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The Transformative Power of the Anointing

1. Introduction


In this sense, the text shakes and transcends the traditional ecclesial and theological structures. So, it is quite possible to argue that the presence of the anointing of the Holy Spirit is the central distinguishing factor between different ecclesial or religious communities: whoever does not have it, will not be able to do other than follow traditional salvationist religious lines. And since the faith that saves is from hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ, Pentecostalism appears as one more form of presenting and disseminating the faith of Jesus, but with a specific and differentiated characteristic: the anointing of the Spirit.


The text of Acts 10:38 plays a fundamental role in both theologically reflecting on the mission and nature of Pentecostalism itself. Reading it, it can be observed that the anointing of the Spirit is the principle, the moving force, of Jesus's relationship with humanity. If for Jesus the anointing of the Holy Spirit is indispensable, for His disciples and for the Church it cannot be otherwise. The text, so recognized as containing strong Pentecostal references, ends up being a guideline for Pentecostal ecclesiology, which is that which both in its formative moment and in its current action has as a principle and a resource the anointing of the Spirit. That is, a church in permanent mission because it enjoys the anointing of the Spirit, without distinction of people or social status.


1.1. Purpose and Relevance of the Anointing


Through the years, I have been pondering over these issues, deepening in the Scriptures, and scanning the literature to articulate a theology of the anointing. My challenge resides with people's need not only to understand what the anointing is but also to perceive and experience the impact of the anointing in their lives and ministries, and for the churches to recover spirituality's true sense and the spirituality of life. The present article is an early attempt to map out a theological perspective on the anointing, which specifically draws from an exploration of Jesus' way of life in His historical circumstances in history and space. The groundbreaking comment echoes in Peter's discourse in Acts 10:38. Our claim is that the anointing denotes Jesus' mission of establishing the kingdom of God in words, deeds, and signs, and encompasses the transformative indwelling and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Our premier contribution consists of integrating these biblical dimensions of the anointing into a comprehensive theological entire, which certainly lays the ground for the formation of contemporary spirituality and the transformation of life and ministry. Our argument unfolds by pointing to the relevance of the anointing and the scope for further research. After this introduction, we advance with Jesus' mission phases, scrutinize the anointing concept, and draw inferences for spirituality, proposing then avenues for further research.


The anointing of the Holy Spirit is central to Christian spirituality. We hear about it in our gatherings, sermons, and interviews. Music and worship songs evoke the anointing's invading, covering, falling, or descending. People want to walk in it, receive it, or have their lives transformed by it. Sometimes, the anointing is equated with God's presence, blessing, or favor in our lives vis-à-vis our worship, ministry, and daily living, which typically affect our spirituality and spirituality of life. But what exactly is the anointing? It is a peculiar word with profound biblical and theological significance which affects the structure of our Christian faith, manifesting its impact in the person and work of Christ in relation with us.


2. Contextual Background of Acts 10:38


Acts 10:38 can be seen as an occurrence of a particular note in the ongoing response of the Spirit-empowered people of God to their commission to bring deliverance, healing, and transformation, signifying the nearness of the kingdom of God and calling for radical reform of the lives of both the poor and the rich. This text is set within a message that Peter was giving to the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion. This passage has a number of important contextual features: (1) It is part of Peter's persuasive argument that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and killed, is the One sent by God, has been appointed to act with divine authority and commission, and has been anointed to fulfill divinely ordained tasks; (2) Peter was speaking to a gathering of Gentiles; and (3) it was a time where God was at work. The good news is announced in the context of a positive development in the Spirit's leading Peter to engage in a novel form of social association which a good Jew like Peter would previously have shunned. Since the early 40s, Christianity has called upon its adherents regardless of culture or demographic who respond to the radical and inclusive message of Jesus Christ to take on fresh callings and engage in new ministry challenges.


Acts 10:38 is a significant text within the broader context of the Bible's metanarrative and the intra-biblical story of the early church. The early chapters of both Acts and the Gospel of Luke address the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the ministry of the apostles, and the resurrection of Jesus. The middle and final chapters of both texts address the transformation of the people of God, powerful works, and signs and wonders which were evidence of the transformative working of the power of the Holy Spirit through the apostles.


2.1. Historical and Cultural Context of the Book of Acts


In the early chapters of Acts, in Jerusalem, the community is born and lives in harmony, making common life and common prayer. It is the time of the octave in history! Then, the confrontation comes, the first attempt to silence the new community born.


