I notice that you sometimes refer to ministers of the Gospel as Pastor so-and-so and sometimes as Reverend so-and-so. Isn’t ‘Reverend’ a name of God: "Holy and Reverend is His name" (Ps 111:9)? Wouldn’t the use of ‘Reverend’ for ministers of God be preposterous? Indeed, wouldn’t it be a breaking of the 3rd Commandment: "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD Thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain"?
Let me begin by saying that though I personally prefer not to be called with the title,—especially when I know that the title may be a cause of stumbling to others, I do not agree with the view that it is wrong to call ministers of the Gospel with the title ‘Reverend.’
Firstly, do not mistake Psalm 111:9 as teaching that ‘Reverend’ is a name of God. The Hebrew is very clear: both ‘holy’ and ‘reverend’ are adjectival predicates, with ‘reverend’ being a participle adjective. This will not make much sense unless you know some Hebrew, but you can see it in the in the English too. Notice that the verse does not read "Holy and Reverend are Hisnames." This should straight away alert us that the Psalmist is saying that God’s name is sanctified and to be revered or feared. He is not telling us what the names of God are.
But secondly, it may be argued that even though ‘reverend’ is being used in Psalm 111:9 as an adjective to God’s name, and is not the name of God, we should still not call a mortal man ‘reverend’ since Scripture does not apply the term to a person’s name. Let me address this objection by saying that it is in fact groundless. You see, if this is the case, then we must not call Christians ‘saints’, since ‘saints’ means ‘holy ones’. Yet the Bible does so over and over again (e.g. Ps 16:3, 34:9; Deut 33:3; Phil 1:1; 1 Cor 6:2 etc etc). In fact, in the case of ‘Holy’, it is not only a description of the name of God as in Psalm 111:9, but is, indeed, the name of God, for Isaiah refers to God as the "high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy" (Isa 57:15). Furthermore, ‘saint’ is not just a description of a Christian, but the title or name of a Christian.
Thirdly, when we address a minister as Reverend So-and-so, we are using ‘Reverend (Rev)’ simply as a title not much different from ‘Mister (Mr)’ or ‘Doctor (Dr)’. ‘Mr’ tells us that the person is a man. ‘Dr’ tells us that he has a Ph.D. ‘Rev’ traditionally tells us that he is a ordained minister of the Gospel. Of course, the etymology of the word suggests to us that he is someone who should be respected. I think few of us would object that it is proper that we should respect ministers of the Gospel on account of the authority vested them by God. And there is Scriptural grounds too. You see, although the word ‘reverend’ occurs only once in the Authorised Version, it is a verb (yare’,) that occurs 314 times in the Hebrew Bible. While it usually describes the fear due to God, it is general enough to speak of respect and honour due to the representatives of God. For example: "My son, fearthou the LORD and the king" (Prov 24:21a). Both God and His appointed king is to be feared. Similarly, the two New Testament equivalents of the word (entrepô,—™ntršpw and phobeô,—fobšw), are also used to describe the reverence due to God as well as to those He has set in authority. Thus, Hebrew 12:9 describe the ‘reverence’ that we give to our earthly fathers who chastise us; and Ephesians 5:33 instructs the wife to "see that she reverenceher husband."
Now, finally, many of us prefer to use the title ‘Pastor (Ps)’. Well, I am, admittedly, more comfortable with this term: it meaningfully suggests that the person is called to be a pastor of a church, and in the Singapore context, it may distinguish from the leaders of other religions. However, note that ‘pastor’ is also never used as a title in the Scriptures. It is used to designate an office, yes (Eph 4:11), but never as a title (at least not in the Scriptural records). The only titles used in the Scripture for men in the ministry of the Gospel are ‘Apostle’ (e.g. 2 Cor 1:1) and ‘Evangelist’ (Acts 21:8), but these titles referred to those who held the temporary offices of the New Testament Church, which offices have passed away with the Apostles and their associates.
May I conclude that it is not a breaking of the 3rd commandment to use the title ‘reverend’ for ministers of the Gospel. Let us be careful not to have unnecessary scruples as we seek to reform our doctrine and lives to the Scriptures.
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