A. THE NATURE OF ANOINTING
There is a great deal of confusion about the subject of anointing, due to a lack of sound, biblical teaching and study on the subject. In this section, we will define anointing as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures.
Later in this section, we will define what anointing actually is; but for now, let us clarify what the anointing is NOT.
- Anointing is NOT an impersonal force or mystical power. Anointing is not like electricity (a non-living force), nor is it some type of magical power. Simon the magician (Acts 8:9-25) had a type of power (demonic); but he soon realized that what he had was nothing compared to the power residing within the apostles. The anointing of God is supernatural and spiritual.
- Anointing, as spoken of in Scripture, is NOT simple emotionalism, displaying a strong personality or a particular style of preaching. God often does touch our emotions when we are moving in the power of His anointing. But just showing strong emotions does not mean God’s anointing is present. People can display strong emotions when entertaining or playing sports. But, of course, that does not mean God’s anointing is present!
Some people think that when a preacher is loud or gets excited and jumps about, he is anointed. But true anointing from God may or may not be manifest in outward, physical actions.
In the same way, the presence of God’s anointing cannot be “earned” or obtained by education, knowledge or organization. Neither are great natural talents or abilities a sign of God’s anointing. Though our natural, human talents are gifts from God, even an unsaved person can have and use their talents. Having talents and abilities must not be confused with anointing.
It is true that God can empower our abilities with His anointing to release them beyond what we could accomplish in our own power, as He did with Solomon (1Kings 4:29-34). But our talent and ability are never to replace dependency upon God for His divine enablement.
The anointing from God is divine and supernatural, and involves His power and abilities!
- Anointing is not salvation. Every person who has repented of their sins and turned to Christ for salvation has the Holy Spirit! But that is not the same as the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Let us look at the works of the Holy Spirit at salvation:
- A person can be born again only by the work and power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; Rom 8:9,16).
- A person is supernaturally joined to Christ’s universal Body at salvation, Christ’s Body being all of those who have faith in Him for salvation (1Cor 12:13).
- A person is “sealed” by the Holy Spirit at salvation (2Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:13,14). The Greek word for “sealed” is arrabon, meaning guarantee or down-payment. But beyond those simple definitions is a deeper meaning. First, to be “sealed” means to be marked as belonging to God. It is a living symbol that God has accepted the payment made for us. That payment is the blood sacrifice of God’s Son for our sins (Eph 1:7). Second, as we come to Christ in faith for salvation (Rom 10:9,10) the Holy Spirit is given to us as a “deposit” or “first installment” of God’s investment in us. This investment is God’s guarantee (or promise) that we can increase daily in the life, joy, blessing and power of the Holy Spirit until the day when God receives us fully to Himself in heaven! (Phil 1:6; 2Pet 1:5-11).
The work and ministry of the Holy Spirit begins in us and through us at salvation. What we receive when we are first saved is but the first step in our maturing process. God’s will for all believers is that they become mature disciples as His sons and daughters. This requires a constant commitment on our part to personal growth and transformation. We must daily yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as He convicts us, disciplines us, encourages us and empowers us!
PASTOR TO PASTOR
As a pastor and leader of the church, you are called by God to be an example to the rest of the flock of a commitment to be ever-growing in the things of God. It is tempting to think that, as a leader, we no longer need to make our personal growth in Christ a priority. But the exact opposite is true! (See 1 Peter 5:2,3.)
Because we are leaders, we should all the more be examples of Jesus’ words: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Every believer has been given the Holy Spirit at salvation; let us submit, then, to His work and influence in our lives every day!
- Anointing is NOT the same as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This baptism is a distinct experience, available to all believers in Christ (Matt 3:11). Holy Spirit baptism is also not the same as the Holy Spirit coming to dwell within the believer at salvation.
The gift of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by the prophet Joel over 800 years before this gift was poured out on the Day of Pentecost (see Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:1-39).
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is designed to equip every follower of Christ to be more useful and power-filled for the work of the Master! It will lead the believer in Christ to:
- a deeper passion for souls;
- a greater power in and desire for prayer;
- a deeper love for Christ and His Body;
- an equipping for spiritual warfare;
- an increased insight into the Word of God.
