The Inward Teaching of the Holy Spirit

These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.  But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 1 John 2:26-27

False teachers abound. There are cults today, just like there were in John’s day, teaching Me-ology instead of The-ology. They pretend that man is not truly in need of a Savior, that he just needs a little help from a friend named “Jesus.” You can be a better you, with a little help from your sky buddy, they seem to say. Whether they deny the Savior by denying his person, as ancient heretics did, or by denying the sufficiency of the salvation he wrought by his death and resurrection, they take glory that belongs to him and attempt to let people take it for themselves. They preach to tickle the itching ears of those who are still dead in their sin with self-flattering braggadocio. This is as true today as it was in the apostle’s day. But in this epistle he writes that he is not worried that God’s people would be caused to stray by these seductive teachers, but that they would maintain that gospel that they had heard from the beginning, because the Holy Spirit was teaching them with an inner teaching.

You have received the anointing, “chrisma”, which is the Holy Spirit. Anointing is a pouring or sprinkling of oil on the head. It is a symbol of the empowering work of the Holy Spirit on a person for a particular purpose. We read in the Old Testament about the anointing of kings and priests most frequently, and even of the anointing of Elisha to the office of prophet (1 Kings 19:16.) These three offices of prophet, priest, and king, converge in Jesus the Anointed One, the Christ. The oil of anointing is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. This is the third Person of the Trinity, God himself. It is not the Spirit that is referred to as “it” in these verses, but the oil of anointing, as a symbol of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a “He.” And this Person is God himself.

This Spirit is the same Spirit who descended upon our Lord Jesus Christ in the form of a dove, after he was baptized by John in the Jordan river. He was there formally set apart for the work of being Christ the Savior, the One who was Anointed to save his people from their sins, for the which reason he was come into the world. He did not need a ceremonial sprinkling of oil, for he had the reality of the Spirit who descended upon him. Likewise all those who are in Christ have the same “chrisma”, the same anointing, the same Spirit. You have been baptized with the same baptism with which the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized, on the bank of the Jordan river. Just as you were connected to him through baptism in a visible way, when the baptismal water was on you, but you are connected to him spiritually because you have received the same Spirit that he did.

There are false teachers all around, but the Holy Spirit that you received of the Father teaches you all things, so that you cannot be misled, so remain in that Spirit.

The Holy Spirit teaches with an internal teaching. He inwardly teaches all of God’s elect, who have been born again of the Holy Spirit. This is the means by which God’s people grow in faith and holiness, when the Holy Spirit applies the word to them in their hearts by a secret operation. This operation is often referred to as “Illumination.” If I were standing here in total darkness, I would not be able to read what is on the pages of this Bible on my lectern. But when someone flips on the lights, then I can see, read, and understand that which lies right under my eyes. This is similar to the way in which the Holy Spirit illuminates, enlightens all of those who are born of him. By a supernatural operation he makes them able to comprehend, receive and believe the word that is preached.

The Spirit’s work of Illumination is not a new word. It is not new revelation from God. Its content is the same as that found in your Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. But because we are sinners, we cannot understand and apply the word to ourselves. It is the work of the Spirit to induce and persuade us to believe it by imprinting it upon our hearts, so that we can learn and grow up in the image of God, and his Son Jesus Christ. In this way the Holy Spirit inwardly inculcates the word that is preached outwardly. We are the paper. The preacher is the pen. The ink is the content of God’s written word, the Holy Scriptures. The Spirit is the invisible hand that writes on the paper of our hearts, inscribing the content of God’s word, the Spirit’s word, (since he gave it in the first place) on and to us. In this way the Holy Spirit imprints the word of God, that is outwardly preached, inside us with pure content derived from God’s inerrant word.

Again, the Spirit is that flowing river the Psalmist mentions in Psalm 1, whose streams give life to a tree planted by the riverside, and its leaf never fades. In the same way those who are made alive by the Spirit continue to draw life from him so that they will never perish, just like the tree on the side of the river.

But what is this content that the Spirit teaches to the soul of the believer, that gives life, and never permits him to perish? It is the truth of Christ, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures: who he is, and what he has done. Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of the world, the one who, being God from all eternity, took upon himself a full yet previously un-impersonated human nature, becoming the God-man, the Mediator between God and man. This is the only Savior. He is not merely divine, as the docetists imagined, or less than divine, as Arius dreamed up. He is fully God and fully man in one person forever, the true Savior of sinful mankind. He died, rose again on the third day, and ascended to heaven, sitting at the Father’s right hand, expecting until his enemies be made his footstool. This is the message of the Scriptures about the Lord Jesus Christ, and the most important content of the Spirit’s inner teaching of God’s elect. This is that teaching of the Spirit that the apostle is emphasizing in this passage.

And to what end does the Spirit inwardly inculcate the content of the word that is outwardly preached and heard with the physical ears? It is for the purpose of growing and keeping God’s people in faith in him, which is the purpose for which this letter was written to the churches in Asia Minor. The Spirit teaches God’s elect in order to preserve us from this evil world that encircles and threatens us, and from our own sin that bears us down and constrains us. He teaches us so that we may take up the armor of God, and not fall prey to the evil one. The Spirit teaches us inwardly, in short, to keep us and to make us to inherit the blessed promise of eternal life, which is mentioned in verse 25.

There are false teachers all around, but the Holy Spirit that you received of the Father teaches you all things, so that you cannot be misled, so remain in that Spirit.

We can make use of these verses to gain the knowledge that we cannot fall prey to false teaching. The apostle speaks with great confidence that it is not possible for God’s own to be deceived by the seducers which attempt to lead them down the wrong path. Their dastardly attempts will fail miserably. Of this we can be as sure as John was when he wrote these words.

Remain in the Holy Spirit, by using the tools that God has given us to remain in him. The Christian mantra is not “let go and let God”, but, “have faith and work.” We do not work to earn our salvation, but we work out of obedience to God’s commandments, and to keep ourselves from falling prey to the evil one. It is not enough for us to purposely avoid false teaching, and the works of the sin that it provokes and encourages, but we must replace bad deeds with good deeds. It’s human nature that we must be doing and thinking something, not as the Buddhists imagine, as if we could bring our minds to a blank, so that we would suffer no more. We must replace bad thoughts with good thoughts, and sinful acts with good works, keeping God’s commandments, in obedience to him. In this way we show that we are truly his children.

Let us be diligent to continue in prayer, as we are praying together in the congregation today. Let us pray, recognizing that we depend on God for our perseverance in believing in him. “O, Lord, keep me from sin. Keep me from falling. Keep me in faith in you,” should be our prayer daily, by ourselves and in our households at family worship. If God did not keep us, we would fall in an instant. And prayer is one means that God has given for us to keep ourselves faithful to him.

There are false teachers all around, but the Holy Spirit that you received of the Father teaches you all things, so that you cannot be misled, so remain in that Spirit. Amen.