TITLES AMONG THE SAINTS
R. L. WHEELER
NATIONS have their national honours to confer upon those who render distinguished service to their country ; whether it be for their contribution to learning, for their munificence, for victorious generalship in time of war, or for any other benefaction.
We are to give due respect to those thus honoured, as also saith the Scriptures - "Render therefore to all their dues fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" is due(Romans 13 : 6, 7).
The Church of God on earth is also a kingdom, not earthly and carnal, but heavenly and spiritual. The honours and rewards of his kingdom, however, for faithful and devoted service are reserved for a future day even when the King returns in His glory to claim His kingdom. His reward will then be with Him to give to each one according as his work shall be(Revelation 22 : 12). Until that time His followers, as strangers and pilgrims, are to minister in a needy world, calling those of all nations to repentance and faith, and allegiance to their rejected but coming King (Matthew 28 : 18-20).
The church of Rome assumes the position of reigning now during this time of Christ's rejection, and claims both temporal and spiritual power over the nations and over her followers. In keeping with this position of reigning she dispenses her rewards in titles and dignities as she desires. The pope reigns as a king with his triple crown, and in regal splendour, supported by his cardinals. Lesser titles and dignities follow, down to those who hold only the coveted name of "priest", or the forbidden title of "father".
Leaving, however, this usurpation and those in other sacerdotal churches which similarly adopt high sounding titles and ornate dress, it may be helpful to ask if the New Testament gives guidance on this important matter, and as to whether christianity has, like Israel of old, divinely appointed priestly names and priestly clothing.
It would seem that the Lord anticipated this love of pre-eminence among those who professed to be His disciples, for when referring to dignities among the nations, He at once adds - "But it shall not be so among you." Whosoever desired to be great was to be the servant of all(Matthew 20 : 20-28).
Only One among them was titled. "Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well ; for so I am"(John 13 : 13) ; but as for themselves, "all ye are brethren" (Matthew 23: 8-10). He alone had and has this unique honour, and His names and titles are many and great.
Not that there was to be no distinction as regards office and service to the Lord among them. Paul and others were apostles, some were overseers (bishops), others evangelists, pastors and teachers, gifted of the Lord, and such were to be esteemed very highly for their works' sake and obeyed in the Lord. But there were no titled ones among them, and because they were all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, born of His Spirit, they each had freedom of access in true priestly service to draw nigh to God and offer up spiritual sacrifices well pleasing to Him(Hebrews 10 : 20; 13 : 15). This is the only priesthood mentioned under the New Covenant which God hath enjoined.
The title "father" is especially forbidden by the Lord, "call no man your father upon earth"(Matthew 23 : 9), that is, in a spiritual way. It is good to realise that this name as a title is renounced by evangelical christians generally in obedience to their Lord's command, yet many take another title, even that of "Reverend," to differentiate themselves from their brethren. Also is it not strange that a title should be chosen only once mentioned in Scripture, and which refers to God Himself - "Holy and reverend is His Name" (Ps. 111 : 9) ? Should not this impress our hearts ?
Closely allied to this subject is that of distinctive dress, and it may also be asked, have those who adopted the title "Reverend" or wear distinctive dress, any real answer to those in sacerdotal circles ?
It is realised that the above rites enter into evangelical circles where there has been much blessing, and where the Lord has been honoured ; yet there have been, and are also, gifted and honoured servants of God who, for the Lord's sake, have refused to take or wear unscriptural distinctions, or to transgress so important a scriptural principle, and those who thus humble themselves shall be exalted in that day, in His Kingdom, at the resurrection of the just.