All believers in Christ receive the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit at salvation (John 3:5,6; Rom 8:15,16). The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for an infilling and overflowing of God’s Spirit. This baptism does not make you more saved or more loved by God. But it will better equip you to live a more effective and overcoming life in Christ!
If you have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, be reminded that this is not a one-time experience to simply attain; rather, it is a lifestyle to be maintained. We are to continually be filled!
PASTOR TO PASTOR
When studying the Holy Spirit, a word must be said also about the presence of other spirits in our world. There are three categories of spirits operating on the earth in this present day:
1) Demon spirits
Demon spirits are present on the earth today. Their self-given assignment is to lead all of humanity astray (Rev 12:7-9) and to blind them to the truth of who Jesus is (2Cor 4:4; 1John 2:22; 4:1-3). The demonic realm works primarily through false religions. They use deception as their most powerful instrument, working with the devil who is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 nasb).
Demon spirits have strong influence over non-believers (2Cor 4:3,4). But they also attempt to target true believers in Christ, those through whom the glorious light of the Gospel is preached (Eph 6:10-12; 2Cor 10:3-5; 11:3). The demonic realm, just like sin, has no power over Christians – unless a Christian willingly chooses to cooperate with their schemes or temptations.
Satan will use human vessels (even some who claim they are Christians) to try to lead people astray (Matt 24:24; 2Cor 11:13-15; 2 Peter Chapter 2). Demons will even speak partial truth on occasion (Matt 4:1-11; Mark 5:1-8; Acts 16:16-19), but will never do so to glorify God or advance His will.
Demon spirits know that God is real and true: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble” (Jas 2:19). But demons are not repentant. They are working hard to deceive humanity, for they know that judgment is coming soon upon them (Rev 12:12).
2) Human Spirits
Each and every human that is conceived has a spirit. Man is made up of three parts: a body, a soul and a spirit (1Thess 5:23; Heb 4:12). Our spirit, however, is dead within us until we are made spiritually alive through faith in Christ (Eph 2:1-8).
The Bible teaches that once a human has died physically, their spirit leaves their body. Those who are in Christ go to be present with the Lord (2Cor 5:6,8). Those who die without Christ are held for the day of judgment (Heb 9:27; Rev 20:11-15). The spirits of dead humans are not allowed to wander about on the earth! Nor are they reincarnated into another human or any other form. Every person has but ONE life, then the judgment (Heb 9:27).
There are many religions that worship many kinds of spirits. Some even believe that they can communicate with the spirit of an ancestor or another dead individual. But these people are not communicating with dead humans; they are in reality communicating with demon spirits that are masquerading as the spirits of dead humans.
Do not be deceived by these counterfeits! The Bible teaches that Satan and his demons can even appear as “an angel of light” and try to imitate something godly (2Cor 11:14). If they can achieve that, it is not hard for them to mimic the voice or know the history of a person who is dead. Never attempt to communicate with the dead, or take part in any rituals or ceremonies attempting to worship or pray to ancestors or other dead humans. If you do, you are inviting demonic interaction!
3) The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and is the only Spirit worthy of being called holy (Rom 1:4). The Holy Spirit is fully God, as the Father is God and Jesus is God (Matt 28:19; 2Cor 13:14).
Divine attributes are ascribed to the Holy Spirit in Scripture:
- He is called God (John 4:24, Acts 5:3,4; 1Cor 3:16; 2Cor 3:17)
- He is eternal (Heb 9:14)
- He is omniscient [all-knowing] (John 14:26; 1Cor 2:10)
- He is omnipresent [everywhere present] (Ps 139:7)
- He is omnipotent [all-powerful] (Luke 1:35; at creation, Gen 1:2)
- He has foreknowledge (Acts 1:16; 11:27,28)
- He has love (Rom 15:30)
- He inspired Scripture (2Pet 1:21; 2Tim 3:16)
- He is the Agent in divine guidance (Mark 13:11; Rom 8:14)
- He is a Person, as Jesus and the Father are Persons (John 14:16,17,26); He can be grieved (Eph 4:30)
A complete study of the Person of the Holy Spirit is far more extensive than this article will allow. However, both the Old and New Testaments reveal that: the Holy Spirit is real and is God; He is co-existent, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son; and He is the third Person of the Trinity.
