Symbols of the Holy Spirit: Oil

What does it mean to be anointed?

In the Old Testament, when an individual was being anointed, oil was poured upon them (usually upon the head). This ceremonious applying of oil was known as “being anointed.” When someone was anointed, they were understood to be positioned, placed in authority, and ultimately set apart for a specific purpose.

The oil was a mark of power, of God’s call.

Kings were anointed.

Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be My king.” …So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah (1 Samuel 16:1,13).

Prophets were anointed.

Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as My prophet (1 Kings 19:16).

Priests were anointed.

Clothe your brother, Aaron, and his sons with these garments, and then anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they can serve as My priests (Exodus 28:41).

Special holy items and places, such as altars, were anointed.

Each day you must sacrifice a young bull as a sin offering to purify them, making them right with the Lord. Afterward, cleanse the altar by purifying it; make it holy by anointing it with oil (Exodus 29:36).

In the New Testament, God marked and anointed Jesus, not just with oil, but with the Holy Spirit.

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him (Acts 10:38).

The anointing oil was a foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Just as oil was poured from above and onto the head of those appointed, so the Holy Spirit is poured out from above onto the head of the Church—Jesus Christ.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free (Luke 4:18).

You and I today are not anointed with oil but with power and the Holy Spirit. He sets us apart and empowers us for God’s use.