Titles of Honor
Did Jesus prohibit the use of titles of honor in the church?
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. (Luke 22:24–26 ESV)
(The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament - page 673) 2110. εὐεργέτης euergétēs; gen. euergétou, masc. noun from eú (2095), good, well, and érgon (2041), work. One that does good, a benefactor. In the NT, used as a title of honor (Luke 22:25), even as Ptolemy was called euergétēs, king and benefactor of Egypt.
By saying "But not so with you." Jesus is prohibiting the exercise of lordship, and the use of titles of honor among us (the church).
Is it just this one title of honor "benefactor" that Jesus is concerned about?
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. (Matt 23:1–9 ESV)
Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:10–12 NAS95)
In the Matt 23:1-12 Jesus is condemning the practice of the scribes and the pharisees (the religious leaders of the jews).
Scribes and pharisees were condemned for:
- saying but not doing
- placing heavy and hard to bear burdens on the people that they them selves where not willing in the slightest to cary
- self exaltation
- doing their deeds to be seen by others
- enlarging and lengthening symbolic parts their clothing
- having the place of honor at feasts
- having the best seats in the synagogues
- greetings in the marketplaces
- being called rabbi by others (a title of honor)
(The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament - page 1258) 4461. ῥαββί rhabbı́; indeclinable masc. noun transliterated from the Hebr. rabbı̂ı̄ (not found in the OT), my master. A doctor, teacher, master; a title of honor in the Jewish schools which continues until modern times...
Jesus, with statements like "you are not to be called", "call no man", and "do not be called", prohibits the use of titles of honor:
- rabbi (teacher or master)
In our age you could add the following titles of honor to the list.
Jesus is not prohibiting the proper use of these words, but is prohibiting the use of these words as titles of honor for the purpose of exaltation. The prohibition has to do with maters of pride, humility, and worship.
Pride and Humility
For the Christian pride is the enemy, for it is written:
Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:12 NAS95)
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5 ESV)
Why is humility so important?
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:1–4 ESV)
There will be no proud people in the kingdom of God. Only those who turn and become humble like children will enter into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ (Matt 4:10 ESV)
For the Christian worship is reserved for God alone. When we give someone a title of honor we are worshiping that person.
Here is an example of this kind of worship:
And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matt 14:33 ESV)
The use of the title of honor "Son of God" is worship.
"You Are All Brothers"
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. (Matt 23:8 ESV)
Jesus said we are all brothers, and in so doing he put us all on the same level. The early church obeyed His instructions and frequently referred to members of the church as "brother"—a title of honor that exalted no one above another, because they all shared it equally .
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17 ESV)
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, (1 Cor 1:1 ESV)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: (2 Cor 1:1 ESV)
Referring to someone as a brother was so common among the Church that, if you referred to someone as a brother, it was understood that you were talking about a Christian.
but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? (1 Cor 6:6 ESV)
To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. (1 Cor 7:12 ESV)
This is a work in progress. Please come back soon.If you have any questions or comments.