Bible says “Call No Man Father”
How many of you have ever been challenged with this? How can you call yourself a Catholic, a Christian, I should say, when you call priest, father? And yet Jesus says in Matthew 23:9, “Call no man on this earth father. You have one father, which is in heaven.” I can remember saying that to Catholics, man, and I would have a smirk on my face because I knew these Catholics were crazy.
They are denying the word of Jesus Christ, right? Call no man on this earth father. What part of no, don’t you understand? I will never forget when I had a young Catholic marine respond to me. My friends and I have done it the same way he did to me to thousands and thousands of our separated brethren and various cult members over the years, and I’ve seen the light bulb go on over their heads just like it did me about 31 years ago, and here’s how it goes.
Now remember my buddy Matt Doula, he said this to me, “Tim, when the Bible says in Matthew 23:9, ‘Call no man on this earth, father.’ Guess what? We believe that just like it’s written, but did you know that there’s more than one verse in the Bible? Did you know that, Tim?” And I remember that kind of getting under my skin there a little bit. “What do you mean? Of course, I know there’s more than one verse in the Bible.”
But he said this, “Look, Tim, let’s leave that verse on the shelf for a second. Call no man on this earth of. Okay, let’s go to Ephesians 6:1 and 2, St. Paul in Ephesians 6 quotes the fourth commandment.” What’s the fourth commandment, folks? “Honor your father and mother on this earth that your days may be prolonged. Amen.”
“All right, so wait a minute,” says Matt Doula to Tim Staples.” I thought you just said Jesus said, ‘Call no man on this earth father.’ Well guess what? St. Paul does right here, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Is God confused? Right? Now, that got my attention, because I’m going, “Well, yeah. Okay. He did kind of. But.” Right?
My response to him was, “Okay, but that’s talking about a physical thought. Okay. You can call your physical father, ‘father’. But what Jesus is talking about in context in Matthew 23:9 is that you don’t call spiritual leaders ‘father’. So if you want to call your father, ‘father’, I mean that’s fine, but you can’t call spiritual leaders ‘father’.” He didn’t miss a beat. My buddy Matt Doula, did not miss a beat.
He said, “Oh, okay, so you can’t call spiritual leaders father. Hmm. Let’s go to Luke 16:24.” And you all know the story. When Jesus gives his parable, he talks about Lazarus and the rich man being in Abraham’s bosom, right? We won’t get into details there, but look at verse 24 of Luke 16. What does Jesus call Abraham? Father Abraham, right? I want you to imagine this. My buddy looks me in the eye, and he says, “Tim, would you say Abraham is a spiritual leader?”
Right? What can I say? Like, “I guess, kind of.”
“Well, yeah, if you’re a gentile, guess what? Abraham is your spiritual leader, right? And yet Jesus calls him Father Abraham. So Tim, didn’t you just say you can’t call spiritual leaders father.” And guess what guys? I didn’t have an answer, but that boy didn’t leave it there. He said, “Tim, give me your Bible.” He took me through my Bible and he says, let’s go to Romans 4:1-18, seven times St. Paul calls Abraham, guess what? Father Abraham. Let’s go to James 2:21 St. James calls Abraham, guess what? Father Abraham, right?
Let’s go to I John Chapter 2:13. St. John refers to the elders to whom he’s writing, most likely in Ephesus , he calls them fathers, exhorting them to teach their spiritual sons. You’d think they were Catholics or something, right? Let’s go to Acts 7:1 and 2, St. Stephen, when he’s speaking to the elders of Jerusalem, begins his talk by saying, “Men, brethren, fathers, hearken unto me.” And let me tell you the ones that really did me in, episodic insiders. I Corinthians 4:14 and 15, listen to this, St. Paul says, “You have 10,000 instructors in the Lord Jesus Christ. You have not many fathers. I have become your father for I’ve begotten you through the Gospel.”
And then he takes me over to Ephesians 3:14 and 15 were St. Paul really puts things into perspective, because, you really, you have to ask the question then. All right, I get it, Matt Doula, right? Or somebody says to me, I get it, Tim. I mean, I’m seeing father’s everywhere here. Everybody’s calling everybody father. But what do you do with Jesus’ words there in Matthew 23:9? What is he saying? Well, the key is actually found in this text in Ephesians 3:14 and 15, where St. Paul says this, “For this cause I bend my knee before the Father of light, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name,” or is derived in the Greek text there, right? Absolutely crucial here.
See, notice there’s only one father, but all fatherhood is derived from that one fatherhood. So when Jesus has called a man father, he did not mean, in fact, he could not mean, don’t annunciate the term [pater 00:04:20] with regard to anybody other than God, because if he meant that, he contradicted himself. And so did St. Luke, and St. Paul, and St. James, and St. John, and we should add and the Holy Spirit who inspired scripture. See, the key is my friends it’s not that you can’t annunciate the term, he’s condemning the usurpation of the fatherhood of God.
And that’s exactly what was going on in the first century, and by the way, not only with religious leaders, but even political leaders. Caesar, for example, right? The Roman emperor, I should say, he was demanding to be worshiped by all the members of the Roman Empire. And guess what he was called? Father God. He was the father of the empire. Can you see why? And by the way, we know that historically all the way back to Augustus, 30 years before Jesus would make this statement, emperors were decreed to be the father, God of the empire. Did you know many a Catholic went to their grave as martyrs? Not just for refusing to worship the pantheon of the gods, but for refusing to worship the emperor as Father God.
Can you see why Jesus would say, “Call no man on this earth father. You have one father which is in heaven.” What he’s condemning is the usurpation of the fatherhood of God. He is not condemning the proper participation in the fatherhood of God. My friends, I am a father to my seven little poop machines here in San Diego, because I participate in the fatherhood of God through a sacrament. A priest like St. Paul or any priest today is a father, not because he’s usurping the fatherhood of God. No, that would not be true fatherhood. That would be blasphemy, but like St. Paul, priests today, participate in the fatherhood of God. Make that fatherhood real for us.