His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Do not call anyone on earth “father”


In a recent article in the Washington Post, about the Pope and his visit to the US, several statements caught my attention, but there is one in particular that I would like to focus on today.

The author, a Presbyterian Pastor, refers to the Pope as “Holy Father”. No big deal; a common title for the head of the Catholic Church. Yet, what would Jesus say about calling the Pope “Holy Father”?

“And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9, NIV)

There’s no need to expand on what Jesus said. His instruction is simple and clear. Yet I cannot help but wonder how many Catholics are aware of this verse, and if they are, what do they think about it. If you are Catholic, please honor Jesus and pray with Him about what He has told us here.

I also challenge the Presbyterian Pastor who wrote the article, and all others who nonchalantly call the Pope and Catholic Priests “father”, to think about what Jesus is telling us. And how about you? Please do not take Jesus’ words lightly.

There are those in the Catholic Church who will have you call them “father”, yet as Peter had said to the Sanhedrin, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19, NIV)

One final thought: why did Jesus feel compelled to state that we are to call no one else father? Could it be Jesus knew that because of our sinful nature, which is rooted in pride, people would seek to elevate their status and perhaps even make themselves equal to God, or at least make themselves above others? Sounds to me like Jesus might be telling us we are all equal, in His sight, and that none are to be elevated above others. There is only one who is above us; God the one and only Father.


September 9th, 2008: If you like, you will find a follow-up to this post at “Jesus, do you really mean it?”

Author: CJ Penn

First, my writing isn't about me. Don’t want the attention, don’t want to feed my ravenous ego (yep, I’m just a typical pride-plagued human). But I love writing - it gets me out of bed when it's way too dark, just so I can do some writing before heading off to work. I write because I’m passionate about God, Jesus, His Spirit, and His truth. And, I feel the Holy Spirit gets shortchanged in the world we call Christianity. The truth is sometimes lacking too.

11 thoughts on “Do not call anyone on earth “father”

  1. Isn’t it interesting that some will have a problem with Catholics (and others, as you mentioned) calling the pople “Holy Father”, yet they have no problem with calling preachers “Reverend” (meaning one who is revered) or calling a preacher “Pastor” even though pastors (also translated overseers, bishops and elders) in the Bible are to meet specific qualifications (1 Tim 3) and they are always shown to be a plurality (not a single man).

    I believe the passage you pointed to condemns all religious titles not mentioned in the inspired word of God. Men love titles and power and the Catholic church is not alone in that deviation from the truth.



  2. Coreydavis, just so you know, a pastor is different from being called “Holy Father”. Also I don’t know if your aware that Jesus made peter a Bishop (which is a leader). In everything in life there has to be order and a person with good living (didn’t say perfect living) but again with good living examples, or else everything would cayuse. Thats why we have a boss at work and parents to raise us and in church there are leaders.By the way I don’t read anywhere in this article a complaint about the pope. All I read is whats called the living truth. If you don’t like it take it up with the Lord the day you meet him. Ultimately he desires for you to follow him. God bless you!


  3. More Catholic Bashing

    You are leading Christians away from the truth.

    Read the entire passage

    a careful examination of the context of Matthew 23 shows that Jesus didn’t intend for his words here to be understood literally. The whole passage reads, “But you are not to be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called ‘masters,’ for you have one master, the Christ” (Matt. 23:8


  4. Hello anonymous (9/6/08 comment),
    If you happen to see this, please do me a favor and help me understand something. It’s not clear to me from the context of the referenced passage, that Jesus did not mean His words to be taken literally. Maybe I’m just not seeing it. I just read all of Chapter 23 again, and I still don’t see it. On the contrary, the words I read seem to tell me to take Jesus’ words literally.
    Thanks for your help,
    E.D. Jones


