and praying great prayers always precede doing great things for God’s glory, honor, and praise.

Even Nehemiah’s enemies “realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).

13. Malachi: A man follows the Messiah no matter what (Malachi 4:1-6).

In the final verses of the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), Malachi quotes the Lord’s prophetic words about the coming of John the Baptist—the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Lord compares John the Baptist to the prophet Elijah. Unlike Elijah, however, John suffered a cruel death by beheading. He chose to die a martyr’s death rather than forsake the Lord.

In my travels overseas, I have met men who have survived semi-automatic gunfire and worse. In the middle of Africa I met Tchere, who had survived a gruesome machete attack. His people were running out of food and attacks were still a threat. When I asked Tchere how I could pray for him, however, he surprised me: ““Pray that we might remain firm in our faith in our old age.” Then and there I pledged to be that same kind of man.

14. Paul: A man lives like a deacon or elder (1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9).

We’re more familiar with the New Testament, so I’ll keep these last three paragraphs as brief as possible. Paul’s encouragement is true whether you and I ever serve in an official leadership role within our local church. The apostle Paul taught that every man should live up to the qualifications of a deacon or elder.

15. Peter: A man lives like an elder for life (1 Peter 5:1-11).

Likewise, the apostle Peter taught that every man should live up to the qualifications of an elder until the day he dies. Peter did it. Paul did it. You and I can do it, too.

16. John: A man looks forward to eternity with Jesus (Revelation 21:3).

The exclamation point of heaven isn’t the streets of gold. Instead, it’s the reality that God dwells with man. Like the apostle John, let’s look forward to eternity with Jesus!

headshot of David SanfordDavid Sanford coaches leaders passionate about demonstrating the relevance of Jesus Christ in every major sphere of life. His book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, and Amazon. His speaking engagements have ranged everywhere from The Billy Graham Center at the Cove (NC) to UC Berkeley (CA).

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Tobias Cornille