By Bob Bunn
Moving targets are always harder to hit. You have to adjust for things like speed, distance, and
direction. Even the slightest shift drastically affects your chances of success.
Today, men face the challenge of hitting a moving target. We want to know what it means to be
a man, and what it takes to fulfill the roles we’ve been given. But the world’s standards keep
changing. That’s why we need a biblical definition of a man.
While the world’s ideas of manhood around us may shift like sand on the beach, God’s view
never changes. The Bible’s definition of man is he who is steadfast and immovable. While time
might alter the messages we hear about manhood, the biblical definition of man remains true.
Regardless of the translation you use, the word “man” shows up thousands of times in the Bible.
But it makes its first appearance in the very first chapter of the very first book: “Then God said,
‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’ ” (Genesis 1:26, CSB). After a few
days of creating everything else in the world, God turned His attention to His highest creation:
That initial reference uses the Hebrew word adam, which is where the first man got his name.
While that term can refer to human beings in general (mankind), it can also refer to an individual
man. The Bible emphasizes the distinct nature of that first man when God created the first
woman (the Hebrew word, issah) from Adam’s rib. The difference in wording suggests a
difference in form and function.
So, while men and women are both humans created by God and both hold a special standing in
His eyes, they were made to be different. That’s a foundational principle when it comes to
identifying a biblical definition of man.
It makes sense that the biblical definition of man begins by setting him apart from his partner.
Regardless of what the culture might preach, the Bible is clear that men and women are unique.
Again, both hold value as the pinnacle of God’s creative work, but a proper understanding of the
Bible’s definition of a man has to start with that truth.
As we dig a little deeper in His Word, we find that God reveals more truths about what it means
to be a man from His perspective. The following list includes five primary truths drawn from
Scripture that strengthen our framework for a biblical definition of man.
1. Man is created in God’s image. The theological term is imago dei, which is Latin for “image
of God.” And like the distinctions between man and woman, this truth is drawn from Genesis.
Even before Adam was created, God declared that human beings would be made “in our image”
(Genesis 1:26). The narrative goes on to explain that God followed through on His word. He
“created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27, CSB).
The biblical definition of man includes humanity’s reflection of its Creator. We reveal God to the
world in a special way. Over the centuries, scholars have debated exactly what that looks like,
but one thing remains clear. The Bible says a man has value and purpose because he is made in
the image of God.
2. Man has work to accomplish. The psalmist said that God made man “ruler over the works of
(God’s) hands” (Psalm 8:5-6). From the very beginning man was given the responsibility of
watching over the garden and taking care of everything God had created (Genesis 2:15). While
we want to avoid becoming a workaholic, part of man’s value is tied to the responsibility and
trust God bestowed on him.
You may not be a farmer, and, like me, you may know nothing about taking care of a garden.
But God still has given each of us purpose by giving each of us work to do, and our work does
provide for our families. In fact, Paul told Timothy that anyone who did not provide for his
family was worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). The biblical definition of man involves
embracing work for His glory (Colossians 3:23).
3. Man is an eternal being. In his essay “Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis stated that “ordinary
people” do not exist: “You have never talked to a mere mortal.” That’s because every
person—including every man—is an eternal being. We all will live forever. The only question is
our final destination.
The Bible’s definition of man emphasizes our eternal nature. As followers of Christ, we believe
that living is Christ and dying is gain (Philippians 1:21). We believe that being “away from the
body” means being “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). The fact that we will live
forever should influence the way we live as men right now.
4. Man is built for relationships. A look at the biblical definition of man reveals that we are
wired for relationships. We are not made to go it alone. From the Bible’s point of view, being a
man is a team sport. Men like Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Jesus and His disciples,
and Paul and Timothy underscore just how seriously God’s Word takes our need for
relationships. One biblical writer compared our need for relationships to iron sharpening iron
First and foremost, we need a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Beyond that, we need
family and friends to keep us sharp. We need our lives to intersect with mentors who will help us become better husbands, biblical fathers, better friends—better men. No consideration of the Bible’s definition of man would be complete without focusing on relationships.
5. Man has moral options. God could have created us to love and serve Him without question.
But He loved us enough to give us a choice. And while the narrative of Eden reveals how our
freedom led to our frailty, it also reminds us that we have options for salvation.
Of course, sin has left its mark. We are broken and we are imperfect creatures who desperately
need a Savior. But we are not beyond hope. The biblical definition of man states that we are
moral agents, free to choose God over self. In fact, we are never closer to experiencing true
manhood than when we embrace Him.
If you’re searching for a living illustration of the Bible’s definition of a man, look no further than
Jesus Christ. He is the perfect Man. He is our manhood mentor and role model.
As the perfect Man, He set a standard that’s impossible for us to reach. He is a target none of us
can come anywhere close to hitting. But His example is worth studying and, as best as possible,
emulating. Through His life, we can learn about strength and service, honesty and humility, faith
He shows us a new way to be human. He teaches us how to embrace the biblical definition of