Is “the anointing” as applied to servants of God today consistent with New Testament usage?
Today in charismatic circles the terms “the anointing” and “anointed” are often used to refer to certain servants of God who can prophesy in the name of Jesus, and in his name drive out demons and perform many miracles like healing the sick. In this introductory study we would like to examine whether or not the usage of such terms is consistent with the New Testament.
The following are the instances of the words “anointing,” “anointed,” and “anoint” as found in the New International Version of the New Testament. Instances of anointed priests, prophets, and kings in the Old Testament were types or shadows which were all fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ.
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.
The word anointing here clearly refers to the anointing on the Messiah Jesus Christ, and not to an anointing upon believers to prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles.
1 John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.
Here the word anointing on believers refers to an anointing for them to know the truth, and not to an anointing on them to prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles.
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…
Here the word anointing on believers refers to an anointing which teaches them about all things, and not to an anointing upon them to prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles. Rather, it is an anointing instead by which God ministers to us, teaching us about all things.
Mark 6:13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
Here the disciples were physically anointing sick people with oil. The verse does not refer to them being anointed to prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles.
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,
This reference is directly to the Messiah who would be anointed to preach good news to the poor. It is not a reference to believers who prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles.
Acts 4:26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.
Here the reference is directly to Christ, the Anointed One, and not to a believer who can prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles. Note that the Greek can be rendered either “Christ” or “Anointed One.” Many versions of the Bible use the word “Christ” instead of “Anointed One.” This observation will be highly significant later.
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.
The reference here is directly to Jesus Christ whom God anointed. It does not refer to believers who prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles.
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.
Here the reference has the Messiah Jesus Christ anointed with the spirit and power to do good and to heal those under the power of the devil. It clearly does not refer to believers who prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles.
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.
Here believers in Christ are anointed by God as a seal of His ownership on us to guarantee our heavenly inheritance. Through this anointing God actually ministers to us, guaranteeing our heavenly inheritance. It is not a reference to an anointing upon us to prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles.
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.
This reference is to the women physically anointing Jesus’ body with spices.
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.
This refers to the physical anointing of the sick believer with oil, not to an anointing on believers to prophecy, cast out demons and perform miracles.
These instances exhaust the use of the words anointing, anointed, and anoint in the New International Version of the New Testament.
We see that the only use of the word “anointing” in the New Testament as applied to a believer is found in 1 John 2 where the Lord’s anointing teaches us about all things so that we all know the truth. It clearly does not refer to any anointing upon us to prophesy, heal the sick and cast out demons. Moreover, the use of the word “anointed” in the New Testament almost always refers to Christ Himself. The only meaningful instance where it does not is found in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. There, believers in Christ are anointed by God as a seal of His ownership on us to guarantee our heavenly inheritance. Again, this use of “anointed” does not refer to believers who prophesy, cast out demons, perform miracles such as healing the sick, or minister to others in some supernatural way. Rather, according to both 1 John 2 and 1 Corinthians 1, God’s anointing by contrast actually ministers to us.
Clearly, disciples of Jesus Christ have been given power (“dunamis”) and authority (“exousia”) to minister to the oppressed in His name. However, the Greek word “Christos” and its Hebrew equivalent “Moshiach” meaning “the anointed one” who saves us are applied only to the Son of God Himself.
It is clear that as the Christ, Jesus was anointed to save us. The Greek word for save is sozo. The word sozo includes not only saving from sin, but also to deliver or protect: to heal from sickness, to preserve, to save, to do well, to be or make whole. It is clear that only Jesus Christ was anointed to save us in this way. No man or disciple is anointed to save us and heal us and deliver us.
What about the Old Testament?
The Old Testament contains shadows (Colossians 2:17) and types which are fulfilled in the New Testament. Instances of “the anointing” upon men and of “anointed ones” in the Old Testament were all fulfilled in Messiah Jesus: the only one anointed to save, heal, and deliver.
Therefore, current usage of the word “anointed” and “anointing” to refer to those who can minister with power does not follow New Testament practice. Proper usage applies to one person alone in the New Testament: the only one anointed to save, the Messiah Jesus Christ. Messiah (in Hebrew “Moshiach”) also means “the anointed one.” Only Christ, through His death on the cross, is anointed to save us from sin and subsequent consequences like disease and the second death. No disciple of His should presume to take on anything resembling or even approaching that title. We should therefore exercise discernment toward those who come in the name of Christ and who claim to have “the anointing” or to be “anointed.” Why?
Watch out that you are not deceived by the “anointed ones”
Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them: “Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (KJV)
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 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.
In Greek the word Christ means “anointed” or “anointed one.” In the original Greek text all the characters were capitalized with of course no differentiation between upper and lower case. (Capitalization was not added until the Ninth Century.) Therefore capitals are not called for in absolutely every instance of the word, especially when the Messiah Jesus is not being referred to as in “false christs” (LITV) in Matthew 24:24.
If we make the substitution of “anointed” for “christ” in Matthew 24:5, we will have “for many shall come in my name, saying, I am anointed; and shall deceive many.”
Today there are in fact many who come in the name of Jesus Christ who claim to be “anointed.” They claim to have the anointing or to be anointed to prophesy, to cast out demons, heal the sick, and perform miracles. The practices and the supernatural manifestations which appear in their meetings are usually attributed to the anointing upon them or their ministries. Unfortunately the use of such terms to refer to such people, as we have seen, is not consistent with the New Testament.
