In His first sermon, Jesus told the people of Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel" (Luke 4:18). As with Jesus, so with us: There can be no authentic preaching of the gospel without the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
My 60-plus years of ministry can be divided into two parts. For the first 27 years of pastoral work, I was a hard-line nonbeliever in the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. My denomination insisted that miraculous works of the Spirit vanished when the Apostle John died, and I wrongly carried that error to my congregation.
A Hard Road to Spiritual Awakening
During that period I never saw an alcoholic, drug addict, suicidal person or someone suffering from similar problems miraculously deliv-ered by the power of God—nor did I expect it. It's difficult to think about and admit, but my ignorance of Scripture was extremely costly to me and my flock.
I'll never forget one particularly dark time. A young mother in our congregation, whom we all thought gentle and kind, loaded a gun, murdered her husband and three children, and committed suicide. At the time it was Atlanta's worst-ever murder-suicide. It's impossible to describe the horrific effect the tragedy had on a network of families, friends, neighbors and our church.
Though I had been around that young woman numerous times, I never once discerned the demon that rampaged inside her. In hindsight, I realize the Holy Spirit's anointing could have revealed such a danger through the specific work of "discerning of spirits" and "word of knowledge" (1 Cor. 12:8-10). Because I didn't believe in those gifts, I didn't have them.
Looking back over those years of inadequate ministry, I grieve for the spiritual loss my congregation suffered. I desperately needed the Holy Spirit's gifting. Numerous times I took spiritually wounded church members to non-spiritual clinics for the help I should have provided. My solution for all such crisis was secular therapy. I had nothing else to offer. I was the epitome of what Charles Spurgeon described when he said, "Most ministers would make good martyrs. They are so dry they would burn well."
God became impatient with my neglect and demanded that I change. My denomination demanded that I remain the same. Finally, the de-cision was no longer mine. A spiritual earthquake shook me loose from all my religious bondage, and on that blessed day in 1977, my life and ministry were wonderfully changed.
Words of Knowledge
When I emerged again, submitted to God and better informed scripturally, I was a new man, anointed for new ministry, with a new mes-sage, and I walked with God in new authority and power. I experienced what Jesus promised the disciples in Acts 1:8. I had been "baptized in the Holy Spirit." Following that awesome awakening, church members were healed, lives were changed and
miraculous words of knowledge graced my ministry.
I think back to a midweek prayer meeting when I received a word of knowledge to "pray for Mildred." For a moment I was puzzled. No one by that name was in the building. But I obediently called aloud, "Pray for Mildred." As I closed my eyes again, I received a second instruction: "Mildred is Jewish." Without hesitating, I spoke again: "Mildred is Jewish." Obediently, everyone prayed for this unknown Jewish woman.
After I concluded the message, a distinguished-looking matron rose quickly, hurried down the aisle, and in an out-of-breath voice asked to speak to the congregation. I handed her the microphone.
"I have never addressed a church before," she explained. "But tonight I must. I am not a member here, only a visitor, and I came because I received a telephone call today from a friend in Pennsylvania. She is seriously ill and asked if I would have a church pray for her."
The woman paused, trying to maintain her composure. "This was the church I felt impressed to ask. I arrived too late to make the request. But it didn't matter anyway because the Lord told you for me. My friend's name is Mildred, and she is Jewish." The woman bent forward, face in hands, weeping.
Later she called her friend and told her what had happened. Not only was Mildred healed, but she was so amazed that the Holy Spirit spoke her name to a congregation a thousand miles away that she went to a church in her community, heard the gospel and got saved.
That evening the Spirit's anointing revealed itself in our service in a three-step progression: first, as a word of knowledge; second, as heal-ing; and finally, as salvation. Salvation, in which Christ is glorified and people are redeemed, is always the Spirit's destination. Healing is wonderful, but it's only a "sign" pointing toward Jesus as the Eternal Healer (Is. 53:5).
Empowered for Authentic Ministry
In a limited way, I had always believed in the Spirit's anointing for preaching and had wonderfully experienced it. For the first 27 years of ministry, however, I did not realize that Scripture included systematic teaching about the subject. Nor did I understand that God wanted me to minister in the anointing every time I preached (1 Cor. 14:1).
God's objective in giving us the anointing is not for our benefit as speakers, but to benefit the people who hear us—including the young mother in your church who just miscarried, the elderly man who lost his wife of 60 years, the couple who just broke their en-gagement or the parents of a young man dying of cancer. Amazingly, one anointed message can bring comfort in the midst of all these needs.
