“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts” (Zech 4:6).
Before an effective, biblical study of “Anointing” can begin, we must establish some important foundational principles. These principles will form a biblical platform from which we can attain a proper view of anointing.
The beginning sections of this article will address those foundational principles. They may be new to you, or they may already be familiar. However, since it is critical that we have a common foundation from which to build this study, I would ask you to study the following principles carefully. Allow time for the Holy Spirit to reveal, convict, test and affirm how well these principles are established and lived out in your own life and ministry.
Fellow leader, this is not a study of easy “shortcuts” to maturity. Nor does it offer quick formulas or fancy techniques that can be used to make you a “success”.
Rather, this is a biblical study of how we as church leaders must grow and function within God’s Kingdom. The pathway to maturity is a necessary process in order to be truly fruitful, to have a lasting ministry that brings much glory to God!
Therefore, let us apply ourselves with diligence as we learn about this issue of anointing. God can only bless what He as established as His way and will. Thus, it is essential that we lay a proper foundation from His Word before we move on to the related issues of anointing (Isa 28:10).
The subject of ANOINTING is of great importance to any and every believer in Jesus Christ. However, understanding ANOINTING – what is it, how it functions, and how we can walk and grow in it – is critical. This is especially true for those who are called to full-time ministry.
Unfortunately, ANOINTING is often poorly understood or is a subject perhaps even avoided by some leaders. Though it is something that God desires to give us, many leaders do not know what it is or how to receive it. Thus, they try to replace the anointing of the Holy Spirit with other things.
Some leaders may become skilled in administration or organization. Perhaps they pursue education, adding degrees and titles before and after their names. They might attend many conferences and be inspired by great speakers. They might even develop their own speaking or singing skills in order to lead or motivate people more effectively.
These things mentioned above are not necessarily wrong, and may or may not prove helpful in ministry. BUT THEY ARE NOT THE ANOINTING! Nor can they replace the genuine anointing of the Holy Spirit in the minister’s life.
Education and administrative skills can be good and helpful. However, they are limited in what they can help the leader to accomplish. When we rely upon our education, the best result we can hope for is the limit of our education. When we rely upon our eloquent speaking or other skills, we are limited to what those skills can accomplish.
However, when we rely upon the Holy Spirit, we are limited only by what the Holy Spirit can do!
Whatever we choose to rely upon, or place our trust in, in order to accomplish the call to ministry – that is what will set the limits of what we are able to do. How much limitation do you want on your ministry?
With God, there are no limits! (See Luke 18:27.) Therefore, if I put my trust and reliance upon God and His power and ability, my only limitations in ministry are God’s will and His desires for me (Phil 4:13).
It is God’s will for every born-again believer to show the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:16-26) in their behavior and actions. The fruit of the Spirit is the character of Christ. This same type of character is required especially of those who are called to lead others in the Body of Christ. It is the leader’s role to model godly behavior for those whom they lead (1Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17; 1Tim 4:12). There are no gifts, administrative skills or preaching or teaching abilities that can replace having Christ-like character and integrity.
It is also God’s will – especially for those called to lead – that we have the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16).
From this passage we see that it is the desire of Jesus that the fruit of our lives remain. How can that happen? When our ministry is filled with God’s anointing power – the power of the Holy Spirit – His power through us enables us to influence the lives of people in a way that is fruitful and lasting.
It does not matter how talented or smart a leader is. Without the enablement of the Holy Spirit, a leader cannot fulfill God’s will in God’s way in ministry. Fortunately for us, God knows what we need far better than we do. And He has already provided for us His power and ability to help us fulfill His high call.
FORM WITHOUT POWER
Today, there are many churches and ministries where God’s presence and the power of the Holy Spirit have been limited. These ministries may have large crowds, sophisticated facilities or exciting events. But if the genuine presence and power of the Holy Spirit is not welcomed and evident, these gatherings can be just empty, religious ceremonies.
A large building or stadium can have huge crowds, sophisticated facilities and exciting events for just a soccer game. But these outward circumstances have little to do with making disciples who follow diligently after Jesus Christ!
In the history of the Church, there are many places in our world where God did great and miraculous works through yielded human vessels. Many of those churches, and even vast geographic regions, were once known for their dynamic Christian presence. Sadly, today they are spiritually darkened. Where the Church once thrived and had great influence, these places are now empty and without the light of the Gospel.
