I don’t know any Bible verse fraught with the power to divide—or filled with more explosive potential. The man who walked with the resurrected Jesus the longest time of any New Testament writer said this: “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you” (I John 2:27). This could bring down the church on the one hand or release passive people into their destiny on the other.
What John didn’t mean:
- We can do away with teachers. The church needs gifted teachers to help people come to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13). John was one of them.
- We can do away with community. We are encouraged to “not give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25).
What John meant:
- The Holy Spirit is the greatest teacher. As Jesus prepared to leave, he told the disciples, “It is for your good that I am going away…When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:7,13). What could be more important than a constant Companion who leads us into all truth?
- No teacher can replace the Holy Spirit. The anointing is a Christian’s highest asset. We never grow beyond dependence upon the Spirit.
- Teachers help us move toward independence. We rely less on them and more on the Spirit. Parents, likewise, train their children to function without them.
I wonder if some pastors actually feel good if the church falls apart after they leave: “Look at how much they needed me.” That pastor has mistaken the role of a leader. A co-dependent relationship with a congregation does not release their potential. God has provided something much better. We grow to the place where we are teaching rather than being taught.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians who scuffled like immature children, “I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it” (I Corinthians 3:1,2). Put simply, he said, “Grow up!”
The author of Hebrew wrote similarly, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).
Maturity is described as:
- not needing someone to teach us elementary truths
- training ourselves to discern good from evil
- learning quickly
- being able to digest solid food
- successfully sustaining wholesome relationships
I no longer need review on addition and subtraction. Believe me—I have it down. You can also trust me to go to the medicine cabinet without killing myself. Not true for some grandchildren, who lacks discernment. Independence separates children from adults, in the family and in the church. An infant cannot survive without the parent (or the pastor). An adult is self-feeding, self-learning, self-protecting, self-discerning.
Pastors and parents can and should train those under their care for independent, healthy living, independent of them and yet fully dependent upon the anointing of the Spirit. Jesus said that the goal of discipleship is becoming like the teacher (Matthew 10:25). He told the disciples that they were better off with him leaving.
How can this be done? By training people to rely upon the Holy Spirit as we rely upon him. Jesus gave his apostles heavy-duty assignments early in the learning process. “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every sickness…” He said, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matthew 10:1,8). Jesus trained by: experience—debrief—experience—debrief. Few notes—many testimonies. He gave the disciples a piece of the pie. He taught them to rely upon the Spirit.
Karen and I are worship leaders, but we seldom lead worship now, because we want to train our young adults to do as we have done. I love preaching, but in order to train preachers and teachers, I must let others do it. When I miss a meeting, it goes on without a hitch. How disturbing is that; they don’t even need me—but they desperately need the Spirit.