A few years back we had a group in our church that was eager to point out that all they need is the Holy Spirit to teach them. True, the Spirit is The Great Teacher, and this great Teacher has empowered and appointed teachers among the body. This group, as well intended as they were, often made it sound like going to seminary and through the discipline of study with and under other Christians was an offense to the Holy Spirit. “All I need is the Bible and Spirit of God” they would say. It sure sounds good and spiritual, but it’s totally unbiblical.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Certainly God himself is more than enough. Yet he has ordained that we live interdependent lives. This is so that we will be unified and together live out and bear witness to the transforming love of Christ. According to the verse in Ephesians, the idea that all we need is the Spirit is contrary to the Spirit and a sign of immaturity and serves only to divide the body of Christ. It’s like the believers in Corinth saying “I don’t need you” (1 Corinthians 12:21). In fact, the entirety of 1 Corinthians 12 is teaching, not on spiritual gifts, but on unity and cooperation. It is teaching that what we call spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Spirit as he moves among the members of the body to accomplish his purpose among us; which brings us to another important point.
We are the body of Christ, and thus we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think we really get this. We want to say I am inhabited by the Spirit, and that the Spirit lives in me. This is true, to a point. The Spirit lives in us, as the people of God and the Body of Christ. The church is a corporate organism, body made up of many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12). Each part is necessary. We need the testimonies of others, the teaching of others, the correction and guidance of others, and sometimes the rebuke of others. Other Christians are the face of Jesus to us, and sometimes the wisdom, care, and leadership of Jesus. We are meant to need each other as we live in Christ. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). To say we don’t need other Christians is to defy the will and command of God.
Interestingly enough, even those who claim that they only need the Spirit and the Bible are still relying on people. Every translation of the Bible involves the interpretation of scholars — Seminary trained men and women who have studied historical context, literary criticism, exegetical and hermeneutical technique, etc. And I am grateful for those who have gone through those disciplines (even if I don’t always completely agree with their interpretations), who partner with the Spirit along our walk of faith. We all bring something to the table, a piece of the puzzle that makes God more visible to each other, and to the outside world. We find unity in the manifold and diverse work of the Spirit among his body, the church. This is a true celebration of diversity.