In many circles the word anointing (or anointed) is used to refer to servants of God who are able to minister to others with supernatural power. It may involve preaching and teaching, prophesying, or healing the infirm and demonized. Such servants of God may also said to be gifted by the Holy Spirit to minister with such power.
There is a definite confusion between gift and anointing here which has led to the possibility of deception within the Church. In Matthew 24 Jesus warns us, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (NIV)
Charisma vs chrisma
A gift of the Holy Spirit to minister to the body of Christ as taught in I Corinthians 12 is charisma in the Greek text. In the seventeen New Testament verses where the word charisma is found, it is used to refer to either God’s gift of salvation to believers or to a gift given to us by which we can minister God’s grace to other people.
By contrast, the word “anointing” in the New Testament is chrisma in the Greek—according to Strong, the special endowment of the Holy Spirit. Although in form it is very similar to charisma, the word is different in meaning and found only twice in the New Testament.
1 John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.
1 John 2:27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
We see that in each instance the word refers to an anointing on believers which teaches us about all things in order for us to know the truth. It clearly does not refer to an anointing on us to minister to others in preaching or in prophecy or in healing with supernatural power.
Therefore gift (charisma) and anointing (chrisma) are different from one another. The former is very definitely something given to believers for ministry to others. The latter is clearly not.
How about the word “anointed”?
There are five New Testament instances of the word “anoint” in its verb form chrio in the Greek.
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
Acts 4:27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
Hebrews 1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
2 Corinthians 1:21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
We notice that in four of the five instances, the word anointed (or anointing) refers directly and solely to the Messiah Jesus Christ who was specially endowed by the Holy Spirit to heal, deliver, and save. The sole exception to this is in 2 Corinthians 1:21 where believers are anointed (with the Spirit) as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. It does not refer to any disciple or servant of God being anointed to minister to others with supernatural power in preaching, prophecy, or healing and deliverance.
So far in this study, therefore, we do not see the words “anointing” (chrisma) or “anointed” (chrio) being used to refer to believers being enabled to minister to others.
There remain two instances in the NIV New Testament where the verb “anoint” is found.
Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.
James 5:14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
The Greek word used here is aleipho, meaning “to oil” in the physical sense with actual oil. It is not related in meaning to the words “anointing” or “anointed” which we have been studying.
Based on our study so far, we see that scripturally speaking the words “anointing” (chrisma) and “anointed” (chrio) should not be applied to disciples or servants of God who have been given a gift (charisma) to minister to others.
Why should we be concerned about this seemingly negligible difference? It is because of the deception which Jesus warned would overtake many in the Church.
Matthew 24:5 “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (NIV)
Here Jesus commands us to watch out so that we are not deceived by the many who will come in his name and claim to be the Christ. This verse as it stands makes little sense. This is because any servant of God who comes to us in the name of Jesus claiming to be the Christ will be promptly rejected by the Church. He will in fact deceive no one. In line with this, there is no one in the mainstream Church today who actually claims to be the Christ. But Jesus warns us that there will be many. How can we understand his warning? It is vital that we understand it properly in order that we will not be among the many who will be deceived in the last days. The answer is that we may have misunderstood what Jesus actually meant.
Deception in the Church
In Matthew 24:5 the Greek word for “Christ” is Christos in the Greek. The root of the word Christos is the word chrio which as we have seen means “to anoint.”
Therefore Christos literally means “anointed.” Verse 5, therefore, can also be translated: “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am (the) anointed,’ and will deceive many.”
As justification for this alternate reading, there is a verse in the NIV which refers to Christ and renders the word Christos as “Anointed One” instead of “Christ.”
Acts 4:26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.
Interestingly, when Jesus teaches about his Second Coming in Matthew 24, he never refers to himself as “Christ.” He consistently refers to himself there instead as “the Son of Man.” (The same thing is true of the parallel passages in Mark 13 and in Luke 17 & 21.) Whenever Jesus uses the terms “Christ” or “Christs” as rendered by the NIV in Matthew 24, he in fact is referring to a false Christ or false anointed one. He makes a clear distinction and puts distance between “Christ” as rendered in the NIV and “the Son of Man.”
This is consistent with the possibility that incidences of the term “Christ(s)” in Matthew 24 should instead be rendered “anointed one(s)”— as in “false anointed ones and false prophets”.
Matthew 24:24 For false Christs [or false “anointed ones”] and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.
Today in certain circles, many claim or are said to be “anointed” to minister to others as Jesus did—teaching, prophesying, healing the sick, or casting out demons. But this terminology is not at all in accordance with New Testament Scripture. As we have seen earlier, the correct terminology for referring to this is “gifted” (charisma) by God to minister to others—not “anointed” (chrisma). The root of the word charisma is charis in the Greek. According to Strong, charis carries the meaning of “acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, grace (or gracious), joy liberality, pleasure, thanks.” It does not refer to the anointing or to the special endowment of the Holy Spirit which is on Jesus Christ alone to save us. What about the similar but contrasting word chrisma?
According to Vine’s Dictionary, by contrast, “the Old Testament most commonly uses the Hebrew word mashach to indicate “anointing” in the sense of a special setting apart for an office or function. …The New Testament title of Christ is derived from the Greek Christos [derived from chrisma] which is exactly equivalent to the Hebrew mashiach… So the term Christ emphasizes the special anointing of Jesus of Nazareth for His role as God’s chosen one.”
Therefore the terms “gifted” and “anointed” carry quite different meanings and should be not confused with one another. We can definitely be “gifted” to minister to others, but not “anointed” to minister. Luke 9 and 10 also indicate that disciples have been given power (dunamis) and authority (exousia) over disease and demons in the context of preaching the gospel. But only Jesus Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit to heal, to deliver, and to save us from our sins by his death on the cross.
Could Jesus be warning us about certain “anointed” ministers who will come in his name and deceive many?
Some servants of God who emphasize “the anointing” in their ministries will have practices and supernatural manifestations accompanying them which are not found in Scripture. Examples of this, among others, are the appearance of gold dust and gemstones in their meetings.
Some of these ministers moreover place undue emphasis on receiving offerings and on personal material prosperity.
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you… 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up…
1 Timothy 6:5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
We must therefore be careful and exercise discernment when ministers come in the name of Jesus and claim to be “anointed” or have “the anointing” to minister to us. Our spiritual antenna should go up especially when they spend excessive time hawking their books and tapes and CDs and taking offerings in high-pressure fashion to finance “ministry” accompanied by a lavish lifestyle.
Matthew 7:15 Watch out for false prophets. …22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
What a difference a single alpha can make
Outwardly, charisma and chrisma would appear to be very similar, differing only by the single Greek letter alpha. Unfortunately—almost “deceptively”—they are unrelated. Could this be how the confusion and resulting deception began years ago, albeit perhaps through well-meaning believers?