Monday, October 21, 2019

Religious Titles Of Honor

           Roman Catholic priests are addressed by the name "Father" as a formal religious title of honor. In addition, the pope wields the title "Holy Father." However, these titles of exaltation become problematic in light of Jesus Christ's teaching on this matter:

           "But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:8-12)

           The context of this passage focuses on religious elitism and hypocrisy. The Scribes and Pharisees of the Law loved being the center of attention. They did good works with the intention of receiving praise from other people. These men were outwardly righteous, but were actually depraved to the very core of their being.

           There certainly are figures of authority in the church. We can recognize an individual as being a spiritual father, a spiritual leader or teacher, bishop, elder, overseer, pastor, or a deacon. We can recognize doctorate degrees. But there is no biblical warrant for emphasizing titles to the point of self-exaltation. We never see people in the New Testament called "Father David," "Reverend Peter," "Doctor Timothy," etc.

           We are all "brethren" in Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:8), which means that no one in the church has intrinsic superiority over another. We are all servants of Christ who is our Master. We are not to use titles to call attention to our own accomplishments. God already knows our hearts. He knows whether or not we are faithful to Him. Titles are not to be used to bring about unquestioning submission to oneself. There is nothing scriptural about pastors requiring members of God's church to address them by special titles of honor.

           Matthew 23:5-13 specifically forbids the love of flattering religious titles or believers striving to be placed on a pedestal. Only God is worthy of our undivided allegiance. The underlying problem with insisting that we be addressed by formal titles of honor in the church is that we have a tendency to become puffed-up. That is exactly what has happened with the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Nothing could be more haughty than the pope taking on the title "Holy Father" when that title in Scripture is applied only to God (John 17:11). Nobody is pure except God alone (Mark 10:18).

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