Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 5, 1956

"Religious Titles And Christ's Teaching"

Joe L. Banks, Fayetteville, Arkansas

We are living in a day when religious titles are handed out to ecclesiastic dignitaries right and left. Even in the church of our Lord there are some who seem to want these titles and the seeming honor that goes with them. We are expressly commanded "to render honor to whom honor is due." (Rom. 8:7). We certainly should "honor all men." (1 Pet. 2:17) It is not our intention to minimize the respect that should be shown true servants of God or to fail to be courteous to our religious neighbors, but we desire to notice the plain teaching of Jesus Christ as it concerns religious titles.

"Pope" and "Father" are two familiar religious titles worn by man. To be called by either of these titles is an open defiance of the Saviour's injunction in Matt. 23:9, "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father which is in heaven." The first title, "Pope", is used to designate the chief bishop or the "papa bishop" and the latter to designate the professional fathers under the one great papa. So desirous of honor are these religious dignitaries that they expect those not in their religious community to address them as "Pope" and "Father". It is a definite encroachment upon our religious freedom to have men who assume titles condemned by our Lord demand, and sometimes receive encouragement from business leaders, that even those who do not believe in the titles address them thus. You may think this strange that in our enlightened age men and women desire to be addressed with some religious title but the leaven of iniquity works today as in all ages. It is our Father in heaven who alone has the right to be called Father in a religious or sacred sense.

"Rabbi" is another title that is often used to designate some religious leader. Jesus plainly says, "But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." (Matt. 23:8) To address one as "Rabbi" in a religious sense is to put that one upon a level with Jesus Christ. The child of God who is interested in following the teaching of Christ refuses to thus address religious leaders.

"Reverend," "Very Reverend," "The Very Reverend," "Most Reverend," "Right Reverend," etc., are titles of distinction given to religious leaders throughout our land. To thus refer to man is an open violation of God's word. God's name only is referred to as reverend: "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name." (Psalms 111:9) Members of the church of Christ refuse to call any man reverend.

"Doctor of Divinity" is a title that is handed out for the asking in many circles. This writer has been offered the title for a small contribution to a School of Divinity. The spirit of our Savior's command is violated when preachers assume titles of distinction. Preachers in the churches of Christ do not wear such religious titles.

What one ever read in God's book of "Pope" Peter, "Father" Paul, "Rabbi" Barnabas, "The Most Reverend" Phillip, or Silas, D.D.? My friends, hold fast to the modesty that characterized the Christians of the first century. Let us follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.