Quick Thought – Should Christians have no teachers except the Holy Spirit?

Thinking-ManSeeing that this idea has come up in a comment thread, based on a common misunderstanding of 1 John 2:27 (that utterly ignores the immediately preceding verse and the seven verses before that one…which some might suggest is the context…), I thought I’d share a just one passage of scripture relevant to the idea so that the conversation can move to this thread and not clog up other posts.  Read and consider the following:

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.  And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.Acts 8:26-35

Interesting how the Holy Spirit directed Philip to go and teach the Ethiopian eunuch.  I wonder why the Spirit didn’t simply go and do it himself?  The guy was even reading the scriptures…hmm.   Also, notice that this was still early in the book of Acts, even before Saul of Tarsus was converted to Christ (back when the Holy Spirit was regularly performing miraculous signs and prophecy was frequent)?  If there would be a time that the Spirit was directly teaching people, wouldn’t this be it?

Just thought I’d share that as I was reading through Acts tonight and couldn’t get that passage out of my mind.

If the Holy Spirit thinks that some people need teachers (and personally directs folks to do the teaching), I’d think I’m on pretty safe ground recognizing that there are men who are mightier in the scriptures than myself that I can and should learn from.  Call me crazy, but I just try to take the Bible at face value.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Okay.  Crazy it is!” Unger

P.S. – Remember:

Scripture

P.P.S. – As for 1 John 2:27, here’s a quick walk through:

vs. 18 – John warns that many antichrists have come and the antichrist is still coming (both of which mark the “last hour”).

vs. 19 – Those “Antichrists” have left their fellowship because they were never believers.

vs. 20-21 – John affirms that his readers have received the Holy Spirit and have complete knowledge of the truth.

vs. 22-23 – Those who deny  the incarnation are liars, but those who deny the incarnation and God the Father are the antichrists and are unbelievers.

vs. 24-25 – John urges his audience to continue in the truth they have heard from their initial contact with him, for that truth about God the Father and God the Son will lead them unto eternal life.

vs. 26 – John reiterates that he’s addressing those antichrists, who deny the Father and the Son and have left their fellowship.

vs. 27 – But though they’ve left the fellowship, the Holy Spirit has not left John’s readers and the Holy Spirit is the teacher they need (as opposed to unregenerate teachers who’ve abandoned the fellowship).  The Holy Spirit tells truths consistent with the gospel they’ve heard and teaches them to abide in the fellowship (in the church; Chris’s body).

So, the phrase “you have no need that anyone should teach you” comes in a passage where the specific topic is one of false teachers who have left the church.  John urges his believers to persevere in what they’ve learned from him (and the other apostles/elders in their lives) and to refrain from being drawn away by following the teachings of men who are demonstrably unregenerate and lack the Holy Spirit; the one source that truth does come from.

This passage cannot possibly teach that “no Christian requires any human instruction” simply because it appears in a letter given for the instruction for the church, written by a human instructor who is trying to instruct Christians.  If that is what it means, it would basically be John saying:

“Don’t read this letter!  Toss it out now! Why are you listening to me?! Don’t quench the Spirit!  STOP READING THIS!”

Utter self-refuting stupidity.

Just so nobody could say I left you hanging on 1 John 2:27…there you all go!

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11 thoughts on “Quick Thought – Should Christians have no teachers except the Holy Spirit?

  1. Very good point. I think the Bible is clear in many places exhorting people to teach and teach well and teach sound doctrine. This exhortation pre-supposes there are those to listen and sit under teaching and listen to teachers who teach sound doctrine. We also, as you know, are exhorted to study and read scripture for ourselves and meditate on it and discuss it with other believers etc. The study, teaching and learning of the Word of God is all encompassing and I believe most important part of true Christian fellowship. Not singing, Not raising hands or dancing or ecstatic speech. Not seeking new revelation but seeking real revelation from the Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit as we study. All those other things are fine but if the reading and teaching of the word of God is absent? How is that worship? It is simply partyin’ and worldy partyin’ at that.