Of the more well-known in New Testament history are the churches of Asia Minor (now the nation of Turkey). These churches can be read about in the Book of Revelation. They are commonly known as the “Seven Churches of Revelation”.
These churches were once heralded as mighty fortresses of Christ’s redemptive work in the hearts of men. Many miracles had taken place there (read the Book of Acts). But today, tourists pay money to walk among the ruins where great apostles once held forth the Word of Life. These places are now lifeless and void of the power of the Gospel.
What happened to these once-great churches and ministries? These empty ruins, now occupied only by birds of the air, stand as a warning and a lesson to us all.
Here is what we can learn: Whenever church leaders begin to rely upon their own abilities, or upon traditions, titles, church politics, or even upon education and learning – instead of dependence upon the Holy Spirit of God and the timeless truths of His Word – that is when God’s life and power begin to depart from us as leaders, and from the ministries or churches that God has entrusted to us.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to address the condition of the church (see 1 Corinthians 3). The Corinthian church was being rebuked for their carnal, immature and selfish fighting with one another. They were dividing up into groups for the purpose of trying to assert their supposed superiority over one another (3:1-4). This was, and still is today, nothing more than puffed-up pride – the sin of the devil (1Tim 3:6). This prideful behavior and self-dependent efforts of men still hinder fruitfulness in the Church today.
Paul goes on to state clearly that God is the One who causes the Church to truly grow. “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1Cor 3:7).
There is only ONE FOUNDATION on which the Church can be built: Jesus Christ who is the Chief Cornerstone (1Cor 3:10,11; see also Ephesians 2:20-22). This is our Cornerstone for the Church today, as much as it was when the Church was born more than 2000 years ago!
THE CORE OF THE CHURCH
There is something very unique about the use of a cornerstone in the ancient world that will help us understand better why Jesus is called the “chief cornerstone” (Matt 21:42).
In the ancient Middle East, houses and buildings were all built the same way. One stone was carefully positioned first, that being the chief cornerstone. The rest of the building, including its size, layout and setting, was measured and lined up with that one particular cornerstone.
This is the illustration used by the Holy Spirit through Paul to show the preeminence of Christ in how the living Church is to be built. It is of living stones, growing and spiritually alive, all upon the Cornerstone of salvation through Jesus Christ (1Pet 2:4-10). Nothing else will line up properly without this Cornerstone at the very center of the Church.
As church leaders, we are called to partner with Christ in obedience to His purposes and plans to assist in building up the living Church of God. The New Testament Church – Christ’s Church – is made up of people who have come to the saving knowledge of faith in Jesus Christ. The term “church” in the New Testament does not mean organizational structure, titles, buildings or denominations. The “church” is the people who are saved and justified by faith in Christ, and who are maturing disciples.
Other terms used in the New Testament for describing the Church include: “living stones” (1Pet 2:5); “the Body of Christ” (1Cor 12:27); God’s “field”, “building”, or “temple” (1Cor 3:9,16,17). All of these terms have this in common: they all refer to people who are true believers in Jesus Christ.
This is critically important to understand. As church leaders, we are called to more than administrating the church, overseeing new buildings, or coordinating church functions. We are called to partner with God in discipling and building people.
We are called by God to pastor and nurture the living Church of the living God, the believing people – and to help them become growing disciples of Jesus Christ. We cannot adequately fulfill this stewardship role without God’s help and power (see Psalm 127:1)
God will hold us accountable for how we build upon the One Foundation of salvation through Christ (1Cor 3:12-23). Are we just drawing a crowd through our own ideas, strength and cleverness? This can appear to succeed for a time, but it will not produce the lasting fruit that God desires (John 15:5,8,16).
Or are we, instead, daily yielding to the Spirit of God and surrendering to His will? Are we being led by Him as true sons of God (Rom 8:14), depending upon Him for every moment of ministry He allows us to have? If so, then by His power and help, we can be truly fruitful, and our fruit will be of an eternal nature (John 15:16).
Please understand that fruit and fruitfulness are not defined by God in the same way that human wisdom might define them. Men might say that fruitfulness is having large numbers of people as followers, or becoming rich and influential. Human wisdom may define it as having fame, power or fortune.
