On Jesus’s Baptism, Salvation, Anointing and Calling

Pastor John Grey:

He does things that nobody else had ever done, just settin it off, just doing miracles, signs and wonders. 30 years old is when he was baptized. He came up out of that water and this is what we heard, a voice from heaven saying “this is my son, in whom I am well pleased.” That’s deep to me. He had done no miracles. He had raised nobody from the dead. He had multiplied no fish and no loaves, but was announced as the son of God.

But wasn’t he the son of God at 2 years old? Mhmm. Wasn’t he the son of god at 7 when he was running outside with his friends? Yes! Wasn’t he the son of God at 12? Yes- confounding the top religious minds of his day at the temple. He was anointed then! But you can be anointed and not announced. You can be chosen and still hidden. Jesus was God and was the son of God walking around, but nobody knew who he was. Why? Because there was a process. Help me Holy Ghost. The distance between your anointing and your announcement is process. I know you’re anointed, you’re waiting to get announced, stay in the process. Let God keep developing you.

The problem is we’ve had too many microwave Christians. Our son he loves microwave pizza, he loves it. Put that in there, 3 and half minutes, touch the edge of the crust – OWWAH! Burning! Burnin hot! Touch that middle – still cold. The whole pizza was in the oven. Same heat- different outcomes.

This gets tricky because Jesus’s anointing refers to two separate things, and it seems that Pastor John Grey mixed the two uses when constructing his metaphor. The two uses are Jesus’s designation as the Anointed One and Jesus’s anointing of the Holy Spirit at his baptism.

Before I get into this- I’m not saying Grey is heretical, I’m not saying he is lying, or even that he is mishandling scripture in any significant way. I’m only writing this because I made a quick observation on Twitter and got called out for being unclear. This post is me being clear.

Definition

Merriam-Webster   anoint
: to put oil on (someone) as part of a religious ceremony
: to officially or formally choose (someone) to do or to be something

Gotquestions.org : The New Testament Greek words for “anoint” are chrio, which means “to smear or rub with oil” and, by implication, “to consecrate for office or religious service” (more here)

Cambridge Dictionary: to put water or oil on someone in a religious ceremony: Anoint also means to choose someone or something for a particular job or purpose; designate.

Based on these, I conclude that: anointed: marked as chosen by God to be used for God’s purposes.

Jesus is the Anointed One

The NT authors clearly describe Jesus as the Messiah. See John 4:24-25 as the most notable exchange; compare Numbers 21:6-9 to John 3:14-18; Matthew 16:13-16 with Jesus’s use of the term “Son of Man,” and of course Peter’s answer; Matthew 2:13-15 which intentionally misquotes OT prophet Hosea to make this point; Jesus’s last name “Christ,” which is not actually a last name, is the koine translation of the word Messiah, and the NT authors use this term very frequently.

Hurt, 2015, points out that

Jesus is the Anointed One, the fulfillment of the three OT offices which God anointed (selected and set apart for special service): Prophet (Ps 105:15note, Dt 18:18, fulfilled = Jn 7:40), Priest (Ex 29:7, Lev 4:3note, Ps 110:4note fulfilled =Heb 6:19-20note) and King (1Sa 2:10, Ps 2:2,6note shadows of Messiah fulfilled = Mk 15:26,Rev 19:16note).

(See Berding and Williams, 2nd ed., “What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About,” Kregel Publications, 2015, pages 33-34, 41-42, 66, 88, 124-126 for each gospel author’s perspective on the Messianic status of Jesus.)

This is a designation that always applied to Jesus at all times. At no point did he become the Anointed One. It is a part of his nature.

This is the first use of the term anointed for Jesus. Jesus is the anointed one.

Jesus is anointed at his baptism

The second use of the term anointed for Jesus was mentioned by Pastor Grey, at Jesus’s baptism when the Holy Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove. This happened in one moment, immediately after his baptism and before being led into the desert for 40 days. (See Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32, and note that all four gospel writers recorded this.) This was the official moment when Jesus’s ministry was anointed, or marked as chosen by God to be used for God’s purposes. (I am assuming that Grey is not discussing the other anointing of Jesus by the woman with the alabaster jar.)

In this moment Jesus is marked as chosen. The Father did not choose him at that moment. The Father marked Jesus as chosen. The Holy Spirit does not actually enter Jesus any more than it already had (an implication of his divinity being that he is one with God and by extension one with the Holy Spirit… though separate…). This is purely the marking of what was already true.

So Jesus was (1) chosen by God to be used for God’s purposes from before he was born, a status that is always true of him, and (2) Jesus also in one moment was marked as chosen.

Enter Grey

Pastor Grey’s argument seems to flow like this: Sometimes God anoints people much ahead of his actually using them (“announcing” them); this is a period of waiting and growth.

And truthfully, Jesus did have an extended period of waiting and growth. Luke 2:52 is the obvious text here. “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man,” which occurred up until he was 30 years old. I would also mention that Paul went through an extended waiting period of fourteen years, Moses spent around 40 in sheep herding, and other some other examples can be drawn from church history.

There is nothing wrong with the application Grey draws. Christians face waiting and uncertainty that require faith in God’s timing and his good plan. That can be uncomfortable- extremely uncomfortable. Remember Paul’s hardships in 2 Corinthians 11? He faced labor, imprisonment, countless beatings, the 39 lashes on five separate occasions, being beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked, facing danger from rivers robbers Gentiles the wilderness, sleepless nights, malnutrition, and being under job stress. These are not to mention the suffering of the Church throughout the time since Paul, or the modern persecution faced by Christians across the Middle East, Northern Africa and parts of Asia.