In the Gospel of Luke as well as in Acts, the journey of the Church occurs along the path of Jerusalem, traveling to the cities of the world, where the story also reaches the story of the journey to Rome. Our narrative is inserted in this context and is bonding with the resurrection narratives. The tradition that was first passed was that of women, especially of Mary, the mother of Jesus. These saw the tomb empty and met the angel who announced that Jesus was resurrected. The testimony was taken seriously by the apostles, but Peter was the first to see what had happened and confirmed the announcement of the angel that Jesus had in fact resurrected. Peter becomes the evangelist of the resurrection for the apostles and is the first to teach that Jesus was in fact resurrected. The fact is that the Risen Christ does not distance himself from these fragile instruments to carry the message to his communities.


In order to better understand the different dimensions of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the study of the book of Acts is essential, since the work of the anointing is explicitly manifest in all its fullness in this account. The Holy Spirit came in such a way in the disciples that they were changed, after the resurrection of Jesus, to begin to preach the kingdom to the unbelieving world. His transforming action on the disciples is quite remarkable and can give us some important clues to better understand the forces that configure the message of the Christian faith today.


3. Exegesis of Acts 10:38


Together with the consecration and with the mission, there is also the aspect of the gift of strength and power. By adding the Holy Spirit and power: it indicates both the divine nature of the anointing and stresses its effects. The second term refers to the tools for the exercise of the office which are proper to it, power. This has to be understood in qualitative terms which is evident in the fact that the anointing conferred by God on the Prophets, on the Priest, and on the Kings derive its character from God's anointing which he has erected on the Office. The Anointing on the Office gives power to accomplish the power of Office. The need for this was evident in the case of the servants, and the matter of the condemnation of the ministers in the Old Testament. The case of the Servant can be lead into the light by means of the parallel found in the mission of Saul and after that of David. The three motives which find their explanation in the description of the Servant (servant being Christ) find a close parallel in the presentation of Saul as king.


The verse says: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." Let us look into these expressions. The word Christ not only indicates Christ's office as the unique Savior of humankind, but it also refers to the anointing which he received. The word "anointed" reflects the Old Testament code, indicating the act of God in order to commission an individual in the office of prophet, priest, and king. The fact that the verb "anoint" is linked to the term "with" without specifying a special noun even in the context of N.T. Scripture indicates the uniqueness of the Anointing of Jesus of Nazareth as Christ.


3.1. Breaking Down the Verse


When we read Acts 10:38, we might imagine a set of miracle-working powers listed out by Luke the Evangelist. But Luke’s native tongue is Greek, and in this specific case, everything that happens within verse 38 is part of one single ongoing act of anointing and, moreover, the Greek is explicit on enumeration—one well-known variant of this form is ‘that is, A, B, C, and D’ and there are similar explicit enumerations attested elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. In Acts 10:38, we would expect to see a continued narrative of ‘healing everyone oppressed by the devil, because God was with him’ if this were the case, and Luke’s lack of a continuation is evidence that all within 10:38 is part of the ongoing act of Jesus Christ traveling through Galilee, Judea, and Samaria to heal—the variety of healing mentioned is thus part of healing the oppressed more generally.


Preaching truth, proclaiming justice, setting captives free, restoring sight to the blind, and liberty for the oppressed—all of these are powerful charges to Christians, and all are seen today in liberation theology, particularly as espoused within the disciplines of feminism and womanism. But the purpose of this paper is to see all of this within Christian tradition, applying the logic identified by theologian Margaret Farley that preaching is a liberative act to a biblical passage that claims the power to preach as an anointing—that of Jesus Christ. The relevant Bible verse will be decomposed, exploring the Greek to reveal meanings not present in translation, and exploring the broader context to show that the traditional, post-exilic male priesthood may well have been intentionally rejected by Jesus Christ in favor of a broader mandate to preach the good news.


4. The Significance of the Anointing


In the Christian context, anointing with oil brings into focus the ministry and power of Jesus Christ for the troubled souls of humanity. The anointing in question achieves eminence because of the relationship between the man Jesus Christ and his mission. The prophet Isaiah declared that this mission was His anointing (Isaiah 61:1). Speaking as a messenger of divine purposes, Jesus became more specific about his work in relation to the Spirit's outpouring. He was the One anointed with the Spirit to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed, and the acceptable year of the Lord. Nor was this basis of His sacred work to be associated with Himself alone.


