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“What About Religious Titles?”

September 5th, 2004

“…And call no man your father on the earth: for
one is your Father, even he who is in heaven”

(Matthew 23:9-11)


The apostle Paul said, “…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). The expression, “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” is equivalent to Jesus’ personal authorization, approval, and acceptance of that which is done in his name (Compare Matt. 18:5,20). When it comes to evaluating the practice of religious titles, such as: “Father,” “Reverend,” “Cardinal,” “Pope,” etc., two important questions deserve answers:

1. Are “Religious Titles” Authorized in Scripture? No. Anyone who answers in the affirmative will be hard pressed to produce any such authorization. That is why you never read in the Bible of: “Father John,” or “The Reverend Paul,” etc. The only references coming close to this notion of religious titles appear in the humble sense of “servant,” “brethren,” etc. And, of course, the original apostles and prophets appear within the context of their first-century roles–fulfilled and final (Eph. 2:10; Acts 1:21,22; Rev. 21:14; 2:2; 18:20).

2. Are “Religious Titles” Ever Discouraged in Scripture? Yes. Jesus spoke ever so plainly against religious leaders who broke the servant model of church leadership (Matthew 23:8-12). The Bible lifts up the Fatherhood of God (2 Corinthians 6:18); while condemning any religious rivals (Exodus 34:14). The Bible uses the term “reverend” only once (Psalm 111:9), and
that in reference to God himself. In the light of such evidence, who can legitimately, scripturally, and morally continue to call human beings with titles reserved for God himself? “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15; Matt. 12:36,37).

Religious titles not authorized in Scripture should be avoided, if not condemned.

–Robert M. Housby