As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who does right has been born of him. – 1st John 2:27-29
Sometimes I get to a passage and I really don’t know what John is trying to get across.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure this passage is talking about the Holy Spirit – the teacher or advocate. In John’s gospel he’s clear that the sending of the Holy Spirit is to continue our instruction on every level from the cellular to the cerebral and everything in between. I get it, but this letter so far has been a call to unity, a call to mutual submission, and a call to honesty.
This does not on first sight seem to fit as part of those instructions.
Which is actually a nice change of pace, but it is slightly confusing unless it fits in with the rest of the paradigm of the letter.
So, here I will speculate that it does fit in with a call to unity.
The passage where the advocate and teacher (John’s words for the Holy Spirit in the gospel) are promised are in the same speech where Christ tells his followers that they will be known by their love for one another and by being enemies of the world. This to me indicates that John is possibly referencing his gospel and appealing to the understanding of the Holy Spirit taught by Christ there.
In other words, John is appealing to the idea that the Holy Spirit’s primary teaching task is in the ability to love God and love neighbor as self. The Spirit teaches us the ins and outs of loving one another. This anointing is for unity with one another, to abide in Christ is to abide together.
So, maybe it isn’t too confusing if you link all that together. Those that are unrighteous are along the lines of those who came early in John’s passage as those who wont admit they are in sin, those anti-christs who have left the community.
But the larger message to me is a message of peace found deeply within this passage. This almost seems to be a message of peace in tone that commends those who have received the Holy Spirit into the care of a steadfast teacher. It almost rings with Paul’s passage in the confidence that he who began a good work will see it to completion.
However, it leaves me with a question that I don’t believe are satisfactorily answered here or elsewhere in 1st John: 1st) What is the role of instruction and discipleship within this paradigm? This question hits me as particularly important as John wrote this letter ostensibly for the purpose of instruction. I have to speculate that the teaching of believer to believer or believer to initiate/convert is part of the instruction and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The end effect for me is this: John confirms my suspicions here that human beings being made whole need instruction from the Holy Spirit on how to live life together from the inside out as well as from teaching through community into the individuals within the community. Second, it confirms the confidence we can have in the work of the Holy Spirit in such a task.