The Supreme Necessity for the Holy Spirit
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Anointing of the Spirit

Reading: Ex. 29:7; 40:9; 1 Sam. 16:13; 1 Kings 19:16; 2 Cor. 1:21; 1 John 2:20,27.

Now, in pursuing the theme the Lord has laid upon our hearts, we shall be occupied with the matter of the anointing of the Spirit.

We have seen in these passages in the Old Testament that there was, by Divine ordering and commandment, an anointing in relation to official capacity on the part of those mentioned.

Firstly there was Aaron in his capacity as high priest, the oil being poured upon his head; then the tabernacle - though it was complete in every part, though its idea was realised so far as the actual plan was concerned, though complete according to the commandment of the Lord, before it could function it had to be anointed throughout. Then with David we come into the aspect of things which has to do with government and kingship, and David being anointed by Samuel. From that day he was actuated and governed by the Holy Spirit always when he surrendered himself to the Spirit and maintained his life in God. "The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that time" - and the word "mightily" there may have some relation to the symbolic instrument of anointing, the horn of oil. The horn throughout Scripture is a type of power, of strength, and this was the Spirit of might in relation to kingship and government, and there is no doubt that David was a mighty man under the anointing of God.

And then a somewhat extraordinary case comes up with Elisha, for prophets were not ordinarily anointed. Elisha was the only prophet of whom we read that he was anointed. And prophets never ran in a succession; they were raised up for the occasion. They were not like kings, successors of one another, or high priests, successors. God raised up a fresh instrument from time to time for a specific purpose. There was no continuity in the succession of prophets and ordinarily the prophets were never anointed. But Elisha seems to break in upon that ordinary line of things and here the two factors are seen with him: he is a successor of Elijah, and he is anointed. One only mentions it because it is somewhat singular and extraordinary.

Elijah is undoubtedly a type of the Lord Jesus, and Elisha a type of the church, and the church is taken through Jordan on to resurrection ground with its Head and receives a double portion of the Spirit. You remember that was the understanding between Elijah and Elisha. He said: "If thou art with me and see me when I am taken up..." etcetera, so Elisha clung to his head right through. They got to the other side of Jordan and Elijah was caught up and Elisha cried out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof" and he received a double portion of the Spirit and went back and did mightier works than his head; the miracles and works of Elisha were double those of Elijah. Caught up to glory... the church waiting on resurrection ground... the Spirit coming in double measure and the church going out to fulfil the works of the Lord. And, "Greater works than these shall ye do because I go to the Father." The church is a prophetic instrument in a succession, under the anointing. This lifts the church onto some higher level than prophetic ministry. The church is joined to an ascended Head under the one anointing to do His works in the power of the Holy Spirit here.

Now, what does anointing mean; the anointing of the Spirit as the matter is set forth in the Word of God? And I think we ought to recognise before we go further, that anointing is specifically a matter in relation to office; it is an official matter. That does not mean that it belongs to a class, it does not mean it is for ministers and missionaries, and the laity do not come in. There is no such dividing up in the Word of God, but it does mean that the church, the House of God, the members of Christ's body, in anointing come into something more than just the living relationship to the Lord; they come into an active and spiritually official capacity under the anointing. Take the subject of anointing and you will see it is almost invariably related to what is official, and it is true in the New Testament as in the Old. You note the difference between Christ being born of the Spirit at Bethlehem - there is no doubt that His birth was by the Holy Spirit - and His being anointed by the Spirit at Jordan. The one was His birth by the Spirit which is a type of our being born of the Spirit, the other was His anointing for His ministry by the Spirit, which is a type of our entering upon that spiritual ministry to which we are all called. So that we note that anointing is something more than birth, it is something more to be anointed than it is to be born of the Spirit. I mention this because in the minds of a great many people these terms are not clear, they have failed to discriminate and they have, therefore, mixed things up.

When we are asking for the anointing we must remember it is in relation to the active side of our spiritual vocation, and we are going beyond just being believers. We are not made Christians by anointing, we are made Christians, children of God, by the new birth by the same Spirit. But we are brought out into that for which we are born from above, the official side, the active side of heavenly vocation, by anointing; and that anointing is for all the Lord's people. 2 Corinthians 1:21 makes that perfectly clear. The apostle is not speaking there of apostolic anointing, he is linking these Corinthian believers with himself, "He who anointed us in Christ"; the Corinthian believers are linked with the apostle in this statement and he says we are one in this anointing and the oneness in the anointing is just the same as our oneness in Christ Jesus. "If we are all one in Christ Jesus whether I" (referring to Paul) "am an apostle so far as gift is concerned it does not matter; so far as we are concerned as brethren, we are all one in Christ Jesus."

