1. He Spoke in my Ears 

Sometime ago, while I waited to take the podium and speak at a Christian meeting, the master of ceremonies began one of those elaborate introductions and designated the upcoming speaker as a “man of God.”  Almost at once, an acquittance by my side whispered into my ears, “the man of the great God.”  He meant to correct them in my ears.  They probably had been too carnal and vainglorious in their spiritual protocols.  They probably were nearly blasphemously promoting mere mortals when they should meekly have been upraising the mighty God.

I had not been paying much attention to the introductions as that fellow seemed to have been doing.  Maybe the master of ceremonies had used one of those superlative adjectives and had said, “the great man of God,” I cannot recall.  All the same, the interjector struck me odiously as being out to show that those people were not as spiritual as he; that I should not be drawn in by ‘their’ proud titles and verbal flamboyancies.  I was in no mood to be distracted by his holier air; not when I was getting set to climb up to speak, so I simply smiled him off, but he struck me unforgettably with more worry than whatever the announcer might have said, or said amiss.

  1. Caution to Rescue Workers 

Sometimes we never know how, in our righteous impatience to correct error, we merely betray our greater error, our subtly pugnacious pride religiously disguised as lowliness.   Sometimes we blindly sit in greater danger than those we stretch out ‘charitably’ to save from apparent danger.  That may partly explain why Jude the apostle admonishes spiritual rescue workers to do their service “with fear” (Jude 1:23).  A similar precaution probably explains one of David’s timeless prayers,

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

That said, is “man of God” a scriptural appellation?  Is it modesty or pomposity to so describe a messenger of God?

  1. What Does the Bible Say? 

Several times in the Bible, we come upon the expression, “Moses the man of God.”  Joshua called him so (Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6); Ezra, hundreds of years later, called him so (Ezra 3:2); David also did (Psalm 90:1); and the people of Israel called him so (1 Chronicles 23:14; 2 Chronicles 30:16).  Were they right?

The angel that announced Samson’s conception and birth was called “man of God” by the parents who did not know that messenger’s name, let alone know that he was an angel of God (Judges 13:6, 8).  For the woman and her husband to have used that language, it must have been a culturally common expression, an acceptable and respectful term for messengers of God.  The angel did not rebuke them for it.

A nameless prophet was sent to warn Eli the high priest about the overreaching transgressions of his randy sons – the ‘assistant high priests.’  That messenger was, until then and thereafter, unknown.  He was not one of the popular preachers in town, but he was known enough by God to have been sent on the mission.  He was called “a man of God” (1 Samuel 2:27).

As Saul and his servants searched for their missing donkeys, it was recommended for them to consult a seer whom they had never met.  They didn’t know his name at the time, so Prophet Samuel was simply “a man of God” to them (1 Samuel 9:6-10).

Joshua personally knew whom he was talking about: Moses “THE man of God.”  On the other hand, Saul and his servant did not directly know whom they were going to meet: “A man of God.”  So, despite the qualification, whether “the” or “a,” “man of God” was a general epithet of respect for messengers of God, especially if their name was unknown, or when the speaker would rather respectfully call them by their ‘title’ than by their name (1 Kings 20:28).  It seemed as traditional in those days to call them “man of God” as it is today to call them “Pastor.”

When Jeroboam began his idolatries in Israel, God promptly dispatched a messenger to meet him at the false altar in Bethel.  That preacher (as we would have called him today) was not one of the known names, but he was a messenger of God.  He was described again and again as “a man of God” and “the man of God” (1 Kings 13:1-31).

When the widow of Zarephath met Elijah, she addressed him respectfully as “O thou man of God” (1 Kings 17:18, 24).  That was also how Elijah was addressed by the captains of the troops sent to arrest him.  Elijah did not refuse the name.  He used it, too, on himself (2 Kings 1:9-12).

Prophet Elisha, after Elijah, was similarly addressed by his ‘members of congregation’ (2 Kings 4:7, 9, 16, 22, 25), by the students in his ‘Bible school’ (2 Kings 4:40), by the government his day (2 Kings 5:8; 2 Kings 7:17-19; 8:4-7), and by diplomats too (2 Kings 5:15; 8:8): “man of God.”  The Bible instances are many.  Even in the New Testament, though less commonly, we find the same nomenclature:

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Timothy 6:11).

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:17).

  1. What Does the Jury Say? 

May I now ask, Is it acceptable in our day to call a preacher or pastor a “man of God”?  If we do, would we not be proudly arrogating to him a claim and a name that only God who knows everyone best can rightly bequeath to anyone?  Is it modest; is it spiritually appropriate, to call anyone a “man of God” (or “woman of God”)?  Please, help, because I could be in another public meeting soon, and the announcer might make the same mistake while I might be unfortunate to have by my side a holier and less restrained acquaintance who could be quicker to correct, and who might do it more publicly than the former’s holy whisper in my tempted ears.

From The Preacher’s diary,
May 22, 2022.

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