Real Men Love the Church
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that perhaps never in human history has the notion of being male, of being a man, of being masculine, been as distorted and warped as it is today. We need to re-learn what an ordinary man of God looks like. By the way, women you can still learn a great deal from this as well. If you are single, you can learn what kind of man you should pray for and seek as a husband. If you are a mother, you can learn what kind of man you should pray that your own sons might become. You can also learn what your husband needs most, and thus pray for him appropriately. So, don’t check out on me, ladies. You need to hear this as much as the men do. Continue reading . . .
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that perhaps never in human history has the notion of being male, of being a man, of being masculine, been as distorted and warped as it is today. We need to re-learn what an ordinary man of God looks like. By the way, women you can still learn a great deal from this as well. If you are single, you can learn what kind of man you should pray for and seek as a husband. If you are a mother, you can learn what kind of man you should pray that your own sons might become. You can also learn what your husband needs most, and thus pray for him appropriately. So, don’t check out on me, ladies. You need to hear this as much as the men do.
When the Apostle Paul thought of men he knew to hold forth as godly examples of what a man ought to be, two individuals came to mind: Timothy and Epaphroditus. He describes them in Philippians 2:19-30. I want to look briefly at what he says about Timothy in vv. 19-24. Here is what he writes:
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.”
Paul tells us in v. 19 that his purpose for sending Timothy to Philippi was two-fold: (1) so that the Philippians might be encouraged from hearing good news of how Paul was getting along, and also, and especially, (2) so that Paul himself might find joy in hearing about the Philippians.
Timothy is first mentioned in the NT in Acts 16:1. From that text we can infer that he was from Lystra and was the son of a mixed marriage: his father was a Greek pagan and his mother, whose name was Eunice, was a devout Jew. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy that the young boy was raised on the Scriptures by his mother and his grandmother, Lois. Most believe that Paul led Timothy to saving faith in Christ during his first missionary journey in 47 a.d. (see 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2). In about 51 a.d. he joins Paul and travels extensively with him on the apostle’s missionary journeys. He eventually settles in Ephesus, most likely as an Elder and Pastor in that city.
In vv. 20-24 Paul mentions three reasons why he sent Timothy to Philippi rather than someone else. And in these three reasons we see something of what a real man ought to be. Here we come face to face with authentic biblical masculinity, a man worthy of imitation.
(1) The first reason is that Paul says he has “no one like him” (v. 20a) or more literally, no one “of equal soul.” In other words, whatever Timothy does or says when he arrives, the Philippians may rest assured that it is what Paul himself would have said and done. Timothy knows the heart and mind of Paul better than anyone else. More than that, as Paul looked around, he could find no one who had a passion for people like Timothy did. No one embodied the values and beliefs of the apostle so fully as did Timothy. Paul says nothing about his bank account, his athletic ability, his physical appearance, his fame, or any of those things that we typically associate with “real” men.
(2) Secondly, no one else “will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (v. 20b). In point of fact, “they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (v. 21). This is a remarkable statement. Look closely at the contrast. Paul sets before us Timothy’s love and concern for the Philippians versus everyone else’s lack of concern for Christ.
That doesn’t seem to make sense. It seems rather that Paul should have written this: “They seek their own interests, not those of you Philippians.” In other words, shouldn’t he have said, “Timothy is concerned for you but the others are concerned only for themselves”? But note what Paul actually says: “Timothy is concerned for you but they lack concern for Christ”!
I think what Paul is saying is that to be concerned for other Christians, as Timothy was for the Philippians, is to be concerned for Christ. To love other Christians is to love Christ. These other people don’t love you, says Paul, because they don’t love Christ. If they were concerned for the interests of Christ they would be concerned for your welfare also! Consider these similar statements:
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1).
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10).
So how does Paul know that Timothy has the interests of Jesus Christ and the glory of Jesus Christ uppermost in his heart and affections? He knows it because he knows how much Timothy loves and is concerned for the welfare of Christ’s people, the Philippians.
You may wish you could affirm the Christian faith and reject Christians, but you can’t. You may wish you could love Jesus but ignore and even despise the Church, but you can’t. The Bible simply won’t let you get away with it.
But most important for us to see is that the sort of “man” whom God approves is one who is unafraid of feeling and displaying his heartfelt love for other Christians. True men of God love the people of God and are willing to make any sacrifice necessary for them to know Christ more fully.
(3) The third reason Paul is sending Timothy is because he has a remarkable reputation. We see this in v. 22 – “But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” Timothy understands the gospel, has sacrificed greatly for the sake of the gospel, and has diligently served alongside Paul in proclaiming the gospel. You can count on him, says Paul.
Does this sound like what 21st century experts would say? Is this portrait of Timothy what you regularly read in the Hollywood tabloids or on the blogs that promote what most today think about masculinity? I doubt it.
May God help us men to pursue that quality of character and devotion to the gospel and to the church that Timothy so joyfully embodied. May God help the women to seek after such a man in their pursuit of a husband. May God help the mothers to raise their sons to be like Timothy, who by God’s grace was devoted to being like Paul, who in turn imitated Christ himself.