4) Anointing is NOT the same thing as sanctification. Let us define and briefly study sanctification to gain a better understanding of this important biblical process.
Sanctification has two important meanings. The first is consecration – a setting apart of someone or something for a specific and holy use.
We have learned from the Old Testament that this pertained to physical objects, such as: houses (Lev 27:14); a field (Lev 27:16); utensils used in the Temple (2Chron 29:18,19). These were all sanctified and set apart for a holy use.
People were also set apart for a special purpose: Israel’s firstborn (Ex 13:2); priests (2Chron 29:4,5,15); Jeremiah the prophet (Jer 1:5); Jesus Himself, as the sinless Son of God (John 10:36; 17:19).
The second meaning of sanctification is cleansing – a cleansing or purifying from moral defilement. For instance, Paul when he addressed the condition of a believer’s entire life (1Thess 5:23); the conscience of a believer (Heb 9:13,14), etc.
PASTOR TO PASTOR
These two definitions of sanctification help to highlight the difference between the Old Testament concept of sanctification and that of the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, that which was common was considered holy and sanctified when it was set apart specifically for God’s use or service.
In the New Testament, that which was common was filled with God’s Spirit and transformed to become a vessel fit for the Master’s use (2Tim 2:19-21).
As leaders in Christ’s Body, we have been called with a holy calling (2Tim 1:9). This calling separates us to Christ’s service. Yet God is not finished at that point. He begins a “sanctifying” work within us, continuously transforming us by His Spirit and His Word. As we cooperate with this work and obey the Word, He transforms us into the type of person whose thoughts, words and actions in daily life reflect the One who is Lord within us.
THREE ASPECTS OF SANCTIFICATION
- POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION – AN ACCOMPLISHED WORK
Jesus, while on this earth, was morally perfect and without sin. He was sent here by the Father to accomplish the purpose of coming to our fallen world and offering Himself as a sacrifice for the penalty of our sins. Through Him, and only through Him, can we have forgiveness, salvation and redemption to God.
When a person comes to faith in Christ and surrenders to Christ’s Lordship, that person is sovereignly joined to the Body of Christ, the Church (1Cor 12:13). The Greek word for “church” is ekklesia, meaning the “called-out ones”. This definition helps us to see how every believer in Christ is intended to be called out or set apart for God’s use.
This type of sanctification – being set apart for a holy use – is known as positional sanctification (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). This positional sanctification is an accomplished work of God that is given to every individual at salvation (Acts 26:18; Rom 15:16; 1Cor 6:11).
Christ shed His own blood and gave His life for our sins. One of the finished works this accomplished was the sanctification of those who believe in Him. “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10); “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1Cor 1:30).
Being a “sanctified one” is why the believers in the Early Church were called “saints” (1Cor 1:2; Eph 1:1).
This sanctification is given freely to us because of Christ’s finished work at the cross. We can never do enough good works or religious efforts to earn it. We can never be “good enough” to earn God’s acceptance or salvation on our own merit.
When our sinless, morally perfect Heavenly Father looks upon us, He is aware of every imperfection and failure. And yet, He sees us through the covering (sanctifying) blood of Jesus, His Son. This “covering” for our sins is the only way we can ever be perfectly acceptable to a holy and righteous God (Eph 1:6,7). This is truly Good News!
Through the eternal blood of the Sinless Lamb, believers have been sanctified (Heb 10:11-14; 13:12). Christ’s offering of His shed blood is a once-and-for-all work of sanctification (Heb 9:28; 10:12). We do not need a “second work of grace” (as some teach) in order to be acceptable to God. The moment we believe in Christ and His sacrifice for our sins (Rom 10:9,10), God reckons to us the holiness of Christ and declares us “sanctified” (1Cor 1:30).
- PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION – A PRACTICAL PROCESS
The second part of the three-fold meaning of sanctification is the process of sanctification that continues throughout a believer’s lifetime. It is often referred to as progressive sanctification.
