“The Anointing” — it's something that Apostolics, along with Pentecostals and Charismatics of all descriptions love. We talk about it, and sing about it, and pray about it. If the meeting was good, then “the anointing was there”. If we want powerful preaching, we pray “Lord, anoint your servant”. When we desperately want powerful preaching, we pray “Lord, anoint the words from your servant's mouth”. When we really want God to heal, we pray for Him to “anoint from the top of the head to the sole of the feet”.
That's all well and good, but what is this anointing? What are we talking, singing and praying about?
Well, if you're getting impatient because the answer is obvious, just indulge me for a few moments; for, if there are a few things I've learnt not to take for granted over the years (bearing in mind that only one of these is going to be in any way relevant to the matter in hand), they're that 1) you can't assume that seminary students will be able to tell you the 10 Commandments (nor long-standing church members for that matter, though every time I've tried it in a church group they've been more successful than my Old Testament students used to be); and 2) you can't assume that people recognise the personality of the Holy Spirit behind the expressions we use.
You see, we can easily assume that people know what the anointing is. But, probe the surface and sometimes you find surprises. Power, fire, electricity — these are nowhere near the same thing as God the Holy Spirit Himself!
And make no mistake, God the Holy Spirit Himself is what the Bible means when it talks about the anointing.
Yesterday I mentioned how the opening verses of Isaiah 2 show us the Trinity. Well, that same passage shows us what the true Anointing is as well:
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2)
Isaiah prophesies the coming of the Anointed One and describes the Anointing that rests upon Him. And that Anointing is the Spirit of the LORD. Not just power from God. Not just wisdom, understanding, counsel or might. But the Spirit of the LORD Himself. God the Holy Spirit is the Anointing.
And the anointing which Christ pour out on us isn't a different anointing. It's still THE Anointing. We have been united to Christ, and so the Anointed One to whom we're joined anoints us with the Anointing that's on Him. In Him, we share in His Anointing. Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit on us.
Calvin says that's why we're called Christians (little anointed ones): 'For why are we called Christians, but because he admits us to his fellowship, by distributing to us out of his fullness' (John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah, xi, 2). Anointed with God the Holy Spirit for fellowship with God the Son — this is no mere “touch from God”!
And Isaiah doesn't leave us in the dark about the effects of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He is “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding”. And the New Testament tells us that knowing Jesus is true wisdom and understanding (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:17-18). So Jesus pours out the Spirit on us for us to know Him more. The Holy Spirit draws us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us more love for Jesus, more delight in Jesus, more longing after Jesus.
And He is “the Spirit of counsel and might”, the One who leads us into the right course of action and gives us the might to carry it out. That doesn't sound very eloquent, but the apostle Paul was able to put it much more eloquently when he wrote, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25). Christians do live in the Spirit, because through the Spirit we have life in Christ. The call now is to walk in the Spirit. That's the counsel and might. That's growing in grace. That's sanctification. So, that means the Anointing makes us more like Jesus.
Finally, this Anointing is “the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD”. Knowledge of the Lord and fear of the Lord, that's a relationship with our God which has a profound impact upon our lives. And how does the Spirit do that? He's not magically topping up the relationship gauge and the fear gauge. No, He's taking us to the Lord, to Jesus (who is Wisdom and Understanding), opening our eyes to see more clearly the wonders of His grace toward us, filling us with more love for Him; and He's teaching (“counsel”) and enabling us (“might”)to respond rightly to our great God who reveals Himself at the Cross. And so we respond with “reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28) — true gospel fear!
This is the Anointing of which the Scriptures speak. Not a buzz in a good meeting. Not a tingling feeling. God the Holy Spirit Himself who comes not only with powerful, but also with gracious and lasting results. God the Holy Spirit, who takes us to the Son and through Him to the Father, drawing us more and more into the love and fellowship of the Triune God.
(And on that final note, you may also be interested in reading Pentecost is Trinitarian.)