In explaining the origins of anointing with oil as a basic religious act, Maclennan has made it clear that the concept is based upon actual human experience: Feeling a need for release as material, psychological or spiritual forces increasingly bear down upon them, individuals must throw off, or be relieved of, these pressures and dangers. Yet such relief is not merely a return to their former condition. Rather, the oppressed get or take sustenance that enables their existence to overcome the straining influences having been set free, they are catapulted. Indeed, the essential ingredient in anointing with oil lies in the action of the Holy Spirit, who is the actual cause of the substantial relief provided in response to the prayer for anointing. Thus, anointing with oil is an occlusion where "the force and thrust of the signification is directed outside itself to some greater reality of life, and it finds fulfillment in that reality.


4.1. Biblical Foundations of Anointing


That the action of the Holy Spirit is essential in the life of the Christian has been expressed by many Christians from earlier times. The Christian life is structured by an immanent dynamism that is characterized by the principles of the divine life dynamically present in the constitutive and nourishing action of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit assists the person in every moral situation and helps cultivate fruits of love, as an active power and guiding spirit, in the life of the individual believer, Christian communities, and the church. He forms the intimate and profound core of the believer's heart, he introduces a response based on love into the person's moral conscience, making it possible to carry out the depth of the new law to which Christians are called. The source of this dynamism is the sacramental animating presence of the Holy Spirit, sown in the Christian at the moment of baptism. The immanent dynamism constituted by the presence of the Holy Spirit, communicated by faith, is itself sufficient to obligate the members of the Church to take part in the evangelical life.


The Unity and Mission document says that "the anointing of the baptized expresses the mysterious union of Christ with those who have welcomed him. Through the anointing, the Christian shares fully in the mission of Christ and witnesses to Christ before all the world. (ET 25) There is a clear indication that Christians who are conscious of the fact that they are anointed associate themselves with Christ's mission of preaching the Good News. Baptism, especially in its actualization in confirmation, is conceived as an event of abiding significance by which we share in the divine life itself, enjoying its filial, Trinitarian, and chrismal dimensions.


5. The Impact of the Anointing


Why is this picture of the life of Jesus important to the church? Why should we pay attention to the transformational power of the anointing in our own lives? Building upon the missionary commission of Matthew 28:19 and on the habit of Jesus having personally poured the father’s love and acceptance into the lives of his own disciples, we who are also the forerunners of the trespassing of boundaries for the progress of the gospel are to be walking alongside those who are responding to the divine message of heart gospel-workers, empowered to make disciples and raise up communities of faith.


It is one thing to speak about the anointing in general terms, but quite another challenge altogether to speak of the impact of the anointing. What can we say about the transformative force of the anointing? Luke graphically portrays a transfiguring journey of Jesus as he journeyed and ministered from the river Jordan to the pouring out of the Spirit in Samaria and beyond. In response to Jesus being faithful to fulfilling his calling, the heavens opening, and the Spirit of God descending upon him, he was strengthened and equipped to accomplish his mission. Jesus experienced the power of the anointing, but it did not remain with him, dispersed upon all creation, rather his relationship and ministry profoundly changed as he walked and journeyed with those he interacted with in his travels. An incapacitated man is healed, a sinner welcomed into one’s presence and challenged into turning from their evil ways, death put to death in order that life could have the final say.


5.1. Empowerment for Ministry


For liberation theologians like Jonathan, "the effectiveness of Christians' struggle to confront and topple oppressive structures, and not only to help victims of injustice, is a function of their understanding of who Jesus is. Any activity based on erroneous conceptions of Jesus will eventually become counterproductive." While it is necessary to identify with people suffering injustice, the Christian's fundamental objective must always be to correct any erroneous concept." Indeed, it is the miraculous change in evil people that he intended to bring about. "The ministry of Jesus was thus a harbinger of fulfillment of scripture, showing how God wants his kingdom to heal human brokenness." As a bridge between authentic human existence and theology, Jesus transcends culture, showing what is permanent in the human community, surpassing all particularities of gender. The wider that gap, the less valid the Jesus image.


Jesus' ministry was marked by the ability to perform wonders and miraculous signs. He had extraordinary divinely-authorized power in word and deed, unsurpassed by any human prophet. His ministry was marked by healing the sick and casting out demons. His ministry was also a teaching ministry, as he made known the will of God to all who would listen to him. His proclamation was in demonstration of the power of God and led to many having faith in the mighty power of God.