We have already learned that positional sanctification is a sovereign act of God that grants to us the holiness provided only by Christ’s sacrifice. We cannot earn this by any human effort, since the whole of humanity is hopelessly lost under sin (Rom 3:9-26).
But once a person comes to faith in Christ for salvation, the next great work of God is the process of “being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2Cor 3:18). For it is God’s will that we “be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).
This process of (or progressive) sanctification is different than the positional form of sanctification. Positional sanctification is a single, sovereign act done by God when we receive Christ’s saving work. But progressive sanctification involves our will, desires and effort on a consistent basis.
This action and lifelong commitment to being “transformed” is a divine/human partnership. Believers must partner with God and cooperate with His divine work of transformation in their lives.
The Bible is clear that all Christ-followers are to give every effort to becoming more like Christ, living holy and pure lives. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2Cor 7:1).
We are told to “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24). Please take a moment right now to read the following scriptures, which are just a few of the many exhortations on this subject: Romans 6:11-13; 12:1,2; 13:14; 2Timothy 2:20,21; 1Peter 1:13-19; 1John 3:3.
This is a vital aspect of our Christian faith. Yet it is also where many believers fail to become all that God would intend for them. They remain bound in anger, sin, bondage or fear, rather than allowing God to free them from those things. Though they may try in their own strength to break ungodly habits or practices, they are unaware of their need for God’s help to become totally free.
It is clear from Scripture that it is impossible to become holy and morally pure without the power of God to help us (Jer 13:23; 17:9,10; Rom 3:20,23; 7:18). Yes, the blood of Christ provides the basis for our initial sanctification (Heb 10:29). But it is the constant working together of both the Holy Spirit and the eternal Word of God (Eph 5:26) which will continuously shape us more into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29,30; 2Cor 3:18; Phil 1:6; 1Pet 5:10). This work is a lifelong process that will continue until we at last see Him “face to face” (1Cor 13:12; 1John 3:2).
God desires to constantly work within us to shape us. Yet, He also must have our full cooperation and effort as aided by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. We must choose to hear and obey, to listen and respond to the instructions of God’s Word and from the Holy Spirit.
This progressive sanctification is a lifelong transformation. We will never be perfect or sinless in this life (1John 1:8), but we can and must be continually growing into spiritual maturity.
- COMPLETE OR FINAL SANCTIFICATION
Our sinless perfection awaits the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ or the moment when, at our death, we pass from this life into the presence of the Lord. That is when we will be delivered from this corruptible body of flesh and “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1Cor 15:52) be changed into incorruptible and immortal beings (1Cor 15:45-47; see also Philippians 3:20,21; 1 John 3:2).
At the cross, when Christ died for our sins, we were saved from the penalty of sin. As we grow in faith and holiness, we are freed more and more from the power of sin. And when Christ returns (or when we die in the Lord) we shall be saved from the presence of sin!
Sanctification is not anointing. Yet sanctification (especially progressive sanctification) is critically important to the subject of anointing. Living a holy and committed life has a direct impact upon the flow of anointing through our lives and ministries.
THE PATHWAY TO GROWTH
Christians are to be constantly growing. The Bible exhorts us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Pet 3:18; see also 2 Peter 1:5-11).
Progressive sanctification is a process requiring a partnership between God and each individual (Phil 2:12,13). God is in action on our behalf, since we must have His help to become Christ-like in character. But what is our part in the process?
- Have faith toward Christ. Without faith, we can neither receive the gift of salvation nor receive Christ’s gift of positional sanctification. At salvation, Christ becomes our sanctification (1Cor 1:30). We receive this gift from Him through faith in Him (Acts 26:18).
- Yield our lives to God. This is how we begin our lives as Christians; this is how we must live daily as well. A continual yielding or surrendering to God is of primary importance. He is the One who knows what is necessary to shape us more into Christ’s image. (See Romans 6:13,19-21; 12:1,2; 2 Timothy 2:21.) Daily surrender to God is also necessary for our faith to grow and be strengthened, as we choose to depend upon Him and trust in Him (Heb 11:6).
