One of the charismatic traditions that have sprung up in the last few decades is the idea that we can, through our behaviour and actions, lose our anointing. There are teachers telling us we can lose our anointing, Christian magazine articles telling us how to guard our anointing, prophets prophesying people will lose their anointing if they do this or that.
Now, to examine if this is true, we need to carefully define what the anointing is, when it is received, and how it is received. We then need to look at – from the New Covenant – whether that anointing can be lost. We need to be Biblical about this, not getting our ideas from pop theology, from anecdotes about people who “lost their anointing”, and we need to look at the origin of this idea and its implications.
What Do You Mean By Anointing?
The Greek word for anointing is chrio, which literally means to cover with or rub with oil. The oil was a symbol of appointing someone to an office, such as anointing a king or priest in the Old Testament. So when we discuss anointing we mean the office someone stands in, that is what it means. A person is anointed for a task – to be a king, to be a prophet, to build the tabernacle.
Now the way some charismatics use the word anointing you would think it means a magic potion. It is not, it is simply an easy way of saying the office someone stands in. So if we say someone is anointed to be an evangelist we would mean that this person has the calling, equipment and power to do the work of an evangelist. As a pastor, I am anointed as a pastor, meaning God has called me to be a pastor, and God has given me supernatural giftings to be a pastor.
We know Jesus was happy to describe Himself as anointed in Luke 4.18-19, anointed to preach good news. In other words, God the Father called Jesus to preach and equipped Him with the power to preach. Later on in Acts, Luke tells us that Jesus was anointed to preach and heal the sick (Acts 10.38).
1 John 2.20 tells us that every single Christian is anointed by Jesus. We have been anointed by God, and 2 Cor. 1.21 and 22 says the same. So it is a misnomer and a wrong emphasis to keep talking about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as anointed – it is true they are called and gifted by Christ, but the deeper truth that the New Testament wants us to know is that every single Christian has an anointing. Every born again believer has a calling from God to do certain good works (see Ephesians 2.10 for confirmation of this) and every Christian is gifted by God to do those works. That thought should be exceptionally comforting.
(Just as an aside, if every Christian is anointed, the verse “Touch Not God’s Anointed”, so often used to allow some ministers say and do whatever they like without anyone commenting in any way also applies to the people in the church. Preachers, when you are preaching and standing before a congregation please remember they are all anointed, and be careful not to touch the Lord’s Anointed when you preach!)
When and Where and Why Are People Anointed?
So, every believer is anointed at the moment of conversion. As soon as they are born again, Jesus gives them an office in His kingdom to do certain good works which He has prepared for us. That is the most important anointing, the universal believer’s anointing.
You could also call the baptism in the Holy Spirit an anointing, it is definitely the power of God, it is definitely an office, to be a witness, and the power to be that witness.
In addition, some people are anointed, called and equipped by God to do one of the fivefold ministries. You could also call the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit as anointings that come on us and then leave when we have operated in the gift.
So in that sense, you can lose an anointing – it comes on you to give a prophecy, for example, and when you have delivered the word, the anointing leaves. That is how the gifts of the Holy Spirit work, they are temporary anointings for a task.
The believers’ anointing that we get when born again, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the anointing that the fivefold ministry get is on you and never leaves. The anointing does not leave you because it is a gift from Jesus Christ.
Can You Lose Your Anointing?
Really, if you define the anointing as the task God has given you to do, and the power to complete that task, answering this question when you realize the heart of God is easy.
If we define the three anointing that are on a person’s life as the one that comes with being born again, the one that comes with the Holy Spirit, and the one that comes with a fivefold ministry, then we can look at each in turn and see if losing an anointing is possible.
- The Believer’s Anointing (1 John 2.20)
1 John 2.27 tells us clearly that the anointing we have received from Jesus abides in us. The Greek word for abides is meno, and is translated as abide, remain or continues in the Bible. It literally means “to not depart”, “to always be present”, “to keep continually”, “to endure”, “to never change or become different”. So it is fairly easy to realize that this anointing, our tasks as believers, the good works that God has called us to do, never changes, and we cannot lose the power and equipment and calling from God to do those tasks. So this anointing cannot be lost.
2. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
We also know from Jesus that the Holy Spirit will never leave us or forsake us (John 14.6, also see Hebrews 13.5). So as we know that the Holy Spirit cannot be separated from His power and life, then it is easy to realize that the calling to be a witness and the power to be a witness that we receive when we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we cannot ever lose that calling or the power to fulfill it. We might through our behaviour make ourselves bad witness of God’s goodness and power, but we never lose the Holy Spirit, we never lose our calling to be witnesses and we never lose the power of the Holy Spirit. So this anointing cannot be lost.
