In John 2:27 we read:
“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
What is meant by “you do not need anyone to teach you”? Does it suggest that the possession of the Spirit makes all human teachers unnecessary? Does it intimate that there is no place for the ministry of teaching in the church?
Such an idea is untenable. The importance of teaching is stressed again and again in scripture (2 Tim. 2:2; 3:16; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Gal. 6:6). According to scripture Christ has set teachers within the church:
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers …” (Eph. 4:11)
F. F. Bruce observed, “What is John himself doing in this letter if he is not ‘teaching’ his readers?”
How then can this statement, “you have no need for anyone to teach you,” be reconciled with the rest of scripture? The answer is found in the context.
One of the main purposes of John’s writing was to confront and combat an early form of Gnostic heresy. Among the many false teachings of the Gnostics was their claim to supremacy of intellect and the superiority of mental enlightenment to faith and conduct.
The word “Gnostic” (from the Greek word ginosis – meaning “knowledge) means, “knowing ones. They regarded themselves as the sole guardians of truth and knowledge. They claimed an exclusive possession of wisdom and that salvation was by an initiation into the mystical and allegedly superior knowledge that they alone possessed.
They insisted that a higher form of knowledge must be added to the teaching of traditional Christianity and that they alone could give the necessary enlightenment for one to understand the hidden mysteries.
John is clearly addressing these false teachers:
“… these things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you” (1 Jn. 2:26; emphasis added).
John is contradicting their claims and assuring believers that they are not dependent upon Gnostic teachers for enlightenment to gain understanding of the truth. John reminds them:
“… the anointing which you received from Him abides in you … His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie …” (1 Jn. 2:27).
The anointing of the Spirit that abides in them is truth without error and teaches them all things. The Holy Spirit is the Perfect Teacher and by abiding in Him they can divide truth from error.
Paul expresses the same in 1 Cor. 2:12:
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God …”
John’s final appeal is for them (and us) to “remain in Him.” He warns against the seductive appeal of so called “higher knowledge” and superior revelation.” With the abundance of so many claims to “greater enlightenment” we would do well to heed the admonition of John. The way of truth is to “remain in Him” (1 Jn. 2:27).