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Anointed to stand firm ::

Christians fall into the dangerous habit of misusing Biblical words and the whole ‘anointing’ terminology is a good example.
Source: Perspective Vo5 No2 ©Perspective 1999

*Do you feel ‘anointed’ when you preach? *

*Have you ‘received the anointing’? *

*Was your church camp speaker ‘anointed’? *

Often, Christians fall into the dangerous habit of misusing Biblical words. Certain church circles are especially prone to this – and the whole ‘anointing’ terminology is a good example. How often have you heard someone say after a church service that the speaker was ‘anointed’, or the music, or the ‘time of worship’, or the prayer meeting? The word has a warm Christian ring to it – it sounds really ‘spiritual’ (itself another misused Biblical word). But the minute you try to ask someone as to what they actually mean by ‘anointed’, you often get a puzzled look. It would seem that the word has such an ‘anointed’ status that it doesn’t need a meaning!

But the word is used in the Bible, and so we can turn to the Bible and see what ‘anointing’ should mean for Christians. Now, you don’t even have to be a hot-shot with the concordance to work out that the word is strongly associated with the Holy Spirit. But what sort of association are we talking about? Well, an important New Testament instance is found in 2 Corinthians 1:21,22.

That trilogy of parallel phrases introduces us to a key idea. For the Christian, ‘anointing’ has everything to do with standing firm in our faith. We are made to “stand firm” in Christ by the anointing that God gives to us. And what is this anointing? It is when, having believed the gospel, God puts his Spirit in our hearts.

Notice that this ‘anointing’ isn’t something that can come and go; it isn’t something that we can have more at one time and less at another; it isn’t something that can be worked up; and it isn’t something that some Christians have more than others! The notion of a Spirit that descends and departs according to human performance has always been pagan.

Rather, this ‘anointing’ is something that God has done for everyone who is in Christ. It is something all Christians have. It is nothing less than God’s way of ensuring that we stand firm in Christ, sealed by the deposit of his Spirit. And the purpose of this anointing is so that, come the Final Day, we will fully enter into the redemption that we’ve been promised.

This is exactly the meaning of the term in another important passage, 1 John 2:18-27. John was writing to believers who were coming under the sound of a fledgling heresy called ‘gnosticism’, a heresy that denied Christ. And the teachers of this heresy – antichrists, as John calls them – presented a threat to the Christians under John’s care. And so he wanted his readers to recognise and reject this false teaching so that they could stand firm in their faith.

And in discussing their need to stand firm in their faith, John uses the word ‘anointing’ several times. John is saying that, in coming under the truth of the gospel, his readers had received an ‘anointing’ – in this case the ability to tell the Truth from falsehood. In fact, like Paul in 2 Corinthians 1, this ‘anointing’ is something that John sees as convergent with believing the gospel. They have this anointing, they know the truth (verse 20); like the truth, the anointing is something that “remains” in them (verse 24, cf. verse 27); in fact, the anointing teaches them to discern truth from error (verse 27).

Putting it all together, then, ‘anointing’ is all about God putting his Spirit in our hearts when we respond in faith to the gospel. And that means that, through the gospel, the Holy Spirit helps us recognise false gospels when they confront us, so that we can stand firm in the Truth we heard at the beginning. We are anointed to stand firm, to continue to stick to the truth of the gospel.

When we look at things that way, it becomes painfully apparent how so much ‘anointing’ talk is way off the track. The word is used in a way that is, in the end, experience-driven and not Scripture-driven. But if we think this is just a quibble over words, we miss the point. Because when we make the Bible’s words mean what we want them to mean, we automatically obliterate what the Bible is trying to say. And in this case, it means that we fail to hear the clear call of the New Testament to stand firm. We end up exchanging a Biblical truth for an unbiblical truth – or as John would put it, a lie.

Michael Fischer.

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