  5. No offence is meant by this reply, but I must be frank with all those who have commented. First the Scripture says study to show thyself approved to be a workman that needeth not be ashammed rightly dividing the word of Truth. The leadership of the Catholic church sadly discourages the individual from reading the Word of God , only what the Priesthood imparts is aloud. Thus, as the Word of God states. My people are destroyed for the lack of Knowledge. The Pope is sometimes called the Rightious pontif and yet the Holy bible says there is none rightious no not one, all our rightiousness is like filthy rags. To say that sinful man and all have sinned and come short of the Glory of the Lord, can forgive our sins, is in itself not understanding the redeemptive power of the cross, of which only Jesus can forgive our sins, by His shed blood alone, again I refer to the Bible. There is One Lord , One Faith, One Baptism. I refer you to Isaiah 9:6 also. There is no co redemptrice. Peter who one of the comments refers to as Biship. Peter Himself said He was equal to those He preached to and never claimed to be able to absolve peoples sins, he only humbly said he to was a sinner, saved by the blood of Christ and repentance. Why also does the Roman church refuse to preach on the book of revelations. This book says if you add or take away anything from it you will go to the lake of fire and also drink from the cup of the wrath of the indignation of the Lord. I say this the Lord Jesus is coming back , but He will not share His throne with anyone. The Lord we shall see coming in the clouds of Glory says he is coming back for the refuse of the earth, not those decked out in jewels and pomp and pius rich lavish gold decked, who throughout history have put to death the true believers in Christ. Judgement will come, mark my words and those who give a kingly seat in the church to someone simply because of status , as if they are elevated above the congregation will be the first to suffer Gods wrath. You can dress yourself up in costums and pretend to be Holy but The One who was and is and is to come can see right through the false traditions and pagaen rituals and image worship. I encourage you to search the scripture for yourself and you will see. that all the traditions the Romans have given you are traditions the Bible forbids and call abominations. All the riches of the vatican could be sold to rid the world of hunger and yet its vaults caticolms are filled with riches and stolen goods from those they concurred or tortured to death. a dragon can dress itself up but when you strip away the outer garments it is still a dragon and still breaths fire. In closing there is only one God Deut 6:4. The Truth is in the bible. A Holy church could not have so many Priests malesting children and in it’s history be drunk on the Blood of the saints. It is hard to understand why so many people cling to the church the Bible calls the mother of harlots. Read the book of Acts and you will fiund the truth. Let Jesus be exaulted and all others humble. The bible does not say we will bow down to dead saints or Mary , but it does say every knee will bow and every tounge confess Jesus is Lord . Bow no or bow when he comes back at the Judgement seat. He is coming back soon. Leave the Mother of Harlots church and find true salvation. Jesus Loves you and only He can forgive your sins.


    • Don,
      Where you say, “The leadership of the Catholic church sadly discourages the individual from reading the Word of God;” I’ve heard this as well, from people like my step-father who “used” to be Catholic. I’ve been hoping that the practice has changed, since my step-father left the church. But if as you say, it is still true, it just makes me sad. There are so many people who are apparently being deceived. My heart goes out to them.
      If you are interested, you can find a post I recently wrote about the Catholic elevation of Mary, “Misguided Worship; the Catholic Elevation of Mary.”


  6. In the same verse you quote, Jesus also said not to call anyone “rabbi” (teacher in the language of the day). However, we call our teacher in school “our teacher.” Christians even call their teachers in church “teachers”. The *apostle Paul* even said some are given the gift of being teachers! And of course we all call our dad’s our ‘fathers.’

    Obviously the apostles understood Christ was not being literal here either, for they referred to “teachers” in the churches. It is easy to take sayings of Jesus out of their context and really do a lot of damage. For instance, his command to “hate” our families. He means we must love God more then our families. Or his command to cut off whatever makes us sin. He isn’t telling men to literally cut off their members, but to be willing to do what it takes to get sin out of our life (that wouldn’t work anyway).

    Context is critical to understanding Christ and all of Scripture, and here the context is people who take pride in their titles (they *love* the place of honor and the titles of respect) but not in what they teach, for those He was condemning taught false doctrines along with it.

    You come down hard on Catholicism, using a verse that most likely your own churches “literally” violate. Catholicism has both wrong and right, but the truth is that most Protestant churches have a lot wrong too. I would venture to say most Protestant churches have more wrong then most Catholic churches.

    Please see my testimony at http://www.acts420.com then you’ll know what I mean.

