As Christians, are we automatically anointed simply by default? Is the anointing a feeling? A spiritual gift? A physical rubbing of oil? Or is there a deeper meaning to this word that has seemingly been used inconsequentially for so long? The word Christian comes from the Greek word Christianos, meaning “follower of Christ” (1), and the word Christ (often mistaken as Jesus’ last name) comes from the Greek word christos, meaning “anointed one” (2). So, technically, as Christians, we are to be anointed—but what does this truly mean? We may hear (or make) comments like “so and so is such an anointed musician” or “that pastor was so anointed” in our church circles, but have we considered the fundamental meaning of God’s anointing? According to Scripture and the writings of the early church (prior to 325 AD), the anointing is symbolic of sound doctrine, the mysteries of the Kingdom, as taught by Jesus and those operating in the Apostolic office.
High Priests and Apostles
In the Old Testament, kings, priests, and prophets were anointed with anointing oil, as a sign of consecration and ordination into office, as well as the tabernacle and all its furnishings. For example, Moses anointed the High Priest Aaron and his sons into office (Exodus 40:12, 14; Leviticus 8:12, 30) and consecrated the tabernacle (Exodus 40:9-11; Leviticus 8:10). The prophet Samuel anointed both King Saul and King David respectively (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13), and anointing was used metaphorically to set individuals apart for the prophetic office (cf. 1 Kings 19:16; Psalms 105:15). It is commonly known that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed, and the early church explained that the whole of scripture is symbolic (having a deeper, mystical meaning (3, 4). The physical anointing that took place in the Old Testament was symbolic of a spiritual anointing that is revealed in the New Testament when Jesus (our great high priest, Hebrews 4:14) is anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38; cf. Luke 4:18).
We read in the Acts of the Apostles:
36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and Power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:36-38, emphasis added)
Holy Spirit reveals the mysteries of the kingdom
The word anointed (in Greek) in Acts 10:38 refers to Christians who have been anointed or consecrated to the service and ministry of Christ and His gospel through the gift of the Holy Spirit (5). So, not only was Jesus anointed, all of His followers should be too. The Holy Spirit is the teacher and Helper (John 14:16), and according to Thayer’s Greek definitions, the Helper was gifted to the Apostles to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth (6). This definition indicates that there is something deeper (or something hidden) in God’s Word that needs to be revealed by His Spirit. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus refers to this deeper knowledge as the “mysteries of the Kingdom” (Matthew 13:11), which are “hidden in parables” (Matthew 13:10). Furthermore, the Apostle Paul writes that the Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10), and in the Greek language, the deep things refer to His mysteries (7). Therefore, the anointing correlates to a deeper understanding of the mysteries within the parables, and according to the early church, the whole of Scripture is parabolic (3, 8). This is why John states, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (1 John 2:20, emphasis added). The Apostle understood the purpose of the anointing was for knowledge of God’s Word, which can only be revealed by the Spirit.
Now that we have established that the role of the Holy Spirit is to anoint us with understanding, we must explore who is anointed. We have stated above that all Christians (technically, by name) should be anointed, but can we be anointed without a High Priest/Apostle? According to the Old Testament, only the High Priest had the authority to anoint, and in the New Testament, the Apostles were given the same mandate (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Now, you may wonder how the High Priesthood is relevant to today’s Church, or perhaps the Apostolic office is unfamiliar to you? (for more information please refer to: The Need for True Apostles in the Church). In his first epistle, Peter states: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9; cf. 1 Peter 2:5) and in the book of Revelations, John writes, “and [Jesus] has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelations 1:6). So, we see that Christians are called to be a royal priesthood, which means the office of the priesthood (or the Apostolic office according to the New Testament) is still in effect today. In the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, we read that by those who are operating in this office, we are “sealed with the oil of gladness and the ointment of understanding” (9). So, it is by the revelation of God’s Word being passed down from the true Apostles that we are anointed to understand the mysteries of Christ (Ephesians 3:1–4).
True vs. False Anointing
This begs the question, are we truly anointed if we are not being taught the hidden depth of God’s Word? Many know God’s Word by the letter (at a surface level), but according to the Apostle Paul this profits us nothing and, in fact, causes a spiritual death (see 2 Corinthians 3:6). As aforementioned, the Holy Spirit is to teach us the depth of God’s Word—His mysteries—and by having a correct understanding of the scriptures, we are thus anointed (by a true High Priest/Apostle). The early church followed strict orthodoxy, and just as we read in scripture, many of our forefathers warned of false teachers professing to have knowledge (anointing), however they were heretical. Early Christian writer, Ignatius (who was a disciple of the Apostle John), warns the Church in Ephesus in respect to this:
…Every one that has received from God the power of distinguishing, and yet follows an unskilful shepherd, and receives a false opinion for the truth, shall be punished. “What communion hath light with darkness? or Christ with Belial? Or what portion hath he that believeth with an infidel? or the temple of God with idols?” (2Co_6:14-16) And in like manner say I, what communion hath truth with falsehood? or righteousness with unrighteousness? or true doctrine with that which is false? (10)
Ignatius articulates that we have all been given the ability to discern (distinguish) what is truth, and what is not (1 John 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:15), which comes by having our swords sharpened (Hebrews 4:12). According to Ignatius, ignorance is not bliss, and we are accountable to who we receive the Word of God from. He likens light to true doctrine and darkness to false, which is why Jesus warns us to “take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35).