The Christian ministry today is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus, with transformation as its objective. In traditional cultures, medicine and religious functions are sometimes combined, but in a "civilized" world, responsibility for healing has been handed over to a special category of professional - doctors. In spite of this, healing is one aspect of ministry from which Christians can never absolve themselves, as this is the ultimate message of the model of servant-leadership taught and exemplified by Jesus. "Christian leadership, in other words, is exercised in anticipation of the servant mode action by Jesus."


6. Analogies and Examples


We have become so used to the necessity for manual control of machines, whether it be as simple as manipulating the starter handle on the family car, pulling the control column to initiate take off or rotating the mouse to direct the course of action of the cursor we are using to orientate ourselves within the digital landscape, that the concept of device controlled initiation will sound remote if not bizarre. It is the synthesizer which communicates best the principle of programmed initiation, since instead of the moving interface, e.g. the bow or the keys, being the medium through which the sound initiation is received by the backup device, in this case the vibrating key or the moving bow inducing vibrations within the body of the instrument, a pre-programmed switch is used as the initiation signal.


The aforesaid characteristics of the biblical term χρισμα suggest some analogies and examples from everyday life to help develop a better understanding of the nature and dynamics of the anointing. The purpose of these is to deepen our grasp of the scripture's teaching, using elements we are quite familiar with in order to note their congruence with lived experience, thereby broadening our appreciation of the anointing's transformative power and its practical utility in the practice of ministry.


6.1. Anointing in the Old Testament


In the Old Testament, the first mention of anointing an object is related to the Aaronite institution. Significantly, the act of anointing commenced with the founding of the tabernacle. There was the need to anoint the tabernacle and instruments inside it individually before there could be any approach to the gods within. When Moses asks "it shall be that when the tabernacle is reared, the cloud will be removed from over the Tabernacle, and the 'people of Israel shall set out, by their standards every time" (Num. 9:15 - 16). The verbs strake together must be translated as an inceptive future with a consecutive imperfect of motion, respectively, and it shall be that when the cloud lifts up, the people shall journey. The basic meaning seems to be to break open or hollow out something in order to establish or found. Similarly, the dedication of the temple was initiated by the priest's anointing of its doors. The act of anointing was linked to the divine command. To neglect the anointing act was disobedience to the divine command. This suggests that the point is not some magical meaning my lovable act but obedience to the divine command. It is this that constitutes the gesture of anointing posterior with its goals and its meaning. Clearly, to anoint something in the name of God means establishing a sacerdotal action upon the object while showing the special protected character of an object by appointing it for a special function. It is not the oil, but the anointing of an object that is the desideratum of this passage. The extra-biblical texts support this distinction-monumental constructions, a remedy dedicated to divine protection may use anointing. In the situation of lament, the one who is suffering will use oil to anoint himself to appeal to God for help. For the weeping and praying to God, the protective quality of the oil is related to a special response from God.


Throughout the Old Testament, a person designated in various ways in sacred functions was anointed with oil as a sign of being set apart for the service of God. The Hebrew verb māshach and the noun māshîach ('the anointed one') or mâshchâ ('the anointed thing') were used to express the act of anointing or the physical result of anointing. The act of anointing has often been connected with initiation into various aspects of religious, including royal office, priestly office, and prophetic office. In general, one can affirm that anointing is a ritual act that placed an individual in a relationship with God. It is inseparable from the gift of the divine Spirit. In summary, anointing means the introduction of a person or object into a unique relationship with divinity either through consecration or investment of office. When anointing was coupled with the bestowal of the Spirit, the Hebrews believed that the anointed was entirely placed in a special relation to God (Isa. 61:1; Lev. 4:3). This gave them the certainty of divine assistance. In the special sense, anointing is an act representing the means by which the person is brought into a relationship with God and into the nexus of direct action between God and the person.


7. Supporting Scriptures


In his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter uses the expression of power in a manner to imply that the anointing is given to extend the power of Christ's authority beyond the scope of his personal ministry. Jesus Christ had publicly announced many times during his earthly ministry that he was God's anointed and that, as the Redeemer, he was anointed to fulfill his saving work by the power of the Holy Spirit. In similitude of God and in preparation for his own ministry, when the children of Israel drank from Miriam's well, their needs and strength were met. The New Testament teaching presents a similar intent - that the anointing is given to meet the needs and to reveal the power of dynamic (ruling) disciples in fulfillment of their calling of becoming more Christ-like. The anointing released and demonstrated the power of God for great spiritual, social, cultural, and economic transformation in the lives of people. As the King of kings, we, as his ambassadors, also possess the power and authority to subdue and rule.


