We see and hear many people addressed today as Reverend, Pastor, Preacher, Father, Rabbi, Minister, or Clergy members.
We analyze, categorize, and characterize people to determine and differentiate in the hopes NOT to discriminate or divide.
Still, until people figure out that we ALL identify and KNOW who we are in CHRIST alone, the practice of distinguishing humans by religious titles is a hitch that people will ALWAYS get HUNG up on.
Wearing religious titles is nothing new; JESUS dealt with this matter while HE was on the earth and forbade some religious titles.
1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (KJV)
Let’s talk about THREE principles that condem the use of religious titles:
1) Men often wear religious titles because they desire the praises of men (Matt. 23:5-7).
GOD is not pleased with those who seek the praises of men rather than the praise of God (Matt. 6:1-18; John 12:42,43).
2) In Christ, we are all brethren (Matt. 23:8). One is not exalted above another; one should not seek a title that appears to elevate him above others.
This does not mean that everyone in the church has the same talents, occupies the same office, or performs the same duties (Romans 12:4-9; 1 Corinthians 12:24; Ephesians 4:11,12,16; 1 Tim. 2:8-15; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).
Christians must esteem one another better than themselves (Phil. 2:3; Romans 12:10).
3) Men must not assume titles that belong to God or Christ (Matt. 23:8-10).
SPECIFIC TITLES THAT JESUS FORBADE
1) Rabbi (rhabbi: an official title of honor; my great one; my honorable sir; master). (Matt. 23:8)
There is one Master (didaskalos: a teacher), “Even Christ” (added by the translators, I think Jesus has Himself in mind.)
Jesus was often referred to as Rabbi (Jn. 1:35-38,49; Jn. 3:2; Jn. 4:31).
Many of the Jewish faith who are leaders and teachers carry the title of Rabbi.
2) Father (Matt. 23:9)
Not talking about the earthly relationship between a man and his child (Luke 15:21; Eph. 6:2,4), but religious titles.
There is one Father which is in heaven.
Many who are leaders in the Catholic Church and Episcopalian Church are called by this title.
Padre is Spanish for Father.
3) Master or Teacher (kathegetes: a guide, i.e., teacher.)
Jesus has no reference to the secular slave /master relationship (Eph. 6:5), nor is He forbidding us from describing people who impart knowledge to others in either the secular or religious work as teachers (Eph. 4:11,12; 2 Tim. 2:2).
Jesus is forbidding religious titles that suggest some sort of Lordship and that elevates one person above another in religion.
Let’s look at the meaning of various Bible words that are applied as religious titles.
Old Testament priests were people who were appointed by God to attend the tabernacle or temple, offer sacrifices, etc.
The New Testament Christ is our High Priest and the only mediator between God and man (Heb. 3:1; 1 Tim. 2:5). All Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6).
Perhaps, you have had the experience of answering the doorbell and 2 young men are standing there who introduce themselves as elder ..and elder. Elder is not these young men’s’ first names but it is used as a title by them and the Mormon religion.
Many denominations refer to their preachers by this title.
This title is used frequently by Catholics and Methodists.
In the New Testament, these three terms all referred to the same office (Acts 20:17,28; Tit. 1:5,7; (1 Pet. 5:1,2). Each term described some aspects of the persons holding this office. Elder suggests that one is mature in faith. Pastor refers to the work done by those in the office; they tend the flock among them (1 Pet. 5:1,2). Bishop also suggests the nature of their work; they are to oversee the church. There were qualifications these men had to meet before they could assume this work (1 Tim. 3:1-7). There must always be more than one pastor serving a church (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5). While some preachers were bishops, not all preachers meet the qualifications of the office nor do the work of a bishop, and neither are all bishops preachers(Eph. 4:11,12).
In the New Testament, the terms elder, pastor, and bishop refers to the office and work done by these men; it is not a religious title used to exalt them above their brethren.
Catholics and many in the world use this as a title for someone they deem to have lived an extraordinarily good life.
In the New Testament, the word saint means holy.
All Christians are saints (Phil. 1:3).
When used in the scriptures, this word is used to describe a relationship. It is not meant to be used as a title to exalt one person above another (Matthew 23:8).
7) Evangelist or Minister
Both of these terms are found in the scriptures (Eph. 4:11,12; 1 Tim. 4:6). They describe the work that some did in proclaiming the word of the Lord. Neither was used as a religious title to suggest they were above their brethren.
Here are some Titles NOT found in the bible, should they also be condemned by the same principles?
The term Reverend is used often to address denominational preachers.
The name of the Lord is Holy and Reverend (Psalms 111:9).
I am NOT suggesting that those in the medical field are wrong in wearing the title; the title identifies the work they do yet ivory towers are very steep, and we all may have a Doctorate in LIFE if you may allow.
Some object to it in the religious work when used to elevate one above his brethren.
In ending Jesus has forbidden some titles specifically. He has condemned others by the principles that He taught.
Through humble obedience we are exalted (1 Peter 5:6); through service, we are made great in the kingdom (Matt. 20:26).