What are the characteristics of a man in leadership? What does a man who is really a man look like? Generally, we look to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to consider that answer, yet 1 Cor. 16 also offers several qualities of the godly man (in leadership).
We know that Paul is talking about leader issues in verses 13-14 (though undoubtedly he is not referring directly of elders and/or deacons, because they are not mentioned or even implied) because of two things he says: 1) the readers of this epistle were to be in subjection (v. 16) to these men — i.e., they were to follow their leadership; 2) some men in the Corinthian church who were exhibiting such qualities were Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus — these devoted themselves to the ministry in Corinth (v. 15), supplied what was lacking in the Corinthians (v. 17), and were to be acknowledged (implying, “acknowledge their leadership”) by the entire body (v. 18). Paul saw these men as fulfilling a role of leadership.
So what were to be the qualities of these leaders (vv. 13-14)?
- they were to be alert — often this word “alert” is used in the context of watching for the second coming; it also is used to refer to watchfulness against sin and temptation (Mt. 26:41; 1 Pt. 5:8).
- they were to stand firm in the faith — generally “stand” is used to refer to guarding and protecting the faith — making sure the gospel is uncompromised.
- they were to act like men — the word “act like men” occurs only here in the New Testament, but according to one source also has the meaning of “conduct oneself in a courageous way,” that is, “be brave!”
- they were to be strong — not just “be strong,” but “be strengthened (by the Holy Spirit)” — cf. Lk. 1:80; Eph. 3:16.
- they were to do all things in love — everything (emphatic in the clause) was to be born (which is the sense of the verb “do”) out of love.
So what kind of man are we called to be as we attempt to lead others around us? Men who are alert to the temptation of sin (in our own lives!), who are faithful to the faith and defensive of it, who are brave in our actions, being renewed by the Holy Spirit, and demonstrative in love.
Lord, our hearts are sleepy instead of alert, faithless when we should be faithful (or abrasive in our defense of you), cowardly when we should be brave (Eph. 6:18), too often “renewed” according to the power of the flesh rather than the power of the Spirit, and self-loving rather than Christ-exalting in love towards all others and all things. Help us to be real men of God!