Psalm 84:11; Zechariah 4:6; Isaiah 10:27; 1 John 2:20; John 14:12; Joel 2:28; Romans 8:11; Matthew 10:1, 5; Mark 3:13, 14; Luke 9:1; 10:1-17; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Galatians 5:22, 23; Acts 8:9-13, 18; 19:1-7; Daniel 4:1, 2, 34, 35; Luke 8:1-4; John 5:33, 35; John 3:26-30; 2 Samuel 2:1-7; 2 Samuel 5:3; 2 Samuel 19:9, 10; 1 John 2:20, 21; 27, 28; James 5:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 16:15.


7.1. Isaiah 61:1-3


The three synoptic writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us of two informative episodes in Jesus' earthly ministry: the cleansing at the temple and the reading of the scroll at the synagogue of Nazareth. In the first case, Luke concedes some details to Mark which Matthew did not include. It is not surprising, given Luke's passion for the poor. In his gospel, the anointing allows for a geography of salvation during Christ's earthly existence. In the mission assignment discourse in the synoptic gospels, Jesus himself sends the anointed to the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel.


If, in Isaiah 61:1-3, we have an 'anointing passage' that the early Christians applied to Jesus, it was no doubt because in his earthly ministry Jesus himself read these verses as referring to the anointing that he experienced at his baptism. Our thesis insists on the objective character of the anointing. In the case of Jesus, it was the weighing of God's Spirit on him without measure. If we find a difference between the text of Luke and the others (9:1-3), it is not surprising that this difference lies in the internal witness of Jesus himself. The very reading of Jesus in Nazareth indicates that the 'anointing' was not just for the 'rich and famous' (in the Jewish sense) such as Abraham or the prophets; surely not for people of Nazareth, where Jesus does not openly perform wonders.


8. Conclusion


Next, the idea "Jubilate Deo" of the dogmatic constitution "Lumen Gentium" by the Second Vatican Council identifies the theological concept of "Christiformity" with the prophetic, kingly, priestly, and participatory aspects of Jesus' anointing, and therefore, of Christians' anointing with the soul that God usually gives at Baptism, which the Holy Spirit, with respect to adult Christian converts, perhaps intensifies or amplifies in a pre-baptismal illumination. Thus, according to this document, Christians participate in the same anointing of Jesus the Christ, sharing his prophetic, kingly, and priestly mission. Something similar is proposed in the decree "Presbyterorum Ordinis" that gives details regarding the ministry of priests. Therefore, it is of vital importance to explore, from the Spirit's perspective, the biblical and magisterial concept of anointing, which encompasses the meanings of prophetic, kingly, priestly, and participatory.


In conclusion, the anointing of Jesus signifies his conversion and his being adopted and appointed by God as the divine Messiah, Christ. The eloquence and action that characterize his earthly ministry signify charismatic dimensions of the Spirit. Therefore, the insertion clause "with the Holy Spirit and power," added to the expression "anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit," shows the intention to highlight the Spirit's role in his life and ministry. This proposal, with respect to the anointing of Jesus, can also greatly contribute to an understanding of the role of the Spirit in the life and mission of all Christians, expanding the incipient anointing concept that derives from Baptism and deepening the sacramental character of the Christian life.


8.1. Summarizing the Key Points


This view has the advantage of being able to say, with Gerhard Forde, that "The opposite of 'superstitio'... is not 'religio' but 'fiducia' or 'fidem'. The virtue praised here is not faith, but rather the superfluous practices devised and added as bit and bridle by which to take charge of God and keep him handy." This is sharp: forms and objects little more than instruments to try and manipulate God in an effective way. Moreover, it has the potential to avoid the accusation of Fideism. The Word of God is seen as an explanation from God that imparts faith to those who hear it. It communicates the very presence of Him, and from that presence we gain a wholehearted trust in God’s promises.


Theologians of the cross have generally seen Anselm, Bonaventure, and the nominalistic tradition as better expressions of their point of view. Thus, it would seem that the Lutheran and Reformed view (although perhaps not the Barthian or Bultmannian versions of it), is pretty close to what we have been saying. For Luther, God’s power and presence comes attached to His Word, but today is experienced within the Church’s ordinary means of grace. For Calvin, God’s power and presence is extended beyond the Word to sacraments. No one has ever criticized the Magisterial Reformation for making God’s means of salvation solely external to an individual.

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