Why does the apostle Paul tell a church full of men and women to “act like men” (1 Cor 16:13 ESV)?  We could press modern feminism onto the text and charge Paul with chauvinism.  Or we could learn to think more biblically.  I think there are three answers to why Paul would tell both male and female believers to “act like men.”

First, it is unlikely that women would have heard this very masculine term as excluding them.  The word “act like men” functions much like the word “brothers” two verses later, which includes believers of both genders.  Paul wasn’t thinking only of Bill and Bob and Bubba when he issued this command.  He had in mind Betty, Barbara, and Bobbie Sue too.

Second, the word for “act like men” in the Greek Old Testament is consistently translated as be courageous.  Moses exhorted Israel to be courageous upon entering the land (Deut 31:6); the Lord exhorted Joshua to be courageous in leading the people (Josh 1:9); David exhorted Solomon to be courageous in building the temple (1 Chr 28:20).  Whether male or female, living as a faithful Christian requires courage.  The battle lines may be drawn in different places for women than for men, but regular displays of courage in the cause of Christ are no less necessary.  In this sense all believers are to “act like men.”  As a pastor, I have seen men who could learn a few things from the women in this regard.

Third, the church at Corinth was a mess.  Factions, boasting, sexual immorality, lawsuits, doctrinal compromise — you name it, they did it.  Here was a congregation filled with spiritual “infants” (3:1) who had not yet given up their “childish ways” (13:11).  Can you imagine a more fitting conclusion than for Paul to challenge this group to “act like men”?  Like an earnest father Paul is grabbing this church by the shoulders, looking them square in the eye, and telling them that it’s time to grow up.  To show courage in the gospel.  To act like men rather than kids.  Truly this message is for all believers, men and women alike.  We must all grow up into maturity in Christ.

Paul was no chauvinist.  His choice of a manly term was to convey a strong call for gospel courage and maturity.  “Act like men” is a call to be heeded just as much by the women of the church as by the men.  The call is for you, Christian, whether you are a husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, widower or widow, unmarried male or female.  The call to “act like men” is for us all.

Through obedient faith in THE MAN, Christ Jesus, let us answer the call.