Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
What Does Christ Mean by
Call No Man Your Father Upon the Earth
by Tony Warren
- "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
- And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
- Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
- But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant."
The correct exegesis of the ninth verse of Matthew chapter twenty-three is unlikely to be gleaned without carefully consider the context or surrounding text, and in reflection upon the verse in the light of the whole Bible. It is His word alone that lights the path and directs the way we take to reach understanding (Psalms 119:105). First, the very setting and theme of the phrase "call no man your father upon the earth, for one is your Father" points us in the right direction to understand in what sense of the word "Father" Christ is making this statement. In some way of understanding this word, only God qualifies as our Father. That should be our first clue. And when we compare Scripture with Scripture, in consideration of the Biblical record of the use of this term with relation to both man and God, we understand that Christ was not literally forbidding any use of the word father in reference to men (Ephesians 5:31), rather He was forbidding men from placing themselves in the lofty position that is reserved only for God. In this brief Bible study, we will go over this verse and its surrounding text that pertains to this question, in hope of learning in what sense the Lord is forbidding men on earth to be called father.We are all truly taught of God through His Holy Spirit, not of men. Here is the sense in which Christ is saying that He is our one Master wherein we need no earthly Rabbi to teach us. When Christ says, "be not ye called Rabbi," He was affirming the fulfillment of Prophesy and referring to the sense in which our only Rabbi is our Lord and Master, the ultimate judge and final authority over the word of the law. No man on earth qualifies as our Rabbi and Master in that sense of Comforting Teacher (John 14:26), Supreme Master, and reigning King (John 1:48-49) having infallible rule over the congregation. Indeed the Psalmist declared this same principle in chapter 119, verses 99-11:
Be Not ye called Rabbi: For One is your Master, even ChristThe word Rabbi is of Hebrew origin [rhabbi] and refers to being of the highest rank or position. We can say it refers to someone having "mastered" their craft, such as a leading or master theologian. The Scribes and Pharisees were sanctimonious and believed that they had mastered the law of Moses (Acts 5:34). They loved to have people look upon them as pious and to be called Rabbi to exalt themselves to this high status over men. The term Rabbi was used in the same way as Christians today might call those who had reached a position of higher learning in religion in calling them a "Professor." This because they had received a doctorate or a master's degree in theology. Just as the word "Doctor" is simply the Latin word for "teacher." So being called Rabbi illustrated one had achieved the top position in the field of Jewish law and scholarship. Note also in this verse that Christ is using the terms "Rabbi" and "Master" synonymously. When Christ told His disciples (and by extension all) that they were not to be called Rabbi because Christ is the only Master, the sense is that they were not to be looked upon, nor to look upon their leaders as above anyone else concerning authoritative teachers. Unerring authoritative teaching is by definition infallibile teaching, which is an attribute that belongs only to Christ (Psalms 18:30). In this precept Christ is declaring that man should not be looked upon, nor look upon others as a divine, infallible, master teacher, because in this sense of the word, Christ alone is the master teacher of the law. Men are merely witnesses to His testimonies. It is because He has a personal relationship with every elect believer equally that we have all become kings and Priests of God through Him. In communion with God we truly look toward Christ alone as Master and Rabbi of the law and not man. The law pointed to Christ, and Christ confirmed the law (Galatians 3:24). It is His Spirit, not man, that teaches us this infallible truth.
- "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
The Psalmist could have more understanding than all his masters or teachers because he has the Spirit of Truth and thus earnestly deferred to the word of God alone as authoritative over beliefs, precepts, traditions and man's proclamations. It is in his following God's commandments, rather than the commandments of men (Matthew 15:8-9), that has given him more wisdom and knowledge than the ancients or elders had. It is through deferment to God's word as the authoritative teacher over man's word that we understand in what sense He alone is the Rabbi and Master from Heaven.
- "I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
- I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts."
