preached my first sermon at the 1979 Idaho Church of God Camp Meeting. State Overseer V. R. Mitchell asked me to preach for 20 minutes in an afternoon service, even though I had never preached before.
I was 22 years old, and my text was Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”* I remember feeling the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as I spoke. The oil of His anointing was empowering me beyond my ability.
However, seeing some well-known Church of God leaders sitting in front of me, I became fearful and struggled significantly. After concluding, I sat down and felt a sense of failure; I decided I was not called to preach. In that significant moment, I believe the Spirit whispered to me, Look up. I saw men and women worshiping God because He had ministered to them while I spoke. His oil began to illuminate my understanding and enlighten my perspective. I realized it was not my performance that makes the difference, but His presence.
The Oil Represents Anointing
Old Testament prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil, symbolizing the Holy Spirit’s empowering for service.
The Lord told Elijah, “You shall anoint [Elisha] as prophet in your place” (1 Kings 19:16).
The Lord told Moses, “You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests” (Ex. 30:30).
In obedience to the Lord’s command, “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13).
Simon Peter said, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38; see Luke 4:18).
The apostle John taught that Christians “have an anointing from the Holy One. . . . The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you” (1 John 2:20, 27).
What does this mean to us? Every day of our lives, the Holy Spirit is present. He gives us wisdom beyond our human wisdom. He brings a divine sensitivity to our understanding and leads us in our journey of faith. We must surrender to Him and to this anointing of the Holy Spirit, giving Him control of our lives.
The anointing of the Spirit brings to light the gifts and abilities He has given us. Ray H. Hughes’ powerful message, “The Anointing Makes the Difference,” impacted my life and constantly reminds me to lean on God.
Dwight L. Moody said: “There is no use in running before you are sent. There is no use in attempting to do God’s work without God’s power. A man working without this unction, a man working without this anointing, a man working without the Holy Ghost upon him, is losing his time after all. So we are not going to lose anything if we tarry till we get this power.”
Every day we need to be “anointed with fresh oil” (Ps. 92:10). Charles Spurgeon said, “Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. . . . Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to thy spirit; thine head must have fresh oil poured upon it from the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory.”
The Oil Represents Light
Concerning the lampstand for the Tabernacle, the Lord told Moses, “You shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually” (Ex. 27:20).
The oil of the Holy Spirit in us causes us to reflect the illuminating presence of Jesus Christ, “the light of the world” (John 8:12). We are called to be “light-walkers” in this world: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).
Jesus told His followers, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).
In a world of darkness, the Spirit of God empowers us to lead transformed lives, as a witness of His grace in us. John the Baptist “was a lamp that burned and gave light” (John 5:35 NIV).
Paul and Barnabas (in the synagogue at Antioch) said, “This is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47 NIV).
Light-walking is the “light-style” of the believer. Often we try too hard to be true representatives of our God. The oil of the Holy Spirit works in us to bring distinction, helping us to be light in dark places. Yielding and surrendering to Him creates the atmosphere for Him to make us reflectors of the great light, Jesus Christ.
The Oil Speaks of Healing
Ancient writings reveal oil was a valuable medical remedy. The Good Samaritan used oil and wine to cleanse and relieve the wounds of the man who fell among thieves (Luke 10:34).
Spiritually, oil symbolizes the healing power of the Holy Spirit. James asked, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).
Beginning in Exodus, God identified Himself as the healer, declaring, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Ex. 15:26 KJV). Malachi 4:2 prophetically identified Christ as “the Sun of Righteousness . . . with healing in His wings.”
Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by countless healings. This ministry of healing continued through the apostles . . . and still continues through His church (Acts 8:4-8; James 5:13-16). The oil speaks of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the manifestation of healing. We must trust the One who never changes (Mal. 3:6: James 1:17).
The Oil Speaks of Cleansing
From earliest times, oil was used to keep the skin and scalp soft when travel- ing in dry regions where there was no opportunity to bathe. Oil used in this way was usually scented.
Naomi told Ruth, “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself” (Ruth 3:3).
In Esther’s preparation to go before the king, she completed these treatments: “six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women” (Est. 2:12).
Ecclesiastes 9:8 makes the connection between the oil and purity: “Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.”
In these lustful days, Christians struggle with the concept of living pure before God, which the Bible demands. If we surrender to the Holy Spirit, He will empower us to live “not as unwise but as wise” (Eph. 5:15 NIV). A Spirit-controlled life can overcome the lust of the flesh.
The Oil Concerns Revelation
God’s people were instructed to bring “a grain offering baked in the oven, [which] shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil” (Lev. 2:4). The cakes were prepared from ordinary dough rubbed with oil and herbs before baking. The oil was on the bread.
Centuries later, Jesus declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). The Word of God is the eternal bread that sustains us. The oil of the Spirit is on this holy bread.
Charles Parham said, “The anointing of the Holy Spirit is given to illuminate His Word, to open the Scriptures, and to place the spiritual man in direct communication with the mind of God.”
The Holy Spirit is the author of Holy Scripture. We could never begin to understand the eternal revelations of truth except by the oil of the Spirit. Whenever we study the Bible, we should invite Him to anoint our eyes to see and our ears to hear what He is saying to us.
Every day, in all you say and do, you need the Holy Spirit. He is with you always, and His desire is to anoint you with His oil. Let Him!
Tim Oldfield is lead pastor of the Potter’s House Church of God in Columbus, Ohio.