If Jesus depended on the anointing, how can you and I believe we can succeed without it? Think about the chronology of His life and ministry. Before He was baptized in the Jordan and the Spirit descended upon Him, Jesus preached no gospel, cast out no de-mon, healed no sickness and performed no miracle. Note the Spirit's distinct roles in His life: conception and anointing. The Greek word for Christ (Chrio) refers to His anointing by the Spirit. In Hebrew, the corresponding word is Messiah.
In the same way, we should experience both regeneration and anointing—the new birth and baptism of the Spirit. The first pre-pares us for heaven; the second equips us for authentic ministry on earth. The gospel of the kingdom is dependent on the anointing, whether through Jesus or through us.
Salvation Plus Anointing
We see this same two-step pattern—salvation plus anointing—with the Apostle Paul. After Saul of Tarsus encountered God on the Damascus road, he went into the city where Ananias laid hands on him to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:17). In the precise order of the first Apostles' experience, Paul first experienced charis (i.e., saving grace) and then charisma (gifting grace). As a "good steward of the manifold grace of God," Ananias administered spiritual anointing to Paul (1 Pet. 4:10) through the laying of hands and baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Today's evangelical church preaches much about Saul of Tarsus' experience on the Damascus road, but tragically little about what happened in the Damascus room. The loss is regrettable. On the Damascus road, Paul was born again and saved for heaven. In the Damascus room, he received the Holy Spirit's anointing that ultimately shook the Roman Empire and reshaped the history of man-kind. The anointing on Paul emptied pagan temples and brought heathen philosophy to ruin. In his own lifetime, Paul was labeled the man who "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).
In the same fashion, Paul received the Spirit's anointing from Ananias, and he later bestowed the gift to young Timothy (2 Tim. 1:6). To the Roman church, Paul wrote, "I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be estab-lished" (Rom. 1:11). Though Paul addressed the Romans as saints, he knew they could not be fully established until they experi-enced the anointing. He had to be present for the laying on of hands.
As a hyper-Calvinist, such ideas did not appeal to me. I did not expect God to do anything miraculous. My responsibility was to teach Bible doctrine accurately and educate the congregation. Thankfully that dead-end attitude and power-absence is no longer true of my ministry. Today I routinely see people with destructive problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism, fits of rage, chronic depression and physical infirmity get miraculously healed and set free through the anointing.
Every believer can quote Scripture and witness to others. That's wonderful, but the gospel of the kingdom is much more than a mere presentation of Bible facts. In varying ways, this anointed gospel is confirmed with "signs following" (Mark 16:17). As impor-tant as they are, seminaries and Bible schools can only impart academic knowledge. Consequently, a pastor may have a dozen uni-versity degrees and still not provide genuine New Testament ministry.
Consider Apollos. He was eloquent, mighty in Scripture, fervent in spirit—but he lacked the anointing. As a result, his ministry in Ephesus was fruitless. After Paul came and imparted the anointing, the church exploded and the city became a world-renowned Christian citadel (Acts 18:24-19:5). The anointing made the difference.
Confusion, Amazement and Perplexity
Years of ministry experience studying the Scriptures have shown me that opposition to the anointing does not originate within the church. Instead, it comes from powers of darkness opposing the church. Satan does not fear man, but Satan certainly fears the Spirit's anointing in man—and he will go to any length to stop it.
Immediately after Jesus' anointing in the Jordan, Satan appeared to Him. In our case, the enemy tries to stop us before we receive the Spirit. Sometimes that comes in the form of religious harassment, intimidation, belief—if he can prevent it, he will.
In cases where individuals have already received the anointing, Satan erects barricades to handicap them. On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell, it was Israel's most-devout Jews who were "confused, amazed and perplexed," accusing the disciples of be-ing "full of new wine" (Acts 2).
The same pattern exists today. Many devout Christians who encounter fellow believers who have received the baptism of the Spirit also react with confusion, amazement and perplexity—and often resort to ridiculing their brethren. Instead of being loved and pursued (1 Cor. 14:1), the anointing is mocked and denied. I plead with you. If you are mocking and denying the anointing, stop and make the change.
If you want to minister in the Holy Spirit's miraculous power, His anointing is still available to anyone. When Jesus stood in the temple and cried out, saying, "'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive" (John 7:38-39, NASB).
You are included in that awesome invitation.
After a personal crisis caused CHARLES CARRIN to radically shift his beliefs, his ministry is now characterized by displays of the power of God in salvation, deliverance and healing. Carrin has written several books, including his most recent, Word Spirit Power (Chosen Books), co-written by R.T. Kendall and Jack Taylor.