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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Why Anoint With Oil?

From the July 19, 1959, Pentecostal Evangel

By Bernice M. Gerard
Sept. 21, 2014

A woman attending a service where the evangelist was praying for the sick was mystified by the anointing oil. She noticed that before praying for an individual the evangelist touched the person with oil.

“What kind of witch’s brew is the evangelist using?” she asked herself. She felt sure it was something with magical powers to put people under a spell! Finally her curiosity got the best of her. She stole the bottle of oil from the church pulpit and took it to the druggist to be analyzed! You can imagine how surprised she was when the druggist told her it was pure olive oil.

The woman turned from unbelief and criticism, and accepted Christ as her personal Savior.

There is no curative power in the anointing oil. It is simply a symbol, used as an act of faith and obedience to the command of God.

The Bible says the disciples of Jesus Christ cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them (Mark 6:13). The healing came through the prayer of faith, not through the merits of the oil, for we read in James 5:14-16, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another” (KJV, emphasis added).

The function of the oil is not to effect a cure by its chemical or medicinal qualities, but to serve as a mighty symbol.

In its symbolic language, the Bible speaks volumes in a single word. For example, John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John did not need to repeat all that Isaiah had said about the Lamb who was to be brought to the slaughter. That one symbolic word “lamb” brought to mind Isaiah’s description of the suffering Savior and much more beside.

Similarly the one word “rainbow” speaks volumes. When rain and sunshine intertwine to form the colorful bow, it says to mankind, “I am a token of God’s promise that there shall never be another flood to destroy all flesh” (see Genesis 9).

To anoint with oil is to share in a thousand sacred memories of Bible consecration services. Moses was instructed to anoint the altar, the tabernacle, the candlesticks, and other sacred vessels in consecration to God (Exodus 40). Not only were objects anointed with oil, but also persons. Aaron and his sons were sprinkled with the anointing oil and with blood for the priestly office (Leviticus 8).

On becoming king, Saul was anointed by Samuel. With that downpour of olive oil came the anointing of God’s Spirit, and Saul was turned into another man (1 Samuel 10:1-7). When at Samuel’s insistence David was brought from keeping the sheep to be anointed king, the horn of oil was emptied on his head and “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).

“Find Jehu; take him to a private place. Pour the box of oil on his head and say, ‘Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel.’ Then open the door and flee, tarry not!” said Elisha to a young prophet (see 2 Kings 9). The young prophet did everything he was told, even to the opening of the door and fleeing. He risked his life to denounce Ahab and Jezebel and to anoint Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, as king.

“I shall be anointed with fresh oil,” says David in joyful anticipation. Not only was the anointing with oil considered a necessity in consecration to office but it was counted a pleasure.

A common substance in a plain bottle, the anointing oil has seen many a royal occasion. It is a token of God’s commission to prophets of old, the consecration of kings and commoners, and of New Testament deliverances innumerable.

It is easy to scoff at a symbol. The world despises the Old Rugged Cross, but for the love of it men gladly die.

The flag of the United States is only muslin or bunting on which is a pattern of stars and stripes. But let any man throw mud on it or insult it and he would soon find out what force there is in a symbol.

There are five federal laws regarding the flag. Penalties for improper use or desecration of the flag run from $10 to $5,000 and five years in prison. The flag must be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. When the flag is used to cover a funeral casket it must not be lowered into the grave nor allowed to touch the ground. When worn out, the flag must be destroyed in a dignified way; preferably by burning. All of these apparently insignificant details are important because of their symbolic meaning.

In the simple act of anointing the sick with oil, the symbolic picture has three sides. First, we do so with the strong conviction that it is necessary for full obedience. If we fail to anoint with oil, our representation of the apostolic ministry is incomplete. It is our responsibility to anoint and pray; it is God who does the healing. Having been obedient, we rest in the thought that “He will send the signs following.”

The consecration to God of the individual for whom prayer is offered is also implied in the very act of anointing. Without true consecration, whether the deeper symbolic meaning of anointing is understood or not, there will be no healing.

It was not by accident that James said, “And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another.” Forgiveness of sins and the healing of the body are joined in holy wedlock and can never be divorced.

The third view of the symbolic picture is that anointing with oil typifies the anointing of the Holy Spirit, without which we can do nothing. Isaiah foresaw the day in which “the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing” (Isaiah 10:27). His vision was fulfilled in part when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38).

The “last days” anointing came in full when Jesus said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). The anointing of power was to rest on believers. It was only because of the Holy Spirit in them that Jesus was able to say to them, “Greater works than these shall you do” (see John 14:12).

The practical fulfillment of Jesus’ promise came when the disciples tarried in Jerusalem and were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Peter declared to the multitude that the anointing would not cease but that all should repent and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). Then, as Jesus predicted, “By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (Acts 5:12).

We mutely declare our dependence upon the Spirit’s anointing when we anoint with oil in continued obedience to His Word. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). We recognize He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

When the healing service begins and the minister takes in hand the anointing oil, it is time for thought. The sick one — is he consecrated to God? The preacher — is he rejoicing in the privilege of obedience to God’s command? Is everyone depending on the Spirit of God to do the work?

Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah but did not get it until he stooped to pick up Elijah’s mantle. He did not prove the power of his new anointing until he smote the waters of Jordan with the mantle. Today we prove the effectiveness of James 5:14 by practicing it. All those who are healed sing the same song about Jesus Christ, “He is my medicine and my health.”

Bernice M. Gerard lived in Chickasaw, Ala., when this article was originally published.


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