1 John 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
The above scripture has been used by some Christians to say that we do not need teachers as we can be taught by the Holy Spirit alone. The first rule of studying the bible and making decisions about such a doctrine is the following. Let everything be established by 2 or 3 scriptures and ensure that the whole of the bible does not contradict the scripture you are using.
The context and what the writer was trying to convey is very important. In the case of 1 John 2:27 there are many scriptures that seemingly contradict it and therefore we cannot make a doctrine out of it alone.
Since scripture should never contradict itself, we need to look at what 1 John 2:27 is really saying. The accepted rule is to look at the context of the scripture by looking at the scriptures directly around it and then to the context of the whole letter.
John was advanced in years when he wrote this letter prior to A.D. 95 when persecution broke out during the end of Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96). John wrote this fatherly epistle out of loving concern for his “children” whose steadfastness in the truth was being threatened by the lure of the worldliness and the guile of false teachers. So the focus is on false teachers and not saying we should not listen to good teachers. The Gnostic heresy taught matter is inherently evil, and a divine being therefore could not take on human flesh. Gnosticism became a problem for the next 3 centuries and the Church fathers had to address this issue in greater detail after John’s death.
This heresy resulted in the distinction between the man Jesus and the spiritual Christ who came upon Jesus at His baptism but departed prior to His crucifixion. Another variation was Docetism, the doctrine that Christ only seemed to have a human body. The result in both cases was the same – a flat denial of the incarnation. The church had not had to deal with this before.
The Gnostics also believed that their understanding of hidden knowledge (gnosis) made them a kind of spiritual elite, who were above the normal distinctions of right and wrong. This led in most cases to deplorable conduct and complete disregard for Christian ethics.
The Apostolic doctrine was being challenged by a proliferation of false teachers which are referred to by the terms antichrist, deceivers, false prophets 1 John 4:1. Again saying that there are false prophets means that true prophets exist and the same for teachers.
The above is the context for the whole of 1 John. It was written they believe from Ephesus which is interesting as this was the most mature church at that time. Paul had spent over 2 years teaching and ministering in Ephesus some years before.
1 John 2:22-27 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.
23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.
27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
Now if we look at the scriptures around the 1 John 2:27 we see that John is addressing men who deny that Jesus is the Christ v22. John then states that we should let that we heard from the beginning, that Jesus was the Son of God abide in us. I.e. Keep to that truth, hang on it.
We know that Paul wrote Ephesians which is interesting as 1 John was written in Ephesus and the Ephesians would have read both letters. Paul wrote the following:-
Ephesians 4:11-16 And He Himself (Jesus) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ
16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Jesus wants us all to become like Him and part of that objective He uses the fivefold ministry. Their job is to equip us for the work of the ministry (i.e. disciple us) until we all look like Jesus. Once we are like Jesus, we will no longer need the fivefold ministry.
The Wuest New Testament expanded edition gives us more clarity on 1 2:27 when it says “And no need are you constantly having that anyone be constantly teaching you. But even as His anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and is not a lie, and even as He taught you, be constantly abiding in Him.”
We should not need teachers “constantly” teaching us about certain truths. They should be imprinted in our minds and practiced by living them out.
John was not implying that we should not listen to any teachers, but only be aware that there are false ones that are trying to deceive you. He never says do not listen to any teachers. He is saying that you do not need to be taught what is wrong as the Holy Spirit will let you know what is error and what is truth. He states that the anointing will let you know that what false teachers teach is wrong. I have found this time and time again when listening to certain videos online and come across error being taught and I switch them off straightaway. We need to listen to the inward witness. Spending time in prayer, studying and reading the word to help improve our discernment.
However we do need do be careful that we don’t just listen repeatedly to the same message without changing our thinking and behaviour or growing up.
Satan will want Christians to isolate themselves and not listen to anyone else who has an understanding of scripture in a specific area so they don’t grow up and enforce his defeat. He can quote scripture and it is always just a part and normally out of context.
Can someone in the middle of nowhere with just a bible be taught by the Holy Spirit? Of course, but it will take time and God always created us to support and help each other grow in all areas of our lives. We can’t love one another if there is not another.