The second letter to the Corinthians is a letter of spiritual ministry; you will see why that passage comes right at the beginning of the letter - anointed corporately unto spiritual ministry. The anointing is not so much a matter of measure unto different ministries in that Paul gets a greater measure of anointing than the rest of the believers; it is difference in ministry, and He does not necessarily anoint in greater measure the different members of Christ. Of course there is a measure of the Spirit necessary for different ministries. The point is the difference between being a member, being born of the Spirit, and being anointed as a believer unto spiritual vocation. I feel it necessary, especially when we are dealing with the Holy Spirit, to know what we are talking about because of a good deal of confusion in the terms used in relation to the Holy Spirit.

Now, we were asking what anointing means. The answer can be given in several different ways, touching upon various aspects, but the first meaning of the anointing of the Spirit is that the one anointed is brought into a completely subject position and state to the Anointer. Take the Lord Jesus in His anointing at Jordan. He became absolutely (that is, livingly and officially) subject to the Father. He, there at Jordan, took the position of being under the Father for every bit of direction, government and counsel, of being obedient to the Father's will and mind to the smallest detail. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth" said the apostle, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit... who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil". He, from the moment of His anointing, drew every bit of direction from the Father as His Head.

Paul brings out that Headship principle by explaining that God is the Head of Christ, and Christ is the Head of the church, and the man is the head of the woman. He follows headship right through from God to human relationships. And the Lord Jesus entered, in a voluntary way, upon a life of absolute subjection to the Father for His official ministry. Now, that principle extends right back through the Old Testament, and right on through the New: that anointing always means a subject position to a Head. Aaron, in his case, comes under a government, a headship. He is not a law unto himself, he cannot do as he thinks, as he likes, as he chooses. Aaron needs a Head and so true was that that when Aaron failed to recognise the head, and acted independently, the judgment of God came upon Aaron. Even an anointed one dare not step out of his subject position and become a law unto himself. So Aaron was put there, and David was put there, and Elisha was there. It all means that there is established over the anointed an authority, a government to which he must look, to which he must be obedient, and he has accepted that position of being subject to a higher authority.

Coming on into the New Testament it is very clear that the coming of the Holy Spirit makes the church subject to Christ. The anointing of the Holy Spirit brings the whole house of God under His Headship, and the Holy Spirit demands our recognition of our Head all the way along. Immediately we step out in any kind of personal judgment, choice, decision, direction, or independent activity apart from the anointing (the Holy Spirit's governing for the Head) we become exposed, we become uncovered, and very soon we become omitted. Things go wrong and we find it is necessary to come back and take another action and recognise the absolute sovereignty and government of the Lord in every detail.

Deception will always, sooner or later, follow a violation of the principle of the anointing. The anointing is to keep us in the truth and in a living relationship to our Head as our government, judgment, mind - as everything that is of God. Not until we repudiate our action, go back on the course that we have adopted and seek our covering shall we be delivered, and of course through a great deal of suffering and difficulty. You see, the anointing first of all represents the subjection of the anointed to the Anointer.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit means that we have altogether come under the Headship of the Lord Jesus over every detail of our practical Christian life in vocation, in service, in what we may call the "official". That means then, in the second place, that man, humanly and naturally is entirely excluded by the anointing as we were seeing earlier concerning Bezaleel - that when the Lord filled him with the Spirit of God unto all workmanship in relation to the tabernacle, nothing whatever was left with him of his judgments or his thoughts; everything came from God and the man was ruled out by the anointing. The anointing sets man, as such, aside. Now, there are two ways of looking at that. There is the way which is in the nature of a demand, and there is the way which is in the nature of a blessed encouragement and comfort.

Of course, we have to enforce what seems to be more hard along the line of the demand, because there is no doubt that man has no greater tendency than to take hold of the things of God. That has always been so and what we have in the world today is a religious system, that Christianity, which is being run by man. Man has got hold of it and history makes it clear that God has never done a thing, but sooner or later some man or men have taken hold of it and begun to run it, to organise it, keep it going, try and develop it, add to it, improve it, to do all sorts of things with that thing of God. It seems the last thing that human nature can do is leave things alone and let God do the work. We are always wanting just to get into this thing somehow naturally and bring our judgment to bear upon it and manipulate it somehow. That is man, always was man, but the anointing rules man out and in effect says, "Hands off! This is God's and you only have a place here as you recognise that you by nature are ruled out and that as an anointed one, God alone is in this thing and it is God alone that must be recognised".

