The Old Testament prophet Samuel led the Israelites effectively and in a way pleasing to God. But then Samuel grew old and needed to step aside.
1 Samuel 8:5 They [the Israelites] said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected ME as their king.
It is clear that the people were actually rejecting God Himself when they asked for a king to lead them.
…19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
The Israelites envied the gentile nations who had a powerful king to lead them, to go out before them to fight their battles for them. They did not want to have to trust the invisible God to lead them and to fight their battles for them. They wanted a great human leader they could see, hear, and touch to go out before them.
Kings of course must be “set apart” from the ordinary people and given special abilities in order for them to lead the people and fight battles for them. They therefore must be “anointed” to be king. But it is clear that it was not God’s perfect will to anoint Saul as the king of the Israelites to “lead them and go out before them and fight their battles.” God rather gave in to the demand of the insistent Israelites who did not know what they were asking for.
Samuel later rebuked the Israelites for rejecting their God who saved them out of all their disasters and calamities by asking for a king to be appointed over them.
1 Samuel 10:19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.‘
It was in fact an evil sin in the eyes of the Lord.
1 Samuel 12:17 And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.” …19 The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”
Moreover in 1 Samuel 15 verses 11 and 35 scripture tells us twice that God actually even regretted giving in to the Israelites’ demand for a king. Nevertheless God gave in and anointed Saul as king over the insistent Israelites. Not surprisingly therefore, we read later in Scripture that the Israelite “experiment” with the anointed king did not end well. Saul’s life ended in utter failure and disaster for him and two of his sons. Could this be an example of the consequences of going against God’s perfect will when we insist on our own will?
But what about David the good “anointed” king who succeeded Saul? We know that even the life of the anointed king David ended in terrible tragedy—extending even to his children—because of his sin. Even David’s son the anointed King Solomon did not finish well. He began very well, and was blessed by God with extraordinary wisdom. But in his later years, Solomon turned away from the Lord to worship other gods.
Could it be that in the Old Testament the “anointing” was not meant for human leaders—specifically, kings—who could be tempted by pride, greed, and sin?
Do we see any parallel today in the New Testament Church?
Today in certain streams of the Church “the anointing” is something to be coveted by leaders in authority over God’s people. When a pastor has “the anointing” he is enabled to minister to God’s people in some supernatural (and even spectacular) way—whether to heal the sick miraculously, to preach or teach, to make people materially rich, to make gold dust or gold teeth, to make people laugh or fall down, etc. Christians will flock to such “anointed” pastors because they can receive from them unusual blessings. People naturally want a leader to lead them and to go out before them and fight their battles for them.
Think “big government” espoused by liberal progressives and socialists which promises to provide cradle-to-grave care for the people without holding them responsible for their actions or lack thereof. Similarly, in some circles of the Church believers want and seek out an “anointed” pastor or leader to follow—who will lead them and to go out before them and fight their battles for them, thus relieving them of major personal responsibility before God. This however is not pleasing to the Lord.
In doing so they are essentially rejecting God as their king just as the Israelites did in 1 Samuel 8:7 when they insisted on having an anointed king. God would rather have His people seek Him and trust Him to teach them to fight their own battles by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in them. This is God’s perfect will for them—instead of them putting their trust in an “anointed,” yet fallible human being.
Yet if God’s people insist on an “anointed” pastor, He may relent and provide such a leader for them. But there will be consequences for rejecting God’s perfect will for us.
“The anointing” to heal, save, and deliver should be reserved for deity alone: the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is exactly what we see in the New Testament. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament priest, prophet, and king. Old Testament priests, prophets, and kings were but shadows of the reality to be found in Christ (Colossians 2:17). A search of the instances of the terms anoint, anointed and anointing in the New Testament yield the conclusion that Jesus Christ alone was anointed to minister to others supernaturally.
By contrast, there are essentially only two places found in New Testament Scripture where believers are anointed by the Holy Spirit.
