Essential: God’s Anointing

Pastor Craig Carter

As Christians, we oftentimes use language that is meaningless to the unbelieving world. I’m not even sure we even know what we’re talking about in many instances.

Last Sunday, I quoted a verse from 1 John that reads something like this in many translations: Jesus Christ is the propitiation {RSV: expiation} for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

Do you know what propitiation or expiation means? Neither do I!

That’s why I used the New Living Translation: Jesus Christ is the sacrifice that atones for our sins… But even then, the word atones needs further definition for most folks.

And what in the world are we talking about when we sing, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer” in the second verse of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing?

Well, it refers to the monument erected by Samuel to commemorate an important Israelite victory over the Philistines (literally, “stone of help;” see 1 Samuel 7:12).

If you didn’t know the meaning of that song lyric or if you have been confused when we recite the Apostles’ Creed and affirm our belief in the “holy catholic church,” you’re not alone!

By the way the word catholic means “universal.”

As Christians, not only do we sometimes not even know what we are saying, sometimes we pray for things without really knowing what we are asking for. Have you ever heard someone ask for God’s anointing upon a preacher or ministry?

If you’ve ever heard me pray, you know that I make this petition on a regular basis. What precisely is it that I’m seeking when I make this request?

To be totally honest, I’m not completely sure. Let me explain …

As I once shared with a fellow pastor, I don’t fully understand God’s anointing, but I do know what it looks and feels like when it’s present (and vice versa). I’ve learned that God’s anointing is something I absolutely can’t live without, and I’d suggest it is essential for all of us who call ourselves Christian.

The word anoint literally means “to rub with or to apply oil or ointment to a person or thing.”

In the ancient world, anointing had many applications, both secular and religious. Sometimes wounds were anointed with some type of salve or ointment that promoted healing. Sometimes oils were applied to the human body for cosmetic purposes.

For symbolic reasons, objects were anointed with oil to make them sacred, or set apart for religious purposes (e.g. temples, altars). In the same vein, oil was poured upon persons to mark their inauguration to a particular office (e.g. kings, priests). All of these applications made their way into the Judeo-Christian tradition.

More importantly, throughout Scripture, anointing became closely associated with the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1 NIV)

In His first public sermon, Jesus applied this prophecy about the Messiah to Himself (see Luke 4:18). Then later in a sermon recorded in Acts chapter 10, Peter claimed that God’s anointing was the secret to Jesus’ success during His earthly ministry.

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38 NLT)

In fact, the most common title given to Jesus points to His divine anointing. Christ literally means, “the anointed one” (Greek, chrio: anoint; chrisma: oil; christos: Christ). As Christians, we are literally “the little anointed ones.”    

Do you now see why I say that God’s anointing is essential and truly necessary in life? To be a follower of Jesus is to be anointed.

Unfortunately, many Christians are missing out on this vital ingredient – either by ignorance or by choice.

So, to remedy those situations, I’d like to share some principles about God’s anointing that emerge from the passage in Acts. This is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion of the subject, only a starting point for a more in-depth study at a later date.

1) God anointing is essential because it provides us with a POSITION.

Throughout out the Old Testament, persons were anointed for certain responsibilities – priests, kings, prophets. The symbolic pouring of oil on their heads signified their legitimate right to fulfill the given office.

Aaron was consecrated as high priest to make sacrifices on behalf of the people, King Saul was given the legal right to rule over the nation of Israel, and Elisha was authorized to speak as a prophet for the Lord. Anointing represented their divine commission to function in a given position. And it served as their source of authority and gave them legitimacy.

In the same way, God’s anointing of Jesus placed Him in a divinely-appointed position.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, and that the oppressed will be set free.” (Luke 4:18 NLT)

Jesus functioned perfectly in this divinely commissioned position as he “went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).

In fact, as we sing about in Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus was “prophet and priest and king” all rolled into one.

As I mentioned earlier, all believers are anointed as shown by the designation, Christian. This fact is made explicit in John’s first letter.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One… (1 John 2:20a NIV)

That means we have all been appointed to some position. This anointing is what Paul refers to the “gifts of the Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV)

These spiritual gifts determine our position or function within the Body of Christ. Do you know what your anointing is? Mine is to be a pastor/teacher. What’s yours?

Every one of us has at least one spiritual gift and for us to function as God intends us to function as a church, we must discover our anointing and fulfill the responsibilities of the position the Lord has placed us in. Some are high profile; others are primarily carried out behind the scenes. Some are highly sought after; others are less glamorous.

But all are vitally important.

This anonymous poem illustrates this concept well:

There is some place for you to fill

Some work for you to do,

That no one can or ever will

Do quite as well as you.

It may lie close along your way,

Some homely little duty

That only needs your touch, your sway,

To blossom into beauty.

God’s anointing brings a divine appointment to a position in His kingdom. Ultimately, our lives will be judged by our faithfulness and obedience in carrying out the associated responsibilities. Therefore, it’s essential that we experience God’s anointing for our lives.

