The word anointing sparks controversy within some Christian circles. While some are wary of the word, others employ it in ways that go beyond scriptural teaching. It is not uncommon to witness certain Christians pursuing an extra “anointing” in a quest for more power. However, we should neither be overly cautious about the word nor misuse it. Instead, we should turn to Scripture to understand how the anointing pertains to us.
First John 2:27 applies the concept of anointing to Christians. It states, “As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him.” This verse is connected to verse 20, which informs us that we “have an anointing from the Holy One.”
The two aforementioned verses reveal the source of the anointing—God. John assures his readers that they already possess this anointing—there is no need to seek it—and that it is sufficient to instruct them in all they need to know. Does the anointing imply that we require no teachers? That interpretation would contradict the fact that John himself is teaching his readers via the letter. In this context, the apostle is specifically warning against false teachers.
John advises his readers to rely on the anointing from God so that they won’t be deceived. Many scholars agree that, when John wrote his letters and gospel account, the early church faced division caused by Gnostics. The Gnostics were primarily known for their dualistic views and claims of possessing special knowledge. They believed in the separation of the spiritual and material worlds, regarding the latter as evil. Consequently, they denied the incarnation of Christ and asserted that Jesus never came in the flesh. This explains John’s emphasis on the humanity of Jesus (John 1:14; 1 John 4:2–3).
The purpose of God’s anointing is to safeguard genuine Christians from the teachings of false teachers. John describes the latter as antichrists and liars because they deny the complete truth about Jesus (1 John 2:22). However, all genuine Christians possess this anointing, which indicates that they have the truth. Thus, while the Gnostics lay claim to special knowledge, John reminds his readers that the anointing they possess is sufficient to teach them. There is no need to seek the esoteric ways of Gnosticism.
So, what is this anointing that God bestows upon every believer? At the moment of salvation, every Christian receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13–14; Romans 8:9). The anointing refers to the presence and empowering work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, the anointing remains. This means that all genuine Christians are anointed, with no distinction among them. While we possess different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8–11; Romans 12:6–18; 1 Peter 4:10–11) and vary in our maturity, the anointing remains the same for all Christians.
What does this mean for us today? First, we should rest in the truth that we all have the anointing, which represents the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit. This is the power upon which we rely to lead godly lives and carry out God’s work (Acts 1:8; Romans 8:13–14; Galatians 5:16, 22–23; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 2:13). Seeking the Holy Spirit’s power for the sake of display or some form of spiritual elitism is unbiblical.
Second, we should acknowledge that the Holy Spirit serves as our ultimate teacher and guide, as demonstrated in 1 John 2:27. He teaches us through the words of Scripture, illuminating our minds to understand and recall what we have learned (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10–12; Luke 12:12). We also live the Christian life by following His desires (Galatians 5:16–18). Sound Bible teachers can provide us with valuable insight, but they should not go beyond or contradict the written Word. Anyone who denies the core teachings revealed by the Spirit in Scripture is a false teacher.