- Obey God’s Word. The Holy Scriptures are our final standard for faith and conduct. “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Ps 119:9). The Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to speak to us and shape our character (John 14:26). The Word of God will equip us and make us useful tools for God’s glory (2Tim 3:16,17). God’s Word will cleanse us (Eph 5:26). The Bible also reveals to us our innermost motives and thoughts (Heb 4:12). We must read the Bible every day; and then we must obey it (Jas 1:22). God supplies all that is necessary for us to live and grow in godliness (2Pet 1:3,4). But we must give our willing cooperation and obedience!
- Make a personal commitment to pursue holiness. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14; see also Matthew 5:8).
Peter exhorts believers to be sober and place our hope fully in the grace of God. We are to obey God and not be conformed to the former lusts that once controlled us. This divine expectation for our holiness is because God is holy in character and righteous in all His judgments (1Pet 1:13-21). The point of our lives and our destiny is not a life of happiness or ease, but holiness.
The pursuit of a holy lifestyle – in our actions, thoughts, relationships and words – is not optional for the follower of Christ. We should never tolerate what is not in keeping with a holy God! Our model and example is not what others do (Christian or not), or the compromises of behavior we may witness even in other leaders. Our final guide for life is not our culture, tribe or family. As citizens of Christ’s Kingdom (Phil 3:17-20), we are responsible to follow first and foremost what God has revealed to us through His Word by the Holy Spirit; that is what we must strive to obey! (Luke 9:23-26)
If we will diligently live our lives by the holy standard of God’s revealed character and Word, we are guaranteed to grow in sanctification. And as we grow in sanctification, we become a “vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2Tim 2:21).
B. THE PURPOSE OF ANOINTING
Because there is some confusion regarding anointing, we have taken the time in the previous section to identify what anointing is not. Let us briefly review what we have learned:
- Anointing is not a mystical or impersonal force.
- Anointing is not gifting, ability, talent, emotionalism or a charismatic personality.
- Anointing is not salvation.
- Anointing is not the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Anointing is not the sanctification of the believer.
So, what then is anointing?
Anointing can best be defined in this way:
Anointing is none other than the Person and presence of the Holy Spirit, bringing with Him the necessary power, authority and gifts to fulfill the Father’s will in a given moment of ministry or assignment.
It must be said that the Holy Spirit is directly involved in each of the other five important items listed above. Without the presence and action of God the Spirit, those five critical aspects in the life of every believer could not take place.
However, this facet of the Holy Spirit’s work called anointing has a unique and specific purpose.
POWER WITH A PURPOSE
- The primary purpose of the anointing of the Holy Spirit is to give the believer supernatural enablement.
This enablement is given to whomever God wills, in order to help them to accomplish what God wants done. It may be to speak or preach, to do a work, to sing or play a musical instrument. It may be to lay hands on the sick for healing or for God to perform other signs and wonders. It can also help one to pray and intercede more effectively.
It is also important to note that God can anoint an individual for enhanced ability to lead or perform a skill even in business or a trade (see Exodus 31:3).
It is God’s desire to anoint His people for ministry opportunities both within and outside His Church – but remember, it is for HIS purposes and glory, not our own!
Remember what anointing is: It is God by His Spirit giving to a yielded human vessel whatever power, authority and gifts that are needed to fulfill the Father’s will in a given moment of ministry or assignment.
It is important to understand that anointing is the Person of the Holy Spirit! God’s power is not separate from His Person and presence. When we say that someone is anointed, we mean that the Person of the Holy Spirit is uniquely present in their life to accomplish God’s will through them.
- Who can experience this anointing?
As you read the Old Testament, it is easy to recognize when the Holy Spirit came upon a prophet, judge, king, priest, etc.
However, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit was different in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. The apostle John wrote, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
The Holy Spirit, who is fully God, exists from all eternity. He was active in creation (Gen 1:2) and throughout the Old Testament. But God the Father had not yet fully given God the Spirit until God the Son had opened the pathway of salvation through His sacrificial death on the cross (John 14:16,17; 16:7).
PASTOR TO PASTOR
As Bible-believing Christians, we do not worship three gods. Rather, we worship One God who expresses Himself in three Persons. Within God, there are three “persons” who are neither three gods nor three parts. These three are One, and each is co-equally and co-eternally God. Our limited minds have great difficulty comprehending God’s three-in-one nature. But Scripture does reveal this truth about Him.
