Today, I got around to reading some emails which are longer, and tend to be teachings. One email I looked at was from my friend and missionary Don Davis, who relayed, from the blog www.preparehisway.com, the posting of April 25, 2010. This writer points out that Matthew 23:8-10, which begins by Jesus saying, “Call no man rabbi” was not merely his instructing the disciples not to use that word. Some versions use the word “father” instead of rabbi, which I perceive to be a subtle shot at those denominations which have used that word as a title instead of “pastor.” The point the writer is making, which is emphasized in the larger context, but which would naturally not be emphasized by teachers in the traditional western church system, is that Jesus was warning them against using any titles whatsoever in the New Covenant. Whether they actually realized it at the time of its hearing, or not until the Holy Spirit came upon them in Acts 1, is a thing for God and them to know, and not us.
I had been thinking about this situation for a couple of weeks. If the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4, along with Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, are truly gifts of God, then no person or organization can give out titles rightly. What I mean is this: In our culture, most institutional churches call the head person pastor, a word they get from Ephesians 4. Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know that that word wasn’t used as a title until after the Reformation. History gives us some inkling that the persons, including leaders, in the early church understood that word to be a modifier of “teachers”, in a way that in modern English would have been written pastor/teacher, pastor-teacher, or pasturing teacher. Whatever way, today we have in some traditional churches that have wandered astray, pastors by title who are not even believers, and clearly, therefore, have received a title, but do not have the gift. Here’s the opposite side: If a person has that gift of God, and another believer, for whatever reason, doesn’t recognize it in that person, that gift is still is upon that person. It doesn’t take my or any person’s recognizing the gift, and, therefore, certainly not that person sticking a title onto their name, to make the gift effective.
In the Old Testament, we consider Jeremiah to be a prophet, but we see that gifting brought him little but suffering, and the writings of the Old Testament do not show of anyone getting right with God, or growing closer to God, in his day through his ministry. While many principles have changed from Old to New Covenants, usually from a thing being in the physical realm among the physical Chosen People, to in the spiritual realm among the spiritually chosen of the New Covenant church, this aspect is equivalent, albeit more common in this era. God’s gifting is not associated with people recognizing it. In theory, the gifted person attempting to advertise it would come across as, in this one aspect, the opposite of spiritual maturity. Part of the spiritual weakness in some parts of the church comes from a tendency of leaders, assuredly because they were taught to do this by the previous generation of leaders, is to attempt to lure as many people as possible into their program. In John 6:60-71, Jesus showed the exact opposite interest when He said things that caused many to stop listening to Him and leave.