Question: I’m about ready to pack it in. There are so many so-called teachers of the Word of God out there contradicting one another that I don’t know who to believe. Wouldn’t I be better off just locking myself up with the Bible and look to the Holy Spirit alone as my teacher? After all, doesn’t the Bible say that I don’t need any man to teach me?
Response: Peter tells us that the Bible did not have its origin in the thoughts or will of men; rather, holy men of God spoke and wrote what the Holy Spirit communicated to them (2 Pt 1:21). Not only did the Scriptures come by the Holy Spirit, but we’re told that to truly understand God’s Word, we must have the Holy Spirit to teach us (1 Cor:2:11-14). So no one can deny the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit regarding both scriptural inspiration and illumination. However, by taking the position that you plan to exclude everyone but the Holy Spirit in learning what the Word of God says, you’ve already missed part of the Holy Spirit’s instruction.
Teaching is a function of believers in Christ. The Great Commission includes the command to teach all nations to observe all things which Christ taught His disciples (Mt 28:19-20). One of the principal offices in the body of Christ is that of teacher (1 Cor:12:28); the selection of elders includes as a criterion the ability to teach (1 Tm 3:2); and Galatians:6:6 tells the person who is taught to share in all good things with him who teaches. At best, to deny the value of those whom God has gifted as teachers is to miss His grace and ministry to His own, through His own.
We can appreciate the frustration you have with teachers who miss the mark, either in part or for the most part. But God’s Word tells us that believers are given the function of teaching “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” and this process is to continue until “we all come in the unity of the faith” as well as maturity in Christ (Eph:4:11-13). If you read on in Ephesians you will find that teachers are also given to help us grow in discernment (v 14), even to recognizing false teachers.
The Scriptures are not naïve with regard to the problem of false teachers. Paul warns about them with tears (Acts:20:30, 31); Peter and John also raise strong concerns (2 Pt 2:1; 2 Jn 7). When the full counsel of Scripture is considered you can see that avoiding all teachers doesn’t solve the problem of false teachers. A godly teacher (who can instruct in discernment) is merely a vessel of the Holy Spirit; for anything to be truly worthwhile from such an individual, it must be the work of the Holy Spirit within him. However, when a teacher relies upon his own wisdom or flesh rather than the Holy Spirit, he has, at the very least, polluted the truth. Granted, human vessels are not the most trustworthy instruments, but God has chosen them for service and has given safeguards: His Word and His Spirit.
When John wrote “ye need not that any man teach you” (1 Jn:2:27) he wasn’t contradicting those Scriptures previously mentioned. He was referring to false teachers (v 26) and stating that the anointing of the Holy Spirit (v 20) would enable the believer to discern what was true and what was false. Being like the Bereans (Acts:17:10-11) is the biblical solution to recognizing whether or not a teacher is in line with the truth. Remember, they were interested to learn from Paul’s teaching, but they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what he had to say was true to God’s Word. Paul taught under the power of the Holy Spirit and it was the same Spirit who enabled those Berean Jews to recognize scriptural truth. That’s the way it has to be for godly teachers and those who want to learn and grow in the faith, no matter how confusing and deceptive the days become.