The Annointing

William Henry Westcott

We will now touch upon the subject of the Holy Spirit as the Unction or Anointing. There are two passages which refer to Him in this way; 2 Corinthians1:21 shows that it is God who has anointed Christians in connection with their new position in Christ, and 1 John 2:18-27 indicates that the youngest Christians have all the advantages which the anointing confers.

1 John 2:18-27

To take the last passage (1 John 2) first, the reader will do well to note that in verses 12 and 28, "little children" is better rendered "children," since the word sotranslated is one meaning children (of God) in general, of all stages. It is a different word from that in verses 13 and 18, which does really mean children in a stage of infancy, and for the sake of distinctness is still preserved as "little children" in the New Translation by Mr. Darby.

In verse 12 we have clearly the privilege of all the children of God. This communication of the Holy Ghost through the Apostle John comes to them because the whole question of their sins is settled for the Name's sake of the One who is the propitiation for them (ver. 2). It is not the blessing of one more than another in the family; be we old or be we young in the faith, we are all here addressed as those whose sins are forgiven absolutely. Even as there is no room for uncertainty in the divine clearance of our sins, so is there no room for doubt in any of our minds when we see that clearance.

In verse 13, there follow differences in the growth and maturity of those in the family: here we find there may be fathers, young men, and little children or "babes." But while of course it would be true of the young men, and of the fathers, it is emphatically stated of the babes, that they know the Father. Nothing is more foreign to the whole truth of Christianity than the idea that a person should be ignorant of his relationship with the Father. It is the inalienable privilege and right of each Christian, though a babe.

In verses 14-27 we have the same three divisions of the family referred to. The fathers are dismissed in half averse. The young men occupy from the middle of ver. 14 to the end of ver. 17. Then the little children or "babes" occupy from ver. 18 down to ver. 27. And it is to babes that it is said "Ye have an unction from the Holy One" (ver. 20), and in connection with whom we read that the "anointing" (same word as unction) abides in them, and teaches.

Then the exhortation follows in ver. 28 to all the "children" to abide in Him.

To sum up, all the children of God

  • (a) are forgiven their sins; including the babes, and
  • (b) the babes know the Father, and are
  • (c) possessed of the anointing.

We are not therefore plunging into very difficult lessons, for though this part of our chapter reads rather strangely to our uninstructed ears it is assumed that even babes in the divine family can grasp it. The passage is of peculiar interest! as are also the epistles to the Thessalonians) as showing the kind of thing in which young converts were instructed in the Apostle's days. But let us consider this anointing and its meaning.

That it refers to the service of the Holy Ghost is proved from Acts 10:38, where we read that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power." He became Man in very deed, humble, dependent, obedient; and if we cannot fathom the deep mystery of His Person, we may at least learn that when He went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, he did it not by any Divine, personal, inherent power as Son of God though He is Son, but as Man by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was indeed the Christ, i.e., the anointed One; such being the meaning of His title Christ. He was the One qualified in every way to fulfil every promise to the nation of Israel, and to be their Messiah. But His rejection by the Jews proved that the time had not yet come for the fulfilment of those earthly promises, and the Lord told His disciples they were not to tell any man that He was the Christ (Matt.  16: 20).

When He was raised from the dead, the still dependent though now victorious Man (yet ever Son of God) it is said of Him (Acts 1: 2) that He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles that He had chosen. He was by the right hand of God exalted (Acts 2: 33), and made both Lord and Christ in resurrection glory, to be the Administrator and Fulfiller of all God's purposes from thence: and in that new position and still the dependent though glorified Man, He received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, that He might in His power carry all out for the glory of God; and then sent Him to earth to act here for Him. The Spirit came to the company of the redeemed on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and attached Himself to each of them individually, filling them by His power, and qualifying every one of them to be here and zealously in the testimony for Christ. To that company so wonderfully started in Divine power has God been adding by the work of His grace from that day to this, saving men through faith in the risen Christ, and giving to those saved ones the Holy Spirit to indwell and to empower them to be here for Christ. The outward failure of the Christian community to walk in truth as we see it today, does not alter God's grace to the saved individual; the believer is as truly a child of God, and is as truly indwelt and anointed by the Holy Ghost, as in the days when all was outwardly so bright. But this produces at once the great privilege, and with it the grave responsibility, of being here in spite of the general failure, maintaining the whole truth of Christ.

Seeing now that even the youngest Christians have this unction or anointing from the Holy One, we may read two or three Old Testament passages which afford help as to what is meant by the "anointing."

1. Leviticus 8: 1-12, gives us the anointing of Aaron as Priest.

2. 1 Samuel 16: 1-13, gives us the anointing of David as King.

3. 1 Kings 19: 13-16, gives us the anointing of Elisha as Prophet.

1. No one can read Exodus 28:1, in conjunction with Leviticus 8:1-12, without seeing that God by the anointing of Aaron sanctified him or set him apart for the office and service of priest. The whole congregation of Israel was summoned, their attention was particularly called to the Divine authority by which the choice was made, and in a most conspicuous way Aaron was designated for the exercise of the priestly functions. And in all the other occurrences of this anointing it seems clear that it is God's way of bringing a man into a particular office or position and publicly marking him out or designating him for it.

