Ministers of God, Part 3
Matthew 23:8-11: "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant."
Brotherhood of Servants
According to Jesus, all His followers are to consider themselves brethren and servants to one another. "You are all brethren.... He who is greatest among you shall be your servant." In other words, all followers of Christ belong to a brotherhood of servants. That is the order of the Kingdom of God. There is no room for designations of superiority and paternalism for any disciple of Christ in the Kingdom of God.
All true believers in Christ are born again of the same Spirit to become children of God. They are all partakers of the grace of God and are all members of the Body of Christ. They should therefore serve one another with whatever ability the Lord has given to them. The Lord has given none of them the power to exercise authority over others.
And so, genuine ministers of God never cease to be servants and brothers. They are never promoted and graduated into positions of seniority and command, but remain servants of God to the people of God. But apostasy has adulterated the sacred calling of the ministry into positions of pomp and power that make self-proclaimed or man-appointed ministers of church organizations venerated lords and commanders.
A distorting effect of apostasy is the adoption of religious titles by ministers of God. Jesus forthrightly forbids His followers to take up religious titles which signify positions of seniority or authority over His people. Jesus instructs His followers: "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ."
It is obvious that our Lord does not mean to disregard offices and titles which exist in the natural and civil world order. Jesus does not forbid us from honouring our natural fathers, teachers, and other civil titles of honour. Jesus acknowledges God's commandment to "honour your father and mother" (Matthew 15:4). Referring to civil offices and duties, the Bible admonishes us in Romans 13:7: "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." In the order of the world, men ascribe these titles of authority and honour among themselves, and Jesus acknowledges that.
But Jesus forbids His disciples to use religious titles among them, such as "Rabbi," "Teacher," or "Father," to signify any form of authoritative power over others' consciences and religious conduct. Such custom, fear or reverence, and honour as denoted by offices, positions, and titles of superiority and authority over others in the Church are not "due" to any of the followers of Christ.
The Jewish Scribes and Pharisees loved to be called by titles of superiority and paternalism, such as Rabbi, which is Teacher or Master, and Abba, which is Father. But Jesus instructed His followers to reject the use of such titles among them. They must not be called by these titles and they must not address others among them by these titles. "Yet it shall not be so among you." Such honour of authority and eminence is not due to any one else in the Kingdom of God but Christ.
For instance, the Jews recognized a teacher as one who formed the man and gave him real life. Therefore they regarded their teachers as rabbis, masters, and fathers. Christ taught that God is the true source of life and the only Father, and the Holy Spirit is the only Teacher of truth. "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” John points out that the children of God do not require any human teacher because the Holy Spirit abides in them and teaches them all things. "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" (1 John 2:27).
Thus, in the sense where these titles, "Father," "Papa," "Pope," "Teacher," and the many others used today, such as "Reverend," "Right Reverend," "Lord Bishop," "His Excellency," and so on, denote religious or spiritual authority, superiority, eminence, a right to teach and command, and a claim to particular respect, Jesus forbids their use among His followers. Such eminence and authority among the followers of Christ belong to God and Christ and no one else has a right to such titles.
Commandment of the Lord
I am aware that these practices of assuming and ascribing religious titles as well as positions of seniority and paternalism are popularly upheld today among professing ministers of God and are deeply rooted in the traditions of church organizations. But these practices have arisen out of apostasy. It is always the neglect of obeying the word of the Lord usually to maintain popularity and traditions that gives rise to apostasy. And if the maintenance of hierarchical positions in church organizations is in contradiction to the word of the Lord, it is without doubt a primary indication of the lamentable condition of apostasy which pervades these church organizations.
In fact, a close examination of the history of visitations by the Holy Spirit in apostate church organizations shows that the moving of the Spirit has always brought about the shaking and dismantling of the hierarchy forms of control in these organizations. If not, these movements of the Spirit usually generate a move of God's people from under such yokes and into the order of the Kingdom of God, the direct reign of Christ in their hearts, and the liberty of the Spirit.
Ministers of God are brethren and servants in the Church and the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus Christ has sole supreme authority and power over His followers. He commands us not to assume or ascribe to any one any office, position, or title which denotes superiority, paternalism, or authority over His followers. In fact, many take the names of ministries, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, elders, bishops, deacons, and others, which the Lord has given His followers to be servants in the Church, and misuse them as titles to denote superiority and authority over others. This is all forbidden by the Lord.
It is noteworthy that the Holy Spirit when identifying the servants of God in the Bible simply used their names – Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, James, Paul, etc., to name a few. These great and mightily used servants of God carried no titles to their names. Why should we?
Men may assume for themselves or ascribe to others titles of ministries, contrary to the Lord’s command, but ministry titles do not provide real ministries. Only the Lord gives and ordains His ministries in the Church. "For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends" (2 Corinthians 10:18). If the Lord has given you a ministry, He will commend you in the ministry, not by a title, but by His own confirmation in the demonstration of the Holy Ghost and power. But the ministry the Lord gives is to make you a servant in the Church and not to exalt you in any superior position over His people.