Yet in all these things, God works for their good (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20; Acts 4:27-28). Part of this purpose certainly involves purification and growth (James 1:3). So ultimately Pastor John is correct that the Christian life involves enduring seasons of growth that are not also seasons of ministry output.

Enter Ross

Here is the original tweet that caused some stir:

Now in retrospect, I could have worded this more clearly. I meant something along the lines of “God does not describe us as anointed as a distinct category from our salvation. To use the term anointed as something that predates or postdates regeneration is to create another category that doesn’t have scriptural grounds.” I’ll stand by my revised wording, and agree that my original wording was unclear.

Pastor John seems to be assuming that we can use Jesus’s life as an example for our own. With this I take issue. Jesus never “got saved” – he never had to –  and this makes the comparison nearly impossible. Was I anointed with the Holy Spirit? Yes, six years and two months ago. Was I always anointed with the Holy Spirit? No, and neither was anybody else but Jesus alone.

Grey says:

He had done no miracles. He had raised nobody from the dead. He had multiplied no fish and no loaves, but was announced as the son of God.

Grey then says:

But wasn’t he the son of God at 2 years old? Mhmm. Wasn’t he the son of god at 7 when he was running outside with his friends? Yes! Wasn’t he the son of God at 12? Yes- confounding the top religious minds of his day at the temple. He was anointed then!

The first of these is talking about Jesus’s anointing at his baptism. The second is his status as the Anointed one.

Grey reaches his point:

But you can be anointed and not announced. You can be chosen and still hidden. Jesus was God and was the son of God walking around, but nobody knew who he was. Why? Because there was a process.

This logic does not follow. His metaphor is not internally consistent. Grey is correct in Jesus’s case, but only Jesus’s case. His attempt to extend this to all believers is flawed.

Jesus was always saved, and he always had the Holy Spirit. According to John 3:34, the Father had given Jesus the Spirit without measure. We were not always saved and did not always have the Holy Spirit. Jesus symbolically received the Holy Spirit at his baptism, but we actually received the Holy Spirit at salvation, and it remains within us. When you use the term anointing and are not talking about Jesus, you are talking about salvation.

Grey says that “You can be chosen and still hidden.” But can you? He has now introduced another term, chosen, and when you consider the parallel structure of the sentence, I’d assume he thinks chosen is a synonym of anointed. In the context of salvation, these terms are not the same. You are chosen (predestined) from before time began – similar to how Christ was the Anointed One from before time began – but you are anointed in one moment. Anointing IS the moment when your chosenness is announced. There is no difference.

So Jesus was anointed in one moment and also was the Anointed One his whole life. We are anointed in one moment but do not have any status or designation in the Holy Spirit until the moment we are regenerated, and do not receive some additional one after we are regenerated.

Grey says that “the distance between your anointing and your announcement is process.” But there is no distance between anointing and announcement, unless each of these terms do not refer to what they mean (the marking/receiving of the Holy Spirit, and God declaring that you are saved).

Other Terms

Unless, of course, you aren’t talking about salvation, in which case I’d highly recommend knowing a term’s Biblical denotation and connotation before using it.

I would take no issue if he used the term “calling” and was speaking about pastoral ministry or some specific vocation, instead of “anointing” and referencing an event where the Holy Spirit descended on someone. Throwing in the term anointing implies that God’s purposes for our salvation are somehow achieved at a time distinct from our salvation.

Jesus was anointed for his whole life, and then in one moment around his 30th birthday he was marked for that anointing. This is not true of believers. There is no amount of time between a believer’s anointing and the marking of their anointing (receiving Holy Spirit).

There’s a process in the Christian life that does fit what Grey is talking about. In the case of a calling to any one particular task or vocation, there is a gap between the person being called and the actualization of that calling. For example, I discerned several years ago a call into pastoral ministry, but I will not actually be a pastor for at least 5 more years, and in the meantime I will wait and grow. But this is not true on salvation itself. If this were true on salvation, there would be a gap between regeneration and the Spirit’s arrival. This is the doctrine of the Baptism in the Spirit, and that is an entirely separate blog post. In short, I disagree with Pentecostals on this issue (among other issues).

(For a complete treating of the Baptism in the Spirit, I’d copy and paste the entire 39th chapter of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology onto this post, but that would infringe copyright laws and I’m not about to get taken down on copyright laws by a political ally of Donald Trump.)

This whole issue should be a lesson in precision of language. I’ve grown accustomed to Pentecostal-esque non-denominational mega church preachers using terms like “anointing” to describe some general phenomena of growth in the Christian life. But that isn’t specific enough, and it builds up a layer of rhetoric that is divorced from the true meaning of the concepts being discussed. Maybe they don’t think their audience can follow with complex theological categories, maybe they don’t have a rock-solid understanding themselves, or maybe they just parrot terminology that people in their social circles use, without considering the implications of those terms.

Maybe I’m a hypocrite for calling out his unclear language on Twitter, where I, confined to 140 characters, also used some unclear language. But we all know that half the argument in James 3 is built upon the premise that “we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” I’m some irrelevant teenager posting on the internet. Grey is talking to an audience from the platform of the local church and thereby claiming the authority of the Word of God in his preaching. The standards are not equal and they shouldn’t be.

Again I’d like to restate that Grey isn’t evil; he isn’t misleading his congregation. Really, if you get caught up in the rhetoric of his speech-giving, and it seems that that is at least one of his goals, then you wouldn’t have caught this. I listened once and had a little yellow flag go off, and I listened several more times and then still took several days to (unsuccessfully?) write out the difference. Something seemed to not fit with my existing categories and that was nearly impossible to articulate because Grey’s categories are so, so loose. He even comes to exactly the same conclusion I’d support. But I disagree with the logic and the distinctions it builds upon.

 

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