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.
EVIL DOES EXIST — Too many of the professed saints of the Most High are naïve at best, and woefully ignorant at worst. Too many of God’s holy people assume that evil people really mean them no harm. The tragic truth is that many “nice” people are spiritual predators. There are people in the world who are intent on harming us just because we “claim to be Christians,” and there are people who are determined to prey on our innocence. I do not advocate that we cease to be trusting in our approach to people; but I do encourage us as Christians to be aware of danger.
I know that many of the professed saints of God do not wish to hear about evil, and apparently, they are uncomfortable when evil is exposed. A sizeable segment of Christendom has imbibed of the polluted waters drawn from post-modern wells of “tolerance,” and they feel it is wrong to detail openly the existence of spiritual error or to speak of the dangers that arise when we ignore error. These individuals seem to be persuaded that if only Christians will make “nice,” and if they will avoid giving offence, they will fulfil an unspecified mandate of scriptural “niceness.” It seems as if there is a far greater fear of what people may think than there is a fear of offending Holy God.
Consequently, churches tolerate some incredibly strange and aberrant teachings. One example is witnessed in the recent actions of a major old-line denomination in the United States that decided that the biblical doctrine of the Triune God was overly exclusive. Recently, they voted to change references to the Trinity to include such novel terms as “Mother, Beloved Child and Life-Giving Womb,” or “Lover, Beloved and Love.” What a strange way to treat the One who is Master of the Church!