    God’s peace to you,


  7. Hi Jason,
    Thanks for your comment. I would just like to mention that I have no idea who is the most “wrong”, Catholics or Protestants. And I don’t think it really matters. What matters (to me anyway), and what my blog is mostly about, is that most churches ignore the word of God. Their pride gets the best of them and they lose sight of the truth. Their pride replaces the truth of God with their own man-made rules and traditions. I think this tendency is just part of our own fallen nature.


  8. I believe today in no church established or organized by men, the church the apostles established is long gone and no longer excist, man has over the years turned the original church into a den of thieves, liars, and concentrate in leading the flock astray, not one church is worhty of Christ Holy Name, The true church is in the heart of man and his personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. The Catholic Church has indee dproven not to be the original church established by Christ and his apostles, but the Roman Emperer who used the christian faith to his advantage, and is the practise today. I am not Catholic or protestant, was raised Catholic by my parents choice until I have done my own research. Not one church not one, catholic or prostestant or any christian denomination is worthy of Gods Holy name. In particular, I find it so sad, that catholics will argue to the death, that thier faith is the one and only true faith, yet how can anyone and so so many alow themselves to be lead astray from Christ, how can catholics actually beleive in heart in praying to statues, asking dead saints to intercede on thier behalf to God, pray to Mary, call some sinful man on earth their holy father, bow down to this man and kis his ring… How can you actually beleive this is the way to God, you would actually kis this mans asshole in public if you had the oppurtunity… wake up, before it is too late, this is not what Christ teached, It is Satan who sits on the papal throne, not peter or his decendants, and so many will be left worhiping satan at that very same throne when the end day comes.


  9. You are all becoming judges (just like I am now judging you) whether of a church or of an individual. You are judging and by that same rod that you are using, you will be judged. Shut up. Pray that he forgives you before you cast another stone. Sell all of your belongings and help the widows and orphans as you have been commanded. That includes your computer doesn’t it. Well then fellow men, we are all just as guilty because I want to keep my computer rather than sell it to feed and clothe the needy. So do you; so you can judge others and post your comments (God forgive me for doing the same). Lord help me this day to spread your word of endless prayer and salvation. Help me not to judge others. If they are wrong or I am wrong, but they or I help to bring others closer to your kingdom through their methods of praising you, then you are King. Yours are the choices. Yours is heaven. The Earth is not your kingdom. It is imperfect, as we are. We would be fighting to make you our King. Heaven is your kingdom. I thank you each and everyday for forgiving us for judging and condemning and for keeping us as close to the chosen path as possible for imperfect humans. Thank you for dying an agonizing death for me so that no matter how imperfect I or my brothers and sisters may be, we will see you and all be saved. Amen.


  10. I’m curious…

    Jesus calls Abraham “Father” in Lk 16:24 & 30.

    So does Paul in Romans 4 (about 5 times)

    Paul also told the Romans Issac is our “father” in chapter 9

    Paul calls himself our father “through the Gospel” in 1 Cor 4:15

    Stephen called the leaders of the day “Fathers” in Acts 7:2

    As a previous commenter pointed out; Jesus also prohibited calling anyone teacher. How’re you doing with that?

    Catholics believe Jesus’ works in Matthew 23 are 1) a warning against pride and 2) a restating of the first commandment. We know we have teachers, but their wisdom comes from God. We know we have fathers, but their fatherhood comes from God (who created everything from nothing). When we make ourselves independent from God (I am a Father in my own right) we set ourselves up as gods (idolatry).

    Jesus rebuke in Matthew 23 isn’t to stop using titles; it’s to stop taking pride in them. I know priests who metaphorically “widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels” (Mt 23:5) and I know many more who are meek and humble of heart. The sin isn’t in the title; it’s in the pride.

    The purpose of a title is to identify someone’s role. Priests are, in the “family” of the Catholic Church, in the role of head of the parish household so the title “father” is very fitting. The priest has become my father through the Gospel just as I am my children’s father through conception. The title fits; now it’s the priest’s job to accept it humbly instead of letting it go to his head.


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