Posted by: Damon Whitsell | April 16, 2010

The Word of Faith Movement and a False Defintion of “The Anointing”

The Anointing: Bible and Fiction


The purpose of this article is to clarify the Biblical concept of anointing in contrast to current concepts of anointing present in many churches. It is not uncommon to hear comments in church, on Christian radio, and on Christian television where the words “anoint,” “anointing,” and “anointed” are used. Very often the context and the connotative meanings poured into these words differ from the words as they are used within the context of the Bible.

It is important for Christians to correctly understand the concept of anointing as it appears throughout the Old and New Testaments because it is so central to a complete understanding of the good news of the gospel. Christians ought to be filled with great joy when they realize that all Christians are anointed by God. We do not have a priest mediating between us and God. We are anointed as priests (Rev 1:6; 5:10) and Christ is anointed as High Priest. Therefore we can rejoice and “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16)

We talk often of “anointed” meetings, churches, songs, and church leaders; but what is meant by “anointed.” Sometimes people describe meetings where the “anointing of the Holy Spirit flowed.” Too often the context of anointing in the contemporary church implies that anointing is the power of God. I do not reject the idea that God is powerful, and that He can move powerfully in the natural realm through individuals and songs etc. However, the power of God is something different than the Biblical concept of “anointing.”

Much of the misinformation and distortion of the concept of anointing has been spread throughout the church by teachers like Benny Hinn. While Benny Hinn is not the only person to teach a distorted concept of anointing, his book The Anointing, has contributed to the distortion of this concept in the church at large. Further, the statements made in the book typify common misunderstandings about the anointing. This article is not a review of the book, but will contrast key concepts of anointing presented in the book with scripture.

What does it mean to be “anointed?”

Definition of Anointing

The concept of anointing has various uses within the context of scripture. I will discuss each of these uses now, and expand on them later in the article. The commonality between these uses is that each is accompanied by the rubbing of oil on the person or thing being anointed.

Consecration or setting aside

The most common usage of anointing in the Bible is to signify that someone or something is “consecrat[ed] to a holy or sacred use.” <1> Consecrated means “the devoting or setting apart of anything to the worship or service of God.” <2> In the Old Testament this anointing or consecration was signified by the rubbing on (smearing with the hands) of sacred oil, which typified the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Anointing within this context indicates that the object being anointed is ” . . . separat[ed] . . . to God.” <3> (See Hebrew “mashach,” and Greek “aleipho,” and “chrio”)

The oil used to signify that someone or something is consecrated or set aside was a special oil made of ingredients proscribed by God (Exod 30:22-25). This oil was considered sacred and wasn’t to be copied for other uses. To use this oil for other uses was considered an abomination to God (Exod 30:32-33; Levi 10:7, 21:11-12; Eze 23:41).

Act of hospitality

Middle-eastern customs in biblical times and in the present included the anointing of the body with oil “as a means of refreshing or invigorating their bodies.” <4> One of the reasons the custom developed was because of the dusty climate in the middle-east. Oil was applied to the skin to trap dirt on the surface of the skin so that it did not get into the pores. Hence, it was easier to wash the dirt off and get clean (Psal 23:5).

Medical and burial purposes

In both the Old and New Testament olive oil “was applied to the sick, and also to wounds.” Additionally, “the bodies of the dead were sometimes anointed.” <5>

While I will discuss each of these uses of anointing, this article deals primarily with anointing in its common context in scripture: the act of being consecrated, set aside, and separated for God’s use. I will deal with anointing in by inductively following the concept through the Old Testament and into the New Testament. This approach will make clear the distortions of contemporary uses of the concept of anointing within the church.

Contemporary Concept of Anointing

It is important to understand that the contemporary concept of anointing has little in common with what the Bible actually teaches. According to Benny Hinn, “The anointing is the power of God<6> (emphasis original).

The idea of equating the word anointing with the power of God comes from the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The conclusion that Hinn and others draw is clear enough: The Holy Spirit anoints, and the Holy Spirit gives power to the believer. Therefore, the anointing equals power.