2) God’s anointing is essential because it provides us with POWER.

It has been said that “God’s Spirit will never lead us where His grace will not sustain us.” That’s because God’s anointing not only appoints us to a given position, it empowers us to function effectively in it.

Consider the priests, kings, and prophets in the Old Testament. As long as God’s anointing was upon them, they were successful in their endeavors (and the opposite was also true).

This same principle was demonstrated in Jesus’ life. God anointed Jesus … with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38a NIV). In such a way, Christ was able to accomplish great signs, wonders, and miracles.

Pastor and author, R.T. Kendall, writes in his book, The Anointing: “The anointing is the power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day there is no better definition.” Then he adds: “The person who is filled with the Holy Spirit is able to do extraordinary things, but to them it seems quite natural. It is easy, when it is working.”

I have found the same to be true in my ministry experience. When God’s anointing is in operation, incredible, life-changing results occur. God’s anointing allows things to take place in a few moments time that would require years of human effort (instant healing, freedom from painful memories, etc.)

But when God’s anointing is MIA, the opposite is true. Great expenditures of time, energy, and money yield little fruit.

Let me apply this principle to my primary role and function as a pastor/teacher. When the anointing is working, sermon writing comes easily – my sermons seem to write themselves. But when there’s no anointing, every word is like “pulling teeth.”

Then, on occasion, a message seems like a masterpiece to me, but when delivered, it lands with a dull thud and elicits a collective yawn. Other times, a sermon I think is worthless brings great blessing to all who hear it.

What’s the difference? It’s God’s anointing.

Do you ever long for power in your life and place of ministry? Do you want to be a godly parent, have the right words to say to a distraught co-worker, or possess the boldness to witness to a neighbor?

The key is operating in the power that comes through God’s anointing. Unless we have it, we are laboring in vain. 

What is true for us as individuals is also true for us as a church. As the Body of Christ, we need God’s anointing upon all that we do. Nothing of eternal consequence will ever occur without God’s anointing.

The primary characteristic of the Early Church was power. Why? Because they received and then relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, they were anointed to preach, teach, heal, and deliver.

The power we need to be God’s Church in Lynn Haven requires God’s anointing. It is absolutely essential that we have it.

3) God’s anointing is essential because it provides us with PRESENCE.

Notice what God’s anointing represented in His Son’s life: …for God was with him.

Since the anointing is the power of the Holy Spirit and since the Holy Spirit is a Person, it only makes sense that the anointing is the presence of God Himself.

Perhaps this fact explains why the operation of the anointing is usually mysterious and inexplicable.

I’ve noticed that it is hard to predict when the anointing is going to be present and when it isn’t. Preparation is important, but not the determining factor; prayer facilitates it, but I’ve also experienced a powerful anointing even when I haven’t prayed as I should have.

But since the anointing depends on the presence of a Person, the Holy Spirit, it operates sovereignly without respect to anything or anyone.

Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit. (John 3:8a TLB)

So if we want God to be present with us (which we’ve said is essential), we must seek the anointing. And if we want the anointing, we must seek the Anointer.

In his best-selling book, Tommy Tenney refers to this pursuit as “God chasing.” He writes:

“Sadly, today the bulk of the church is like some proverbial detective holding a magnifying glass in his hand and studying where God has been … Perhaps the masses are happy to know where God has been, but true God chasers are not content just to study God’s trail, they want to know Him. They want to know where He is and what He’s doing right now. They want to run hard until they arrive at where He presently exists.”

God chasers are the truly anointed ones of God who will settle for nothing less than God’s presence.

It’s worth noting that God’s presence is found only in the present.

So, while it is beneficial to talk about what God did in the past and anticipate what may happen in the future, the anointing takes place in the here and now.

In the course of this message I’ve given you several definitions for anointing. Let me share my own: “God’s anointing is when God shows up.”

Like any person, His presence should be felt in some real and tangible ways. So if we wonder whether or not we have God’s anointing, I’d say we probably don’t.

If that’s the case, what can we do about it? As R.T. Kendall puts it, “The anointing is the power of the Holy Spirit.” So to receive God’s anointing is to receive God’s Spirit. It’s asking God to “show up” and fill us with His power and His presence.

I’d love to preach this message in a packed sanctuary and give an invitation right now. I can just envision God doing an extraordinary work among us, complete with signs and wonders and miracles. But what’s to prevent Him from doing something remarkable in each home?

In fact, that’d be just like God’s anointing … it cannot be programmed, it is always unpredictable.

So if I’ve convinced you today that God’s anointing is absolutely essential, will you ask God to anoint you, as He did Jesus?

Start by considering what specific way you’d like to experience God’s anointing in your life. Then ask God to anoint you with the Holy Spirit and with power.

Let’s keep chasing God until we find where He is and what He’s doing so we can experience the fullness of His anointing. Amen? Amen!