Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Titles Did Early Church Leaders Use?

I'll summarize my series on leaders/elders/overseers/pastors soon. But first I want to list a bunch of verses that give an idea of the types of titles used by leaders in the early church.

First let's consider what titles Jesus told them not to use.

Matthew 23:8-12 (NIV)

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Jesus was clear he didn't want his followers to be called Rabbi, father, or teacher. Do we think this is an exhaustive list? Do we think Jesus would be OK with His followers using other titles like "King", "Ruler", "Boss", "CEO"? Likely not.

What was Jesus getting at?

How did those leading the way in the early church follow Jesus in their response?

Romans 1:1 (NIV)
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle...."

Romans 16:7 (NIV)
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

1 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus...

1 Corinthians 3:5
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.

2 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Galatians 1:1
Paul, an apostle

Ephesians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Ephesians 3:1
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Philippians 1:1
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

Colossians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Colossians 1:23
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

1 Timothy 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

2 Timothy 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Titus 1:1
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ

Philemon 1:1
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother

2 Peter 3:15
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul

Galatians 1:10
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Ephesians 3:7
I became a servant of this gospel

Colossians 1:25
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me

Colossians 4:7
[ Final Greetings ] Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.

Colossians 4:12
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus,

James 1:1
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 1:1
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

Jude 1:1
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ

Revelation 1:1
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

1 Corinthians 9:19
[ Paul’s Use of His Freedom ] Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

Acts 15:13
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.

Acts 21:20
When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.

Colossians 4:9
He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

1 Thessalonians 3:2
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service

2 Timothy 4:21
Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.

Hebrews 13:23
I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released.

I think a case could be made for using the following titles for those leading in Christ's church:
  • Apostle (which means sent one)
  • servant
  • slave
  • prisoner
  • brother
  • sister
I think a good case could also be made if someone wants to call an old wise man 'elder'.

As for 'Apostle', it is frequently used for Paul, the first 12 Jesus called, and some less know people like Andronicus and Junia. So I think it would be safe to use as well to refer to someone who is sent out with a message of Christ. The term may have been over spiritualized to mean something else by now. It may be safer to go with a more common English equivalent like 'messenger of Christ' or 'ambassador of Christ'.

Have I missed any?

Do any of these terms come with any decision making authority for others?

By examining the titles used by those in the early church, how can they be an example for us?

Or maybe my list here isn't so much a list of titles, but more a list of words used to describe their characteristics.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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