Twice in the same verse, John speaks of an anointing: “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” (1 John 2:27). Here the apostle is warning the church about the dangers of Gnostic teaching (gnosis means knowledge). The Gnostics, who denied the deity of Jesus (v. 22), claimed to know special secrets about God. Christians were urged to come to them for wisdom and salvation.
But the disciples of Jesus didn’t need the Gnostics: “You have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge” (1 John 2:20). Maybe John was thinking of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit bestowed on the early church (1 Cor. 12:8). If so, then he meant that people with spiritual gifts were to be heard by their brothers and sisters in the local congregation.
It’s more likely, though, that John is thinking of the non-miraculous gift of the Spirit received by all believers at baptism (1 John 3:24). He speaks in sweeping terms when he says, “You all have knowledge.” It’s true that some students of scripture know more about biblical languages and history than others do. But you don’t have to be a scholar to follow Jesus. We “all have knowledge.” We all know that God exists, that the Bible is his word, that Jesus is God’s Son, that sin is man’s great problem, and that the cross is the answer.
Of course, the revelation of truth is a work of the Spirit. He supernaturally revealed things to the apostles and prophets. But even in those ancient times, only certain people received inspired messages. The believers ungifted with revelations learned from the people who were gifted – just as we do today. The Spirit indwelling us speaks to us through his inspired and written word. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).