By Robert P. Smith

Have you ever had to explain the meaning of the phrase “quit you like men” in1 Corinthians 16:13 in the King James Version? The archaic rendering of the word translated “quit” actually has an opposite meaning than the modern-day meaning of “give up,” “surrender,” or “throw in the towel.” The word “quit” in the KJV means “to acquit or conduct oneself.” So the verse in the KJV is saying, “Conduct yourself like a man!” or “Act like a man!” or “Be a man!” or “Man up!” I haven’t used the KJV for many years, but a recent article about churches and their men’s ministries seeking to reach out to men in their communities by using the Mixed Martial Arts reminded me of the irrelevancy of this archaic translation and how even in ministry a desire for relevancy can actually lead to irrelevancy.

An article I read in the New York Times, “Flock Is Now a Fight Team in Some Ministries,” references the phrase “Jesus didn’t tap.”[1. See also “Jesus Didn’t Tap” by Mike Pohlman, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/02/02/jesus-didnt-tap] Jesus didn’t “tap”? Hmm . . . tap dance? No—“Give up.” I don’t think Jesus tap danced either, but participants in the Mixed Martial Arts use “tap” to mean “give up.” Those who use MMA to reach out to men for the sake of the gospel read the Bible and see that Jesus endured pain and suffering,[2. Heb. 12:3] yet He didn’t give up. And by not giving up, He was victorious over death,[3. 1 Cor. 15:25-26; 53-57; Rom. 8:34-39; Rev. 21:4] sin,[4. Rom. 6:23] and Satan.[5. Col. 2:15; 3:5ff.; Rev. 20:10]

Jesus crushed His opponent.[6. Gal. 3:15] He kicked his head in. So you see, Jesus is a real man. A man’s man. He is an example of “fighting the good fight of faith,” which is fighting for what you believe in.[7. 1 Tim. 6:12] He fought back. He didn’t “tap.” He won. “God would give up his only Son before he’d Tap Out on you,” says the clothing company Jesus Didn’t Tap. Know-what-I’m-saying?

According to the New York Times article, “some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility,” see this form of outreach as a way to “promote Christian values.” In the article, a 39-year-old Seattle pastor remarks, “What you attract people to Christ with is also what you need to get people to stay. I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men.”

Today’s church needs men like Jesus. Men who fight, not each other, but against their own bloodthirsty lusts for the sake the gospel.[8. 1 Cor. 9:24–27] Men who “pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling,”[9. 1 Tim. 2:8] not bloody hands. Men who bear the image of Christ,[10. Rom. 8:29] not just a T-shirt with an image on it. Men who, by the Spirit, are becoming like Him.[11. 2 Cor. 3:18] Men who are increasing in their knowledge of Him.[12. Eph. 4:17–24] Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”[13. Matt. 11:29]

Jesus was meek, but He was not weak.[14. John 2:15ff.] He was strong, but His strength was Spirit-controlled.[15. Matt. 4:1–11] There was no other man like Him in power and authority,[16. Luke 9:1; Matt. 9:6; 28:20] yet He washed other men’s feet.[17. John 13:3-5, 14] I don’t think foot-washing is going to draw a large crowd at the local arena. Know-what-I’m-saying? Jesus could have crushed those who opposed Him,[18. Matt. 26:53] yet He didn’t retaliate. Instead, He surrendered to God.[19. 1 Peter 2:23] Jesus is returning to earth one day, and at a time when you least expect Him[20. John 14:3; Matt. 24:50; 1 Thess. 5:3] (talk about a sucker-punch! Ouch!), and He will judge all men,[21. 2 Tim. 4:1] but His display of strength, dominion, power, and authority, unlike a man’s display, will not be tainted with sin.[22. Acts 17:31; Rev. 19:11]

There are a number of errors in the reasoning of those who promote MMA in the church. Here are a handful:

  • Biblical masculinity is not about “muscle” or “machismo,”[23. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Crossway); also see “The Meaning of Masculinity”] but maturity.[24. 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18]
  • Spiritual maturity is not measured by how long you subject your body to physical suffering.[25. 1 Cor. 13:3]
  • The gospel is not about any man’s endurance of pain at the hands of sinners, but rather Jesus’ suffering and death by the predestined plan of God.[26. Acts 4:28]
  • The gospel of Jesus is one of humiliation and weakness.[27. “Jesus Didn’t Tap,” Phil. 2:5–8]

Sadly, this man-centered approach emphasizes a “methodological” approach to evangelism and not a theological one.[28. 1 Cor. 2:1–5] What’s at the heart of this “heresy”? Well, at a minimum, it reveals an inadequate knowledge of the Bible, leading to an inaccurate use of the Bible.[29. A misuse of 1 Corinthians 9:19–23 (e.g., Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is their justification for MMA’s matches of anger and violence)] We know that God approves of those who handle His truth accurately[30. 2 Tim. 2:15] and conduct themselves according to the truth. So let’s be men who don’t give up on being conformed to the likeness of Jesus by being men who are “strong” in the Word.

A version of this article originally appeared as the regular Sunday bulletin letter on Feb. 14, 2010, at Grandview Park Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa. Robert P. Smith is the pastor of Grandview Park Baptist. He and his wife, Ronette, have two married children and one grandchild (with two more on the way!). Robert believes that “God is not a God of minimums.” He asks with the Apostle Paul, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).