2. This is equally the case in 1 Samuel 16:1-13, where David superseded Saul, by choice of the Lord, as King. The failure of the people's choice and his rejection by Jehovah cleared the way for the introduction of God's man. So Adam set in authority at first has broken down and failed, and God has introduced the second Man, Christ, who must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. But in David's anointing and designation as King, there follows in ver. 13, the remarkable addition that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." How could he who had been hitherto a simple shepherd comport himself and be in behaviour as was suitable to a king? The anointing not only marked him out for the position, but conferred upon him the necessary power and fitness to be and to walk in every way worthy of the position for which he was designated.

3. In confirmation of what has been said as to the marking out for position by the anointing, we have 1 Kings 19: 13-16, Elijah was to anoint Hazael for the of Syria, Jehu for Israel, and Elisha as prophet as a successor to himself. But the words "in thy room" at the end of verse 16 are very suggestive. Elijah had seemingly laboured in vain and had spent his strength for nought and in vain, as was said later of the Messiah in Isaiah 49. But God had appreciated his faithful service, and would shortly bestow upon him the unique and splendid honour of taking him up into heaven. Yet in grace He purposed that Elijah's faithful testimony should be continued in Elisha. We have then Elijah taken to heaven, and Elisha left on earth in the same position to represent him, "in his room," as it says. For this the anointing was to qualify and equip him; that he might be the representative of the man who was taken into heaven.

Now Christ is the One who fulfils all these types, whether of Priest, King, or Prophet. Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. We may not pretend to bottom the deep glory of His Person but while He is in His eternal and essential glory the Son, He has become in being and nature Man; as such has died and risen again, and is officially designated as the Christ, i.e., the Anointed One, Priest, King, and Prophet. Moreover, in the perfection of His Manhood - though ever Son - He will fulfil all the duties and responsibilities of His glorious offices by the power of the Holy Ghost. Without controversy, great is the mystery.

But we are concerned for the moment as to the meaning of the anointing for the Christian.

2 Corinthians 1: 21

In 2 Corinthians 1: 21, the new position in which every believer is established, and for which he is designated is, "in Christ." I say every believer advisedly, for as in John's epistle the three stages of fathers, young men, and little children, are contemplated, so here the "us with" takes in the apostles and the Corinthian saints, some of whom he had very pointedly and in a different sense quite reproachfully in fact  called babes in his first epistle. They ought to have been more advanced, considering the time they had been converted and the opportunities they had had. Butthe "us with you" takes them all in, every believer; and our position before God is not in Adam, or in sin, or in ourselves, but in Christ. Once we have believed the gospel truly and have received the Holy Spirit, it is God's delight to indicate to us our new position, and to establish us in it: to settle our souls into the happy realization by the Spirit's power of what that new position involves. But He has anointed us also. By the gift of the Spirit

  • He has definitely set us apart and designated us for the position;
  • by the same anointing He has given us power to be in every respect consistent with the whole of that position and all that itinvolves,
  • and in result, and in so far as we use the power given to us we should become descriptive here on earth of the Man that has gone into heaven.

Each of these elements opens out into a world of exercise; but oh, that it could be conveyed to the oldest as well as to the youngest Christian that you are really and truly furnished with the indwelling Spirit as the power by which failure may be avoided, difficulties may be overcome, and consistency maintained with the whole revelation of God in Christ, whether in the individual, or in the church, whether in the personal life and service, in the home, in our natural relationships, in our responsibilities as Christians, children of God, brethren of Christ, members in the body of Christ, partakers of the heavenly calling, pilgrims on our way home every character indeed in which as Christians we can be considered. It is passing wonderful, and failure only comes in because we fail to understand what is meant by being in Christ, or because we do not use the power given to and resident in us.

Only one thing more need be added at the moment. It is that in 1 John 2, the little children, seeing that they possess the unction or anointing, are instructed that they need not yield the least fraction of ground to the enemy. Even if the enemy should labour to seduce them, there is a very simple axiom by which to detect him, that no lie is of the truth. Jesus is the Christ; Jesus is the Son of God. He is both the one and the other. The youngest Christian, being taught by the Holy Ghost, knows that any one denying in his teaching that Jesus is the Anointed, risen Man, or that He is the eternal Son of God, equally Divine with the Father, is on antichristian lines. There is, I fear, among many a readiness to deny Personality to the Son in Manhood, to teach that the Manhood of Christ is to be regarded as a condition assumed, and to deny that He became Man in nature. This is antichristian in character, for it undermines both the atonement and the priesthood of Christ, and it makes of all His perfect dependence and obedience simply a condition assumed or to put it baldly, a character acted, as one might act a character on a stage. The Manhood of Christ is real, even as His Deity as Son of God is unchanging and eternal.

The Spirit of God is the power by which all false teaching can be exposed, and all seduction into error avoided; and by which the youngest Christian can stand in the truth, undaunted by Satan's terrors and uncorrupted amid the most subtle counterfeit that he can invent, even were it possible for him to come up against the antichrist himself. We can never therefore excuse ourselves in any failure; failure can only be that we do not use the power conferred upon us in the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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