The term “anointing” is as prevalent in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles (hereafter abbreviated: P/C, and representative of all subsets thereof) as salt in the ocean. Considering how little the new covenant scripture mentions it, it seems like too much has been made of too little. In some places, the alleged “anointing” has become a fetish, a golden calf: our worship services exist to facilitate someone’s idea of what the anointing is, rather than to honor the person of Jesus.
The word “anointing” is used somewhat broadly and indiscriminately to refer to:
a) Things that are called, selected, or commissioned by God.
b) Being gifted for effective ministry, almost always associated with some aspect of in-church expression.
c) Experiencing His manifest presence or being “touched by God.”
d) A transferrable grace ability.
e) A manifest sense of His glory, discernible to the senses.
f) A physically overpowering sensation.
g) Being in a “special class” of believers (He/she is so . . . anointed).
h) The effect of worship and song in cultivating the Lord’s presence.
i) A present power to perform miracles, signs, and wonders.
What is the Anointing?
The sparse usage of the word in the New Testament should tip us off that we’re sailing in tenuous waters. There’s hardly a more significant difference between the Old and the New Covenants than in regard to the anointing. Generally speaking, the implications of the change that took place on the Day of Pentecost are not well understood. A strong Old Covenant mindset dominates the spiritual culture in many P/C and non-P/C churches.
Isaiah 10:27 says that the anointing destroys the yoke. Yokes can represent oppression, bondage, or living under the rigors of precepts and law. The term destroyed means corrupted,[i] ruined, spoiled, or broken. In the prophet’s language, the anointing causes yokes to become corrupted and hence, destroyed. I’ve no problem with this. However, Isaiah 10:27 is virtually the entire sub-structure of the P/C anointing belief system. As it’s typically interpreted and applied, it’s inherently subjective and sensory.
For example, a preacher whose doctrine is correct but whose ministry lacks a discernible “kick” or authority would be considered as lacking the anointing necessary to break yokes.[ii] The special singer who makes you cry, or “feel the Lord’s presence,” instead of just enjoying good singing would be considered anointed. The issue before us is correct understanding of what constitutes the New Covenant anointing, not our subjective feelings on this or that.
Just because I really liked or witnessed to what the preacher said, or really liked a song, doesn’t necessarily mean he/she, or it, was anointed. I could just be sincerely and whole-heartedly agreeing to error together with the preacher, or the song just suit my musical tastes. Because I may be emotionally moved in a meeting, doesn’t mean that the minister or the meeting is necessarily anointed. I was just emotionally moved—for whatever reason. It is neither right nor wrong. It just is what it is. There is no spiritual significance associated with my subjective feelings.
In Acts 5 when the Holy Spirit was killing Ananias and Sapphira, the room was full of “anointing” and “presence” and “glory.” It just would not pass the bar of how the P/C church defines those things.
The New Testament says that three “greatnesses” were upon the early church: great grace, great power, and great fear.[iii] In most P/C environments we will only face and accept the first two. The idea that something unpleasant or severe could be anointed, is as rare as wings on a cat.
Well then, how should the fact of the New Covenant being “not according to” the Old affect our understanding of the anointing? How does praise and worship in the New Covenant relate to the anointing?
The anointing resides in every believer. It doesn’t come and go like in the Old Covenant. Every believer is already anointed, forever—permanently. No amount of singing, jumping, shouting, prancing or dancing can change that.
As such, a believer can function in what some call the “believer’s anointing” at any given moment (at the direction of our Father, led by the Spirit). For example, everyone can pray for the sick, but not all have the gifts of healings. Every one can share his or her faith, but not all have the gift of the evangelist. Every one can prophesy, but not all have the ministry of a prophet, etc.
An individual’s unique gift package from the Spirit is like a heightened level of functionality in one or more of the qualities of Christ. Since the anointing abides, I don’t need to wait for special moments, special places, special feelings, or special times to release my gift. All these typify the old order that Jesus said was going to pass away (John 4 – special place: the mountain, special times: feasts, special class of people: professional priest/clergy, etc., see Chapter Six). I merely live, abide, and function in Him, and the anointing happens.
Now, if a psalmist or musician exercises his or her grace, the result will be anointed. However, the anointing is on the individual, not the music. Why do you think so many pop stars[i] start in the church and are tremendously successful when they later cross over? (Or backslide depending on your convictions!) It’s because the music does not produce the anointing. The anointing produces the music. The individual carries it, for better or worse. The gifts from God are without regret.
We can enjoy that gift within a musician or singer, but the rest of the body of believers are not dependent on “coming into the praise and worship anointing” three times a week in order to experience the anointing individually and subjectively.
We must remember that Paul lived and ministered a very effective and full gospel life. His meetings were “anointed,” but they did not have any restored Davidic praise and worship. He seemed to do just fine without it. We can too. This fact in Paul’s life also confirms that the anointing is in no way linked with or dependent upon praise and worship. When we are blessed by the gift of Christ in music in a human vessel, it’s just like any other gift of Christ in a human vessel.
In the New Covenant there is no longer a special class of Davidic worshippers who broker or mediate the presence of the Lord to the rest of us. Our Protestant forefathers were burned at the stake and went to the grave trying to eliminate a belief system characterized by special classes of specially anointed people, and here we are, under the guise of restored truth, regressing into Old Covenant, priesthood mentalities. If they knew, they would roll in their graves.
Anyone who operates in the grace that Christ has equipped them, is a Davidic worshipper in spirit whether they are writing software on the job, doing plumbing, or preaching to tens of thousands, because Davidic worship is a matter of spirit, not form. It is a heart and relational issue, not a mechanics of music issue.
This blog is an excerpt from our title: Praise, Worship, and the Presence of the Lord: A Better Way to Worship It is available in all formats at www.stevecrosby.com.Copyright 2014, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. #www.badchurchexperience.com
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[i] Like rust, to slowly degrade, not necessarily instantaneously disappear.
[ii] Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, the sermon that birthed the Great Awakening, was read word for word by Jonathan Edwards. He just stood there and read it. People were swooning under conviction in their pews. There was no emotional intensity in Edward’s presentation. The anointing has nothing to do with emotions or Pentecostal kick.
[iii]Acts 4:33; 5:11.
[iv] Whitney Houston comes to mind. There are many others.