Do We Not Need Teachers?
As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things—and it is true and not a lie—and just as it has taught you, abide in Him. – 1 John 2:27 (TLV)
I have seen many well-meaning believers today in our Messianic / Hebraic / Torah Pursuant faith, that quote this verse as a proof-text of sorts. To prove what, exactly? Namely, that believers that possess the Holy Spirit and are empowered thereby, do not need teachers. Instead, they need only read the Scriptures for themselves, and ask God for the meaning.
Many times on social media, I have seen someone ask a question, and instead of answering it or directing the inquirer to a source that provides an answer, invariably someone will say, “Just ask YHWH, and the Ruach will explain it all. You don’t need a teacher.”
While I certainly agree in part – that is, that you should always seek the guidance of the Ruach when studying the Word – the overall premise that one does not “need” teachers is entirely flawed. Paul taught the following:
“God has put into His community first emissaries, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then healings, helps, leadership, various kinds of tongues.” – 1 Cor. 12:28 (TLV)
He Himself gave some to be emissaries, some as prophets, some as proclaimers of the Good News, and some as shepherds and teachers— to equip the kedoshim for the work of service, for building up the body of Messiah. – Eph. 4:11-12 (TLV)
And from Ya’aqov (James), we find the following:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, since you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. – James 3:1 (TLV)
So first, as I always try to do, let’s ask the logical question: if not many are to be teachers, does that not imply that some then are to be teachers? It seems fairly clear to me that both of the latter two Apostles agree: God has called some to be teachers. So how then can we square what John wrote with these two? Were they in disagreement? And is it not self-contradictory if John, who was himself a teacher, is teaching that teachers are unnecessary? But that’s not his point. If we examine the surrounding verses for context, we begin to see a clearer picture.
See, much of what John addresses in this letter is in direct response to false teaching that had begun to be published around the communities of believers. That’s also a lot of what he deals with in his Gospel (particularly, he seems interested in dispelling Gnostic heresies). He also speaks, not only those that teach falsehood, but also of those that have left on account of being led astray by such falsehood (vs. 19). So let’s look at the whole section here in 1 John 2:18-28, to get more information.
1 John 2:18–28 (TLV)
18Children, it is the last hour. Just as you heard that the anti-messiah is coming, even now many anti-messiahs have come—by this we know that it is the last hour.
19They left us, but they didn’t really belong to us. If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they left us so it became clear that none of them belongs to us.
20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.
21I have not written you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
22Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Yeshua is the Messiah? This one is the anti-messiah—the one who denies the Father and the Son.
23No one who denies the Son has the Father; the one who acknowledges the Son also has the Father.
24As for you, let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you also will continue to live in the Son and in the Father.
25Now this is the promise that He Himself has promised us—eternal life.
26I have written you these things about those who are trying to mislead you.
27As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things—and it is true and not a lie—and just as it has taught you, abide in Him.
28And now, children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we will have confidence and not be ashamed in His presence at His coming.
Now it begins to come into focus. John is addressing those that have come in and are teaching contrary to the very basic and foundational doctrine of all: Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God. See, John is not saying that they don’t need teachers. He is saying they don’t need anyone to come in and re-teach them these very basic principles. Rather, they should accept and affirm what they have already been shown, and has been affirmed by the anointing (ie. The Spirit).
Here are a couple entries from some good commentaries on the matter:
From the IVP New Testament Commentary:
The author reminds his readers that what he is now telling them is in fact what the church has heard from the beginning. He warns them against those who are trying to lead them astray from that well-founded teaching which remains in you. Their steadfastness depends on remembering the Spirit-inspired teaching about Jesus that they have heard and accepted all along. For it is the Spirit who remains with the faithful and who reminds them of what they have heard from the beginning. But clearly John expects that the Spirit works and speaks through individuals who proclaim and teach. This is exactly why the false teachers are such a threat, why he will later warn his readers to “test the Spirits” (4:1–6), and why he continually points to the role of the eyewitnesses and their successors in passing on the truth they have received. While ultimately the Spirit “will teach you all things” (Jn 14:26), the Spirit does so through human beings. Thus, when the Elder writes you do not need anyone to teach you, he does not mean that they have never needed any teachers—for he himself was and continues to be their teacher! But they do not now suddenly need new teaching about Jesus, such as the secessionists are offering.
From the Holman New Testament Commentary:
They do not need anyone to teach is not suggesting that they had no teachers, or that they knew everything and didn’t need to be taught. Rather, it means that, as a congregation, they did not need anyone to teach them again the essentials of the faith that the false teachers were denying. They already had the truth (the anointing) and did not need anyone else (Gnostics, who claimed special inner knowledge) to tell them what was true.
So to summarize again: believers still need teachers, as we should never be so prideful as to think we have already learned every single thing we will ever need to know. Maturity is a process. However, we do not need teachers that come to teach us “new” doctrines, or to teach contrary to the most foundational thing of all, namely, that Yeshua is the Divine Messiah, and faith in Him is the basis of our salvation.
I would note too, that we actually do encounter this very thing today. Many self-appointed teachers, out of a desire to distance themselves from all things “Christian” have done exactly this. They have sought to define themselves by what they aren't, than by what they are, and have begun teaching a “different Gospel” than that which was preached by the Apostles. They have sought to destroy these very foundational principles through radical doctrinal reform. Teachings such as the denial of the Deity of the Messiah, that He was merely a man and nothing more. Or teaching people that the authority of the Apostolic Scriptures is weak, incomplete, or non-existent (seen most recently with an increase in Paul-deniers).
I warn anyone, heavily, to steer clear of any such teacher who does not maintain the foundation of truth.
Thompson, M. M. (1992). 1–3 John (1 Jn 2:24). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, p. 179). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
6/20/2020 11:21:56 am
I'm glad to have read this article because it has convicted me of my cognitive dissonance regarding this same issue. I must admit I had been double-minded about the legitimacy of titles and roles of teachers/rabbis. Admittedly, this disdain has stemmed from my being jaded with:
2/27/2022 01:55:55 pm
Shalom, I am very encouraged to come across your website and although I have only read a few articles thus far I am convinced that my Family and I will be blessed further by what you share... Todah Rabah!
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J. A. Brown