3. The Fivefold Ministry Calling
When God calls someone to be one of the fivefold ministry, their anointing, their calling and equipment is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. Now we know that when God calls someone to a particular ministry, He always gives us the calling and power to fulfill that calling. So someone called to be a pastor, say, has the calling and the power to fulfill that calling. Now the question is can that pastor lose that calling and power? Can a person Jesus calls to be a pastor, be uncalled and suddenly not a pastor. And the answer Scripturally is no.
Now, we need to think this through. We know that Judas lost his place and needed to be replaced, but that did not happen until after he was dead. I will say that everyone’s calling ends at death. You only get one shot to impact one generation! But before you die, can you lose that equipment, that power, that calling. I believe the answer is a very clear no, based on five facts:
- The gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11.29). This means that when God gives someone a gift there are no takebacks, none at all. God is a good giver and there is no shadow of turning with Him. I know some people dismiss this verse as the context of Romans 11 is Israel, but the immediate context of Paul telling us about the good news, and how God chooses people. When God chooses someone and calls them to an office, that call never leaves their life – no matter what they do or how they behave.
- This is backed up by Galatians 6.1 which says that if someoen is caught in a trespass they should be restored. The word “restored” means to bring back to the original place. If a pastor, for example, is caught in a trespass, spiritual people should be thinkimg about and praying about and planning to restore that pastor back to the place of pastoring.
- There is also a consistency with God. If the anointing – our task as believers – that comes with the new birth, and the anointing of power that comes with the Holy Spirit baptism will never leave us and cannot be lost, then if God is consistent the anointing of a fivefold ministry can never be lost.
- We are under the New Covenant, which is a covenant of grace, not law. In the Old Testament, God could leave people, because they did not keep the law and did not behave themselves. But in the New Covenant, we have an abiding relationship with the Holy Spirit, who is the source of all anointing, and He never leaves us and never forsakes us. If God never leaves us, and the Holy Spirit never leaves us, then His calling and His power to fulfill the calling never leave us. Some preachers actually say you cannot lose the Holy Spirit but you can lose His power – that is just crazy, how can the Holy Spirit show up without power? Where will He leave His power? What a foolish notion!
- 2 Cor. 1.21 tells us that we are anointed by God, after firstly telling us that we are established and then telling us we are sealed. When God calls us that calling is sealed, it cannot be changed.
Why Is This Important?
The idea that we can lose our anointing comes from three major things, and all of them must be corrected for us to grow as Christians.
- It Comes from a Failure to Rightly Divide the Word of God. People are still living under the guilt, condemnation, and law-driven Obsolete Covenant, rather than enjoying the grace and greater glory of the Better Covenant. The idea that you can lose your anointing comes from the Old Testament, but we are not under the Old. You cannot preach on Samson for example, and apply that lose of the Spirit to those of us who are born again, Spirit-filled, anointed, sealed, and not under the condemnation of the law.
- It Comes From a Failure to Realize Our Security and New Identity in Christ – I am in Christ, and my anointing, my calling, my power, all flows from and comes from that “in Him” relationship. That relationship is utterly permanent and not based on our behaviour. You cannot lose Christ, He will never leave you, you cannot lose being in Him – so you cannot lose your anointing. The more people realize their identity in Christ, and that their security comes from His work on the cross, not our works in our lives, the more we will stop saying such foolish things as it will cost us our anointing.
- There is a misunderstanding that the anointing is not the power of God but rather a feeling we have when certain ministers are ministering. If they make us feel good, then we describe them as anointed. We – being carnal – mistake the anointing of God for musical instruments, for smoke machines, for hype, for a particular cadence of speaking, for having a keyboard player hit the chords after every sentence. None of that is the anointing. Obviously those things can be lost, they can change, the feelings and moods we have can easily change, but the Word of God does not change. We need to choose to listen to preachers who preach the Word of God, not the ones that make us feel hyped up.
What About When A Leader Sins?
One of the things that can happen and has happened before is that a prominent leader might fall into gross sin. Ministers who have stolen money or committed adultery might be an example of this. Have they lost their anointing? No, they have not – based on everything that we have said above. And our ministry in the body of Christ should be to restore them back to their place. But that does not mean we should let people just keep going without repentance, because their sin might not cost them their anointing, but it will bring a very negative harvest to their life, it will darken their heart, it will cost them their credibility. All those things will be painfully obvious to a leader who sinned, and it is not helpful to them at this stage to also say they have lost their calling and their divine equipment. Not only that, a lot of these ministers that did sin big kept going for a while, and they made the assumption if they kept their anointing God was approving their behaviour. No, the anointing, the calling, the power of God, salvation – it is all by grace. None of us are good enough and sin does not cost you your anointing – be glad because you have sinned at some point, and God still anoints you! You shouldn’t sin, but there are other reasons not to do that, not to protect and guard your anointing.
We are not helping the body of Christ by using the fear of losing their anointing as a reason to live for Jesus. Love for Jesus is why we should live for Jesus, nothing else. And He is lovely! Which is why when He anoints, that anointing abides.