None of Jesus’ apostles had titles. I can find nowhere in scripture where Paul was referred to as ‘apostle Paul’ (as a title), but rather as ‘Paul the apostle’ (as a call and function). For example, ‘Dr. Jo’ may have received an honorary title but has never practiced medicine in his life but ‘Jo the doctor’ is a totally different story. Jo the doctor communicates function and practice.
The popular social platform twitter usually suggest people we could follow and on one occasion I saw a suggestion on my twitter feed. They would normally put forward people with Christian interests because they realised that I had Christian interests myself but on this occasion their suggestion was a young woman whose profile picture was a bit sensual. To my surprise, a closer look revealed that this young woman had ‘apostle’ before her name. I further investigated and realised that this wasn’t a scam but that this woman actually existed within a Christian Church setting where she was addressed as apostle. I would like to believe that the first questions any well thinking person would ask is, ‘what qualified her to be an apostle?’ and ‘Has she met the Biblical criteria to qualify as an apostle?’ (see 2 Corinthians 12:12) Imagine the damage that could be done to some unsuspecting Church group if she is received totally on the assumption that she is what her title suggests.
The dangers of titles
Titles are dangerous because they label rather than describe. A bottle labelled medicine could contain poison and everyone may believe the lie until someone drinks it. Us postmodern people knows that labels are not to be trusted. We must always test the product or make purchases based on recommendations from people we know and trust. The proof of the cake is in its eating not the beauty of its icing. Proving someone before we use them may be even more important among God’s people than anywhere else. Do not trust people simply because they come bearing a title! (see Revelation 2:2)
Jesus warns us against titles. Describing the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, who loved notoriety, Jesus said this,
“But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. Don’t call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honoured.” Matthew 23:8-12
In other words, do not take on titles. Do the job but refuse the title because titles set up hierarchies and none of you are above the other. We are all on the same level, we are His children, brothers and sisters. Paul admonishing Timothy did not say ‘see to it that people refer to you by your title, Evangelist Timothy’ but instead Paul said ‘do the work of an evangelist’. (See 2 Timothy 4:5)
You would be a fool to honour or trust someone simply because they come with a lofty title before their name.
Have a think and you will realise that where people are decorated with titles they are often also decorated with matching garments and other visual indicators that set them apart from the people. We are not following Jesus’ command or example when we do these things. Let‘s not forget that Philippians 2:5 admonishes us to have the same mind as Jesus,
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8
Jesus was meek and lowly but we want to be high and lofty. Jesus gave up and put off everything that would set Him apart from us. Not only did He become like us to identify with us but He even made Himself lower than us and served us. The Spirit of Christ is quite different from the spirit that endorses and promotes titles.
Titles are like coffins
Titles in most cases are like coffins made to look good yet are filled with decay and stench. Titles destroy meekness by creating a false sense of power and authority. Titles are no different from ranks in the army where the person with the higher rank is authorised to command those of lower rank. Like the rank system of the army titles are achieved and is considered a promotion when received. The result is arrogance, insensitivity to the feelings of others, and a tendency to give orders rather than listen, boss others rather than serve, impose your way rather than seek God’s way. Like a coffin is sealed shut; those who take on titles mostly end up bound by a false sense of who they are. Every time they are referred to by their title this nail of deception sinks deeper and seals tighter their coffin of pride and pomp. Hope of escape grows dimmer with every pronouncement. Hearts are hardened by the lie of a title.
No wonder the scribes and the Pharisees could not receive Jesus. They were so blinded by their own self importance that they couldn’t see His Majesty. We know titles hamper faith because of what Jesus said,
“I do not receive honor from men… How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” John 5:41-44
Do not accept a title, do not let the devil set you up and nail you in.
by H. Slack