No man on earth has that power and authority, but the teacher from Heavebn did. The Religious leaders of God's congregation loved to be called Rabbi because they loved themselves. Thus they taught for doctrines of God the commandments of men. They to be looked upon as the unquestionable teachers of God's congregation. While they fancied themselves as the great Rabbi, the principle put forth by Christ is that in this they expropriated or seized what rightly belonged only to God. That only belonged to the one Rabbi and one Master, Christ. Christ is certainly not forbidding us from literally calling any man Rabbi or teacher, indeed God commissions some in the church as teachers. So we most certainly can use such titles to distinguish between men who have greater talents as teachers, prophets, evangelists or pastors. There is nothing wrong with using these titles for those of the church. John the Baptist was called Rabbi (John 3:26) because there has never been an edict against that. Rather, what Christ was teaching is that as servants of God, we are never to look upon earthly teachers as our Heavenly teacher, the one who has final authority over the law or precepts of God. We are not to look at ministers in any sense of being an infallible Rabbi or master of the law. Only God is our infallible Rabbi and Master. Man does not qualify to sit on the throne to rule over God's house except in the sense of the elect who are reigning with Christ in faithfully bearing witness to His word. When we understand that, then (like the Psalmist) we have more understanding than all our religious leaders, rabbi, masters, teachers or elders. The point is that we should not receive the words of those who exalt themselves to lofty positions and love such titles and distinctions, to a status that usurps God's seat on the throne. These are men that magnify or idolizes themselves as the authoritative power over us, church, word, faith and practice. These are distinctives that belong to God alone. The religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, they taught the law of Moses and enforced adherence to it. But they were charged by Christ with hypocrisy in teaching for doctrines of God, the traditions of men (Mark 7:7). i.e., they usurped the authority of God as men.
- "The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
And All ye are BrethrenIn conjunction with our Lord declaring that we should not be called Rabbi or Master because only one is our Master, He adds "and all ye are Brethren." In other words, we all stand on the same ground. None is higher in rank than the other, we all have feet of clay and are on equal footing at the throne of grace . By contrast, the Rabbi of the congregation were puffed up and exalted themselves as masters greater than the layman. In actuality, we are all sons of the father where none can look at themselves as superior to the other. We are all equal (Colossians 4:1) stewards as God is the only just Master to all. We have no need or desire to call any man master or Rabbi in the sense that we are all disciples of one Master. In fact, in the New Testament dispensation, ultimately no child of God needs a Rabbi, Master or Teacher to prophesy, teach or as an advocate of the Father for us because Christ has come and fulfilled the office that these titles signified. In the body of our Lord we are all Kings and Priests to God and can come boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:15-16) and taught personally of the Master.
Because our Master was made like us, and took on that same humanity with all its essential properties, making Him subject to the same temptations as we are, He has reconciled us to God that where we could be personally taught of Him. It is by His authority that all who are in Christ stand as brethren, all taught of one Father. One Master. One rabbi. Having all been thoroughly washed clean in His blood there cannot be one who is cleaner than the other. There are no special prophets, ranks, infallible masters or teachers among men. Christ has brought that personal touch that no man could.
- "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
1st John 2:27
"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."This does not imply that God doesn't use earthly teachers, nor that we are by the Spirit now made infallible so that there is no need for earthly teachers. On the contrary, this is illustrating it is because believers have received the Spirit of God in the measure needful to reveal the truth, man cannot deceive us because God's word is our authority and commandments. By the Spirit, we hold fast to the authority of the truth of God's word, rather than the teachings of men. Men can't teach us false doctrine specifically because we love the Lord and have this Spirit of truth to endure wherein we guard His word from loss, or Keep (1st John 2:3-5) His commandments. hat Spirit moves us to recognize the difference between man's words and God's words. It moves us to be humble enough to rightly judge between our heavenly teacher and earthly teachers. This through our comparing Scripture with Scripture, God's word with God's word, that we know who is our one Rabbi and Master. Notice that this verse plainly says that the anointing Spirit is truth and cannot lie, and it teaches us of all things "because" it abides in us. That is to say, the Spirit of Christ in us is the true teacher. By it we understand that no man is teacher in this sense being the final arbiter, as God's Spirit is. By it we try or test the spirits to see if they are truly of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world. By it we know the difference between the vaunted words of our earthly teachers, and the infallible words of our Heavenly Teacher. We don't look upon them as the Rabbi or master educationalist, but upon God alone as this master counselor.
