The Pentecostal Movement of the late seventeen hundreds caused a stir in the mainline churches – or should I call it a Tsunami? It introduced the doctrine that believers need a second experience, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and that speaking in tongues was the evidence of this experience. In the nineteen sixties the Charismatic Movement embraced a similar doctrine but, unlike the Pentecostal Movement which resulted in new church denominations, the Charismatic Movement impacted all the traditional church groups. Whilst it had a profoundly positive influence on the life of many churches, it did stir up a lot of contention. Many traditional Christians saw the ‘second blessing’, evidenced by tongues, as a challenge to their status as saved followers of Jesus Christ. Many felt like second class citizens in the Kingdom of God.
What a terrible shame, and I mean that literally, that Christians should contend with one another over something profoundly fundamental to Christian Life. The issue is not so much how, when, and with what evidence do we receive ‘power from on high’, but that we all need to receive it.
The terminology has become confused – baptism by, with, in the Holy Spirit, and so on – so I will use the word ‘anointing’. I have taken this from 1 John 2 verses 20 and 27 where the Greek word Chrisma is translated as ‘anointing’. Anointing with oil was often used as an external evidence of a changed status. However, 1 John uses the word anointing to indicate an inner condition, the special endowment of the Holy Spirit. This is the meaning that I have applied to the word ‘anointing’.
At the most basic level this ‘special endowment’ is the empowerment given by the Holy Spirit. Surely all Christians need supernatural empowerment? How else are we to live above sin, to witness, and to minister life to others? Jesus said “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Most of us accept that this statement applies to all believers, and not just to the first disciples. Jesus links power and witness; we are to be His witnesses but we need anointing in order to be effective witnesses.
Luke 11:13 records Jesus’ assurance that the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. So, instead of arguing about second blessings, baptism by, and so forth, we should be asking God the Father to anoint us with Holy Spirit power so that we can be effective disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:18 reads, ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.’ The words ‘be filled’ translate the Greek present tense which indicates that this ‘filling’ is not a one-time past experience. We are to be continually filled with power from on high, for this anointing leads to effective Christian living as surely as drunkenness leads to debauchery.
I remember, as a new Christian, how I argued with my mother about the need to be filled with Holy Spirit power. She was an old-school Methodist, suspicious of Pentecostals and Charismatics. After a while I gave up and instead asked her when she had become a disciple of Jesus. She told me that she had been born again at a very early age. Then she paused reflectively and said, “but it was much later, when I was about eighteen, that I realised that I needed the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.” I had been pontificating about baptism in the Holy Spirit, tongues, gifts of the Spirit, and all that. She had been resisting because of the terminology and all the theological baggage the words carry. In essence though, we were in agreement – we need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Anointing – who needs it? We all do.