There is one primary difference between the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the dispensation in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit temporarily came upon a chosen human vessel. The Holy Spirit would enable the individual (prophet, priest, judge, etc.) to perform God’s will at that moment. Then the Holy Spirit would lift off of them until the next moment of ministry assignment.
However, in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was given to take up residence in human hearts and to live in an abiding relationship with them. Let us look at a few examples of the Holy Spirit anointing in the New Testament:
The first person in the New Testament to be anointed by the Holy Spirit is – Jesus! Jesus received the empowering anointing of the Holy Spirit at His baptism in water (Matt 3:16). After Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, His first act of public ministry was to read Isaiah 61:1,2 in the synagogue. He then declared that these Messianic scriptures were now fulfilled (Luke 4:14-21).
You will note that the Holy Spirit’s anointing spoken of in Isaiah 61:1,2 was to enable the fulfillment of the Father’s will through Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Jesus was both fully God and fully man while in His physical body on earth (Phil 2:5-8). Yet He needed the power of the Holy Spirit to do the Father’s will. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed the Holy Spirit, how much more so do you and I? (See also Acts 10:38.)
b. The Early Church
1) The Leaders of the Early Church
On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:12 – 2:4), the leaders of the early Church and the remaining disciples were praying in an upper room. Those present included the original 11 apostles (Judas being dead), the newest apostle chosen by lot to replace Judas, and a small group of other disciples (approximately 120 people in all). Suddenly, the promise of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32) was poured out upon them (Acts 2:2-4).
The apostle Paul was later converted to faith in Christ. He, too, received the Holy Spirit and began to fervently preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-22).
Evangelists like Philip were filled with and led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29). Those given the gift of teaching, such as Apollos, could not have taught with such authority without the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 18:24-28; see also 1 Corinthians 3:5-7). Those called to serve the rapidly growing Body of Christ were full of the Spirit, as in Stephen’s case (Acts 6:1-10).
There are additional passages in the New Testament on this subject as well (i.e., Acts 4:13,33; 11:27,28; 21:10,11).
2) The Disciples of the Early Church
Those filled in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost were just the beginning of the many more believers who were filled and anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31; 5:32; 13:52, etc).
POWER FOR EVANGELISM
As the flame of the Gospel spread, so did mighty outpourings of the Holy Spirit. This fulfilled the words of Jesus given just before His ascension: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Jesus’ listing of geographical locations was not just poetic language. The Book of Acts reveals the fulfillment of this promise of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon all those who believe in Him and the beginning of the evangelization of the world.
In Jerusalem… (fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost – Acts Chapter 2). It appeared that this new group of Jewish believers was going to stop their preaching at Jerusalem. This could have endangered Christ’s purpose and mission for the Gospel to be given to all peoples, at all times, everywhere.
But persecution began almost immediately after the Gospel began to be preached. God used this persecution to compel and scatter the early Church outward from Jerusalem, in order that they would fulfill the Father’s will to bring the message of salvation to every person.
Then in Acts Chapter 8, we are introduced to a vicious persecutor of the Church – Saul. These assaults seemed like bad news, until we read in Scripture that “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word [Gospel]” (Acts 8:4). This would include both Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-25).
THE OUTWARD MARCH OF THE GOSPEL
Note that the Holy Spirit was being poured out upon those who received the Gospel (8:16,17). There were also signs and wonders that attended the preaching of the Gospel (8:6,13).
But an even greater work was about to unfold for the early Church. God wanted the Gospel preached everywhere. Jesus commanded that believers “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). A similar word was recorded in Acts 1:8, even “to the end of the earth”.
This outward march began when Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch, who was soon converted to Christ (Acts 8:26-40). This same Ethiopian is credited in Church tradition to be the first one to introduce the Gospel to the continent of Africa!
Soon afterward, Saul was radically changed by his encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:1-19), and he was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). But the focus of much of the Gospel preaching was still to the Jewish people – until God did something radical!
