Ministerial Titles Examined In The Light Of Scripture
Today it is common in religious circles to use the title “Reverend” for Christian ministers. We acknowledge this title is meant to honor a minister or recognize that a man has been ordained. However, the Scriptures clearly prohibit using this title for any man. The word “reverend” occurs only once in the Bible and refers to the Lord himself.
“He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.” (Psalm 111:9)
God’s name represents His infinitely glorious and exalted Person. Words which are His Name and words modifying His Name, like holy and reverend above, should therefore be reserved for the LORD. No minister, apostle, or prophet ever took the title “Reverend” anywhere in the Bible.
Who among men is worthy to use a Scriptural term given to the Almighty?
History records one being that said, “I will be like the most High,” but his pride resulted in his eternal damnation (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Psalm 111:9 is sufficient to condemn the use of “Reverend,” “The Right Reverend,” “The Most Holy Reverend” or any other variation of Reverend as a title for a man. Reverend should only be used to describe the LORD God of heaven.
The Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for desiring the honor of religious titles befitting only Deity.
“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ” (Matthew 23:8-10).
Jesus declared that the titles “Rabbi” and “Master” should only be given to Christ. Jesus also restricted the use of “father” in a spiritual sense to “Our Father which art in heaven.” He pointed out that men are to remember they are “all … brethren,” and thus all are on a level before God. He further pointed out that those desiring to be great should become the greatest servants.
“But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).
The Roman Catholics break Christ’s commandment, even as found in the Catholic Bible, “And call no one on earth your father; for one is your Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:8).
The ancient wise man Elihu showed a holy fear toward giving flattering titles to any man.
“Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away” (Job 32:21-22).
This warning, which certainly includes the titles belonging to God, which have been treated above, likewise includes those which emphasize the accomplishments or position of a man, such as “B.A.,” “B.D.,” “B.Th.,” “M.Th.,” “D.Th.,” “D.D.,” “Doctor,” “Priest,” “Cardinal,” “Archbishop,” and “Pope.”
The New Testament apostles avoided titles and referred to ordained ministers as “brother.” Peter, an apostle, wrote of Paul, an apostle, as “our beloved brother Paul.”
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” (2 Peter 3:15).
Paul, an apostle, wrote of Timothy, an ordained bishop at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), as “Timothy our brother.”
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1).
Let all who fear the LORD honor their Lord’s commandment and correct those who give or use titles that are proper only for the Lord Himself. May the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified as we follow Paul’s testimony: “by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).