Call No Man Your Father upon the Earth: For One is your Father, which is in HeavenHere Christ continues in this theme by making the statement that it is "because" only one is your Father, which is in heaven (Matthew 6:9). Again, this illustrates vividly in what sense we are not to call anyone on earth Father. Taken with the qualifying phrase "no man on earth," this is directing us to the reason for this edict as well as to what it pertains to. It is a reference to us calling men father in the sense that God alone is our Father. He is not decreeing that we are literally never to call anyone father. The proof of that is Scripture itself.
1st Timothy 5:1
Clearly, there is no edict against calling a man father (Genesis 45:8; Job 29:16), the edict is against calling a man your father in the sense of the God. Which raises the question, "How is God our father?" We know that He is mankind's ultimate Father through His being the source of our genesis or creation (Genesis 1:27). We also know that He is the Elect's Father by their regeneration or rebirth in Christ. So He is our heavenly Father in the sense of being man's Savior and of being man's Creator. He is the only one possessing supreme authority over all His children. They include those who are forever lost, those who are called, and those chosen. And as this heavenly Farther, He is truth and His word alone is the arbiter of our life, death, faith, doctrine, salvation and righteousness. By contrast, the Devil is the father or source of lies, and the wicked are his children. And so in this sense, no earthly father has control over the divine word, God's congregation or the forgiveness of sins. We should not be called father in this sense of the authoritative word, supreme teacher or as the head of the church. As the divine text plainly says, for (or because) one is your Father, which is in Heaven. Thus again we see the same answer to our question. He is not denying fathers, He is contrasting earthly fathers with Heavenly Fathers and declaring we should not look upon man as having the same divine authority over His household. To call man on earth our father in the sense of being our supreme ruler on earth is in effect to call him God.
- "Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;"
This is the definition of the only Father who we are to bow down to as authoritative King, not any men on earth. It is our true creator, Provider, Savior and ultimate authority over God's people. It is this Father that we are to serve and venerate as our heavenly Potentate, not man seated on a throne. Man cannot be this Father who has such power and authority over all children. We are told of Christ to not place any man on earth in the position and authority of the God of heaven that he rule over God's children. This because there is only one such Father.
- "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
This Father refers to God, whom no man can be looked upon as equivolent, and this is the theme not only in this context but all throughout Scripture. There is one God, the Father of the living WORD, Christ. Any man on earth you call father in the sense of being supreme ruler or head of the church or over God's word, you are in effect calling him God. Likewise, any man desiring to be the last word in interpreting or teaching doctrine is in this sense seeking to usurp God's position as Father. Christ is in no way saying that we can't call our maternal Parent, or anyone else our father. If that were true, it would be a confusing contradiction of God's own words in the fifth commandment that we honor our father (Exodus 20:12), which is referring to our earthly father. How would God command us to honor our father in one verse, and then turn around and say don't even call him your father in another? It makes no sense because that's not what Christ meant. In fact, not only are we to honor our earthly father, but christ Himself even called the Devil a father and his children the disobedient.
- "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
- Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,"
- "Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."
To totally remove the title of “Father” from the vocabulary of man if it didn't apply to God would of necessity mean that there would no longer be children of the Devil. There would no longer be an earthly representation for the God-authored analogy of our own fatherhood (Malachi 1:6-7; Matthew 7:11), Satan's evil fatherhood as well as God's divine fatherhood. In other words, the very concept of God’s designation as Father would be meaningless if we totally removed the concept of our earthly, spiritual (Philemon 10) or ancestral fatherhood. That would make all of us when preaching the gospel in violation of Christ's edict. Including the Apostle Paul.
The Apostle Paul was not in error with these words, because calling someone our earthly father, spiritual father, or our ancestral father, is not what Christ meant (1st Timothy 5:1). Instead, the warning is to not have any man on earth rule over us as our heavenly Father does. For He is the only one who is Father in the sense of creation, regeneration, authority and power over God's people. So this must be understood in the same fashion as Him saying call no man Rabbi, or to call no man Master or Teacher. Namely, it forbids only authoritative subserviency to man that makes God's word null and void. The religious leaders sought to be called rabbi, Master, father and teacher because they looked upon themselves as the chief source of interpretation, doctrine, teaching, authority and truth, rather than God. We are thus to call no man Father in this sense of the word. The edict in no way instructs us not to have proper honor and respect for fathers, teachhers, masters or elders. It confirms that no man can assume God's position as supreme, authoritative Holy Father in the sense of divine and absolute ruler over mankind. In actuality, this is the very much related to the portrait that God paints when He warns us in 2nd Thessalonians chapter two of a time when the sinful man (or Man of sin) will take a seat in the Holy Temple showing himself as God. This is a portrait of the members of the congregation calling man Father in the sense of having supreme authority and law, "as if" he were God.