All the heartbreak, disappointment and tragedy in the work of God has come about because of forceful man, man with a drive, men who have taken hold of things and presumed upon their own anointing and upon the fact that God has taken them up. They think of themselves as the centre, the pivot upon which the whole thing revolves, and it is a deception. We find in such realms it is not long before there is less of God (to say the least of it) than there should be, and man is too much in evidence. That is man's weakness and it means failure, in that it means the purpose of God is arrested and delayed. It is only by shattering blows and deep discipline that man recognises his absolute dependence upon God, and he dare not move other than he is moved by the Spirit of God, so that the work of God is made safe and the glory of God is manifested.

But there is the other comforting side of that fact. If it is true that man on his positive side is ruled out and must not in his flesh appear before God and put his hand upon God's things, it is true that man on his negative side is ruled out. I mean that we might very well be influenced by our weakness, incapacity, ignorance, natural worthlessness and feel that because we lack so many qualities and so many things that we would consider to be essentials to functioning and usefulness, that we have no place at all. But we should comfort our hearts in the recognition of this fact: that scholarship and all such things do not count in the first place with God. They are immaterial. There may be a place when the natural man is thoroughly subject and he does not for one moment gain any natural assents as being of essential value in the things of God, where the Lord may just be able to work through those things without any danger. But as a rule, a very great deal has to be done before the Lord can use them. The anointing makes good all human defects and deficiencies and brings us all to one level. The one who has had no natural advantages at all of training and learning, may have a knowledge by the anointing far surpassing the best that men could acquire, that is, regarding spiritual things of God. You and I would very much rather listen to a naturally ignorant man who knew the Lord, talking about the Lord and telling us the things of the Lord as shown to his heart, than we would listen to the most brilliant scholar on what he has got from books.

The anointing is the matter and it ought to be encouraging that the anointing can make good all that we lack by nature. Now, a lot of people seem to put a prominence upon ignorance. You have got to dig the ditches; the Lord will fill your ditches if you dig them, but He will require you to dig them. Do not let us be spiritually slovenly and presume upon the anointing and say, "The Lord can make good all my deficiencies and I need do nothing whatever". No. What I am saying is this: that whether the natural man be in the positive or whether he be in the negative, whether he be somebody or nobody, the anointing is a thing independent of man by nature and the anointing will bring down the high and bring up the low. The anointing will level everybody on this principle: that man by nature here in spiritual things does not count, he does not come in, he is ruled out. Now, if you have the anointing you may be an able minister of the new covenant no matter what your natural disadvantages may be. If you have the anointing you will have to recognise that any natural abilities are perfectly subject to the anointing and you must never use them or count upon them in themselves.

Now, the next thing that runs with this is the fact that the anointing represents God's breaking into this world. It is God breaking in on the ground of His own rights. God has rights in relation to this universe. His rights are supreme, but man has either repudiated or ignored His rights in this universe and set God aside and put Him out. That is seen perhaps pre-eminently in the rejection of the Lord Jesus. The world knew Him not. It was God manifest in the flesh, God in Christ, and they said, "This is the heir, come let us kill Him and the inheritance shall be ours... And they cast Him out", and Paul says that is what the wisdom of this world did, the wise ones, the mighty ones: they cast God out of His universe. He has His rights, they are His rights, by every right there is. It is not simply that He is standing to get something He wants or ought to have; all the rights are His by every law. Who has a greater right to be governing and ruling in this universe than God? And so He cannot be cast out so easily as that, and in the coming of the Holy Spirit God broke in upon this world in His rights.

He has embodied Himself by the Holy Spirit within the church, composed of the various members of Christ's Body, and that church, the Body of Christ, stands here in this world as the living witness to the rights of God to govern. He will challenge that truth in the believer and in the church; wherever the believer may be represented. He will yet rule, and through man they will seek to cast Him out again in the church and in the believer as they cast Him out in His own Person. But we are here in the embodiment of the Divine right to rule, and the rule of Christ, to whom is given all authority in heaven and in earth, can be established and maintained by the church in any part of this world provided they know the power of the anointing. The real power of the anointing means that in any place the rights of God in sovereignty can be established and maintained. It is a perilous thing to go out in this world without the anointing or to set forth the rights and claims of God anywhere unless in the power of the Holy Spirit. So we come back to the anointing as the power to establish the rights of God in sovereignty. God has, by the Holy Spirit, in the anointing, broken into the world in which He was driven out and He has come to stay. But we need that anointing to the establishment of that testimony to His sovereignty. God has come in. He is here in all His mighty power, and He is, in that power with the anointed ones, going to establish that sovereignty over every challenge, every dispute and every contradiction.

