What Does Jesus Say About Religious Titles?

Matthew 23:6-13 KJV “And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 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. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

There are people who feel you must address them as, Pastor, Elder, Reverend, Bishop, Father, and so on. Paul the apostle (who was a true apostle) at times felt it necessary to remind folks of his office, yet he never told them to call him, “Apostle Paul.” Believers just called him by his name; Paul. They called the apostle Peter, Peter. That’s because the early church believers, Paul, Peter, and all the other apostles understood and took seriously what Jesus said about wearing religious titles. Let’s examine why Jesus said not to title ourselves.

Jesus says there are certain religious leaders who love the VIP treatment. And he calls them, “hypocrites!” They may constantly call themselves, “servants,” but that’s not how they really feel. They love being served. They love the most important accommodations like the best rooms and the best seats at gatherings. We see this even at church meetings where the Pastors and their wives are given special seats of honor (usually the front row). Some have literal thrones on the pulpit. They have elevated themselves above the rest of the flock. Jesus says these individuals love to be greeted by their religious titles even when you see them out and about on the street in the market places. You’ve heard it before; “How yah doin Reverend …?” “Hi Pastor …” So the VIP treatment goes far beyond just when they’re at church. Yet Jesus commands us not to be this way. And He gives us the reason why; “For one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” We all are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. So how dare we lift ourselves up above the rest of God’s flock?

Wanting, demanding, or even allowing others to address us by these vainglorious titles is breaking Jesus’ command and exalting ourselves to His status. Yes, this is the same sin the Devil committed when he said that he would lift himself up above all the other stars of heaven and be like Almighty God Himself! (Isaiah 14:13-14) Sounds like I’m being too harsh? Jesus showed this when telling His disciples not to be called Rabbi, Father, Master, and the like. He iterated this when he said, “For one is your Master, even Christ.” Jesus is saying that wearing these religious titles is putting yourself in the position of MASTER; His position. The Greek word for, “Master,” in this passage means, “A guide, a Teacher.” Jesus is saying that only ONE (He) is our guide and teacher. Yes, titling oneself, letting others title you, and proudly wearing these titles is placing yourself in the seat of Jesus Christ! 😳 That’s serious!

“HE GAVE SOME …”

I know what some are thinking, I hear it every time this matter comes up: “Well, don’t the Bible say that God gave some to be apostles, some to be pastors, some to be teachers, some to be evangelist, and some to be prophets?” (Ephesians 4:11) Yep, it sure does say that. And many of these Pastors, Evangelists, Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets are smart enough to stick to the Biblical script by simply doing their jobs, and not wear the titles. An apostle does what an apostle does, a teacher does what a teacher does, a prophet does what a prophet does, etcetera. If God made you a teacher teach, but don’t have people calling you, “Teacher,” that’s Jesus’ title. The office of teacher, prophet, or bishop in no way nullifies what Jesus said in Mathew 23 about wearing religious titles and receiving the VIP treatment the hypocrites love so much. “All ye are brethren,” Jesus says. None is above the other. True men and women of God simply do their jobs. They do not seek or accept glory from men. Hypocrites do that Jesus said.

True men and women of God who are particularly gifted are like John the Baptist who indeed was a prophet. Jesus said John was a prophet and more than that:

Luke 7:24-26 ESV “When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A PROPHET? YES, I TELL YOU, AND MORE THAN A PROPHET.”

John was indeed a prophet and more than a prophet Jesus said. John also knew his assignment in God. But note in the next passage when John was directly asked by some priests and Levites, “Are you a prophet?” notice the answer John gave:

John 1:19-24 NET “Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed – he did not deny but confessed – “I am not the Christ!” So they asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not!” “ARE YOU THE PROPHET?” HE ANSWERED, “NO!” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Tell us so that we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John said, “I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)”

The great prophet John the Baptist (whom Jesus said was even more than a prophet) never called himself a prophet or wore any other religious titles. John was humble. He simply did his job. He is unlike so many of these bootleg, self-titled, prophets, apostles, elders, bishops, evangelists, reverends, holy fathers, etcetera today.

As Jesus said John didn’t live high on the hog either or wear fine clothes like religious pimps do today. John did not receive or seek the VIP treatment. Instead he got the very opposite as did his Master Jesus Christ. If you consider yourself a man or woman of God and are wearing these vainglorious titles I urge you to repent. If you consider yourself a true believer and call men and women by these titles instead of just calling them by their names I encourage you to repent too. How can we be true men and women of God if we directly go against God’s commands? Jesus tells us not to lift ourselves up above God’s flock. Not only does He call those who do so hypocrites, He gives a stern warning regarding this: “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” If we decide to exalt ourselves above God’s people (just like satan did) God will decide to humble us. He has the power to humble us all the way down to the lake of fire (eternally). And if we humble ourselves (be true servants of God’s flock) God will exalt us all the way up to heaven in His presence (forever)!

If you still think this message is too hard on religious leaders who love wearing religious titles and love receiving the VIP treatment consider also what Jesus said while discussing this topic:

Matthew 23:13 NET “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.”

This is serious!😳

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