During the Reformation, Roman Catholics vigorously resisted the private study of Scripture out of a fear of anarchy. To take away ultimate authority from the church, they said, would only result in chaos. Every individual would follow whatever idea or doctrine seemed best; every pulpit would be filled with another pope.
While we confess that nothing but the Word of God has final authority for the Christian, we must be aware that many in the church have misunderstood the doctrine of sola Scriptura as justification for individualism and sectarianism. Many think the wisdom of the church is not necessary at all to help them understand the Bible. Such confusion leads many to twist the meanings of Scripture — like the verse for today: “you have no need that anyone should teach you” (1 John 2:27).
In the first place, we must understand that this passage is not saying we have no need for teachers. After all, this verse is given to us in a letter where John is acting as a teacher!
Secondly, the context provided by verse 26 is important because it tells us that the false teachers who were not a part of his faithful audience were in view as John wrote about the Spirit. The proto-Gnosticism espoused by these teachers emphasized the division of Christians into two classes: those who had “knowledge” and those who did not. These teachers would have viewed themselves as having knowledge and thus as special mediators of the Spirit’s anointing.
But John will have none of this. All of the faithful who continue in the truth prove they have the Spirit (vv. 20–21; 1 Cor. 12:13), while those who leave the orthodox fellowship show their unbelief and lack of the Spirit (1 John 2:19). All of the faithful — all believers — have the Spirit’s anointing; they do not need any special mediators other than the Spirit. This does not mean we have no use for teachers. The Spirit’s anointing does indeed teach us about everything (1 John 2:27), but many passages of the New Testament make it clear that one way He does this is by admonishing us through gifted teachers who likewise possess the Spirit (Eph. 4:11–14).
The apostle Paul tells us that there are many varieties of gifts but one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4). While the Holy Spirit dwells in all Christians, His various gifts show that He does not manifest Himself the same way in every person. We need other Christians along with their gifts so that we might better appreciate and more fully experience the Spirit’s work. Make sure you exercise your gifts and submit to the faithful teachers the Spirit has given to your church.