We read on in Acts about Cornelius, a Roman (Acts 10:1-48). Peter is sent to Cornelius to begin to share the Gospel with the Gentiles. This was a difficult thing for Peter to do as a Jew (Acts 10:9-16).
But as Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his entire household – right in the middle of Peter’s sermon! (Acts 10:44) Even so, the Jewish brethren who were present still struggled with the fact that the Gospel and the Holy Spirit were being given to the Gentile people (Acts 10:45-48).
Finally, there was an important meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem, with Peter being called upon to testify (Acts 11:1-15). They finally came to understand and accept that which Jesus had clearly spoken to them: The Gospel was to be preached to every person – even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:28).
GOD’S PLAN REVEALED
It is of critical importance to note something about the Book of Acts. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was NOT simply a new religion or a new version of Jewish doctrines. Everything that had transpired between mankind and God since the Garden of Eden – all of Old Testament history – had led up to this point in time.
God had a divine strategy that was set in motion after man chose sin (Gen 3:15). That plan was salvation from the death penalty of sin, by grace through faith (not of works) in Jesus Christ. This was made possible only by the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. We read about this provision of Christ in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
But God’s purpose went beyond a new faith and restored relationship with Him. God wanted (and wants) to live within us, to give us the assurance and power we need to live in victory and to fulfill His will in this life.
Therefore, in His infinite wisdom and love, God poured out the Holy Spirit, who would dwell within every believer (Joel 2:28,29). Christ did not come to bring a new religion or theology. Rather, He came to fulfill all of what God had promised for the salvation of mankind!
Yes, Christ’s sacrifice allows us to be restored again to intimate fellowship with God. But God also intends for the living power of the Almighty God to dwell within us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. This is a power that the world cannot ignore or explain away. They can mock, criticize or condemn, even as they did on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5-13). But they cannot stop the work and power of the Holy Spirit through the yielded life of a believer!
What we see throughout the Book of Acts concerning signs, wonders, miracles, salvations, healings, etc., is as possible and relevant for us today as it was for the early Church (Joel 2; Acts 2:33,38,39). We need the Holy Spirit’s presence and power no less today than 2,000 years ago! Thank God that “Jesus Christ [and the Holy Spirit] is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).
c. All Believers In Christ At All Times
Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that the promised gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is “to you and to your children [signifying future generations], and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (see Acts 2:33,38,39).
Those identified as “all who are afar off” would certainly include not only future generations, but also all the Gentile tribes and every other tribe, tongue and race of the earth (Eph 2:11-19; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11).
A LIFELONG RELATIONSHIP
The gift of the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the heart of each Christ-follower. This is a general anointing that every believer in Christ receives at salvation.
The apostle John gives us some insight into this general anointing in his first epistle. John reminds the early Christ-followers of an important fact: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (1 John 2:20).
From the structure of the Greek language in this original text, it is clear that John was not referring to a religious ceremony of being anointed with oil or another substance. Rather, this anointing was from the “Holy One” who is Jesus Christ the Son of God (John 6:69; Acts 3:14; 4:27).
In other words, “THE Anointed One” (Jesus Christ) gives His followers a gift from Himself; that gift is the Holy Spirit to live in us and abide with us (Matt 3:11; Acts 1:5; John 14:16,17,26; 16:7). This anointing is for every believer who puts their hope in Christ for salvation by grace through faith.
Then John, by the Holy Spirit, continues: “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” (1 John 2:27).
This anointing is not a one-time experience; rather, it is to be a lifelong and growing relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into the truth, teaches us all things and reminds us of what Jesus taught (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the truth and glorify Jesus (John 16:13,14).
Obviously, John is not implying that teaching ministries are unnecessary (God gives us teachers – see Romans 12:7; Ephesians 4:11). But John is referring to the revelation and understanding that the Person of the Holy Spirit will bring to the individual as they respond to Him in their life (1Cor 2:10-16; Eph 1:17,18).
So we see from the Word of God that there is an anointing which every follower of Christ receives at the time of salvation.
PASTOR TO PASTOR
What the Holy Spirit illuminates or reveals concerning the truth will always be in agreement with what He has already revealed in the written Word of God (John 16:13,14). There is NO new revelation that will ever add to or disagree with the Bible!