In the Bible, the word “anoint” simply means to pour, spread, or rub oil onto something or someone. For instance, Genesis 28:18 says, “So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and sat it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it” (ESV). In other words, he anointed it. Then he consecrated the place (28:19) and made a vow to the Lord (28:22-24).
Literally, anointing is about oil. But it is spoken of three different ways in scripture. First, there is a physical anointing for healing (James 5:14-15), cosmetics (Ruth 3:3; Matt. 6:17, hospitality (Ps. 23:4; Luke 7:46), or burial (Mark. 14:8). Likewise, there was a ritual anointing. This was a symbolic act that was applied to people, places, and objects. As it relates to people, prophets (1 Kings 19:16), priests (Exod. 28:41) and kings (1 Sam. 10:1) were ritually anointed for consecration (Exod. 20:26-29; 40:12-15), empowerment (1 Sam. 16:13), and protection (1 Chron. 16:22, Ps. 105:15). Thirdly, there was a spiritual anointing. And this spiritual anointing requires that we draw a distinction between the anointing in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
Seven passages in the New Testament refer to this spiritual anointing. Four of these seven passages refer to the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb. 1:9). The other three passages speak of the anointing in the life of Christians. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 1 John 2:20 says, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” And 1 John 2:27 says, “But 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.” These three passages make several points about the place of the anointing in the New Testament church.
The anointing is a sovereign act of God. God anoints people. People do not anoint other people. These biblical statements make it clear that God is source, Jesus Christ is the means, and the Holy Spirit is the agent through which believers receive the anointing. And it is non-transferable. So having “Bishop Big-Shot” lay his hands on you will not allow you to share in his so-called “anointing.” And having “Rev. Wanna-Be” put oil on you will only make you greasy!
The anointing is universal. That is, all Christians are anointed. There are not some Christians who have the anointing and some who do not. If you are a Christian, you have been anointed. Period. And, by the way, scripture gives no indication of different levels of anointing. So saying that someone is “so anointed,” is as uselessly redundant as saying that someone is “so Christian.” God perfectly and equally anoints every believer. The only difference would be in how we walk in this anointing, I guess.
The anointing is automatic, permanent, and continual. The New Testament does not teach that Christians receive the anointing. Rather, it teaches that you have already received it. We don’t need to pray for it or tarry for it or anything else like that. The anointing is standard equipment of salvation that everyone receives when they place saving-faith in Christ. Likewise, you cannot lose the anointing. When, I was a boy preacher, an older woman warned me that the devil would try to use women to steal my anointing. And her warning scared the daylights out of me! But I now understand that, while she may have had godly concern and sincere motives, her terminology was wrong. Maybe she should have just exhorted be to be holy and warned me about the divine consequences of sin, rather than confusing me about the anointing. There is no evidence in the New Testament that true Christians can lose their anointing. Sin, people, and disobedience cannot steal your anointing any more than sin can steal your salvation!
The anointing is directly connected to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The anointing is not about where you are in God. It’s about where God is in you! Primarily, the anointing is a positional reality, not an experiential one. It’s about your standing in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Paul declares, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” With these words, scripture directly connects the anointing with the sealing and guarantee of the Holy Spirit. In other words, to have the Spirit is to have the anointing.
The anointing is for spiritual understanding. This is the point of 1 John 2:20 and 2:27. But it is often neglected. Don’t misunderstand these two verses. John is not ruling out the necessity of human teachers. That would contradict what the New Testament teaches in other places, affirming the important role of sound and godly teachers. It simply means that we have an internal source of spiritual understanding in the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that frees us from being slaves to human teachers, theories, or traditions.
The New Testament doctrine of the anointing is meant to warn and encourage the church to stand firm against false teachers. Unfortunately, I really don’t hear those who speak so much about the anointing give this explanation of its meaning and place in the believer’s life. Many take passages from Isaiah to define the anointing as the “yoke-destroying, burden-removing, power of God.” Indeed, the power of God is as real now as it was then. But in the New Testament, access to this divine power is directly connected to a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Anointed One. It is not about a feeling, experience, impartation, gifting, or blessing. The fact is that every true believer has been indwelt by the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9b). And we live with the power of the life-giving King dwelling on the inside. And he is there to give us understanding of all that is ours in Christ Jesus so that we may live out the life of the teachings of our faith (John 16:13-15; 1 Co. 2:14-16).
We often speak of the anointing in terms of empowerment. Maybe we should start thinking and speaking of it in terms of understanding. Let me say it as clearly as I can: If you are in Christ, you do not need to be anointed. You are anointed! May this biblical truth and wonderful reality give you confidence as you read, study, listen to, embrace, and obey the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.