Updated on November 22, 2014
The Jesus Project: Anointing’s Purpose
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.” –Isaiah 61:1, ESV
This passage hinges on the anointing of God. The Spirit is upon Jesus, why?
“…because the Lord has anointed Me…”
Everything that comes out of the Spirit’s presence and everything that comes in this passage stems from the core: God anoints. So if this anointing brings about the Messiah, we would be wise to figure out what anointing is. Let’s pause here for a spell. We need to understand the centrality of God’s anointing before we study who receives anointing and the subsequent works emerging from it.
The Hebrew word for anoint used in our Isaiah passage is “mashach” (pronounced maw-shakjh’), which our study buddy James Strong tells us this word is most commonly used to indicate “the sense of a special setting apart for an office or function.”
If God is doing the anointing, and it is for a special setting apart, then what purposes does God want to accomplish through anointing? Cross-referencing the word in scripture brings about several themes. The purposes set forth are four, which we will explore individually: to make an instrument holy, to sanctify that which is anointed, to consecrate, that the anointed might ministry to God.
Making an instrument holy
In Exodus, God instructs the people to mashach both the tabernacle and the altar. These two critical pieces of Israel’s religious life required anointing. They needed to be holy in order that they may be of service to God. Anointing wasn’t an option; God commanded that it happen prior to the instruments being put into use.
The process of making the instruments of worship holy not only were a physical act. The process of anointing reminded the Israelites the holiness is required when approaching the God of the universe. And as the law was designed to do, the process of making something holy reminds the people that they, themselves, are wholly unholy. In reflecting on the glory of God, the people remember the uncleanness of their own hearts and minds.
But God in His mercy didn’t leave the people in their uncleanness. The purpose of the anointing was to make a way to God. If the instruments of worship were anointed and made holy, the people could come to God. It represented one step in the open door to the throne room of God.
Sanctifying the anointed
Throughout scripture, anointing partners closely with the act of sanctification. The terms are not used interchangeably, so be careful of that. But where anointing occurs, sanctification hovers nearby. The word, qadash (pronounced kaw-dash’) is used to identify something or someone as being set apart for God’s work. In holiness, the anointed is prepared for the work of God. Sanctification sets the anointed apart for use in work specifically identified as belonging to God.
Sanctification his not only set apart, it is set apart for a specific purpose. I can say my sanctification means I can choose my ministry. But this is not indicated in scripture. I can make excuses for the forty-two ways something serves God and His kingdom, but I can still be out of God’s will. He sanctifies us, not that we choose our work, but that we choose the work He has set aside for us.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'” –Acts 13:2, ESV
The Spirit Who spoke to the church of Antioch with a specific call for Barnabas and Saul is the same Spirit working in believers now. You were created a particular way. And the work of God set out for you is for you to do. As a sanctified believer, be not content with settling for anything less than exactly that which God set apart for specifically you.
Consecrating the anointed
In partnership with anointing, consecration bears a remarkable image. The two Hebrew words used are male (pronounced maw-lay’) and yad (pronounced yawd). Each means to fill, even to overflowing. Yad can also indicate overcoming power. Imagine: the anointing makes one holy that they may approach God, sanctification sets them apart for specific work from God, and the consecration fills the person to overflowing in power to carry out the call of God.
I will admit, I used to think sanctification and consecration were basically the same thing. Some word scholars boil down the definitions of consecration to holiness. But digging deeper into the actual definitions rather than someone else’s paraphrase revealed a layer upon layer upon layer of preparation the believer receives as a result of believing that God is Who He says He is, that Jesus came to die a sinless death in our sinful place, and that Jesus rose from the grave to conquer death once for all that we may come to God. That’s the gospel. This layered verse kicking off Isaiah 61 gives us a sneak peek into what all that means.
Do not forsake the call of God on your life. For He gave much, He has prepared you, and He will fill you to overflowing and beyond to carry out the work He set before you. By the power of His Spirit, you are His, and you are ready. But wait, there’s more.
That the anointed may minister to God
Let’s review: anointing involves being made holy, being set apart for God’s specific work by sanctification, and that we are filled to overflowing in being consecrated as His. All this momentum, but where should it all go? The fourth theme gives us that answer.
The purpose of anointing is to set one apart for service to the Lord. That is it. Not service to people, not feeding the hungry or clothing the naked. Yes, those things may come. But the primary and first purpose of anointing is ministering to God. Here’s a taste of how scripture recounts God’s own words to build primacy in purpose of anointing:
“anoint…that they may minister unto Me…” –Exodus 28:41, ESV
“anoint…that they may minister unto Me…” –Exodus 30:30, ESV
“anoint them…that they may minister unto Me…” –Exodus 40:15, ESV
Your first ministry is not to your family, friends, or even the “ministry” you built to carry out the commands of Christ. Your first and primary responsibility in the church of God is to minister to God. Period. If you are balking at the notion that the crying, precious infant laying in your lap is not your primary purpose, remember Jesus’ words on the subject:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” –Matthew 10:37, ESV
If you need to, re-set your ministry priorities now. Right now. I stayed in a ministry longer than God wanted me there. This was not a “impression” or a hind-sight understanding. I knew He wanted me to leave. But I made up excuse after excuse as to why I should stay. Months later, a man from that ministry began stalking me. I cannot call it cause and effect; but I can say that had I left when God urged, I would not have been in a position in the ministry where someone with those kinds of tendencies would have noticed me, and I may have saved myself over a year of fear and stress.
The ministry is not the point. God is. You’ve been chosen to minister to Him. And He will determine the appropriate out-flowing of that ministry.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” –Matthew 6:33, ESV
To understand your horizontal ministry, you must minister first to God. And before all of that, you must be anointed. For the one who ministers to God must be holy. Praise Him we live on this side of the Cross! Jesus made the way that we could come to the Father in our totally unworthy state and be made holy before Him, that we would be sanctified and consecrated, all for the purpose of serving the One Who saved us from the due penalty for our sin.
Anointing is no small thing. W.E. Vine shares this conclusion about anointing:
“Anointing was a symbol of the qualification divinely imparted in the consecration of persons for the discharge of their office, whether prophets, priests, or kings.”
What’s the point? Jesus.
That headline sounds like a cliche Sunday School answer, but hang with me. Do you see? Our passage in Isaiah is describing Jesus. And it is describing the very process you and I experience when we come to Him. But there is one very cool thing: we aren’t responsible for any of it. We don’t make ourselves holy. We don’t sanctify ourselves for God’s work. And we certainly can’t fill ourselves to overflowing power in consecration. We can do none of that.
Jesus can. And He already did.
God has a purpose for your life–an “office” that you are to fulfill in the body of Christ. But to know that office, you must first come to God through Jesus to become a member of his people. Anointed by the blood of Jesus, made holy, sanctified, and consecrated in His perfection, you can approach God to minister to Him. And He will show you your appointed office. Set your ministry priorities straight, and He will bring more fulfillment, more understanding, and more rich spiritual blessings that you can possibly imagine.