Honorific Titles and the Structure of the NT Church
Man, Pride, and Titles!
Ever since I was a young Christian studying the Bible, the issue of using titles in the Church has bothered me. The more I read through the New Testament, the more it became clear that the structure of God’s Church was organizationally flat, with our only head being Christ. Outside of Christ there is clearly no hierarchy even hinted at. Christ lays this out in Matthew 23:8-12:
“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Even the Lord’s Apostles never used honorific titles. Not once. They simply referred to themselves as brothers, or fellow elders, or servants. Even slaves. Never however, with a title such as, “The Apostle Peter”, or “The Elder Mark”.
They understood that they were called to be servants, not rulers, and that all of God’s people were gifted by the Holy Spirit specifically with the purpose of the constant building up of the Body of Christ. We may all share different talents and gifts, but not different levels in a hierarchical structure. In the NT we are ALL identified as brothers and sisters who are a “kingdom of priests” (Rev 1:6) with only one High Priest; Christ Himself. If that is the design of His Church, given by the Lord Himself, than there is an important reason for it.
So why did the Church start using honorific titles after the First Century? Should we accept this practice in the Church? What harm does it do? The following article from Darryl M. Erkel on The Truth According to Scripture covers this subject very well and answers these questions and more. I see no need to rewrite what someone has already written so well.
Church Leaders and the Use of Honorific Titles
by Darryl M. Erkel
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