The problem is that in deriving the conclusion that “the anointing” equals “the power of God” from Acts 1:8, Hinn commits a logical fallacy known as “questionable cause” or “ignoring a common cause.” This fallacy may be illustrated as follows:

1. A and B regularly occur together (where A is the anointing and B is empowerment).

2. Therefore, A is the cause of B.

What is ignored is that both A and B have a common cause C (i.e., the Holy Spirit). In the case of anointing the argument is that the Holy Spirit anoints the believer and empowers the believer; therefore, anointing equals empowerment.

However, as noted in the following discussion of who and what God anoints, Biblical anointing is never equated with power, but position. While our being empowered by the Holy Spirit may wax and wane, we cannot lose the anointing or infilling of the Holy Spirit. To be anointed is to have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, it is either there or it isn’t, you are either anointed or you aren’t. You are either set aside for God’s use or you aren’t.

Who and what does God anoint?

Old Testament Context

Within the context of the Old Testament the act of anointing — consecrating and setting aside for use to God — is used within the context of physical objects, priests, prophets, and kings. Additionally, as noted previously, anointing is used within the context of hospitality, and anointing the sick and dead.

Consecrating or setting aside physical objects

The Bible recounts the anointing of various types of physical objects in the Old Testament including: pillars (Gene 31:13), altars (Exod 29:21; Lev 8:10; Num 7:1, 10), and the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle, and everything in them including the ark of the Testimony (Exod 30:22, 40:9; Lev 8:10; Num 7:1). All of these objects were anointed to identify them as God’s or set aside for holy use. <7>

Consecrating or setting aside priests

In the Bible priests were anointed to consecrate them to religious service <8> (Exod 28:41, 29:1, 30:30, 40:13-15; Levi 6:1, 7:35-36, 8:12; Numb 3:3). Additionally, when the Bible discusses “the anointed priest” or the high priest, this indicated the priest who was consecrated for religious service to make atonement for the priests and the people of the community <9> (Levi 4:3-5, 6:22, 16:32, 21:10)

The high priest making atonement for the people is an important concept that we as Christians need to understand before we discuss anointing within the context of the New Testament. The temple in Jerusalem had two rooms in it that were divided by a very large and imposing curtain. On one side of the curtain was the holy place which was filled with altars and furniture. The holy place was were the priests went about their daily business of sacrifices.

On the other side of the curtain was the holy of holies or the most holy place where God’s personal presence dwelt as well as the ark of the covenant. Once a year the high priest would go into the holy of holies to make atonement by offering a sin offering on behalf of the people. Nobody else was allowed to enter the holy of holies. In fact, the high priest wore a rope attached to his ankle so that if he died while he was in the holy of holies, his body could be dragged out without anyone else actually passing behind the curtain.

Consecrating or setting aside kings

The Bible indicates that kings were anointed to solemnly consecrate them or set them apart for an office of overseeing the people (Judg 9:7-15; 1Sam 9:16, 10:1, 15:1, 15:17, 16:3, 16:12-13, 24:6, 26:9-11; 2Sam 1:14-16, 3:39, 12:7, 19:21; 1Kin 1:34-45, 19:15-16; Psal 20:6). This anointing wasn’t something that a person gained merely because they wanted it, but the king was hand chosen by God on the basis of His divine command (1Sam 16:6, 24:6, 26:9-11; 2Sam 1:14-16, 3:39, 12:7, 19:21). <10>

The Bible also tells us that the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob etc.) were regarded as anointed kings who ought not be harmed (1Chr 16:22; Psal 105:15). <11>

Additionally, when David and his descendants are referred to as the Lord’s anointed, this is often done with Messianic reference to Jesus Christ (1Sam 2:10; 2Sam 22:50-51, Psal 2:2). <12>

Consecrating or setting aside prophets

In the Bible prophets were anointed to solemnly consecrate them or set them apart for the office of the prophet (1Kin 19:16; Isai 61:1), as in the example of Elijah anointing Elisha. <13>

New Testament Context

Within the context of the New Testament the act of anointing (consecrating and setting aside for use to God) is used within the context of Jesus Christ and all believers. Additionally, as noted previously, anointing is used within the context of hospitality, and anointing the sick and dead.

