Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.
1 Corinthians 2:12.
We possess a veritable gold mine of spiritual riches which many of us seem utterly to neglect. I am speaking of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds the Corinthians that this glorious gospel message did not come to them in superiority of speech or of wisdom. He did not use persuasive words of wisdom. Instead the gospel came in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power so that their faith would rest, not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. He goes further to say that the gift of the Holy Spirit opens up a whole new world to believers. They have spiritual wisdom and power of which the world knows nothing.
One of the missing ingredients in preaching today, perhaps the most important and vital one, is the unction of the Holy Spirit. What is it? Is this a biblical concept? What results from it? How does a preacher get it?
First, we may define unction in preaching as a supernatural empowering and enabling by the Holy Spirit to do the Father’s work for the glory of the Son. Let’s break this down a bit. Unction is supernatural. This has nothing to do with one’s educational level, how gifted a communicator or orator he may be, how much experience he has, or how charismatic and engaging his personality is. It is supernatural. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is the Spirit himself filling and dominating a man.
To go further, unction is empowering and enabling. By empowering I have in mind what we read in Luke 24:44-49 when, after the disciples had been with Jesus for three years and seen his remarkable ministry, after his resurrection, he told them to preach repentance for forgiveness of sins in his name to all the nations. However, they were to remain in the city until they had been clothed with power from on high. They dare not go forth in ministry without the Spirit’s power and presence. Repeatedly we find the Greek words exousia (authority) and dunamis (power) used in reference to Jesus and his apostles and their earthly ministries. As only one example, consider Acts 1:8, ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the utter most parts of the earth.’ Unction is the power of the Holy Spirit controlling, dominating, convicting, converting, and sanctifying. Unction is the enabling work of the Spirit. It gives the preacher insight into Scripture, the ability to gather the truth together in a clear, concise manner. It gives him the ability to drive home biblical truth to his hearers so that they receive it, not merely as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in those who believe (1 Thess. 2:13). When a preacher proclaims gospel truth in the power of the Holy Spirit his words, in effect, become the word of God to those with ears to ear.
In Romans 10:13ff Paul says, ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. And how then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent. Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” However they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has received our message?” So faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.’ Paul is thus saying that as the Holy Spirit works through the preacher, as the Spirit applies the truth to the hearers, then these become the very words of God to him. It is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who makes this possible. A preacher preaching with unction is preaching the words of God to his hearers.
And the unction is a specific work of God the Father. We find the anointing or unction of the Spirit in the Old Testament symbolically administered with oil. Oil was placed upon the heads of the prophets (1 Kings 19:16), priests (Exod.s 28:41), and kings (1 Sam. 10:1). We know the Holy Spirit came upon people differently in the Old Testament times than from after Pentecost. He came upon people for specific purposes. Thus we find Bezalel being filled with the Spirit in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship so that he may have the skill necessary to build the instruments of the tabernacle (Exod. 31:2-4). This anointing also carried with it the idea of consecration (Exod. 30:30, Lev. 8:12). These men were set apart by God for their specific works on behalf of Yahweh, the King of glory. This ‘coming or going’ of the Spirit explains why David, after his sin with Bathsheba said, ‘Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit away from me’ (Psa. 51:11).
To be continued
- Al Baker