1 John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. …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
These two verses refer to an anointing for every believer to know the truth, and which teaches us about all things. God wants His people to become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ instead of remaining helpless infants forever dependent upon an “anointed” servant of God to teach them, lead them, and bless them in some supernatural way. Every believer is anointed to know the Lord and to know His word.
We find the second instance of believers being anointed in Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth.
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.
This refers to us being anointed as a seal of God’s ownership on us and a guarantee of our salvation. It is clearly not an anointing for us to minister to others.
1 John and 2 Corinthians contain the only instances in the New Testament of believers having an anointing or being anointed. Notice that this anointing actually and specifically ministers to us — it teaches us about all things and sets us apart and seals us as God’s holy possession. It is not meant to enable us to bless or to minister to others in some special way.
Therefore we should exercise careful discernment toward those ministers who consistently claim to be specially “anointed” to bless or minister to God’s people in some way. Such an anointing is not at all found in the New Testament, where we see that only the Lord Jesus Christ is anointed to minister to us.
Could it be that the anointing to heal, save, deliver, and minister to others should be reserved for deity alone: The Lord Jesus Christ? Could it be that the anointing, as we see in the case of Old Testament kings who were anointed to lead God’s people and to fight their battles for them, is not meant for imperfect human beings?
When God’s people insist on “anointed” leaders, their demand might be granted. But there may be consequences.
Some case histories
In Brazil with the fifth largest population in the world, evangelicals (unlike elsewhere in Latin America) are rapidly growing in number and expected to overtake Catholics within decades. Part of the reason for this is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in some Baptist churches some thirty or forty years ago. We would like to examine very briefly the history of three of these “Spirit-filled” Baptist churches which now number among Brazil’s largest evangelical churches. At the outset of the move of the Holy Spirit, these three churches were led by Baptist preachers who because of their strong Baptist background followed Scripture closely. As a result all three churches were blessed by the Lord and became extremely fruitful.
When the pioneering pastors of these three churches reached retirement age, each of their pulpits was handed down to a younger pastor in each church. Two of these three younger pastors (now in their fifties) leading the three churches have continued to follow Scripture closely. The author of this article has ministered in the two churches they are serving, and these two churches continue to increase and bear very good fruit for the gospel. The third pastor, however, unlike his predecessor at that church has emphasized the utmost importance of “the anointing” for ministry to others—something we of course do not see in New Testament scripture. This third pastor is presently suffering from serious problems and setbacks in his well-known ministry.
The country of Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world. In the city of Semarang stands a very large and well-known church. Its pastor strongly believes in and ministers with the “anointing,” and very large crowds will gather every Sunday to receive various blessings through this anointing. It is said that he does not want to be physically touched by another person lest “the anointing leak out” of him through the contact. In March 2016 he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. He was in his early fifties. His followers said that the devil had attacked him.
Although of course the above histories are of course not statistically significant and rather anecdotal in nature, they might encourage us in the New Testament Church to follow New Testament scripture closely—something that evangelicals should be doing in any case.
When “anointed” pastors and servants of God seek to use their supernatural anointing to draw crowds (and of course their offerings) to their ministries by promising them divine blessings that pastors who do not have the anointing cannot give them, alarms should go off. Are they not following in the footsteps of Saul, David, and Solomon whose human nature and pride eventually got the better of them despite their best intentions?
And the sheep who follow such pastors and leaders—are they not essentially rejecting God as did the Israelites when they insisted on a human king? Sadly, in quite a few streams of the Church today there are many such “anointed” pastors and many such forever baby sheep seeking after them to breastfeed them and fight their battles for them—instead of maturing in Christ and standing firm in Him as spiritual adults. The current “experiment” in the Church today, just like in Old Testament Israel whereby against God’s perfect will a king was nevertheless anointed to lead God’s people, will not turn out well.
Seek after “the anointing” at your own risk even though there may be some initial “success.” Follow after the “anointed” leader at your own risk. It is not scriptural
If we do not have an “anointing” to minister to others, then what do we have? New Testament scripture clearly teaches us that the Lord has given us authority, power, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which we can use very effectively and fruitfully to minister to others.