The Anointing in the Old & New Covenants


Anointed and anointing are relatively ancient terms, used extensively throughout the Old Testament, and to a lesser degree in the New Testament.  For the most part they simply refer to the practice of applying various oils or balms for things like healing, consecration, and/or preparation for burial.  Because there isn’t much modern context for these words, they are easily manipulated to take on a host of other connotations.  To be sure, they have become part of the popular vernacular within charismatic circles.

In the days of the temple, Priests had to be anointed with a specific blend of oils prior to entering the Holy of Holies, lest they perish, and the Kings of Israel were anointed with oil to signify that they were chosen by God and commissioned to His service.  Like the Priests, the failure to uphold this high calling could result in dire consequences for both the King and his family line.

The modern usage of these terms seems to be aimed at this idea of being specifically chosen (or called) by God, along with a sense of being uniquely gifted (or equipped) in one area or another.  But generally, omits the aesthetic of being bound by an oath to faithfully represent its source, or to acknowledge the potential destruction that could accompany its misuse.  Indeed, those who profess to have an “anointing” often appear to be like children, who’ve gotten ahold of their father’s credit card, and don’t realize that he’ll see the billing statement at the end of the month.

Even those who are sincere in their commitment to serve the Lord can fall to the intoxication of consistently watching God work through their gift, and the earthly treasures/accolades that may result from that.  Over time they can become convinced that this has more to do with who they are rather than simply being a byproduct of the Father’s generosity.

In those moments they need loving brothers and sisters to help them to see their folly.  But within the current charismatic culture, they would likely be chastened for “coming against God’s anointed ones”.  The implication being that these individuals’ gifts and callings somehow exempt them from being questioned or receiving any kind of reproach.  This, of course, is a profound distortion of that passage of scripture, and of what it means to be “anointed” in general.

One of the clearest pictures of what anointing is, and isn’t can be found in the story of Saul and David.

Because we know how the story ends, it’s easy to pass over the details at the beginning.  Saul did not promote himself to the position of king, nor was he nominated by his peers, he was literally picked out of the crowd (1Sam.9:17) and chosen by God (1Sam.10:24).  At that time, he was humble (1Sam.9:21), anointed (1Sam.10:1), gifted (1Sam.10:13), and God had done a work in his heart (1Sam.10:9).  And for a substantial period, Saul walked in that calling and anointing (i.e. 1Sam.11), fulfilling God’s purposes in his life.

But, as previously alluded to, sustained seasons of victory, and the praise of men eventually eroded Saul’s humility to the point that he felt empowered (or commissioned) to make decisions of his own (1Sam.15:9).

It wasn’t as if he stopped wanting to serve God, but his pride and greed caused him to overstep the bounds of his authority.

God’s response was quick and definitive (1Sam.15:11 & 23), and it’s hard not to see the parallel between his story and the narratives surrounding so many “anointed” (i.e. called, gifted, empowered) ministry leaders who’ve fallen throughout church history, and in the recent past.

At the point David refused to lay his hands on “God’s anointed one” (1Sam.24:10), it was clear to him and everyone else that Saul had been rejected as the king of Israel.  This passage is pointing towards David’s unwillingness to act without specific direction from the Lord, which is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ pledge that He couldn’t do anything without direct guidance from the Father.  It is meant as an advocation of David’s heart, not a defense of Saul’s immutable position or calling.

Nothing in scripture supports the idea that calling, gifting, anointing… exempts a person from accountability, indeed quite the opposite is true (James 3:1).  Within these stories, we see Samuel soundly rebuke Saul (1Sam.15:17-19), just as Nathan strongly rebukes David for his transgression with Bathsheba (2Sam.12:1-7).  Chastening a king was a dangerous activity, even for a recognized prophet, but it was exactly what God called them to do.

Another related aspect revealed in these stories occurs toward the end of David’s reign, when he wants to build the temple.  When he inquires of the prophet Nathan, he’s told that God is with him, and that he should do as he pleases (2Sam.7:3).  There is nothing recorded that indicates that Nathan inquired of the Lord for this answer, and it appears to have come from his experience of being alongside David as he wins battle after battle.

It was a completely reasonable conclusion to draw, and on the surface, it seemed true, as God clearly was with David.  But when Nathan takes the time to inquire of the Lord (2Sam.7:4), the answer is much different than he or anyone else expected.

