December 4, 2021
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. (Matthew 23:8-10).
This warning of Jesus is one of pride and arrogance in desiring or insisting to be called by certain titles. It’s not an uncommon practice today to give titles to people. While for most people it is a simple acknowledgment of rank, achievement, or profession, it can be a problem when a person insists on being recognized by a title.
In college Nancy and I were asked by Dr. Cecil Hyatt, my Old Testament professor, to assist him in conducting revival meetings throughout my senior year. On campus everyone, including other professors and administrative staff, called him Doctor or Professor. When we traveled to various churches to lead in revival services, he always introduced himself as Cecil Hyatt and insisted we call him Cecil Hyatt, which I refused to do.
People addressed Jesus by many titles - Master, Rabbi, Lord, Teacher, etc. Some titles were Messianic - Son of David, Messiah, Son of God, Christ, Son of Man, etc. At times Jesus called Himself by these titles, but He never insisted people address Him by any of them. “Human teachers who faithfully proclaim and interpret God’s Word are to be appreciated, loved, and highly esteemed by those they serve. But they are not to seek honor, much less demand it or glory in it” (John MacArthur).
Jesus said, do not be called Rabbi, which meant a person should not seek or insist on being called Teacher. Jesus is our Teacher, and the Holy Spirit interprets what Jesus has taught in Scripture. Pastors and teachers are merely conduits through which spiritual truth is disseminated. Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:11-12).
Jesus also said, do not call anyone on earth your father. Most, if not all of us have referred to our dad as ‘father’. I call George Findley my ‘father in the ministry’ because it was under his pastorate in Dos Palos that I was called and surrendered to ministry. But Jesus is not referring to these uses of the term ‘father’. He was referring to calling a man our spiritual father, the source of our spiritual life. Members of the Sanhedrin and the High Priests in Jesus’ day loved to be called ‘Father’, even insisted on being called ‘Father’ when attending public events or serving in an official capacity. In some religions today the leader is called Father, or Holy Father. There is only one spiritual Father over us - God the Father. He alone is the source of all spiritual life and blessing and He is the only one to whom we should honor and respect as our true spiritual Father.
“Father, to You be all praise and glory and honor, for You alone are the source of all life, spiritual life, and eternal life through Jesus Christ Your Son, Amen.”