…Let no one be anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of [the prince of] this world; let not the holy Church of God be led captive by his subtlety, as was the first woman. Why do we not, as gifted with reason, act wisely? When we had received from Christ, and had grafted in us the faculty of judging concerning God, why do we fall headlong into ignorance? And why, through a careless neglect of acknowledging the gift which we have received, do we foolishly perish? (11)
Ignatius states a very sobering thought: there is a false anointing (bad odour) that can deceive believers and thus cause us to perish (cf. Ephesians 5:6). Simply put, there is only one true doctrine (or anointing), but man has created a multitude of theological beliefs based on opinion (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:19). Hence, in the book of Revelations, Jesus tells the Church of Ephesus to see how far they have fallen (Revelations 2:5) in an exhortation to turn back to the truth. Furthermore, Ignatius echoes Jesus when he states to His disciples: “See to it that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ [anointed],’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:5). We have been gifted with the Holy Spirit to discern between what is true doctrine, and what is not.
Over 100 years later, Cyprian of the third century wrote:
But we ought to know and remember that it is written, “Let not the oil of a sinner anoint my head,” (Psa_141:5, LXX) which the Holy Spirit before forewarned in the Psalms, lest any one going out of the way and wandering from the path of truth should be anointed by heretics and adversaries of Christ. (12)
In the same vein as Ignatius, Cyprian articulates that there is a false anointing- that of the heretics (false teachers). These people were (and still are) considered adversaries of Christ, and as we have learned, Christ refers to the anointing. Thus, the adversaries of Christ are those who do not teach or understand the mysteries of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:11; Ephesians 3:4). So, we must ask ourselves a simple question: are we being taught the deeper truth of God’s Word in our Churches? Because it is clear that we are in the time of the Apostle Paul’s forewarning: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The five wise and foolish virgins
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches a parable that is symbolic for the time we are in now. In the Parable of the ten Virgins He states:
1 Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (Matthew 25:1-4, emphasis added)
In reference to this parable, the Apostolic Constitutions reads:
“Prepare your works for your exit, and provide all things beforehand in the field.” Otherwise, some of the things necessary for your journey will be lacking, just as the oil of holiness was deficient in the five foolish virgins mentioned in the gospel. For because of their having extinguished their lamps of divine knowledge, they were shut out of the bridal chamber. Accordingly, he who values the security of his soul, will take care to be out of danger, by keeping free from sin. In that manner, he can preserve the advantage to himself of his former good works. (13)
We see here the importance of having the anointing (divine knowledge) as it was the very thing lacking in the foolish virgins; thus, they did not enter the marriage chamber (symbolically referring to salvation at the end of the age, a topic we implore you to study further into). Early church father Origen (of the second-third century) explains that divine knowledge is “the deeper truths which lie hidden in Scripture ” that are revealed in “proportion to [our] pains and zeal which [we] expend upon its investigation” (14). Hence, the wise King Solomon exhorted, “It is the glory of God to conceal (hide) a matter (word), but the glory of kings is to search out a matter (word).” (Proverbs 25:2). If we truly are a Royal Priesthood, operating in the Holy Spirit, we must be seeking to understand the depth of God’s Word.
There is a common misconception within the body of Christ that the anointing is simply a feeling, a title, or even a physical oil. However, as scripture has interpreted scripture and by the illumination we have received from some of the prolific writers of the early church, we now see the true anointing. So, are all Christians anointed? While this should be true (because, as aforementioned, Christ means to be anointed), it unfortunately isn’t, as we have now discovered what it means to be truly anointed: to understand the mysteries of the Word of God. If we are not learning the deeper things, can we really carry the title of “Christian” [anointed one]? Now is the time for us to buy the oil (Matthew 25:9), so that we may be the true Church, filled with His anointing oil (Revelations 1:20), ready to go out and meet the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:6).
- Thayer’s Greek definitions: Christian (G5546)
- Thayer’s Greek definitions: Christ (G5547)
- Clement, The Stromata, Bk. 6, Ch. XC, Vol. 7
- Origen, De Principiis, Vol. 4
- The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Anointed (G5548)
- Thayer’s Greek definitions: Helper (G3875)
- Strong’s Greek definitions: Deep things (G899)
- Origen, Spirit and Fire, Mystery, Pg. 89
- Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Bk. II, Ch, XXXII
- Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians, Chap. XVI
- Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians, XVII (emphasis added)
- Cyprian, The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle LXIX (emphasis added)
- Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Bk. II, Chap. XIII
- Origen, Against Celsus, Bk. VII, Chap. LX
All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010.