When our Lord stood before the High Priest at His trial He was questioned for evidence of sedition but His reply demonstrates that He never had anything to hide,
“I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly.”(John XVIII: 20)
Our father among the saints, St. Cyril of Alexandria, also suggests that our Lord wished to emphasise that the revelation given to Moses in the Old Testament in the form of types and shadows and prophecies spoke of Himself. Indeed, St Cyril reminds us that what our Lord was saying was the same as revealed by the Prophet Isaiah,
“I have not said to Jacob’s descendants ‘seek me in vain’. I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right”.(Isaiah XLV: 19)
Although He sometimes conversed privately with His disciples, yet what He taught them was always a fuller exposition of what He had said in public and was never contrary to it or something intended only for them. After His Ascension, the Lord fulfilled His promise and did not leave them comfortless as the Father sent them the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost. Part of His ministry was directed towards the continued revelation of the truth,
“The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”(John XIV: 26)
which was manifested by the common mind of the apostles in teaching the doctrines revealed to them by the Lord
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”.(Acts II: 42)
Sadly, even in the early church, while the apostles were still alive, certain Christians allowed themselves to be influenced by pagan teachings and at the instigation of the devil, began to expound doctrines which were contrary to the revelation give by our Lord. The apostle Peter warns against this when he says,
“No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”(2 Peter 1:20)
This is why the traditional Christian churches study the Scriptures with respect, noting the comments of the saints and fathers of the church (patristic study) which generally demonstrates a consensus of understanding, which the Church upholds as truly representing the “mind of the church.” Just as it is believed that God revealed Himself through the written word revealed to holy men, so our Lord Jesus Christ, as God incarnate, is the Living Word.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”(Hebrews I: 1-2)
The idea that there is a secret teaching for only select disciples is an early heresy but is still maintained by a number of groups extant today and much of what they claim to have as a secret revelation is quite contrary to our Lord’s teaching and in open opposition to Orthodox Christianity. Dr Harvey Lewis, a leading Rosicrucian, states:
“These facts give a different colouring to the picture of Christianity as a religious, philosophical, or moral system. In fact, they help us to understand that the original and true Christian instruction, and the original Christian doctrines, were divine things not intended for all human beings. Rather, they constitute a system of transcendental truths, esoteric revelations, and divine laws of unlimited application and omnipotent power.”[Harvey Spencer Lewis, The Secret Doctrine of Jesus (AMORC, San Jose, California: 1998), p. 12.]
As early as the second century St. Irenaeus condemned a number of Christian sects which transmitted their teachings only to a limited circle of initiates, claiming that through various esoteric rites they would have access to a deeper knowledge of God. For them knowledge (gnosis) rather than Faith was at the core of their religion. It is quite clear from the Scriptures and from the words of our Lord at His trial that He repudiates the concept of esoteric teaching because the goodness and mercy of God is available to all who submit to the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The whole concept of secret teaching and an élite group of initiates who are possessed of what they falsely call ‘knowledge’ runs totally contrary to the outpouring of grace made available to simple souls who embrace their Creator with true love and devotion. The Gospel of God is intended for each and every man and woman, without restriction and without distinction of education, degree or status.