This phenomenon is frequently played out in the modern context, as truly gifted people, who have eyes to see, are blinded by someone’s position, title, resume, success, giftings, callings, anointing…  Like these prophets, they may have been called by God to confront issues, but they defer to what they see with their natural senses, or what they perceive to be a higher authority.

Nathan’s rebuke of David allowed him to repent, and to step back into the fullness of his calling.  It’s hard not to believe that God hasn’t extended this same grace to so many other ministers who fell because no one was willing to confront them as they veered off course.  Unfortunately, we have created a culture that struggles to tolerate such an encounter.

Perhaps even more repulsive than simply misusing God’s anointing for our own selfish gain is the ongoing mystification of these gifts to create the illusion of an elite religious class of ministry leaders, designed to rule and guide the less gifted working-class sheep (i.e. laity).

In his letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4), Paul describes a mature body of believers, in which every part is directly connected to the head, and each part supplies something for the greater whole.  The “Five-Fold” gifts described in this chapter are intended to help facilitate this maturing process, not to exacerbate the clergy-laity division that has plagued the church throughout history.  As Paul explained to Timothy (1Tim.2:5), there is only meant to be one intermediary between God and man, and His name is Jesus.

The anointing is not some expensive present that God only bestowed upon His favorite kids, it was a tool which He intends to use to draw men unto Himself.  It was never intended to be something they could possess.  It was simply a garment, provided by the Lord, which allows them to better serve at His command.  Walking in that anointing tested the depths of their humility.  Like the treasures that the children of Israel carried out of Egypt, it would be their provision, or they would use it to create some sort of lifeless idol.

Brian Corbin

The anointing in the New Covenant

What changed between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant in reference to the anointing? For one, because of the now permanent habitation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer the anointing provided instant access to His presence and power. Christ the Anointed One abides in His saints.

Second, the anointing (habitation of the Holy Spirit) was proof to those who were born from above. The One Holy Spirit in us all recognizes and confirms the Holy Spirit in another saint.

2 Cor 1:21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

1 John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

Thirdly, the anointing is our teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ via the Holy Spirit which dwells in us.

1 John 2:26-27 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Here the anointing is described as that which teaches all things (the Holy Spirit) so verbal Christian education doesn’t necessarily create learning or results in maturity of the believer. Christ our Lord is the Head of His Body and He is actively involved in the teaching of His saints.  This is not a denial of the Four-fold gifts, but we know that more is caught by example that taught by words.

Experience in the Lord is also an awesome teacher. Scripture tells us that our Lord Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered. We also have many examples of how persecuted Christians rapidly mature in the midst of intense suffering. Where is the anointing during these trials? Right where Christ dwells, in His saints. The anointing helps us to go through the problem not to avoid it.

Finally, the anointing (the infilling of the Spirit) empowers us to minister His gifts to the Body of Christ and to all whom the Lord wills.

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well,

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Acts 9:17 who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord.

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Eph 3:19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Eph 5:17 Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is.  18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

The New Covenant anointing has no respect for place or location. Chicago and Jerusalem are the same to Him. A prison cell and a physical sanctuary are the same to Him. The Anointing is Christ and Christ dwells within. The anointing in the New Covenant is no respecter of persons. The Lord can fill the new believer just as he can fill the oldest elder in the congregation. The only people the Lord chooses not to fill are the satisfied, the religious, the legalists and those who practice sin. When Jesus walked the earth the hungry and thirsty were drawn like a magnet to Him. So today the anointing is drawn to those who want “more” of what they already have all of. In other words, we received all of the Holy Spirit at conversion but due to God’s divine design you can still be filled.

In conclusion I want to share a personal testimony. The Holy Spirit is no respecter of rituals. He only responds to destiny, purpose, and callings. I have many times been anointed/filled by His Spirit as I watch a non-Christian movie or a sports match that has a comeback story, victory by an underdog, or a part in the film where darkness is conquered by good. I have asked the Lord many times why I am suddenly brought to tears as His Spirit smothers my being. All I know is Father doesn’t recognize our labels but recognizes His destiny in a soul and can at any time remind them of His purposes for their life.

May the Lord help you quit chasing His Presence which never leaves us in the New Covenant and may you always seek to be filled again and again with the fulness of His Spirit.

Much love,

Jose L. Bosque

I want to that Bryan Corbin for his help in setting the platform for this discussion.