But true fruitfulness from God’s perspective is defined and measured by one criterion: The lives of people being transformed into the image and character of Christ as they mature as His disciples. Understanding the following principles will help you to grasp the truth of this definition.
RESTORED TO HIS LIKENESS
Humanity was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26,27). This is not necessarily a physical image, but one of abilities and capacities. “Image” in this scriptural context refers to qualities of reason, intellect, emotion, curiosity and the ability to make choices. We were created with the capacity to love, sacrifice and appreciate what is good and true and right.
Why did God make us this way? God made us for one purpose: For Himself, that we might have relationship with Him. That is truly our highest calling! God did not need or desire more angels, or He would have made more of them. Instead, we see throughout the whole of the Bible that God desired sons and daughters who would share an intimate and loving relationship with Him.
But the opportunity for relationship with God was ruined when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s willful disobedience. Their disobedience brought sin to the whole human race (Rom 5:12-21). Yet, at that time, God’s awesome plan for the redemption of His relationship with mankind was set into motion (Gen 3:15: “her Seed” refers to the eventual incarnation and virgin birth of God the Son, Jesus).
At the appointed time (Gal 4:4,5), Christ came to earth and died for our sins. His sacrificial act opened the possibility of restored relationship with our Creator God, which had been destroyed by sin. Through receiving Christ’s work of salvation and through faith in Him, our sins can be forgiven, and we can know God and commune with Him.
THE WORK OF TRANSFORMATION
But beyond that, God also wants to set us free from the effects of sin, and the damage it does in our lives. Thus, as a direct result of our salvation in Christ, God begins to work in our lives to transform us back into that “image” in which we were created.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). This verse reveals that for those who come to Christ in salvation it is God’s foreordained will that we are to be changed, so that we would be “conformed to the image of His Son”.
This work of transformation begins at salvation and continues throughout our lifetime. God is infinitely wise. He designed His Kingdom to function a certain way for specific reasons. As we are changed more into the “image” of our original creation (the image of His Son), two critical things will happen:
1) We will be able to walk in an unhindered and ever-deepening relationship with God. It is sin that destroyed and can still destroy our relationship with God. Thus, as we are freed from sin and its effects, we then have a greater capacity to experience a more loving and profound relationship with our Creator.
2) We will be restored to God’s intended place and purpose for us. Man was not created in or for sin. We were created in holiness, innocence and purity. All of God’s original creation was good. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen 1:31).
We were not created with flaws, but sin destroyed the goodness of our original pattern. Therefore, as we are set free from sin and transformed to be further freed from its effects, the result will be a greater joy, peace and sense of freedom in our lives. We will then be far better equipped to fulfill God’s will and purpose.
Therefore, we can confidently say that personal transformation is one of God’s highest priorities for each individual. Transformation is best defined in this context as, “being made more like Jesus in our thoughts, desires and actions.”
HOLY SPIRIT – EMPOWERED CHANGE
When we are saved, our old life passes away. We begin a life-long process of all things becoming new (2Cor 5:17). We are changed by the power of the Spirit and the Word of God into the “image of His Son” (Rom 8:29).
This marvelous work of change cannot fully be accomplished by our own strength or efforts (Jer 13:23). We can change ourselves in minor ways, and usually only outwardly. We can work very hard to try and discipline our lives and develop good habits.
But there is much deeper work that we desperately need, such as: healing from brokenness and pain; deliverance from rejection and other forms of bondage; freedom from our selfish and sinful ways. This kind of change is possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:1-11; see also Matthew 19:23-26; Ephesians 2:1-10; Hebrews 9:13,14).
God requires us to grow and mature after coming to Christ as Savior. Though His grace and forgiveness are real and ever-present (1John 1:9), that is never an excuse for continuing on in sinful or selfish behavior. God does forgive a stumble or failure; however, one must not continue in that sin, but instead move forward in their walk with God (Luke 9:23-26).
Those who will not change or who resist the Holy Spirit’s process of transformation are actually in rebellion against God (Jas 1:21-25). God’s judgment upon rebellion is severe (Prov 29:1; Heb 3:8-11).
THE FRUIT GOD SEEKS
To be a fruitful minister of the Gospel means that the lives of the people to whom you minister are being transformed more into the likeness of Jesus. Remember that being fruitful has little to do with crowds or statistics. It is easy to get a lot of people in your church. Just offer free food, clothing or money and you can get a crowd! Or provide entertainment, tell them things that “tickle their ears” (2Tim 4:3,4) and make them feel good.