Consecrating or setting aside of Jesus Christ

This is the exciting part of the message, in the Old Testament the high priest as a mediator petitioned God and made atonement for the priests and the people of the community. When Jesus Christ was crucified the curtain in the temple was torn in two (Luke 23:44) and the barriers to God were removed. Christ was anointed to become our high priest (Luke 4:17; Acts 10:37; Hebr 1:9, 3:1, 4:14-15, 5:1-10, 6:20, 7:1, 7:26, 8:1-3, 9:7-25, 13:11).

The first important message of this article that you should not miss is that we no longer have a priestly mediator between us and God! Hebrews 4:16 admonishes us: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Consecrating or setting aside of all believers

The second important message of this article that you should not miss is that all believers are anointed — consecrated and set aside for service to God. Eph. 2:10 tells us that “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We are all specifically chosen by God for His use!

This anointing isn’t fleeting or something that can be taken away. 2Cor 1:21-22 tells us that “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;  Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 1Joh 2:20 tells us that we “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things”

This is great news! As 1Pet 2:9 puts it “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” (Also, 1Pet 2:5; Rev. 1:6, 5:10)

Clarifying additional problems in Hinn’s concept of anointing

I have already discussed the fact that Hinn’s definition of anointing is fundamentally different that the Biblical concept of anointing. This error creates a shoddy foundation upon which he bases the rest of his discussion of “the anointing.” Before we go on I should note that some of Hinn’s errors are mere semantical mistakes — calling valid Biblical Holy Spirit empowerment by the name “anointing.” However, on the whole, Hinn confuses and contradicts clear Biblical teaching on both anointing and empowerment.

“Paying the Price”

Benny Hinn tells a story where he alleges the Holy Spirit told him, “That’s part of the price, Benny. Are you willing to pay the price for the anointing?” <14> This is a case where if you substitute the word empowerment for anointing, the statement attributed to the Holy Spirit is correct biblically. However, we can assume that the Holy Spirit knows that we cannot pay any part of the price for our anointing. We know from our previous discussions in this article that we are consecrated and set aside not by what we have done, but by Christ’s finished work on the cross (Ephe 2:8-9).

Additionally, Hinn infuses the “word of faith” heresy into his concept of anointing. <15> According to Hinn, ” . . . the anointing is dependent upon my words. God will not move unless I say it. Why? because He has made us coworkers with Him. He set things up that way.” <16> (emphasis original) Again, as I have already demonstrated, God anoints us because of Christ’s finished work not based on words that we use. Also, even if we acknowledge that Hinn confuses empowerment and anointing and substitute the word empowerment for anointing in Hinn’s quote, the statement is not scriptural.

“Degrees/Levels of Anointing”

Because Hinn confuses the power of God with the presence of God, he believes that Christians without the “anointing” have the presence of God, but not the power of God. When Christians get the “anointing” they then get the power of God which allows them to: “. . . fight devils, sickness, and the powers of hell.” <17> First, let me point out that the fact that we are anointed means that we have the presence of God. Second, scripture doesn’t make this distinction between Christians who are, or are not, able to cast out demons, pray for the sick, or fight spiritual battles (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19; Ephe 6:10-19).

Hinn recounts a story where an associate of Kathryn Kuhlman told him that Kuhlman “in the earlier days . . . didn’t have any anointing on her compared to what she had when she died.” <18> As Hinn puts it ” . . . the anointing increases. He gives you a little and watches you. Then He gives you more.” <19>

Hinn continues his discussion of degrees or levels of anointing into the unbiblical concept of “three anointings”: a leper’s anointing, a priestly anointing, and a kingly anointing. These three anointings according to Hinn are determined based on a person’s relationship with Jesus: “. . . the leper’s anointing comes by accepting Jesus and the priestly anointing comes by fellowship with Jesus, [and] the kingly anointing comes by obeying Jesus.” <20> (emphasis original)

According to Hinn the “leper’s anointing” is the first level or degree of anointing, “every born-again believer has experienced the leper’s anointing, which deals with salvation.” <21> The “priestly anointing” is the next level of anointing which is the “. . . anointing for ministry . . . including leading souls to Him, but not service of Him in battles against the devil and disease, but ministry to Him as priests.” <22> Finally, according to Hinn, believers should strive for the highest level, the “kingly anointing.” Hinn explains, “This lifts a person to a place of high authority in God, giving him authority over devils, the power to rout demons with one word. Only this will give you the power to send the enemies of God flying as the apostle Paul did.” <23>

