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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[6. Titles]
This is the 6. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church."
by Frank L. Preuss
We often hear people talking about "the apostle Paul" and find nothing wrong with it. It is done so frequently that everybody thinks it is scriptural to say "the apostle Paul". The Bible never does it. The Bible always speaks of "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ". Paul is an apostle, but the word "apostle" is never used as a title; it never appears in front of his name as a title. The word "apostle" is never put in front of the name Paul, or in front of the name Peter. The Bible does not do it. Only men do it.
So there is something wrong when we say: "the apostle Paul", because we are giving Paul the title "apostle". Paul is definitely an apostle, but it is not right to put the word "apostle" in front of his name, and in so doing supplying him with the title "apostle". Why is it not right to give Paul the title "apostle" and what are the spiritual implications when we do it?
As we will not find the words "the apostle Paul" in the Bible and as the Bible always talks about "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ", we as Christians should also not have titles. 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 does Jesus think of these people who want to be our Christian leaders and who fit so nicely the Bible's description of Pharisees? Jesus says that they love to have men call them "Rabbi" (Matthew 23:7). Jesus says that they love to have men address them with a title. It is an old tradition in Christianity to give leaders titles, and people love to do it. But these people set aside the commands of God.
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.
When Paul had just become a Christian he was addressed as "Brother Saul" by Ananias in Damascus (Acts 22:13) and when Paul was known in the Christian world as the apostle of Jesus Christ, he was still not given the title "apostle". The Bible does not call him "apostle Paul" - the Bible still calls him "brother". The only title the Bible gives to Paul the apostle is "brother". And that we find in 2 Peter 3:15 where Peter, another apostle, writes of "our dear brother Paul". Peter and Paul, probably the greatest Christians we know, had no titles except for "brother". Peter was also an apostle, but the word "apostle" does not appear in front of the name Peter. The Bible does not record an "apostle Peter". The Bible records that Peter was an apostle, but the word apostle follows the name Peter, it does not stand in front of the name as a title. In the first verse of Peter's first letter Peter writes: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ".
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". 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.
It is a typical religious sign to speak of "the apostle Paul". Jesus commands us not to use titles, and he again and again warns us against Pharisees. The love for titles is just one aspect. Jesus repeatedly says "beware of the Pharisees". And he gives us many examples of how to recognize Pharisees; how to recognize the modern Pharisees of our time. The admonition to beware is often repeated by Jesus. The love of titles is just one sign, but it is a sign and Jesus tells us to keep our eyes open. So when we meet Christians who allow people to give them titles, we have to beware. Jesus says: "Leave them" (Matthew 15:14). And he says why we have to leave them: because they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.
But now you are saying: "That is going too far. I have a pastor and he is such a fine Christian and you are saying to leave him, to separate from him, just because he allows people to call him pastor". A person who allows other people to call him pastor is disobeying the commands of God and also shows that he does not know the Bible; that he is blind. But now let us examine the real spiritual situation of this "pastor". The title "pastor" is given to him by a denomination - by a man-made church. And the real problem of this "pastor" is that he is taking part in the division of the body of Christ; that he is causing divisions in God's church by being a member of a divisive group. This membership is proof that he does not understand the body of Christ, that he does not recognize the body of the Lord. The Bible calls him worldly, carnal, sensual, unspiritual (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Jesus calls him blind. And when you want to be led by this man, you will also fall into a pit. Do you really expect to advance spiritually when you decide to have an elder that is unspiritual and does not grasp the basics of the unity of the body of Christ?
Christians who like to be dominated rather by men than by the Holy Spirit love to give titles to other Christians - they like to be dominated. And Christians who like to dominate others like titles, they love to be addressed with titles, they love to dominate. So there are those who like to be dominated and those who like to dominate. Both like to operate in their own little kingdom, they make God's kingdom irrelevant in their lives. They like their own man-made churches and don't submit to Jesus' commands. Jesus is not really Lord in their lives.
These people also love to talk about "the apostle Paul". They love to give Paul the title "apostle." They love to give titles. When they give titles to Christians in the New Testament and everybody accepts it, then everybody will also accept it when they give titles to themselves. So they put the word "apostle" in front of the name of Paul and of Peter in order to enable them to add a nice title in front of their own name as well: Rabbi, Cardinal, Bishop, Pope, Father, Apostle, Teacher, Pastor, Dominie, Reverend, The Very Reverend. Christianity is full of these titles and many others. Let us recognize them for what they are by their titles.
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.
This is the end of "Titles."
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