CON Contact Us DON Donate
Our History General Assembly Worldwide Outreach Ministries Standards Resources

Question and Answer

Why are pastors called "Reverend"?


Why does the church call pastors "Reverend"? Are they to be revered above other men? Are they better than other men? Are not all Christians equal in the eyes of God? The usage goes back a long way. What is its history?


Many words end up in the vernacular that started out with slightly different meanings. The term "reverend" is one such word. Today the term is usually taken to mean a person of the ordained clergy. This is society's usage, not the church's in particular. Whether it is a good or bad convention, it is what it is. Virtually everybody knows that "Rev. So-and-so" is a clergyman without offering any actual reverence toward him.

In fact, of course, the word is an adjective. While the spelling points to "revered," I think the better rendering would be "respected." This concept works better with an emphasis on the office rather than the man. We are to respect the offices God has established, regardless of the man in the office. Notice how, in 1 Samuel 24:10, David refused to harm Saul because he was "the Lord's anointed." David had respect for the office of king.

In the Old Testament the recognized spiritual offices were prophet, priest and king. In the New Testament we find those of deacon and elder, with the latter being sub-divided (or at least differentiated) into ruling and teaching categories. The teaching elder was especially "worthy of double honor" (1 Tim. 5:17). I suspect this special respect for the teaching elder underlies the use of "reverend" that developed (out of Latin) for ordained ministers over the years.

The Roman Catholic Church applied the Latin term reverendus with a number of variations for their hierarchical positions ("the most," "the very," etc.). Evidently the simple and basic usage was continued in many branches of the Protestant churches as well.

You are entirely correct that all believers are equal in their persons before the Lord. We are all sinners and not very "reverent." That God chooses to save us in Christ is amazing. That he puts some sinners in sacred and respected offices is astounding.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

© 2020 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church



Chaplains and Military Personnel

Diaconal Ministries


Inter-Church Relations

Ministerial Care

Planned Giving

Short-Term Missions


Church Directory

Daily Devotional

Audio Sermons

Trinity Hymnal

Camps & Conferences

Gospel Tracts

Book Reviews



Presbyterian Guardian