Hinn attempts to derive these “three anointings” from the fact that in the Old Testament the sick were anointed, priests were anointed, and kings were anointed (we may also wonder why Hinn didn’t derive a “prophetic anointing”). The real issue is that the Bible does not indicate levels of anointing. Rather than some believers being anointed as priests, we realize that in Christ we are all priests. Using his definition of anointing as power, Hinn reads into the Bible and finds “levels” of anointing that are not really there. As believers we are either anointed — consecrated and set aside — or we are not. We can’t be more set aside or less set aside — we are either set aside with our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life or we are not.

The fact that believers may have different gifts and ministries has nothing to do with anointing. Further, if I have one gift and another believer has another gift, that doesn’t mean that I am “more anointed” or have reached a “level” that someone else hasn’t. God blesses us with different gifts and ministries for His own designs. Though we as humans may be tempted to think in terms of “levels” and “status,” we ought to keep in mind that “there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last” (Matt 19:30, 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30).

“The Double Portion Anointing”

According to Hinn, not only can you move from the “lepers anointing,” to the “priests anointing,” and on to the “kings anointing.” We can, says Hinn, receive a “double portion of . . . [the] anointing . . . a double measure of the power.” <24> When Hinn makes this statement he is referring to the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha. I have already noted that in 1Kin 19:16 Elijah under God’s guidance anoints (consecrates and sets aside) Elisha to succeed him as a prophet. Did Elisha have a “double portion anointing?” No, as I have already noted, someone cannot have degrees or levels of anointing. You are either anointed or not, and the Bible indicates that Elisha was anointed.

Where then does this idea of a “double portion” anointing come into play? Well, you will remember that Hinn makes a connection between Holy Spirit empowerment and anointing so as to blur any distinction between the two. He then makes up a story about Elisha pursuing this “double portion” anointing. When Elisha demonstrates the heart of a servant by nobly refusing to abandon Elijah (similar to Ruth’s steadfastness with Naomi), Hinn attributes selfish motives to Elisha. When Elisha says in 2Kin 2:2 “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you,” Hinn tells us that Elisha is really saying, “No way . . . you’re not going without me. There’s no double-portion anointing here. It’s somewhere else and I’m going to get it!” <25>

Later, in 2Kin 2:9, before Elijah is taken up to heaven he asks Elisha what he can do for him. Then Elisha ask for and receives a “double portion of [Elijah’s] spirit.” The Hebrew words used here do not indicate that Elijah received a “double portion anointing.” Rather, the word translated “double,” can also mean “to repeat, or do again” <26> and the word translated “spirit” means a “prophetic spirit or disposition.” <27> Elisha did not receive a double portion anointing as Hinn states, but God did repeat the prophetic spirit or disposition with which He had blessed Elijah.

Anointing revisited

Virtually all of the misunderstanding of the biblical concept of anointing can be attributed to the failure to define the word anointing as it is used in scripture. It is difficult to discuss or understand any subject unless you have a clear understanding of the words that are used to frame that discussion.

In the case of anointing, it is impossible to have a clear biblical understanding of what anointing means if the word “anointing” is misdefined as the “power of God.” Simply reading through the Bible and noting its usage throughout the Old Testement and into the New Testement demonstrates that anointing is not the “power of God,” but the act of being consecrated or set aside.

Now, some people reading this article may be tempted to accuse me of pedantry — after all — haven’t I made a big deal out of a trivial matter? So let me be clear, the definition and usage of the word “anointing” is not a test for biblical orthodoxy. However, misdefining anointing effectively clouds a complete understanding of the good news of the gospel.

This article will have served its purpose if a Christian through reading it, realizes anew the glory of the gospel and the reason for the hope we have. Christians ought to be filled with great joy when they realize that all Christians are anointed by God. We do not have a priest mediating between us and God. We are anointed as priests (Rev 1:6; 5:10) and Christ is anointed as High Priest. (Heb 4:14-16) Therefore we can rejoice and “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”



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