What do men need for there to be real and lasting change in their lives? What is the secret to real manhood? What does it take for a young man to stop living foolishly, to start thinking maturely and to seek the Lord? What does it take for a husband to start loving his wife, to start speaking tenderly to her and to lead her in the Scriptures and prayer? What does it take for a father to start loving his children, to sacrifice his time for them and to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord? After all, true manhood is that which is shaped by the biblical idea of wise, loving, and sacrificial spiritual leaders. That means that our deepest need is not merely behavioral—our deepest need is spiritual, something that God must do for us and in us.
When I was a new believer, a friend of mine who knew me from my rebellious days before my conversion was remarking on the change that had occurred in my life. She said to me, “We all grow up some time, don’t we?” It was one of those moments when I deeply regret not having responded. I desperately wanted to say to her, “. . . and some of us have been raised from the dead.” It takes nothing short of a spiritual resurrection for a man to become what the Lord wants him to be. Lasting change doesn’t come from determination or will power. It doesn’t come from seeking to set new habits for yourself. Lasting change only comes from the resurrection power of Jesus. As Scotty Smith has so helpfully explained, “Christianity isn’t a crutch. That wouldn’t be enough. It’s a resurrection.” So how does resurrection effect manhood? Here are three ways in which manhood is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus:
1. Biblical manhood is restored by the resurrection of Jesus.
The storyline of Scripture is the storyline of God resurrecting men and women fallen in Adam and spiritually dead through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the second Adam. It is the story of new creation. From Genesis to Revelation, God teaches us that to be redeemed is to be re-created and resurrected. The Apostle Paul makes this abundantly clear throughout his epistles—most notably, in Ephesians 2:1-10. There were are told that, by nature, men are “dead in sins and trespasses.” We discover that, in Adam, we are all “children of wrath” who “walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” But then there is that unexpected and glorious gospel conjunction. “But,” wrote the Apostle, “God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with Him” (Eph. 2:1-6).
While many are tempted to reduce the resurrection down to the physical resurrection that will occur when Christ returns, the Scriptures speak of a spiritually resurrection that has already occurred in the life of believers. Because of our union with Christ (i.e., believers were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, and were united to Him as our representative in the work of redemption, and united to Him in time when we repented and believed into union with Him), we have died and risen with Him. When Jesus died, we died. When Jesus stepped out of the tomb, we stepped out of the tomb with Him into a world of grace and newness of life. The result of our spiritual resurrection in Christ is summed up in what Paul told the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). True renewed manhood only occurs because of the spiritual resurrection of a believer in union with Christ.
2. Biblical manhood is sustained by the resurrection of Jesus.
In Romans 6, the Apostle Paul charged believers to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). In order for growth in grace to occur, believers have to remember the spiritual death and resurrection that they have undergone in Christ. Most of the failure in the Christian life is, as someone once helpfully noted, “living well below the level of privilege that we have in Christ.” When Christian men fail to act as Christian men who have been resurrected and renewed into the image of Him who created them, they need to remember what has happened to them in Christ. After telling the church in Colossae what had happened to them because of her death and resurrection with Christ, the Apostle Paul charged her to put off the vices of the old man (Col. 3:5-9) and to put on the virtues of the new man (Col. 3:12-17). He again reminded her that this was only possible for her because she had already “put off the old self with its practices and had put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10). The Christian life is sustained by the fact that we have been raised up with Christ unto newness of life. Even now we are being renewed in knowledge, righteousness and holiness after the image of Him who created and redeemed us (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24).
3. Biblical manhood is fueled by the resurrection of Jesus.
Finally, we must remember that true manhood is only and ever propelled forward by the continual supply of Christ’s resurrection grace and power. When he came to pray for the believers in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul prayed the following for them:
“That you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
What is striking about this prayer is that Paul had already told them all that had happened to them in Christ. At the beginning of the next chapter, he would tell them that they had already been raised up with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places. But here, he prays that they would know the resurrection power of God in their lives. The very power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead (and I take that to be a lot of power) is presently at work in the lives of believers. If you are longing to grow to be the man that God wants you to be, you need to know that there is resurrection power that God wants to work in you to that end for His glory. We need to go to Him praying for that continual supply of resurrection power.
As we remember that it is only through the resurrection of Jesus that biblical manhood is restored, sustained and fueled we will turn, not inward to look for resources to change, but to Christ who has already done everything necessary to produce that sort of transformation in our lives. Whatever else might be said about biblical manhood, this much we can be sure of—biblical manhood is utterly dependent on the resurrection of Christ.
Nick Batzig blogs at Feeding On Christ, has written numerous articles for Tabletalk Magazine, Reformation 21, and is published in Jonathan Edwards and Scotland (Dunedin, 2011). You can find several of his published book reviews here. Nick is also a regular panelists on Christ the Center a podcast of The Reformed Forum. In addition, Nick is the host of East of Eden, a podcast devoted to the Biblical and Systematic Theology of Jonathan Edwards. You can follow him on Twitter @Nick_Batzig.
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