- "And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
2nd Thessalonians 2:2-5
This is man in opposition to the gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. This is a prophecy or prediction of sinful or lawless man on earth, rises to the position of being Father of the church in the sense that Christ forbids. This is a depiction of sinful man (not a man) ruing in God's house "as if" he were God. This is the exact same context as Christ was addressing His disciples about in Matthew chapter 23 concerning the Scribes and Pharisees who sat in the leadership seat of the congregation, who were in rebellion against God's word. This is an example of the man on earth being called Father in the sense that only God qualifies to be Father.
- "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
- Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
- Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?"
Neither be ye Called Masters: for One is your Master, even ChristThis word translated Master is [kathegetes], meaning uttermost teacher, and follows the same theme of the sense of the exclusivity of these forbidden titles. Christ continues to equate these titles to only one, which is the anointed Christ. Once again He is declaring that only the Lord is our Master in this sense. Although upon first glance it may seem that Christ is prohibiting the literal use of the term Master / Teacher for any man, we can readily see that God and the Saints call people teachers throughout Scripture. However, this particular term for master [kat-hegetes] is a Greek word only used in Scripture to speak of Christ as our teacher. It is only used three times, and they are all here in this chapter (Matthew 23:8-10) in reference to Christ and illustrating that we are to understand this in the sense of assuming God-like authority. It does not imply that we can never literally call any man master. The typical word master used for teacher, instructor or doctor is [didaskalos] or [rhabbi]. There are many instances of men being called Master and Teacher, so there is no edict in Scripture against literally calling anyone Master or Teacher. Only in the sense of being God is this title forbidden by Christ:
1st Corinthians 12:28
That word that is translated teacher is the exact same word [didaskalos] that is translated throughout the Bible as "Master" and "Doctor," and it plainly shows that there is no edict against calling men Master. Those who believe Christ is literally forbidding such titles are mistaken, though it may seem that is what Christ was teaching. In 1st Corinthians 12 we see that God Himself has appointed some in the church to be masters or teachers. Only not in the sense of being the ultimate teaching authority, which is something belonging only to God. Also in Matthew 28:19-20, our Lord Jesus Christ commissioned men to go forth as teachers of his church. He said unambiguously, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations... ...Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." There is no edict against being an instructor. If Christ had truly meant in Matthew 23 that we are never to literally call men masters, then as a teacher He would have violated His own edict. Literally calling someone a teacher or telling them they are appointed to teach, is not what Christ was speaking about. He was addressing a teacher in an exclusive way that "God alone" is the teacher: Matthew 19:16-17
- "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps,"
Christ said, only God is the good Master. This signifying that Jesus was God and unless this man understood that, He should not look to Him as the authority over doctrine (Matthew 7:29) or call Him Good Master. That is a power reserved only for our heavenly teacher God. Thus in the sense of man playing God by declaring his own words and teachings are God's words and teachings, this is what is forbidden. The religious leaders of Israel were men who loved to be called Rabbi (Matthew 23:7) and master because their desire was to be held in high regard as Master of God's word. Nevertheless, their doctrines were doctrines of men and they were not speaking the word that was our authoritative schoolmaster. That is why Christ told His servants to beware of these men's doctrines (Matthew 16:11-12) since they were doctrines of men. The warning was that the only true Master whose word and authority we can depend upon is the Lord, not the men who sit to rule in the Lord's house. They were told to beware of receiving their doctrines "as if" they were the leaven or doctrines of the Lord. Even as Christ spoke about them in the preceding verses of this very chapter:
- "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
- And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
They had set in God's congregation as rulers over His house, but their works or fruits were not that of the Father in heaven, but doctrines of their father the Devil. They spoke of the law but they did not truly follow the law that they were commissioned to be teachers of. They loved to be called the authoritative Rabbi or Teacher that God's children were to listen to, but Christ cautions His children to beware of their doctrines (Matthew 16:6; 12) and explains that the one true Master is the Lord. Our heavenly Father teaches us by the Holy Spirit, the authoritative nature of the infallible word of God. These rulers had no humility before or fear of God and so did not abide in His commandments. Indeed they were usurpers of God's throne in thinking that their words were the actual authority of God's house. They sat in Moses seat but ruled by their own hand (Jeremiah 5:31) rather than by God's Spirit and law. This is why the religious leaders sought to kill the Messiah--because they wanted to usurp His position and take His place as inheritor and ruler of the Kingdom. This is just as Christ plainly taught in the parable of the vineyard let out to husbandmen:
- "Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
- All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not."
