Religious Titles and Spiritual Pride

Religious Titles

Don’t allow anyone to call you pastor or reverend:

But do not you be called Rabbi, for One is your Leader, the Christ, and you are all brothers. And call no one your father on earth, for One is your Father, the One in Heaven. Neither be called leaders, for One is your Leader, the Christ. But the greater of you shall be your servant. And whoever will exalt himself shall be humbled, and whoever will humble himself shall be exalted. Matt. 23:8-12

What if a Pastor reads this and says, OK, OK, then don’t call me Rabbi or Leader or Father or Master or Teacher, but just call me Pastor or Reverend! I think Jesus would take that as ridicule, as making a joke of what He commanded. And in verse twelve the Lord warns that the issue here is self-exaltation, meaning, that the use of titles is self-exaltation and that’s one reason Jesus forbids it. But today many would say, Self-exaltation, what’s wrong with that? A perverse mind would see nothing wrong with that.

False respect

Some people think that if you call a Pastor-Elder brother that will be less respectful than calling him Pastor or Reverend. This wisdom does not come from Jesus, it is from the world. So, if a brother exalts himself then you will respect him, but if a brother refuses to exalt himself then you won’t respect him? What’s up with that? It’s upside down! According to Matthew twenty three it’s implied that the Elder or Pastor (same thing) who only allows people to call him brother is due more respect than the prideful man who loves to be addressed by a religious title, who loves to be called Rabbi! Rabbi! So, pride is now a virtue? What a tragedy that so many believers have such a superficial and even twisted understanding of Jesus commands and teaching.


Rabbi Jones

Think of this contrast: If a Christian leader started calling himself Rabbi Jones it’s highly likely that someone would show him this command of the LORD which forbids calling anyone Rabbi. What could Rabbi Jones say to defend it when Jesus says don’t do it? Yet if he calls himself Pastor Jones or Reverend Jones most would think that’s OK, yet it’s the same thing, it is disobedience to the command of the Lord Jesus. The title of Pastor or Reverend is exactly the equivalent of Rabbi or Leader, Master, Teacher, Father i.e. the spiritual authority, head or leader of a church or synagogue.


Jack is my Shepherd?

Someone tells me they are going to see Pastor Jack. I ask them, do you know that Pastor literally means Shepherd?

Yes, I know that.

OK, then say after me, Jack is my Shepherd.

Mmm… I can’t say that.


Cos the Lord is my Shepherd.

But Pastor and Shepherd is exactly the same word, so why can’t you say, Jack is my Shepherd? Do you feel a little leery saying, Jack is my Shepherd? Well, you should feel leery saying that!

Yes, Jesus has put Pastor-Shepherds-Elders in the body of Christ, but He strictly commanded us not to address them as Pastor (or by any religious or spiritual title) in Matthew twenty three, and we are never to have one Pastor, as God ordained that a Church be governed by a group of Elders-Pastors. Let me say it again, it is unbiblical to have one Pastor. Even if Jack is a true Pastor it is unbiblical to say that Jack is your Pastor and he is certainly disobeying Jesus if he allows you to address him as Pastor Jack.

Paul rebuked the Corinthians for doing exactly that:

Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 1 Cor. 1:12

Some were saying, in effect, that Paul is my Apostle, Paul is my Pastor,  to the exclusion of the other elders, and Paul rebukes them for this. Yes, he was indeed an apostle, pastor and elder to them, but he was not their sole pastor and he rebuked them for thinking that way, and in no instance is it recorded in the NT that any leader was addressed by a title. Even the Apostles were simply addressed by their names, Paul, John, Peter… If anyone in Corinth had said Apostle Paul then Paul would have corrected them. He identified himself as Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and not the Apostle Paul. Peter called him brother Paul and not the Apostle Paul (2 Peter 3:15). Paul addressed so many leaders in his epistles and not once does he call any of them by a title.

OK, I will leave this word with your conscience to process. May your conscience be captive to the Word of God and not captive to any traditions of men!

Spiritual Pride

Please read Matthew 23:6-12. Isn’t the Lord Jesus addressing the pride of man here? Doesn’t He lay the axe to the roots of religious or spiritual pride in man here? Isn’t the core issue Jesus is addressing here pride? It is the sin of pride which causes men to love to be addressed by titles. And this is why a proud person can’t stand these verses; they will either avoid them or twist them around to try and make them mean something else. But Jesus said don’t do it, OK? He commands us to teach all His commands to those who are Disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). If they continue to reject Jesus’ commands after being shown them then one would have to question whether they really are Jesus’ disciples (Matt. 7:24-27).

So when Jesus is disobeyed like this, especially by men who should know better and who claim to be leaders of His people then Jesus is robbed of His Glory. It’s the same robbery of glory you see when a child disobeys its parents, it brings shame on them: a loss of honor and glory. Jesus teaches us here, that there must be no head of a Church other than Him, and no single leader except Him alone, for Jesus says: ..You have ONE Leader, who is Christ, and you are all brothers….  Then who is the leader? You are all brothers, Jesus says. Jesus will express His leadership through the plurality of the elders, therefore they can only function if they are in agreement and in unity and love. When we together seek the glory and honor of Jesus alone and die to our own glory then we are in unity. Selfish ambition and the desire to be “the leader” destroy unity.

He has given us His glory, His Spirit which only glorifies Jesus. When we no longer seek our own glory, honor, name, reputation and gain, we have to die to that and have one purpose which is the glory of Jesus Christ, and then and only then can we be in His unity and function together the way we’re supposed to. There is unity only at the Cross.

He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory: but he that seeks his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. John 7:18

And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. John 17:22-23

In the original Church there was a functional brotherhood who were one in love, and so it should be today. For this to happen Church needs to be redefined to discover the original meaning and then go by the original definition. Surely the basis and life-spring of an authentic Church is that there is a nucleus of saints who really love each other and God builds upon this authentic fellowship.

The sisters are included in the brotherhood, for the sisters are also equal sons of God by virtue of being in the Son of God; however Jesus and the Apostles never ordained a female as a Leader (Elder-Bishop-Shepherd-Overseer) because women may not have authority over men according to God’s created order: His order in creation. Yes, they have the gifts of the Holy Spirit just as much as men do and they should be mightily used by the Holy Spirit, however their ministry must never usurp the authority of the brothers (1 Cor. 11:7-10, 1 Tim.2:12) for if they usurp God’s divine order then they are defying God’s order and will be judged accordingly by Him for it.

From “Reality Church” by Ian Vincent – part 7. Used by permission. Visit Ian’s blog here.

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About Michael Fackerell

Michael is the founder of Christian faith dot come, a site about Jesus. He came to save the lost. Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.

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