The Anointing: Spiritual Force or Spirit of Truth?

By Roger Marshall*

We are living in an time when many Christians view the Biblical doctrine of the anointing as if it were a highly charged exhilarating feeling, or some kind of high voltage energy source or force that flows through the atmosphere, our bodies, hands, and out through ones finger tips and palms to produce healing and other types of physical and spiritual blessings in the lives of believers and those with whom they come in contact. Hence we hear of different types of “anointings” that Christians can “feel” such as: activating anointing, anointings of the Christ, anointing of nations, apostolic anointing, breaker anointing, bringing forth anointing, catalytic anointing, corporate anointing, double-portion anointing, exponential anointing, family anointing, foundational anointing, generational anointing, new anointing, prophetic anointing, reproducing anointing, synergistic anointing, watchman anointing, wells of anointing, weighing the anointing etc.

However, this kind of belief has more in common with Eastern mysticism and New Age spirituality, where the devotee engages in the art of channelling the chi force through the atmosphere and the body’s supposed psychic centres or chakras to produce individual and national wellness.

What the Bible says about the anointing

If we are to correctly understand what the Bible says about the anointing we need first to understand what is the root meaning/meanings of the word “anoint” as used in the Bible.

The Compact Bible Dictionary defines anoint as “A practice common in the East, anointing was of three kinds these were: ordinary…sacred… and medical.”

In all three types of anointing the agent used to anoint was olive oil and the practice involved either rubbing, besmearing or painting the individual or object with olive oil (cf. Deut. 28:40).

Ordinary anointing was employed after bathing and as a mark of respect. In short it was a means of perfuming the body (Ruth 3: 3; 2Sam. 12: 20; Eze. 16: 9; Amos: 6: 6; Luke 7: 46). It was also used for making the leather on shields more supple, some what like the modern practice of rubbing the dash boards of cars with protective coatings to help prevent cracking (cf. Isa. 21: 5).

Sacred anointing was carried out on both people and things as a sign of their consecration to the service of God. Examples of this are the tabernacle and all its vessels (Ex. 40: 9 – 11); prophets (1Kings 19: 16b); priests (Ex. 28: 41) and kings (1Sam. 9: 16; 1Kings 19: 16a).

Medicinal anointing was carried out on the sick and wounded for its therapeutic value (2Chron. 28: 15; Isa. 1: 6; Luke 10: 34; James 5: 14).

If we are to understand the Biblical doctrine of the anointing of the Holy Spirit it is the sacred form of anointing to which we must pay attention.

The Hebrew word used for the sacred anointing with oil was Mashach. This word was sometimes also used in a non – sacred sense of anointing, but when used in a sacred sense it meant that the individual or object anointed in this manner was consecrated, dedicated, sanctified, or devoted to God and His service (cf. Lev. 16: 32). Under the Mosaic/Levitical economy it was only after the sacred anointing with oil that the Holy Spirit would accompany the individual (1Sam. 16: 13). It is interesting to note that the oil used in this sacred ritual was not just plain olive oil, as some Christians use today, when they anoint people and sometimes objects in an act of consecrating them to God’s service. Rather the anointing oil was actually a compounded substance made up of 12 ½ lbs of myrrh, 6 ¼ lbs of sweet smelling cinnamon, 6 ¼ lbs of sweet smelling cane, 12 ½ lbs of cassia and about 4 quarts of olive oil (cf. Ex. 30: 22 – 23).

The practice of anointing the priests etc. with this anointing oil was an Old Testament ordinance that has not come forward into the New Testament. In the New Testament the anointing is solely the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (1 John 2: 20 – 27).

Jesus our Example

In the New Testament Jesus was also anointed i.e. consecrated, dedicated, sanctified, purified, devoted, hallowed and made holy for service to God like the kings, priests and prophets of the Old Testament but with out the use of oil (Luke 4: 14 – 21; Acts 4: 27; 10: 38). The Greek word used to show that God anointed Jesus was Chrio, the equivalent of the Hebrew Mashach cited earlier. In fact he was the Anointed One from birth (Luke 2: 10 – 11, 25 – 32).