There is a reason Christ taught this parable of the leaders of Israel attempting to usurp the inheritance that belongs only to Christ. They wanted to take Christ's Kingdom for themselves that they would be Master of the house. It is in this sense of appropriating what belonged to the Lord alone, that we understand how they wanted "His" authority over the house. They wanted the Lord, Rabbi, Master or Father, titles that represent the authority over the house that only Christ is entitled to. We are to let no man on earth be as our God or absolute authority over His law, doctrine, faith or practice of His church. The Scripture alone is God's word from heaven, not the words of men on earth which usurp the authority of the master.
- "Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.
- But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours."
But he that is Greatest Among You Shall be your ServantIn this statement, Christ is instructing how not to be pretentious in seeking to be the Holy Father of the church, or the great Master or teacher of doctrines as authoritative, or looking to seize rule over men that belong only to God. This is as the religious leaders of Israel did. We don't seek to be the greatest in God's house, we place God in that position of Master and humble ourselves to take our rightful place as His bondservants or slaves. It is our duty (Luke 17:10) to serve the God of heaven as stewards to Him who alone is worthy to hold the Heavenly meaning of those titles. Humility is the key to our faithfully serving Christ.
Many do not comprehend the full extent of this charge. We are not to be as the Rabbi and religious leaders who seek to exalt themselves to rule as master, we are to understand that we are the Master's servant, disciple, and student. We are not in the position of the Father, we are the Father's children. In this principle, Christ is sounding an alarm that we might not fail to comprehend exactly who God is, and what is to be our position under the banner of "unmerited" grace. Indeed, this verse clearly teaches that the evidence of our greatness we demonstrate by becoming a servant.
- "And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."
We take our cue from Christ Himself, for He humbled Himself in coming to earth not as the exalted Heavenly Father to be served by man, but to be abased and brought low in service to man. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister by suffering and giving his life a ransom for many. He is our example of humility.
- "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:"
- "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
When Christ ends this collection of instructions and edicts of Matthew 23:8-11 saying, "But he that is Greatest Among You Shall be your Servant," it is an addendum that further reveals exactly what the Lord was saying in "call no man on earth father." They don't qualify to hold that status of God, and neither do you. God alone is Rabbi, Master, Father and Teacher of the church. Not one of us should be proud, superior, arrogant, haughty or pompous, on the contrary, we should be humble, meek and lowly before the true Heavenly Father. We should never usurp all that these titles entail with regards to Christ.
