Church Leaders & The Use of Honorific Titles

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Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
All I'm asking for is a clear explanation of Matt. 23 without using common practice in today's churches to explain the meaning of the text. I don't advocate disrespect to anyone but honor can be demonstrated without the use of titles. I knew people in the USAF who would use the right title when addressing a superior but whose words and actions otherwise showed great disrespect.

Matthew 23:8 does not forbid the use of titles anymore than Matthew 5:3ff. forbids the taking of oaths (which by the way is an Anabaptist distinctive) We see from the text that 'Rabbi', 'Teacher' and 'Father' are titles being given in place of our one Rabbi, Teacher (Christ) and Father God.

In comparison oaths made by swearing by heaven or earth are wrong because they are specifically cited in order to get away from having one's yes be yes and their no be no. When one swears or takes an oath their oath is lawful only by using God's name.

Similarly the titles of "Minister' 'Pastor' 'Elder' 'Deacon' etc. are not made/created by man but given to us by God in His Word. These words indicate the servant posture and giving of those offices, yet nevertheless identify those who have been chosen to the office and who, by the Spirit, possess real authority as representatives of Christ.
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
I have found that on a number of occasions this argument has arisen in Reformed circles specifically when lay elders/ruling elders who dislike the fact that a distinction is being made between their role and that of a teaching elder/Minister of the Word and Sacraments would like to see this distinction eliminated through the discarding of all official titles. It then becomes not an issue of the minister desiring to draw unnecessary attention to his office, as much as it becomes an issue of covetousness regarding the lay elder's desire for a position of greater prominence within the congregation.

I'm not saying that this is the case here necessarily, but I would like to point out that discontent among ruling elders regarding their honorable position in relationship to that of the preaching minister is not unknown among Reformed churches.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I'm saddened by some of the replies made on this thread. There doesn't seem to be any real interaction with the man's article in terms of refutation but rather a leap to abusive ad hominems linking it to "fanatic Anabaptists and their anti-institutionalism"...wow. I guess I expected more. With what the bible says in Matt 23 and Mark 10 about titles and how the followers of Christ would relate and the absence of the use of titles in the overall conversation we find in the narrative of the New Testament I'm amazed that someone can defend their use. I'm thankful you guys don't approach the RPW with the "If it is not forbidden we can do it" mentality, although, I believe Christ does forbid it in Matt. 23. I am an elder in a Reformed denomination and believe that the offices of elders and deacons is biblical. To suggest that I am against those offices because I eschew titles related to those offices is not thinking straight and is somewhat offensive. The article is NOT against offices at all. To come to that conclusion is absurd. I see assertions being made based on personal preference but I want to see the same solid exegesis that you guys apply to other topics applied to this one as well and not resort to a hermeneutical ventriloquism.
I do not mean to offend anyone who uses those titles, I just want to see some solid Berean answers from the Scriptures.
And BTW, I call people by their names. I don't feel the need to call them brother so and so, or sister so and so. I simply call them their name. When I introduce our pastor, I would say: This is "John Smith", he's our pastor, or, I'm Jim Snyder, one of the elders here. Anyways....
:2cents:

I'm disappointed that men would denigrate the nature of the 5th Commandment and conflate all men, women, and children in the Church into an egalitarian mess.

Even pagans guided only by the light of nature are not so foolish as to claim that honor is not due to others. I don't call my father "Rick" to this day but "Father" or "Dad". It's the nature of the case because he will forever occupy a place of honor that God has placed him in. I assume your children don't call you by your first name.

What the Scriptures condemn is the assumption of titles simply for the individual to use it as a tool to puff himself up or to assume honor to himself. Christ never condemned the fact that honor is due to others but those who would accrue them to themselves out of pride. He did not condemn others for utilizing the term Rabbi.

We are commanded to give honor to those whom it is due. We are commanded to recognize the difference between superiors and inferiors. The article has been interacted with: it reeks of excrement in its application of the Scriptures. It foolishly uses the Scriptures to bend back on themselves in contradiction to the nature of all authority and respect inherent in it. It goes to why boys were malled by a bear when they poked fun at Elisha. It goes to what Jude says about respect for Elders. Bruce is spot on: it is Anabaptist thinking and un-Scriptural.

Rich,
Please read my last post. I have no problem with what you are referring to in regards to titles OUTSIDE of the church. Its the use of those titles inside the church. All I'm asking for is a clear explanation of Matt. 23 without using common practice in today's churches to explain the meaning of the text. I don't advocate disrespect to anyone but honor can be demonstrated without the use of titles. I knew people in the USAF who would use the right title when addressing a superior but whose words and actions otherwise showed great disrespect.
Jim

This is dividing God's Truth against itself. There is one Truth and not two. What is appropriate outside of Church to show honor to men is appropriate inside. Was King David still called King David inside the sanctuary or did people walk up to him and call him David?

Do your kids call you by your first name inside of Church? Do young children refer to adults as "Mr. L." or should I expect to be called "Rich" by a 10 year old if I visit your Church?
 

Spinningplates2

Puritan Board Freshman
Ministers are called by God. They are not "common" in that as teachers of the Gospel they have been warned by God that they are being held to a higher standard then any other vocation. These men should be honored in word, action and by titles. When calling a man Reverend, you are not honoring the man you are honoring God.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I have found that on a number of occasions this argument has arisen in Reformed circles specifically when lay elders/ruling elders who dislike the fact that a distinction is being made between their role and that of a teaching elder/Minister of the Word and Sacraments would like to see this distinction eliminated through the discarding of all official titles. It then becomes not an issue of the minister desiring to draw unnecessary attention to his office, as much as it becomes an issue of covetousness regarding the lay elder's desire for a position of greater prominence within the congregation.

I'm not saying that this is the case here necessarily, but I would like to point out that discontent among ruling elders regarding their honorable position in relationship to that of the preaching minister is not unknown among Reformed churches.

Well noted. Reminds me of Aaron and Miriam: a perfect example of a humble man of God who would not defend himself and grasp at the honor he was due but God was hot with wrath when the two of them derided the honor that God had given him. The issue has nothing to do with whether or not ministers should be parading around the honor they are given and everything to do with whether Godly men and women will render the honor out of respect for his office as commanded by the Word of God. And, No, simply calling the minister "Bob" doesn't cut it any more than one will let their kids have undue familiarity. Form communicates essence.

Incidentally, I might add that simply referring to someone as "Mister" or "Sir" is a way of demonstrating some respect. It's not the title that is as important as undue familiarity or assuming that the differences are unimportant.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Reverend was never intended to be a form of address, but simply a style prefixed to the name of a minister of religion in order to identify his occupation. The correct etiquette was to address him personally as Mr. The irony here is that when "Pastor" was used to replace "Reverend" because it was supposed to be more biblical, it became a form of address which has no biblical precedent.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Reverend was never intended to be a form of address, but simply a style prefixed to the name of a minister of religion in order to identify his occupation. The correct etiquette was to address him personally as Mr. The irony here is that when "Pastor" was used to replace "Reverend" because it was supposed to be more biblical, it became a form of address which has no biblical precedent.

How do you prefer to be addressed, Rev Winzer?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
How do you prefer to be addressed, Rev Winzer?

I've become accusomed to just accepting whatever I'm called; there's no point making people defensive from the outset of conversation.
 
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