“All You Need Is The Holy Spirit”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this statement. The argument goes something like this. “Look at the apostles, they were uneducated fisherman. They didn’t have any formal training and turned the world upside down”. How did they accomplish this? “By being filled with the Holy Spirit”. So based on that, we are told, “You don’t need seminary or formal training, all you need is the Holy Spirit”. But is this true?
Where the apostles really uneducated fisherman? Actually they were not. Peter and Andrew were not poor uneducated peasants. They came from a middle-class family where their father owned his own fishing business. And like most Jewish boys of that day, they probably received a pretty good education. The typical Jewish boy was required to memorize large portions of the Torah, surely this would not qualify someone as being “uneducated”. John most likely had a higher education than Peter and Andrew. His letters alone attest to his level of education. Also this explains why the High Priest would have known John.
“Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.” – (John 18:15-16)
The Twelve Apostles were all enrolled in seminary. That’s right! They were full time students and had the best seminary teacher that ever lived. They spend three and a half years with Jesus. They ate, slept, ministered, and traveled with Jesus. They sat at his feet. They listened to his teachings. They watched as he applied His theology to practical everyday living. This was far better than any modern day Master of Divinity program could offer. This was an extremely hands on, face-to-face, training program with the second Person of the Trinity. Listen to how John explains it:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands..” (1 John 1:1)
So to say that the apostles were untrained and uneducated fisherman is simply not true. This is taken from a text in Acts where the Jewish leaders made a condescending statement about the Apostles because they were not educated under a famous Jewish Rabbi:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.” (Acts 4:13).
We must remember that everything written in the Bible is not necessarily a true statement. What I mean is this: Job’s friends said many things about Job and God that were not true. The Pharisees said many things about Jesus that were not true. Satan said many things to Adam and Eve that are not true. So just because we read about Jewish leaders making a comment about the apostles being uneducated, that does not make it necessarily true. After all, they called Jesus a blasphemer. The Greek word for uneducated is agrammatos and it most likely meant that they were untrained in the Jewish law, not that they were illiterate or uneducated altogether. Matthew was a tax collector who had the ability to understand mathematics and was able to read and write. Clearly he was not uneducated. Just read his Gospel. John, as mentioned earlier, was also educated. Just read his writings. Peter and Andrew were from a well to do family and were most likely educated as well. Just read Peter’s books. Let’s not forget about Luke a Physician who wrote Luke and Acts. And what about Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark? He surely was not uneducated.
Finally, what about Paul? Was he uneducated? Paul did more for early Christianity than all of the Apostles combined. So when people say, “they turned the world upside down”, we need to realize that it was Paul who ventured out and preached the gospel to the gentiles in Asia and Europe. He made converts, planted churches, and wrote most of the New Testament. Was Paul uneducated?
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day” (Acts 22:3).
Paul was trained by the best Jewish Rabbi of the day (aside from Jesus). He was trained in Greek literature and Jewish Law.
What do we make of those who say, “you don’t need Seminary or formal training, all you need is the Holy Spirit”? Put it this way, would you entrust your child to a brain surgeon who loved Jesus, was filled with the Holy Spirit, but never studied medicine? Absolutely not! So then, why would you entrust our families to a pastor who has not been trained in the scriptures?
There are many men who did not attend seminary and yet were well educated. Take Charles Spurgeon for instance. Spurgeon spent hours upon hours studying and reading scripture and theological books. By the time of his death in 1892 he possessed approximately 12,000 volumes in his personal library. And not all of these books were theological in content. He also read scientific books and biographies. Spurgeon was a well-read man of God.
Did the Apostles accomplish all that they did by simply being “filled with the Holy Spirit?” And did Jesus ever say to them, “All you need is the Holy Spirit?”
There were two ways that God prepared the Apostles for ministry:
- They received their hands on education under the tutelage Jesus for a period of three and a half years. This is how most of the Apostles were prepared for ministry.
- They enrolled in Divine Seminary where they learned about the Gospel by way of direct revelation. This is how Paul learned his Gospel. “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:12)
What about those who desire to be preachers, teachers, and pastors today? What options do they have? Well, since Jesus is no longer physically walking on the earth we can dismiss option 1. And since we’re longer receiving direct revelation from heaven we can also dismiss option 2. So where does that leave us? Does the bible say anything to us about learning to interpret the bible correctly or about being trained in the Scriptures by other men? Yes it does! Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy instructing him to preach, teach, and study. Listen to what Paul said:
“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”.
– 2 Timothy 2:2
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,”
– 1 Timothy 1:3
“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”.
– 2 Timothy 1:13
“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.”
– 1 Timothy 4:6
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
– 2 Timothy 3:10-17
Over and over, Paul exhorts Timothy to know the scriptures, study the scriptures, learn the scriptures, rightly divide the scriptures, correct false teachings, and teach faithful men who can in turn teach others the scriptures.
So how can this happen by just being “filled with the Holy Spirit”. Why would the bible waste so much ink if “all you need is the Holy Spirit?” God has called men to preach, teach, pastor, minister in the local Church. There is only one way that someone can be qualified to do this. Someone else must train them. Now whether or not this involves a seminary or a local church the bottom line is simply this, we need more than the Holy Spirit! If we didn’t, then why did Paul write the following to the Church of Ephesus?
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Eph. 4:11-16.
Being Spirit filled does not mean being anti-intellectual. It does not mean that we glory in our shallowness and boast of our ignorance. On the contrary, being filled with the Spirit will motivate us to want to rightly divide the word of truth, to study to show ourselves approved, so that in the end, we will not be ashamed of our lack of knowledge regarding God’s Word.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15