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What does it mean to be anointed? And who is anointed?

If you are anointed by God, what difference should that make for your life?

Let us explore this rich metaphor and find out.

Meaning and significance

To anoint literally means to pour or rub oil (usually olive oil) on a person or an object.

We introduced oil as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit in “3 Metaphors for Knowing the Holy Spirit Better.”

Biblically, the significance of anointing included:

  • setting a person or object apart as holy or consecrated;
  • bestowing authority upon a person;
  • showing honor to a person; and,
  • healing.

In the Old Testament (OT), Israel’s prophets (e.g., Isaiah 61:1-2), priests (e.g., Leviticus 8:30), and kings (e.g., 1 Samuel 10:1) were anointed. This was intended to recognize that these officials had God’s authority and acted as His representatives

Other people anointed in the OT were the healed leper (Leviticus 14:12-18). Objects that were anointed included the furniture and priestly garments used in the tabernacle.

You might be thinking that that is fine for those specially selected to be anointed in the Old Testament, but what does that have to do with you and me? 

Jesus, the Anointed One

In the New Testament (NT), we discover that Jesus Christ is anointed. That is not surprising, for the Greek word anoint is chriƍ, which is the basis for the Christos or Christ, meaning the “Anointed One.” The Hebrew equivalent is the word from which we get Messiah.

In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 as referring to himself, saying:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me 

because he has anointed me

Peter confirms this when he proclaims (Acts 10:38)

… how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

This anointing with the Spirit gives rise to Jesus being “the Christ,” the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King. It also honors, empowers, and authorizes His service for God in doing good, healing, and liberating people.

Christians anointed 

In a text we examined in an earlier post (2 Corinthians 1:21-22), we learn, 

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

This more literal translation of the original Greek helps us see that “establishes” is a present and continuing action, whereas “anointed,” “sealed,” and “gave” refer to a past event—that is the point at which each individual Christian received Christ (i.e., conversion). See the earlier post, “4 Metaphors for Knowing the Holy Spirit Better.”

Like Jesus, followers of Jesus have been anointed with the Holy Spirit rather than olive oil. Olive oil is a metaphor or symbol representing the Holy Spirit. Gordon Fee comments on this metaphor of being anointed: 

... in putting us into Christ, God christed [anointed] us, which means something like “made us Christ’s people.”

Drawing on the OT significance of anointing, this indicates that those who have received Jesus Christ have received healing (I’ll leave that for another post) and honor. In addition, those in Christ have been set apart as holy and given authority to serve as representatives of God as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This last point will be the focus of the forthcoming series “God’s Gifted Children,” which will deal with spiritual gifts and their use.

I invite your comments and questions. You can contact me here.  


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