(1 Jn. 2:27) Do we need to be taught or not?

CLAIM: Some interpreters claim that we do not need Bible study or instruction from fellow Christians, because we are each individually instructed by the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul writes, “You have no need for anyone to write to you” (1 Thess. 4:9) and why John writes, “You have no need for any­one to teach you” (1 Jn. 2:27). Is this the case?

RESPONSE: A number of observations can be made:

First, if this was the meaning of the passage, then Paul and John would have no need to write these words! Therefore, this interpretation is utterly self-defeating.

Second, the Bible teaches that we are in need of teachers in the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11). Thus, such an interpretation would contradict other passages of Scripture.

Third, Proto-Gnosticism flooded the early church at this time, and there were some false teachers, who were trying to lead these believers astray (“[they] are trying to deceive you,” 1 Jn. 2:26). Therefore, John was speaking against those particular false teachers—not all true teachers, as the context indicates. J.P. Moreland writes, “John is addressing a historical situation in which Gnostic-like teachers were claiming special, secret insight into the Bible, a sort of specially illumined wisdom of which they were gatekeepers in much the same way some people today appeal to the Spirit to validate their biblical interpretations! John is saying that since the believers have been baptized (anointed) into the body of Christ by the Spirit, they have no need of some additional, special, secret knowledge only given to certain teachers. John is not making a statement about the need for teachers generally.”[1]

[1] J.P. Moreland, Love God with All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 48.