Summary: With this message, I introduce to the congregation an exploration of the little understood doctrine of soul competency.
“I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 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.”
His promotion of a distorted theology necessitated pastoral intervention. Nevertheless, he vigorously defended his aberrant position despite exposure of his errant thinking. His rejoinder when he was privately confronted was astonishing. “You teach ‘soul compete-ancy.’ I don’t need no teacher; I can think for myself.” He had the King James Bible and a copy of Strong’s concordance, and that was all he needed (so he thought) to formulate doctrine. It was but an additional egregious error to add to his already astounding catalogue of errors. This man’s arrogance was breathtaking and his defence of the indefensible amazing.
Indeed, John does make the bold assertion, “The anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you” [1 JOHN 2:27]. Unquestionably, his statement is an argument presenting soul competency of the believer. However, the old rule of biblical interpretation applies here, as it does in every instance: any text out of context is pretext. To properly understand and apply John’s teaching, it is necessary to understand the context.
The context of John’s teaching is that the Apostle of Love is cautioning believers to be aware of their susceptibility to error. John is neither rejecting teachers who have been gifted by the Spirit of God and appointed for the benefit of the people of God, nor is he discounting sound theology, nor advocating that we jettison the accumulated wisdom of godly people from past millennia; John is teaching all who follow the Master to rely on the Spirit of Christ to direct our thinking process and to guide us so that we avoid errant teachers and aberrant theology—we don’t need new or novel theologies.
Just as there are evil people in our world who seek to extirpate freedoms we take for granted, so there are evil people among the churches that are determined to destroy the freedom we enjoy in Christ. The unwary may be snared, but if they stumble, it is despite red flags raised by the Spirit of God. As we continue exploring our Baptist foundations, today we are considering application of the doctrine commonly referred to as “soul competency.” Tragically, this teaching of competency in matters of the Faith is often misunderstood; or perhaps it is more accurate to state that it is frequently distorted to fit the preconceived notions of individuals who are intent on gaining their own desires.
Nevertheless, the Word is quite clear that each Christian has received an “anointing,” or “unction.” The consequence of that “anointing” is that Christians are competent to recognise truth, and they are equipped to recognise error. That Christians succumb to the siren allure of error is less a testimony to the tenacity of those promulgating error than it is to the lack of caution among the saints and their naïve character when they accept the philosophy of democratic government within the church.