Do you address your religious leader by prefixing “PASTOR”, “REVEREND”, “FATHER”? Do you think that the Christian Church is built like a corporate hierarchy? Then This is for you. Please read the below carefully.
The Bible does not give titles to Christians, and neither should we. Here we have a typical example of what the Bible calls “the traditions of the elders”. Jesus tells us not to break the command of God for the sake of our traditions (Matthew 15:3) and Jesus accuses religious people: “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men. Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:8-9).
What are the commands of God? You are not to be called “Rabbi”, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers (Matthew 23:8). Here Jesus spells it out quite clearly. We must not let people give us titles because we have only one Master and all titles belong to him. Jesus says that we are all brothers, and that is the only title we can have and can give to other Christians: “brother”. “Brother” is also the only title Paul is given in the Bible.
Jesus’ command is perfectly plain: Do not call anyone on earth “father” (Matthew 23:9) but so many people don’t obey it; they call religious leaders “father”. In TPM Parlance even a small worker brother is called “APPACHEN”. All titles belong to Jesus, not to men. Even when I call another Christian “brother,” I give this title to Jesus, because I acknowledge Jesus in this man.
Jesus says that we are not to be called “teacher” (Matthew 23:10). Jesus gives three examples of not using titles (Matthew 23:8-10) and it is interesting to note that the second example is a command for us not to give titles to others, but that the other two examples, the first and the third command, are addressed to those to whom titles are given. So we must not give titles, but it is even more important that we do not allow people to give us titles. Jesus quite clearly says that the person who is addressed with a title has to correct the other person and tell him not to address him with a title.
Let us look at these words of Jesus in Matthew 23:8-10:
“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”
So Jesus gives three examples where we should not use titles: Rabbi, father, and masters. We should not let other people call us Rabbi, we should not call others father and again we should not let another person call us master.
The New Testament says that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and the Old Testament says in Job 32:21-22:
Let me not, I pray you,
accept any man’s person,
neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
For I know not to give flattering titles;
in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
We also must not overlook that the love for titles is only one aspect of an attitude which is best described by Acts 20:30:
“To draw away disciples after them”. These people like to draw away disciples after them; after their group, after their organization, after their denomination.
What commonly goes with this attitude is:
- They love the place of honour (Matthew 23:6).
- They love to be greeted in the marketplace (Matthew 23:7).
- They love to exalt themselves (Matthew 23:12).
- They shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces (Matthew 23:13).
- They travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, they make him twice as much a son of hell as they are (Matthew 23:15).
- They think that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5).
- They like to walk around in flowing robes (Mark 12:38).
- They devour widow’s houses (Mark 12:40).
- For a show they make lengthy prayers (Mark 12:40).
- They peddle the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17).
They draw away disciples after them. They want people to follow them. They don’t want people to become disciples of Jesus; they want people to become their disciples.
Let us look at the use of titles in the book of Acts. Titles are used by non-Christians addressing others. In Acts 23:24-26 the commander of the Roman troops, a non-Christian, speaks of “Governor Felix”. He gives Felix the title “Governor”. In Acts 25:24-26 Festus, also a non-Christian, gives the title “King” to Agrippa; he addresses him as “King Agrippa”. This is normal practice today as it was then.
Of more interest is that Christians also used titles, but they used titles only when addressing non-Christians. In Acts 24:1 the author of Acts, Luke, writes of “the high priest Ananias”, he gives him the title “high priest” by putting it in front of his name. Luke does the same in Acts 25:13; he writes “King Agrippa”. Paul does the same in Acts 26:2, 26:19 and 26:27 – three times; he addresses Agrippa as “King Agrippa” – he gives him the title “King”.
So what does this mean to us? It means that it is not wrong for us to give a person a title, but in so doing we know that that person in not a Christian. So there is nothing wrong in using titles in worldly situations, under circumstances when we are dealing with non-Christians, but it is wrong to use titles for Christians. When a Christian addresses another Christian with a title – let us say with the title “Pastor” – then we know that he is not a spiritual Christian who knows his Bible. He may not be a Christian at all – just a religious person. And when a so-called Christian allows other Christians to address him with a title – let us say he allows them to call him “Pastor so-and-so” – then we can see he is a person that is carnal or may even not be a Christian at all. He is a Pharisee, of whom Jesus warns us so often. Such a person has very little knowledge of the Bible and is certainly not fit to lead others.
Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm (1 Timothy 1:7).
If you think your “pastor” is not such a person, then give him this message and watch the reaction. If he changes, then you know that you have won a brother.
abridged from Fpreuss