And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for any one 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. 1 John 2:27 NASB
Have no need – Let’s just read this verse without its context, culture or theological history. Why not? Many do. Doesn’t it clearly say that you don’t have to study or debate or concern yourself with all the scholarship? All you need is the “anointing.” In fact, doesn’t John guarantee that you already have this anointing, and therefore you “have no need” for any teachers? You’re saved. You have the Holy Spirit (is He a “possession” of yours?). What more do you need? Apparently, nothing!
Did John really endorse what I call the “Holy Spirit epistemology” in this verse? Did John really mean that no further instruction is necessary? Just pray and wait for illumination, right? Perhaps we need to back up a few verses and look at John’s opening statements. What we find changes the meaning of this very convenient verse.
Let’s start with verse 24. It’s obviously connected since John is introducing the topic of abiding. In verse 24 he writes that we abide because we continue to exercise a faith based on what we heard from the beginning. In fact, John implores us to let the original message have its full impact in our lives. Of course, John uses Greek terms to express Hebrew ideas. So when he says “heard,” you can be sure that he doesn’t mean “just listen.” To hear is to obey. So abiding is not merely acknowledging or taking notes or storing information away for a rainy day. It is doing what you have heard.
Clearly this is an allusion to the path of the Tanakh. In fact, when we realize that John had no other Bible than the Tanakh, when we put aside all of the New Testament documents, then we are left with the obvious conclusion that what his readers heard “from the beginning” could only be the teaching of Moses, as James clearly states in Acts 15:21. Put the verse in its context. The reason John’s readers can abide without teaching is simply because they have God’s instructions in hand. They have the Tanakh and the community. Furthermore, John’s statement echoes the proclamation of Yeshua in the gospel (John 14:26), “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” If the Spirit is sent from the Father, can we imagine that He would not carry the Father’s message? If He comes in order to bring the teaching of Yeshua to mind, can we imagine that Yeshua’s views of the Tanakh’s instructions would somehow be altered by the Spirit? Of course not. The Father, the Son and the Spirit teach the same thing. John insists that any teacher who does not convey this consistent message is a false teacher (see verse 23). His readers have no need of anyone who contradicts the same message preached from the beginning.
The context suggests that John is referring to those who are teaching contrary to what his readers already know to be true. His readers have no need of any of these kind of teachers. They have the Spirit, and the promise of the Messiah, to countermand anything such false teachers would say. The Greek indefinite pronoun, tis, can also be translated “someone,” as in “you have no need of someone to teach.” But this is not the same as saying that they have no need of any instruction at all. John’s polemic against those who claim to be teaching the truth, but who in fact are denying the message of Yeshua, does not eliminate all teaching, as the translation “someone” demonstrates. “Holy Spirit epistemology” that denies the need for instruction is fallacious, especially if it stands in contradiction to “what you heard from the beginning.”
I might suggest that the NASB choice of “any one” rather than “someone” pushes the reader toward the belief that study and consultation is unnecessary. I hope that this wasn’t the reason for choosing “any one.” But our contemporary penchant for spiritual individualism and our tendency to ignore history feeds this idea, to our detriment. John would never have suggested that study was unnecessary. Neither would he suggest that a believer can be all that God intended if he is separated from biblical tradition and community. We must shift the paradigm if we are to read the text in its context. And shift we must! Otherwise, we can all retire to the armchair and hope that God speaks personally to each of us.
Topical Index: Holy Spirit, epistemology, instruction, teach, 1 John 2:27