The Greek word for rabbi is ‘rhabbi’ and is used 17 times in the Bible, all in the New Testament. Of those 17 times, it is translated ‘rabbi’ 8 times and is translated ‘master’ 9 times. The definition of the word is “master, as an official title of honor.” In this sense, it is speaking of a spiritual master or mentor. It is closely linked with being a teacher as we read in John 3:1-2, “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 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.” Of course, at this point, Nicodemus did not realize that Jesus was much more than just a teacher. He was not just a teacher come from God, he was God come to teach!

If a person (usually a Jewish person) calls himself a Rabbi, he is not necessarily trying to claim equality with the Lord, but it does show an ignorance of the Scriptures. Let’s read the words of the Lord as He speaks of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:5-10, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 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.” These people loved to be noticed and loved to have titles, whether it be Rabbi, Father, or Master (this is a different Greek word that means ‘guide’).

Even today, men love titles. Many sincere servants of the Lord use titles. Some call themselves Father (especially among the Catholics), Pastor, Reverend, Doctor, and so on. These are all titles which draw attention to the person rather than to the Lord. In most Christian circles, these titles are considered to be earned and so they are used. However, I believe the teachings of the Lord in the above portion show us that the Lord does not want us to use titles that are rightfully His. Christ is the true Master (Rabbi), He is the true Father, He is the true Guide, and He is the true Reverend. Psalms 111:9 tells us, “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and REVEREND IS HIS NAME.” The Hebrew for ‘reverend’ is “yare’” and means to fear or reverence. This is the ONLY time this word is used in the Bible and it is speaking of God who is truly HOLY and REVEREND. Yet, men take that title as if they are to be feared or reverenced.

What, then are we to call one another? As the Lord said in Matthew 23:8, “…all ye are brethren.” We should be content (and honored) to be called a brother (or sister) in Christ. For a believer to call me ‘brother’ shows that he considers me a fellow citizen of Heaven. He considers me his brother in Christ. As children of God, we have the same Father and so we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

* Notice how Peter referred to the Apostle Paul in 2 Peter 3:15, “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved BROTHER Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you.”

* Notice how Paul referred to Tychicus in Colossians 4:7, “All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved BROTHER, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord.”

* Notice how John refers to himself in Revelation 1:9, “I John, who also am your BROTHER, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Let’s close this meditation with a verse from the old hymn, “Christ, From Whom All Blessings Flow”:

Love, like death, hath all destroyed,

Rendered all distinctions void;

Names and sects and parties fall;

Thou, O Christ, art all in all! (328.2)