In Acts 8:26-40 we read of an Ethiopian eunuch, who on his way back to Ethiopia was found reading from the scriptures, the prophet Isaiah, but who apparently did not understand what he was reading, so the Lord sent Philip to him saying, “Do you understand what you are reading?” the eunuchs reply was,
“How can I, except some man should guide me (teach me to understand)?” Acts 8:31
The prophet Isaiah states clearly “all thy children shall be taught of the LORD.” The Apostle John elaborates on this concept of Jehovah as teacher in 1 John 2:27: “But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: But as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye should abide in him.”
The method of God’s teaching is further brought out by the same Apostle John in his Gospel, Chapter 16, Verse 13: “Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.”
If God is to be the Christian’s teacher, and the Holy Spirit the medium by which he teaches, what need is there of man in the teaching process? Does God directly teach the Christian, but not the Ethiopian? Why does the Ethiopian eunuch in our text claim that he cannot understand the Scriptures, “except some man shall guide me?”
The Apostle Paul complicates the matter further in the Tenth Chapter of Romans: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call upon him on whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!”
The seeming conflict between these two sets of Scriptures is simple. Either God teaches directly or he teaches through men. Both views can seemingly be supported by Scripture. One solution, which presents itself, is that God taught Israel through the medium of chosen men but teaches the Church directly through the Holy Spirit. However, the Apostle Paul does not permit this easy explanation.
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore, he saith When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men… and he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Eph. 4:8, 11-16
If God taught the Christian directly why did he give us Apostles? Why prophets? Why evangelists? Why pastors and teachers?
The answer is easy, because we needed them. Why? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”
Now the question is asked if as the scriptures state God has provided these various agencies for the edifying of the Church, “Is it right to follow the teachings of any ONE MAN?
“The Scriptures answer, “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8). We should not follow man, nor man-made creeds or systems. God exercised the supervising care over His consecrated people; as we read, “Now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the Body, as it hath pleased him” (1 Cor. 12:18); therefore He advises Christians to come together to assist in building each other up in the most holy faith (Heb. 10:24, 25). He directs the church to select elders–not Lords, nor Masters, nor Reverends (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:5-9). These are “overseers” to feed the flock of God (Acts 21:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3). St. Paul says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I am of Christ.”
The most faithful have been followers of the Apostle, who followed in the footsteps of Jesus. This is not following man, but following the Divine leading’s through the Lord and the Apostles. Similarly today we note God’s leading’s through His servants. In this we are following Jesus Christ, not man. Individual study of the Bible seems indispensable to proper Christian development, and is commendable, just as individual study of Geology would be commendable; but one must not ignore the aids to Bible study which God has providentially furnished; to do so would be as unwise as for a pupil in astronomy to ignore the astronomical instruments and findings of others who have preceded him in the study of the same science “Study to show thyself approved unto God (not unto men); rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) W.P.R.S. page 844
The implication seems to be that the Holy Spirit is the medium through which the Lord guides his children to the various channels or agencies, which he has provided to assist them in their instruction of the Word.
Likewise (AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND) it is apparent that he expects his children each to contribute their part in the edifying of the body, building one another up in the most holy faith. This does not imply that each member is to contribute some vain feeling or imagining they may have had, but rather that through their individual studies of the various helps and agencies provided by the Lord they should contribute what they have personally been given to understand in regards to the truth.
There seems to be no question then that while God does take on the role of being our teacher and the Holy Spirit his channel, he also uses many human agencies in our instruction. We do not learn the truth by some miraculous enlightenment of the mind or mysterious voice whispering in our ear or by a vision in the night. Instead, as Paul says, we grow “by that which every joint supplies.” The method God chose “compacts” the body together and makes every member dependent upon every other member.
Of course, there are limitations to human teachers. Only the Twelve Apostles were inspired, and even they did not always speak by inspiration. (1 Cor. 7:6, 12)
Human fallibility is often demonstrated by human changeability. Truth is unchangeable men are not. Once a truth has been thoroughly proven and accepted it becomes a touchstone to gauge the accuracy of other teachings. In this connection note the Apostle Paul’s words in Gal. 1:8: “But though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” And again, the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.”
Teachers are sent of God; but God does not send all who claim to be teachers as his true teachers. God’s own Word, the Bible, must verify the authenticity of their teachings. Not all teachers are gifts from God, though we thank God for those who are.
Now someone may ask, where shall we find these true sources of understanding? You have already come to the right place!
“For wheresoever the carcass (the truth, the food) is found, there the eagles (those keen of vision and appetite) will be gathered together (brought together by the mutual apprehension of the truth, as eagles are drawn to their food)” Matt 24:28
As for those who believe that the Lord is some how going to change his method of teaching in their case, well that is their loss, for he who separates himself from the body, from “that which every joint supplies” likewise separates themselves from the head of that body, thus losing any spiritual guidance which they may have once had.
Excerpts taken from the article entitled “Except Some Man Guide Me”