But a crowd does not make a congregation. A large gathering of people does not necessarily mean that you have a healthy New Testament church or that you are making disciples!
The question we must always ask ourselves about our ministry is this: “Are the lives of the people I minister to being changed to be more like Jesus?” Is your goal more people in your church, or is it making true disciples who are maturing and growing in Christ? It does not matter whether there are 10 people or 1,000 people – you are being fruitful if your flock is becoming more like Jesus!
THE RIGHT KIND OF WEAKNESS
We have established that being transformed into Christ’s likeness is God’s will for all followers of Christ. We know this cannot be fully accomplished by human effort, but only by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. So, what does this teach us about how we must conduct the ministry God has given us?
Simply put, we must understand this: It is the evident and present power of the Holy Spirit working and moving without restraint through a yielded human vessel that will bring the greatest impact upon another person’s life.
This may seem like such an obvious truth! But how often do our well-meaning human efforts take the place of the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst?
If we are honest as leaders and take a hard look at ourselves, we must admit that often we are the problem. It does not take long in ministry for us to recognize that we are insufficient for the task. So we get busy with programs, education and other means to be effective or successful. But the reality is that we do not have it within ourselves to accomplish all that God wants to do! Can you admit that about yourself?
As leaders, we want to be our best at all times. But our best human efforts are not enough to fully accomplish God’s will and purpose.
This may sound like bad news. But in reality – if we are willing to accept it and embrace it – our insufficiency is the beginning point of good news! Look at what one of the greatest apostles wrote about this seeming paradox:
“Concerning this thing [Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ v.7] I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:8-10).
Paul did not accept an attitude of defeat, nor did he think he was being punished by God. Rather, Paul rejoiced in his revelation and personal experience of the overcoming grace of God!
It is by God’s grace that we have the life and victory of an overcomer (Rom 8:37). But it was Paul’s yielded surrender and open acknowledgement of his need that both opened the way for and released the power of the Holy Spirit in and through his life.
Paul did not try to hide or cover his weakness, but rather “boasted in infirmities” (v.9) and “took pleasure” (v.10) in his difficulties. For it was at these points that Paul was totally reliant upon God’s power and sufficiency – and he was able to experience that power which sustained and enabled him! (See also 2 Corinthians 3:1-6.)
Pastor To Pastor: The nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is unknown to us. But we do know that it was not sin or moral failure by Paul. God will never excuse our sin, but rather convicts and disciplines us to bring us to true repentance (Prov 3:11,12; 2Cor 7:9,10; 1John 1:9). There is nothing hidden from God. Though His mercy may allow a person time to come to repentance, He is not fooled when we try to hide sin. Our sin will eventually be found out (Num 32:23; Gal 6:7; 1Tim 5:24).
GOD USES THE HUMBLE
For the purposes of this teaching, let us define weakness as:
- recognizing our inability to perform God’s will on our own;
- yielding our hearts and utterly depending upon the power of the Holy Spirit;
- allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us to accomplish the things of eternal value in ministry – changed lives – by His power and not our own.
Church leaders often feel a great deal of pressure to be a “success” in ministry. Unfortunately, our ideas of success are often defined by the world’s standards or even by our own pride. We want to be important in the eyes of others. We want to be “great” in God’s Kingdom so that God will greatly use us!
But the reality is, and always has been, that there are no great men of God – only humble men greatly used of God! (See Matthew 20:20-28.)
Again, the key ingredient for truly fruitful ministry is the presence and working of the Holy Spirit! God is not opposed to people who have education, organizational gifts or many talents. But none of these are adequate to replace the anointing power of the Holy Spirit in ministry.
God can use our abilities and gifts to enrich our effectiveness. But He has made it very clear in His Word that “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zech 4:6).
God knows what we need and has already made perfect provision for us. He has made available the Anointing of the Holy Spirit in order for us to be fruitful as we fulfill His call to ministry.
Therefore, let us now study together to gain a solid, Biblical understanding of The Anointing of the Holy Spirit.
This study will seek to: 1) define the anointing, what it is and what it is not; 2) explain how the anointing functions in and through a minister’s life; and, 3) reveal how we can both receive and grow in that anointing.