Shelby G. Floyd
In the latter part of the life of Christ, his disciples were concerned about the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1)? They had been discussing among themselves for some time which of them would be accounted greatest in the coming kingdom. Their conception of the kingdom was worldly in nature. Jesus had just announced to them his impending suffering and death in Jerusalem; but they could not hear and understand what he had to say because of their concern over who would be the greatest.
Jesus answered them on this occasion by calling a little child unto him, and sitting him in the midst of them, saying,
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-14).
One of the ways in which men exalted and distinguished themselves from other people in the days of Christ was by the use of honorary titles. Since the apostles were concerned about which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus warned them about wearing honorary titles to exalt and distinguish them above other men. This was clearly wrong, and Jesus condemned such in no uncertain terms. He said that they loved,
“They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matt. 23:7-10 NKJV).
Let us be content with the affectionate and simple appellate “brethren” or “Christian”:
“And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142