Now one more word which follows immediately upon that, is that inasmuch as God has broken in, shall we say - committed Himself to an object, an instrument for His testimony - He is exceedingly jealous for that which is anointed. The anointed thing is a very precious thing to the Lord, whether it be an individual or a company, or the whole church, it is a thing over which God is exceedingly jealous. The church, anointed with the Holy Spirit, went out with that testimony to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus challenged those rights, and set himself against that anointed instrument to do harm to God's anointed and God broke in and smote him to the ground. And one hardly likes to think what would have been the result if Saul had never repented. And Ananias and Sapphira stretched forth a hand to touch that anointed thing, sinned against the Holy Spirit when they lied to Peter and withheld from the church in a lie. Well, God was very jealous for His anointed instrument and we know what happened to Ananias and Sapphira.

Herod boastfully, arrogantly set his hand to injure the church and we know his doom, God smote him terribly and the statement is "he was eaten of worms" and died. God smote him. God is jealous, as the Psalm says, "He rebuked kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not Mine anointed ones and do My prophets no harm". God is jealous for what is anointed because He is bound up with that.

It sounds a harsh word, but it is a necessary thing and we all need a word like this because even within the company of the Lord's people we are far too easy-going in our interchanges of criticism: criticism of the individual believer, criticism and judgment of the corporate company of the Lord's people. We talk them out, we talk them down, we show up its faults and its flaws and its shortcomings, its misdeeds; we make comparisons... setting one over against another; both in ministries and in other departments. Or, to put it this way, we are not careful enough to cherish the Body of Christ and we cannot divorce true children of God from the Body of Christ - we cannot deal with them as if they were not members of Christ, as if they were something separate.

When we touch a believer, we touch Christ. "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of My eye" - God's eye, and God is very jealous of that. There is a wonderfully illustrative significance about that statement: the apple of God's eye. Think of the jealous safeguard of our physical frame applied to our eye. Why do you have eyebrows? (Do not cut them off according to fashion, you are violating not only your physical frame, but something illustrative in the Word of God.) Why do you have that large boney part there with the capillary vegetation growing on it? Why do you have eyelashes and cheek bones? Every one of these are for the safeguarding of the apple of your eye. This protects so that nothing shall reach the apple of the eye. On a hot day, when the perspiration gathers the dust on your forehead, the eyebrows stop that dust getting into your eyes. If there is anything floating about in the air coming towards your eyes, your eyelashes will be a safeguard. God has made a wonderful collection of protective agencies for the apple of the eye. He that touches you touches something for which God is very jealous, the apple of His eye. Thus you are breaking through Divinely appointed, jealously provided safeguards when you touch the Lord's children and the church; whether they be individuals or companies, or the whole. With your lips or in any other way, you are touching the Lord. That is what Saul learned as he went to Damascus. "Why persecutest thou Me?" - it was the Lord.

Let us be a little more guarded in dealing with any children of God or servants of God as though they were individuals in themselves. Let us recognise that if they are anointed of the Lord it will go ill with us if we touch them, and it will go ill with us spiritually. We are sinning against them spiritually, and if we persist, it may go ill with us in other ways - the Lord may have to teach us very severe lessons. Maybe if we knew the inner history of things, we would discover that a great deal of the limitation of the Lord's inability to undertake in certain matters, can be laid to the account of a failure to recognise Christ in His Body, a failure to "discern the Body", as Paul puts it; perhaps a too glib and easy dealing with sacred things under the anointing of the Lord. Suffer that word, but it is necessary. It is as necessary to me as it is to you, and the Lord give us grace to take this word to heart.

If the Lord has at all committed Himself to a company of people, He is jealous about that company, and sooner or later, if we touch that, we meet the Lord - it may be an individual, or the ministry, but it is still the Lord. "Touch not Mine anointed and do My prophets no harm."

That is so much for the anointing; there is very much more. We may close by illustrating almost all of it by the two Corinthian letters. You know quite well the first Corinthian letter sees the rights of God violated at Corinth, and that is clearly set forth from that first letter, and then what happened? The apostle makes it very clear that those at Corinth who were violating God's rights and doing despite to the anointing, came under a very severe discipline. The Lord took them in hand, and the second letter represents the results of that discipline. What a wonderful change in tone between the two letters! The result of the discipline concerning the violated rights of God leads on to the service of God according to His mind. In 1 Corinthians the service of God is not according to His mind. Everything is out of order. In the second letter the service is according to the mind of God; read chapters 3 and 4. It is now made possible and only by discipline, and you find the second letter begins with that passage quoted, "and hath anointed us".

Let us recognise what the anointing means and come into line with that and, with the power of the anointing expressed in a service which is wholly according to the mind and heart of God, may the Lord make us spiritually His anointed ones.


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