Similarly, like Jesus, God anoints all Christians with out the use of oil (see 1 Cor. 1: 21where the same Greek word Chrio is used). All Christians are not only anointed Chrio (i.e. consecrated, dedicated, sanctified, purified, devoted, hallowed and made holy for service to God) but we also have the anointing Chrisma i.e. the Holy Spirit accompanying and living in us (1John 2: 20 – 27 cf. St. John 14: 16 – 26). Chrio signifies the very act of consecration (setting apart for service to God) whereas Chrisma signifies the oil used in Old Testament sacred anointing which has been replaced by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The only difference is that whereas Jesus was the Anointed One from natural birth Christians are anointed from the new birth (St. John 3: 5 – 8).

Is the anointing transferable?

There are some Christians who teach that the anointing can be transferred or imparted by the laying on of hands or even by blowing or breathing on others. They cite passages of Scripture such as John 20: 22 and Acts 8: 14 – 17; 19: 1 – 6 to justify their belief. However, a close look at these passages of scripture will show that they teach no such thing.

In John 20: 22 Jesus’ words were simply a final pledge to his disciples of the promise of the coming Holy Spirit to indwell them. The word “receive” in the verse is in the Aorist Imperative which means a command for doing something in the future that is a simple action. It is contrasted with the present imperative, which is a command for a continuous or repetitive action. John 20: 22 was actually fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts2: 1-4).

As for Acts 8: 14 – 17, the word in verse 16 of this passage for “not as yet” is oudepo. It does not signify something that has “has not” happened in a normal sequence of events but rather something that should have happened but has not yet. The norm is that believers receive the Holy Spirit or the anointing at conversion (Acts 2:37 – 39; Romans 8: 15 – 17; 1Cor. 12: 13).

The Acts 19: 1 – 6 passage must be understood in light of the fact that the disciples at Ephesus were not Christians but still Old Testament saints having known only the baptism of John. Like the Samaritans, after coming under apostolic authority, they also received the Holy Spirit.

Since all Christians already have the Holy Spirit (who is the anointing) in their lives, then no Christian can transfer or impart Him to another. One cannot transfer or impart God! In fact the Bible says: “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom.8: 9).


We have seen that the word “anoint” in the Bible does not always mean the same thing.

• There was the ordinary form of anointing after bathing which was for normal perfuming purposes.

• There was anointing that was used on the sick and wounded as a medicine.

• Then there was an anointing that was used for sacred purposes. This form of anointing was employed under the Old Testament and symbolised or represented the person’s consecration, dedication, sanctification, purification and devotion to do the service of God either in the office of prophet (1 Kings 19: 16b), priest (Ex. 28: 41) or king (1 Sam. 9: 16; 1 Kings 19: 16a). Even the tabernacle and all its vessels were anointed in this way and for this purpose (Ex. 40: 9 – 11). After this form of anointing the Holy Spirit would accompany the person (1 Sam. 16: 13).

• In the current New Testament era all Christians are anointed and have the anointing in their lives who is the Holy Spirit, a privilege which the Old Testament saints did not have

Truth: Hallmark of the anointing

It is tragic that while many Christians are enthusiastically talking, testifying, teaching, preaching and writing books and articles about the anointing in the Christian’s life, that one of the most fundamental characteristics of the anointing is eluding them i.e. truth.

In speaking to his disciples about the person of the Holy Spirit (whom we have already shown from scripture is the anointing in the believer’s life) Jesus said:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth…” (John 14:16 –17a; NIV, emphasis added).

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15: 26 – 27; NIV, emphasis added).

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16: 13; NIV, emphasis added).

The apostle John reiterated Jesus’ teaching about the person and work of the Holy Spirit in leading the Christian into the truth. He said: “We are from God and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 John 4:6, emphasis added). In short, the anointing is not recognised by those sweet, invigorating or ecstatic feelings that many Christians experience during worship services etc., but rather the anointing is recognised by one’s adherence to the truth of Christ as preached and testified to by the apostles.

Since in the New Testament era the anointing is none other than the Spirit of truth, Christians would do well to know the biblical truth about the anointing.

*Roger Marshall is founder and executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

© 2006