The issue of anointing oil has become very complicated. Should we use anointing oil? Is there such thing as anointing oil? How must it be used? Will God answer prayers which are not accompanied by anointing oil? I will seek to answer some of those questions in this article.
First of all, I would like to give a brief explanation of the word anoint and how it is used in different passages and books of the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words for anoint are masah, misha, masiah and suk. The first two words, masah and misha have to do with rubbing oil on someone or something especially for the purpose of consecrating or sanctifying. Here are a few verses in which they are used. "You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him" Exd 29:7. You will notice that the words anointing and anoint in this verse are the same. The word for anointing is misha and the word for anoint is masah. Whenever these two words are used in the Old Testament they are used to mean smearing oil on someone or something for the purpose of sanctifying them or setting them apart. So you see it being used in the consecration of people who have been set apart by God for a specific purpose. This also included the sanctifying of the things in the temple and the people who served in the temple, the priests. (Exd 28:41) You also see it used in the setting apart of Kings, anointing them into their offices (1 Sam 16:13). These two words are verbs. There is some action involved whenever they are pronounced.
The other word masiah is a noun. It is more of a title. This is where we get the English word messiah. Sometimes it is read as anointed or you read statements like the anointed one. In 1 Sam 26: 9 we see David using the word on Saul. It reads, " But David said to Abishai, " Do not destroy him, for who can put his hand against the LORD'S anointed and be guiltless" So the word anointed (masiah) is used as a noun to mean a chosen one or the chosen one. It comes out as a title and not a verb or the act of anointing (misha).
The other word used for anointing in the Old Testament is the word "suk". This has nothing to do with consecration or sanctifying. It only means to oil or to apply oil or to smear, the same way we apply lotion to the body. We see it used In 2 Sam 14:2. It reads, " And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman and said to her" Pretend to be a mourner and put on the mourning garments. Do not anoint yourself with oil but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead." You can also read Daniel 10:3. You will notice the word anoint is used to mean applying or smearing without any attachment to sanctity. So these are the four words for anoint which are used in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament there are two main words used in the Greek for anoint or anointed. The first one is Chrio and the other one is aleipho. Chrio is equivalent to the Old Testament Hebrew words masah, misha and masiah. It has to do with consecrating or setting apart something or someone for holy use. For example in Luke 4:18 the Bible says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor..." And in Acts 10:38 it says, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power." In 2 Corinthians 1:21 we are told, "And it is God who has established us with you in Christ, and has anointed us." What you will notice about the word chrio is that it is mostly used to refer to the anointing of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus is the chosen one of God. He is the only who has been chosen by God to save sinners. Only Jesus has the authority and power to save. He is actually the promised messiah (masiah/ anointed one) of the Old Testament who was to come.
When the word chrio is used, the other thing you will notice is that there is usually reference to the Holy Spirit. This setting apart or consecration is not a work of man. It is the work of God. No wonder the Holy Spirit is usually involved.
The other word used for anoint in the New Testament is the word aleipho. This has nothing to do with consecration. It is the equivalent of The Hebrew word suk in the Old Testament. It means to apply or smear something with oil, to oil something. Same way someone applies lotion to his body. There is no spiritual connection attached to it. In John 12:3 It says, “Mary, therefore, took a pound of very expensive ointment and made pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair…” What Mary did here was simply to apply oil to Jesus’ feet. Her applying of oil is what the Bible refers to as anoint in that verse. It has nothing to do with setting apart or consecration and nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.
So is there such a thing as anointing oil? Well, there was anointing oil in the time of the Priests and Kings. Anointing oil was something made in a particular way with particular ingredients for a particular purpose. Here is a passage in which God instructs Moses on how to make this oil.
22 The LORD said to Moses, 23“Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, and 24 500 of cassia, according to the shekels of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lamp stand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priest. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.” Exodus 30:22-33.
This passage will help us greatly to get to our concerns for today’s use of anointing oil.
So first of all, if we must use anointing oil today, we must make it according to the way it is prescribed in the above verse. There should not be anything lacking in it.
The second thing we need to take note of is that this was a prescription which was given to Moses for a particular purpose. This oil was for the consecration or making holy or setting apart of the priests, the tabernacle and the utensils in the tabernacle. Read through the passage from verse 26 to 29.
The third issue you note is that no one else was to use this oil except the priests. The oil was not to be used on any ordinary person. It was strictly for the priest and for the tent of meeting.
So when you look at the use of the anointing oil today, what do you make of it? The first question is, “Whoever is using that oil, where is he getting it from?” Where in this world are they making such kind of oil? Secondly, if it is there then why is it being used on ordinary people, people who are not priests. As far as I am concerned, it was meant for the priest and the tent of meeting. By the way, the office of the priest has been done away with. The Apostle John says in the book of Revelation that “You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” Rev 5:10. Christians do not need priests today. We are a royal priesthood to our God. We can freely pray anywhere and at anytime to our God. The office of priests was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. No wonder when Jesus died on the cross the veil in the temple was torn in two signifying that the way into the holy of holies was now free to all through Jesus Christ. There would be no more temple activities
The verse that many use to support the use of anointing oil is James 5:14. The verse says, “Is anyone among you sick? 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.” When you read this verse upfront, you immediately think that the Bible is talking about anointing oil. However, reading carefully shows you that it is not talking about anointing oil. The verse is saying, “Anointing him with oil” It is not saying, “Anointing him with anointing oil.” Remember we said that there are two words used in the Greek for anoint. There is Chrio and aleipho. Chrio means to consecrate and to set apart while aleipho simply means to smear or apply. You will note that the word used for anoint in James is the word aleipho, to smear or apply. It has nothing to do with setting apart or consecrating. It is just the same way we apply lotion on the body. You find some passages in the New Testament talking about anointing someone with oil. Never will you find it talking about anointing someone with anointing oil. Here are a few passages,”
And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” Mark 6:13.
“You did not anoint my head with oil but she anointed my feet with perfume.” Luke 7:46
“ And he came and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast…” Luke 10:34So you see that it is just normal oil and not anointing oil. All of the above passages are talking about applying the body or body part with oil. This was most likely Olive Oil which was common among the Jews. Anointing oil was something different as we have seen from the passage in Exodus. Anointing oil was not made anywhere else and was only used by the priests and in the tent of meeting.
So the passage in James was addressing a totally different matter. It was not talking about anointing oil and so do the other passages in the New Testament. The passage in James was talking about a different context with different situations. The believers in James’ writing were passing through difficult times. Some of them were being beaten by their masters. So they would come with wounds to the elders. So instead of just praying for them, the elders were to be practical by applying on the believer olive oil which acts like a medicine on the wounds. In other words, the elders were to trust God for healing through prayer but also use the required medicine. Olive oil works well for wounds. No wonder you see the Good Samaritan using oil on the man who was wounded” Luke 10:34. You see also the apostles using oil as they were praying for healing among the sick. Mark 6:13. So in short, let the elders not just pray when someone is sick. Let them advise the patient to go for medical checkup and keep on praying as the medicine is taken. It doesn’t mean every time someone is sick you must use anointing oil. It does not mean that for God to answer a prayer there must be anointing oil.
The most worrying thing about today’s so called anointing oil is that it is not just oil but many other things have been anointed and we don’t know who it is who has anointed them. We have anointing water, anointed underwear, anointed pens, anointed this and that. Where in the Bible do you see those things? They are nowhere to be seen. What you do see is a plea for believers to be very prayerful. In fact when you read the context of James chapter 5, the context is prayer. James is pleading for believers to be very prayerful. It is through prayer that we see God doing great things in the believer’s life.