The Anointing is Alive and Well
Holy Ghost distributions continue in the New Testament.
While waiting to get my hair cut the other day, I was flipping through my iPhone, looking at different articles, when I came across one on the Huffington Post by a pastor named Rick Henderson. He was calling out Joyce Meyers and Joel Osteen as false teachers (so what else is new?). I scanned through his tired arguments about Jesus' death and God's desire to bless his kids, and was about to move on to Scrabble or something more productive, but my hairdresser was busy with a client, so I took a walk on the wild side over to Henderson's blog and read his post From Caution to Clarity. (His Meyers/Osteen article apparently got quite the audience, more than 550,000 views.) What he said about the anointing set my hair on fire.
Is Any Preacher, Teacher or Pastor Anointed?
NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. Pastors and teachers are either true or false. They are not anointed. There were people in the Old Testament who were anointed. They were generally prophets or kings. They were God’s representatives. Standing against them, when they spoke for God, was equivalent to standing against God. Consider the unfortunate events of the youths who insulted the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 2. But the anointed of God were not beyond reproach. Remember that the prophet Nathan rebuked David for his sins of adultery and murder in 2 Samuel 12. This only happened sparingly and entirely in the Old Testament (with the exception of Jesus and John the Baptist).
Anyone who claims an anointing is ascribing to themselves and their words something that is never uniquely ascribed to any disciple, apostle or New Testament author. This description is not used to elevate a single person, act nor utterance in the New Testament (with the exception of Jesus and John the Baptist). This is Christian speak, derived from the Old Testament. Teachers who use this term to describe themselves or their teaching are misguided at best and manipulative at worst. This puts listeners in an inferior position that tends to come with unquestioning adherence. That is neither good, nor biblical.
Are you kidding me?
In Hebrews, the writer refers to the anointing. He describes it as distributions of the Holy Ghost.
For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:2-4, NRSV)
For if the word through messengers spoken became firm, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape, if so great a salvation as this we have neglected,--which indeed, having received a beginning of being spoken through the Lord by them who heard, unto us was confirmed, God jointly witnessing also, both with signs and wonders and manifold mighty works, and with distributions of Holy Spirit according to his own will? (Hebrews 2:2-4, Rotherham)
Rotherham's translation reads like Yoda-speak, but it brings out the point that God endowed certain individuals in the Old Testament, such as Elijah and Elisha, with distributions of the Holy Spirit, not to elevate them, but rather, the distributions serve as witness to God's gospel. And that's not all. The writer says these endowments were the beginning of the message of salvation, not its endnote. That means we should expect signs and wonders and manifold mighty works to continue through today. There is ample New Testament support showing this to be true.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits departed, (Acts 19:11, NRSV)
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they worked together-by trade they were tent makers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:1-4, NRSV)
If anointings stopped somewhere before Malachi, then what were these Christians doing tearing Paul's clothes off of him? Why in the world did they want his aprons and handkerchiefs? For some Christian voodoo over their sick loved ones?
No. Paul was endowed with an anointing not unlike Elijah, and all the people knew it. They wanted his clothes because that anointing was tangible and would permeate whatever he was wearing. They'd take his clothes, lay it on those demonized, and the anointing in them would drive the demons and sicknesses away.
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to The Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured. (Acts 5:12-16, NRSV)
Peter is an even more dramatic example. Once word got around he was coming to town, people went to work to line up the sick in the streets. Luke writes that they just hoped his shadow would fall on them. Were they practicing some kind of idol worship of Peter? No. The anointing was so strong on him that people were getting healed when they came within just 3 or 4 feet of him.
The Bible teaches us these New Testament distributions are derivative of the anointing that Jesus had in his earthly ministry. The Word points out that Jesus was endowed with the Spirit without measure.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38, NRSV))
He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34, NRSV)
This without-measure distribution is one reason why healings in his ministry were virtually instantaneous. When he ascended on high, his endowment was transferred to the Church.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7, NRSV)
And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them, they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:15-19, NRSV)
Mark shows the Hebrews 2:4-context of this deputizing.
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:19-20, NRSV)
Peter and Paul's individual distributions were part and parcel of this grand endowment distributed across the Church. And it isn't limited to healing. In Ephesians 4:11-12, we see that it is manifested in certain giftings.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ. (NRSV)
It doesn't take more than five minutes to see how Jesus functioned in each one of these giftings.
If God's anointings or endowments aren't for New Testament times, then why did Paul write "I didn't come to you with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit"? Was this just some misguided Christian-speak?
Photo Credit: "Hugo van der Goes 006" by Hugo van der Goes (circa 1440-1482) - The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.