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Proof-Texting of 1 John 2:27 by the Proud-Minded

The August 2019 issue of Tabletalk Magazine, Robert Rothwell, presents an instructive article that considers the issue of whether or not 1 John 2:27 exempts the 21st Century Christ-follower from the need to sit under a human teacher (link: https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2019/08/1-john-227/).  Mr. Rothwell accurately describes those proud-minded people who claim not to need a human teacher:

In our era of subjectivism, people are quick to claim that their insight into a biblical passage or other spiritual matters has come from the Holy Spirit directly and that they have no need to sit under any human teacher.

These proud-minded people proof-text 1 John 2:27 to support their exemption of a need for a human teacher.  In the English Standard Version of 1 John 2:27 reads:

27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that
anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and
is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

A brief definition of “proof-texting” is (see https://www.biblestudy.org/beginner/definition-of-christian-terms/prooftexting.html ):

Proof texting uses certain short passages, many times only a single verse, pulled from the Bible in
support of a particular belief or doctrine. The problem with this method is that the person who is Proof texting usually gives their selected verses a meaning that may be entirely different from what the writer intended.

The proud-minded person who proof-texts 1 John 2:27 is wrong because of at least two reasons, namely, the historical context in which John wrote 1 John and the hermeneutical rule of the analogy of faith.

The Historical Context Shows that 1 John 2:27 Does Not Eliminate the Need for Human Bible Teachers

The historical context provides interpretative guidance to ascertain John’s authorial intent better.  The audience to whom John wrote was experiencing the plague of deceptive teachers who claimed to possess special knowledge or a special anointing by the Holy Spirit.  One commentator writes:

Gnosticism may have had a significant role in the writing of the First Epistle of John. … Whatever form of Gnosticism or variation existed, it struck at the very heart of the Christian faith by denying the physical death and resurrection of Jesus, the God-Man. Therefore, salvation did not come through the substitutionary atonement of Christ for our sins, but through gaining the mystical, special knowledge of God.

Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, pp. 163-164). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers..

In his article, Mr. Rothwell writes:

These teachers had divided the Christian community into two groups—the spiritual “haves,” men and women with secret knowledge and insight from the Spirit, and the spiritual “have-nots,” the vast majority of professing believers who lack such understanding.

These “spiritual haves,” i.e., the proud-minded, were disrupting the church by trying to deceive John’s audience about the Person of Jesus Christ.  The historical context helps us to appreciate better that what John was teaching his audience was not to disregard human teachers altogether, but that a believer has the anointing of the Holy Spirit and does not need the help of people who claim to have a greater anointing of the Holy Spirit.

The Analogy of Faith Validates the Need for Human Teachers

The fundamental Bible study principle of the analogy of faith debunks any interpretation of 1 John 2:27 that teaches a complete disregard for human teachers.  At page 51 of book Knowing Scripture [(2009), InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515), R. C. Sproul writes:

The primary rule of hermeneutics was called the “analogy of faith.”  The analogy of faith is the rule
that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. … no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture.”

Many passages in Scripture reveal with crystal clarity that teachers are necessary.  Teachers and teachings are mentioned throughout Acts (e.g., Acts 11:26; 13:1; 15:35; 18:11, 25; 28:31).  Paul validates teachers in 1 Corinthians 12:28 (ESV):

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Paul does the same in Ephesians 4:11(ESV):

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,

James validates teachers in James 3:1 (ESV):

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

The Bible teaches that all Christians need to sit under competent human Bible teachers.

Bible Study Takeaways

There are two important takeaways.  First, always keep the historical context of a passage in mind.  It often places an interpretative gloss on a text that can prevent a Bible student from “going off the rails” with his or
her interpretation.  Here, the historical context sheds light on John’s comment about a believer’s need for human Bible teachers.

Second, a Bible student must practice the analogy of faith.  Here, other clear passages reveal that in no way did John intend 1 John 2:27 to eliminate the need for a human teacher.  To the contrary, the Bible teaches that a believer needs to sit under competent Bible teachers.

As a final comment, the classification system in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible is a helpful way to locate verses relevant to a particular topic.  Here, TCRB# 3559 corresponds to Christian teachers and identifies many relevant verses that teach the need to sit under human teachers.

I hope this post has been helpful for when you encounter a proud-minded proof-texter of 1 John 2:27.  Please send me any comments at steve@stevebelsheim.com or use the comments feature of the blog.

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