ConclusionWhen Christ says to call no man on earth your Father because only one is that father, He is illustrating that we should never look upon any man as our ultimate Master, teacher, authority, or Father because that distinction belongs only to God. Not that my Parent isn't my father, but that there is no man that is the ultimate authority or Patriarch on earth but God. Christ's admonition is a response to those who would exalt themselves to a position of authority or head of the church, which belongs only to God. Just as His response to the Pharisees who taught for doctrines of God the precepts of men, and who are false Christs in taking the seat of God in status, authority and prestige. If we would allow any man to rule in God's Holy Place as if he were God, then we are in essence calling him our Heavenly Father, our great Master and teacher. In this sense, God alone that is our Rabbi, Father and Master. We are His children called to obey this one Father. No man on earth can usurp that position. The context of this passage was about the errors and hypocrisy of the Religious leaders, the Scribes and the Pharisees (verses 2; 13-15; etc.), the priests and rulers who were making God's word null and void by their traditions. God is illustrating they aren't the final arbiter of truth in the congregation. For example, as we see in the Roman Catholic church system where they seat a Pope and call him "Holy Father" in the sense that they believe that the Pope, acting as supreme teacher, cannot err when he teaches in matters of faith or morals. This makes Him a father and infallible teacher, which God alone is. Why is he the supreme pontiff (L literally greatest priest) whose words are considered as the word of God on earth. That is exactly the error Christ speaks against. But don't kid yourselves, Protestants are guilty of this as well, they simply don't write it down as law. But in practice, they often treat men the same way. Yes there are some who think Matthew 23 legally forbids us from calling our maternal parent father, but Christ's words are in no sense teaching that we cannot call our paternal male parent our father. In reality, Christ is using the word father in the sense of considering (in word or deed) men on earth Lord, God, a Divinity or ultimate ruler or King of the church. And more proof that God is not saying we should not literally call any man father is illustrated by the Apostle Paul himself in verses like 1st Corinthians:
1st Corinthians 4:1415
The Apostle Paul under the inspiration of God clearly speaks of himself as father (1st Thessalonians 2:11) illustrating clearly that what Christ said pertained to a sense that is not literal but is pertaining to a spiritual assignment of man as God or origin of truth. This notation by Paul as a father in no way takes away from Christ's command, nor does it diminish in any way the honor and authority which is due to God alone. In Matthew 23 God is highlighting the hypocrisy of congregational leaders teaching for commandments of God, the commandments and traditions of men. In other words, it was their words they were teaching that was not of God. Their teachings were inauthoritative and belied their moniker as Maser, Rabbi or Father. These were men filled with pride and desired such titles because they sought fame, glory and honor among men that belonged only to God. Even as God in verse 11 that "he that is greatest among you shall be your servant," contrasted with Roman Catholicism's Holy father which says of the Pope the Latin "pontifex maximus," meaning "Greatest Priest," which of course can only be Christ. i.e., Call no man Father in that sense. We don't consider our earthly father's words as of our Heavenly father because they are not God and thus their words are not infallible. Christ is using the term father in Matthew 23 synonymously with a hallowed infallible teacher, which only our Heavenly father is (Matthew 6:9). He was using all these labels in a sense that shows the lack of humility demonstrated in looking at man rather than God as the source of all authority, Fatherhood and Mastery. Unfortunately, some professing Christians tend to look at religious leaders or leaders in general, as if they are the supreme source of spiritual instruction and doctrine. The Roman Catholic church is one of the best examples who does this and who err in thinking this way about their leaders. These passages of Matthew 23 forbid that. Many Christians look at this verse with a sort of tunnel vision, because it also plainly says to not call any man Rabbi, which means a Jewish scholar or one who studies Jewish law. So was Christ literally teaching not to call men scholars? Christ also says don't call anyone Master, which means guide or teacher. So do you not call those instructing in school, teachers? If you do call them teachers, then you likely understand that this is not what Christ was addressing in His commandment to His disciples.
- "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
- For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."
Again note carefully exactly "why" Christ says don't do it. He says don't be called Master because only one is your Master all you are all brethren. In other words, because God is your Rabbi, your master, He is the only "one" you should be instructed by. He is not saying men cannot instruct in heavenly things. Call no man your father upon the earth "because" there is only one who is your Father, and He is in heaven. He says don't be called master "because" only one is your Master, and that is Christ alone. Don't seek to rule as the one God, seek humility. Doing that, in God's eyes, the one that will be greatest is the one who is your servant, not the one desiring the title of Rabbi or ruler for his own sake. In conclusion, Christ clearly is not declaring that we are literally not to call those who train or instruct us, our teachers. He is also not saying that children may not call their natural parent their father. Christ's words are not meant to invalidate all names, titles or distinctions made among men by words, but rather that as His children, we must not exalt ourselves or man to an authoritative position reserved only for God. Christ's sense is that His disciples should reject any positions of honor that would assume authority over men that is reserved for God. We must not receive the words of those who use such titles and distinctions to exalt themselves to a status that usurps God's seat on the throne, or that magnifies or idolizes man as the authoritative power over God's word, church, faith or practice. These are distinctions that belong to God alone.
- "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
- And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
- Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ."
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