    Bruce

  2. Nowhere did I say that Christians should be taught ONLY by the Holy Spirit. My view is that Christians should PRIMARILY trust the Holy Spirit to teach them. Instead of running first to men for explanations and commentary, turn to GOD the author for understanding. Trust HIM to reveal meaning as you become ready to understand it.
    However the usual response is for people to turn first to others for their opinion – OR, even worse, to ONLY rely on others, not even taking the time to search the scriptures for themselves.
    That is why so many beliefs have no genuine scriptural foundation. They are either based on ideas from commentaries or on isolated out of context verses.
    But all of this is the mere ranting of (in your words) a “thick-skulled” “idiot” so I’m sure won’t be considered seriously

    • I left the following post on the “Has prophecy been redefined?” exchange, but it was getting so cluttered and I really am interested in your response. This is what I wrote – “The reason I ask these things is that while I’m hardly a studied teacher, there are those who I do teach to the best of my ability. To my knowledge, the word “teach”, as in what it is that a teacher does, is not defined biblically. I would assume then that the word is used in its common sense, although Lyndon can maybe clarify here. We had a teacher in high school who, as a rule, would give an assignment, inform us where in the text book to read, and then vacate to the teacher’s lounge. In my estimation, that teacher really didn’t teach. So I got to wondering. I’m guessing that you attend a church somewhere and sit under someone’s teaching. Surely that teacher/preacher explains the Word in the same kind of way that we see in the Nehemiah passage, doesn’t he?”

      Your post on this thread has me scratching my head as well. If we go “first” to the Scriptures with the Spirit as our guide as our primary method of learning, what would be the point of going to teachers/commentaries at all? For additional knowledge above what we receive from the Spirit Himself? Something doesn’t seem to be adding up here…

  3. “Utter self-refuting stupidity.”

    I love it when you’re being gentle, irenic, and winsome in your loving approach to instructing others. I chuckle mirthfully in great appreciation.

  4. Ed, you ask:
    “Your post on this thread has me scratching my head as well. If we go “first” to the Scriptures with the Spirit as our guide as our primary method of learning, what would be the point of going to teachers/commentaries at all? For additional knowledge above what we receive from the Spirit Himself? Something doesn’t seem to be adding up here…”
    It’s not the kind of thing easily tackled in a blog comment. It’s something I’ve been addressing on and off for several years on my own blogs.
    How easy would it be for someone to go pick bits and pieces out of scripture to create all kinds of doctrines of their own choosing – and convince themselves that the Holy Spirit has taught them those doctrines no matter how wild and way out they may be.
    The referring to others (either in person or via commentaries etc) acts as a safety check to lessen the chance of the above happening. If the Holy Spirit HAS revealed something to us from scripture, He’s not going to reveal something contradictory to other Spirit-led believers. All of us are capable of taking a wrong path, but as long as we sincerely seek the truth (and not merely to confirm a preconceived doctrine) then we would be open to what others have to share.
    So firstly we ought to seek the Holy Spirit’s help with our interaction with scripture, then through fellowship with others our discoveries can be either confirmed or corrected, limiting the opportunity for error.
    All of this doesn’t mean that we have to change our initial view merely because someone says something differently, but at least that difference is brought to our attention leading us to check it out a bit more.
    One of the difficulties with this is the likelihood that the people we go to or the commentaries we reference are from a similar background to our own and are possibly conditioned by the same theological viewpoint.
    For the first decade or more of my Christian life my experience was with one particular group of churches and I naively assumed that all other churches outside of that group were very similar in belief. I later discovered how wrong that assumption was and how much difference there was across the Christian world.
    Over the last decade the Lord has brought me into contact with people from many different backgrounds who have provide a check and balance to what I’ve learned, people who have shown me the importance of searching the scriptures for myself.

  5. I miss Mennoknight.Hello, gifted person. I’m still ill. I enjoyed this column because of course the Holy Spirit CAN guide one-on-one yet at the same time we are The Body of Christ in Unison and He left us a beautiful and wonderful parting gift through the Holy Spirit to each of us as well. Lately when someone is mean I think also of how He felt that on The Cross. You remind of Paul and bless you all +++

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