Our Lord Jesus, although deserving of all titles, didn't make a big issue about being called by certain titles.
The church people of His day, or the Pharisees as they were known, were baffled by this Man. He didn't join their group. He didn't pander to their man-made ideas which they called commands from God. They didn't ordain Him into the ministry and yet He had people amazed with the wisdom of His words and the display of the power of God in the miracles He did. They couldn't quite place Him in a box. A box that would fit their understanding of what a "church person" should be like. Besides, He ate with sinners and He was a friend of sinners.
What confused them even more was the fact that they believed God would not do anything great without at least confirming with them. And here was this man. God never told them that He is sending this Man, Jesus of Nazareth. We see in their interrogation of the blind man who received his sight in John 9, how confused they were and how this confusion bred anger. Add to that the fact that the "whole world was going after Him" and you have the perfect mix of insecurity, jealousy and hate. Here is a little excerpt of their interrogation as recorded in John 9:
Then they asked him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples, too?" Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where He comes from." The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes." (vv. 26-30).
Yes, it was indeed remarkable. Jesus was performing all these miracles, clearly illustrating that God is with Him and yet, the church people were not informed about this! Looks like God didn't wait for their next board meeting in order to get permission to send the Messiah.
Another incident where their confusion is portrayed is where they went to Jesus asking Him for His credentials. They wanted to see His ordination papers. He didn't take much notice of that and instead answered them with a question. He told them if they could answer His question, He would tell them who sent Him. As it turned out, they couldn't answer His question and therefore He didn't answer theirs.
In Matthew 23 our Lord instructs His disciples not to let anyone call them by any title. That they were obedient to that command is reflected in the epistles. Nowhere will you find that they called each other apostle Paul, or pastor Timothy, or Elder this and the other. They always referred to each other by their first names. Even less so, did they refer to themselves by a title.
It cannot be denied that nowadays the church has become attached to titles. But what is a title? Is it a status symbol? Does it make you a more spiritual person than the rest of the believers because you wear some title like a badge? A title is not even really a title, but a responsibility. As an apostle of Christ, Paul had to suffer. It was no status symbol. It was a calling, or a "sending" as it is the case of an apostle. It was no cosy job behind the managing director's desk. He summarises what he had to endure for the sake of Christ our Lord in response to the false apostles who were seeking to gather followers after themselves, instead of Christ:
"Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have laboured and toiled and I have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
Yes, Paul placed a high premium on his ministry, but not because it increased his importance among believers. Quite the contrary: It was the huge responsibility to him, as he adds to the above list: "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." (v.28).
From what I've gleaned from Scripture, titles weren't status symbols that got added on to names. Besides all that, the Lord says He calls us by name, not by title. Also our Lord says in John 10, He calls His own sheep by name.
We show our respect for our leaders more with our actions than with a title we give them. And often, the false brothers would use a title as a smoke-screen to hide their ungodly practices. "Just do what he says.. or, just believe what he says, after all, he is the apostle, pastor, etc."
In following Jesus' instruction in Matthew 23 then, we should not be calling anyone by titles (in a spiritual sense) and much less should we allow others to call us by titles. After all, He alone is worthy of all Titles. We received our salvation by grace through faith. He earned our salvation by absolute obedience to the Father, obedience even to the point of death -yes, even the disgraceful death on a Cross. There is a wide distinction here. We received salvation freely although we didn't deserve it. He earned our salvation through perfect obedience to God, our Father.
In response to this our Father says of Him,
"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11).
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