Matthew 24:11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
…23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ [or anointed one]!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 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. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
Jesus’ warning here is a bit cryptic. There is no one today within mainstream Christianity who has been proclaiming that Christ has appeared “in the desert” or “in the inner rooms”—or anywhere else on earth for that matter—and that we should gather there to meet with him. How then should we interpret his warning? Today in some circles people are drawn by the thousands to meetings wherever an “anointed” servant of God is ministering miraculous healing to the sick in the name of Jesus Christ. Could the above Scriptures be warning us to beware of such ministers? Whenever and wherever these “anointed ones” are ministering, people will shout, “Come, he’s over there!” or “Come, he’s over here!” and the crowds will be irresistibly drawn like moths to a flame to experience the miracles and “the anointing.” But it will not be like that when the Messiah Jesus Christ, the true Anointed One, appears.
Matthew 24:27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
What could this “carcass” refer to? Who are these “vultures” who gather at the carcass? Now we might have some light on this enigmatic verse.
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!’
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 be careful
How can we be careful not to be deceived by false prophets who can perform miracles? The primary gauge must be Scripture itself. The miracles must be performed as they are performed in Scripture. We must be very cautious toward 1) methods and practices and 2) supernatural manifestations which are not strongly supported by Scripture.
In the Elijah Challenge, there are three general criteria for determining what supernatural practices are acceptable. We do this to stay on the safe side.
1. The practice or method must be clearly commanded by the Lord for us to perform it.
2. The practice or method must have actually been performed by a disciple of the Lord in Scripture.
3. It is best if the practice or method is not simply a one-time occurrence in Scripture, but is based solidly on Scriptural principles.
We must exercise caution and discernment toward practices or methods involving the spirit realm that do not meet these criteria.
As just one example, did Jesus ever command his disciples to drive out territorial spirits and principalities? And was this action actually performed anywhere in the Bible by a servant of God? No, Jesus never commanded it nor did anyone in the Bible ever perform such an action.
These same three criteria we also apply to the many different supernatural manifestations that we see in charismatic churches today. As just one example, do the supernatural manifestations of gold dust and diamonds appearing during meetings find strong support in Scripture? No, they do not.
Why do we need to be so careful and conservative? Because Jesus commands us to “watch out that no one deceives you.” He commands us to watch out for the many false anointed ones and false prophets who will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect, if that were possible. It is safer to err on the side of being too cautious than on the side of being too liberal and then falling prey to deception.
If we do not heed the Lord’s repeated warnings, we may be deceived. If we are, we will not be able to blame the false prophet who deceived us. We all have access to the Scriptures. There will be consequences for those who allow themselves to be deceived.
Not “anointing” but power and authority
It is not at all clear from New Testament Scripture that New Testament disciples have been “anointed” or given “the anointing” to minister with supernatural power as is commonly claimed today.
By contrast, it is abundantly clear from New Testament Scriptures that we have been given power and authority by Jesus Christ to heal the sick and cast out demons for the proclamation of the kingdom of God to the lost. The Holy Spirit has also bestowed a gifting (“karisma”) upon believers by which we can build up the body of Christ through the nine gifts of the Spirit.
Let us heed Jesus’ warning about being deceived and be careful to discern and to divide the Scriptures properly.
Not the “Christ” but the Son of Man
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” in verse 24.
“…and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In such a way Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3. He knew their weakness. Man wants to be like God. From the garden of Eden to the building of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 (“nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”) to today with advanced technology man hoping to “live forever” and “create” life via Artificial Intelligence, man wants to be like God. Could it be that the coveting after the “anointing” today in the Church is but the same desire to be like God? In the New Testament the only one anointed to minister to others was Christ Jesus—who was actually God in human flesh. This anointing is not meant for weak human beings.
It is significant that in November 2008 J. Lee Grady, Editor of Charisma Magazine, wrote an article which was entitled Preparing for a Charismatic Meltdown.
Some years ago Mr. Ed Tarkowski independently wrote a relevant article which has been reprinted below.
A Christian Perspective on Chakras and “The Revival”
“Though many tie the current revival to the laughing phenomenon of Rodney Howard Browne and The Toronto Experience, there are many other manifestations besides the laughing phenomenon. But more important than what we call these phenomena is that we know the source of these manifestations. Call it what you will, the power that has gained a foothold on the Church through Browne and Toronto is the foundation of the entire global “revival.” I can personally testify to the fact that it is kundalini power. I can testify that it is real power. I can tell you it is power straight out of the practices of the New Age and the Manifest Sons of God doctrines that have penetrated Christianity. I can tell you it is not power coming from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The laughing phenomena itself has been associated with the 5th chakra (the Throat Chakra) of the New Age, but one of the major manifestations during the past two years has been the manifestation of spiritual fire. The shaking of the “hot hand” manifesting “the anointing” is now a common thing among those distributing it, such as [some well-known charismatic ministers], all seen on [a certain Christian TV program]. It is apparent the so-called “fire of the Holy Spirit” introduced by Browne and Toronto only three short years ago has indeed spread among “the anointed ones.” But this type of spiritual fire, with its physical sensations and intense burning in the body, is not scriptural. Jeremiah did not have literal fire burning in his bones, but the modern “prophets” do. It is not Holy Ghost fire we are seeing today, but the kundalini experience of the New Age burning its way through the Church. That should become more evident when I post a section on occult terms associated with such phenomena. For now, I submit this material so you can do your own comparison.”