Three Keys to Anointed Teaching

By James C. Wilhoit and Linda Rozema, Wheaton College

In this paper, the authors suggest that anointing is not just an optional enrichment to teaching, but its defining mark. The Puritan writer and preacher Richard Baxter (1674) used an apt expression when he spoke of the anointing on Christian communication as “tincture,” by which he meant it was like a dye that colored the entire communication (p. 120). Anointing is not merely detected in the passion of the speaker or in an insightful application of the text, but in the very fabric of the message and in the seamless integrity between the life of the speaker and the message.

Initial Theological and Biblical Considerations
The authors have come to understand the phenomenon of anointed teaching as a theologically-grounded educational construct. Our approach is grounded in our theology of the person and work of the Holy Spirit and shaped by our observations of anointed educational processes. For the purpose of this paper, anointed teaching is conceived as: The Holy Spirit coming upon the teacher in a special manner. It is God giving insight, power, and enabling through the Spirit to the teacher in order that he/she may do this work in a manner that lifts it up beyond simple human efforts and endeavors (Lloyd-Jones, 1972, p. 305; Oden, 1983, p. 139).1

Old Testament leaders, prophets, and others were anointed for special tasks when God needed a witness to proclaim his word, to show his providential presence, or to lead his people. Examples include:

• Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9)
• Bezalel (Exodus 31:1–5);
• Othniel (Judges 3:10);
• Gideon (Judges 6:34);
• Samson (Judges 14:6, 19);
• Saul (1 Samuel 11:6);
• David (1 Samuel 16:13);
• Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:14);
• and Daniel (Daniel 5:14).

These passages illustrate and emphasize that God is pleased, from time to time, to sovereignly choose to come upon individuals and enable them to carry out their assigned work by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s enablement of believers to grow spiritually. Consequently, we can understand the interest Christian teachers have had in seeking to teach with the Spirit’s enabling.

• Galatians 5:22 describes the fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” and
• 2 Corinthians 3 links the Holy Spirit with our transformation.
• Romans 5–8 teaches that the Holy Spirit pours out the love of God into our heart and bears witness to us of our adoption.
• In Ephesians 6:17, the Scriptures are called “the sword of the Spirit,” and
• Paul instructs Timothy to guard the good deposit “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14).
• 1 John 2:20 assures us that “you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.”

As the teacher prays over the Scripture lesson, the prayer is that the Holy Spirit would permeate the entire teaching and learning process for the spiritual growth and transformation of both the teacher and learner.

Anointed Teaching: Spirit Within, Spirit Upon, Spirit Among
When considering the work of the Spirit in anointing our communication, it is helpful to have some categories for analyzing this phenomenon. In this section, three dimensions are suggested as being helpful for providing a comprehensive way of viewing the Spirit’s work in anointing. The dimensions are the Spirit within, the Spirit upon, and the Spirit among. Robust conceptions of anointing expect that all three are present and active in Spirit empowered anointing and teaching.

The Spirit Within
The Spirit within is the cornerstone of anointed teaching. This indwelling dimension includes (a) the Spirit’s work of transformation, (b) illumination of Scripture, and (c) communication of God’s grace.

First, the Spirit works to transform teachers as they are regenerate and open to the
Spirit’s transforming grace. The spiritual maturity of the teacher is not incidental to the teaching-learning process. Teachers can only effectively teach what they deeply understand and have grasped from experience. The spiritual experience and maturity of the teacher affects what material they have mastered, overall judgment, selection of material, and wisdom in handing class situations. Jesus captured this truth so aptly when he said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). The teacher’s spiritual maturity is not a private matter, for it affects one’s students.

The teacher must learn truth and experience transformation by the Spirit dwelling within through prayer. The ongoing prayer of the teacher is for the Holy Spirit and for his instruction in the study and preparation required for the teaching of Scripture. Prayer is required because of the uniqueness of Scripture and the need for the Holy Spirit in understanding and explaining Scripture (1 Corinthians 1–2). The teacher has the assurance that the Father will repeatedly give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13).

Second, in the Upper Room (John 14–16) Jesus taught the disciples concerning the role of the Holy Spirit as counselor and supplier of divine truth. He said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26), and “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). These passages speak of the role the Holy Spirit can play in our study and handling of Scripture. Teachers search for assistance to uncover truth and to explain the truth they have found. Their deep concern is to “get it right” and to explain Scripture in a clear and truthful manner. Therefore, study and preparation must be saturated with prayer and a deep dependence on the Holy Spirit because, with his illumination, teachers will be given clarity into the text, which labor alone will never bring.

Third, a proper cultivation of openness to the Holy Spirit brings about a secure centering of our life in the grace-filled way of the cross. Openness to the Spirit gives our life and teaching a grounding and centeredness that is so often missing when we are lost in our own pursuits. In order for education to contribute to spiritual growth and transformation, seekers must repeatedly open their spirits to the Holy Spirit and, by grace, focus on what Christ has accomplished and promised and then step outward, beyond their limits, to engage others in a life of obedience and ministry.

Spirit Upon
The Spirit upon, the second dimension of anointed teaching, is perhaps the most common understanding of the Spirit’s work in anointing. As at Pentecost, when the Spirit descended on those gathered and they ministered in great power, the Spirit comes upon and brings power and authority, authenticating the message and working miracles that give testimony to God’s power. Hinn (1992) speaks of the Spirit within as the presence and of the Spirit upon as the power, and describes the relationship between the two. He explains, “The presence of God is the vehicle that brings the power. Power follows the presence, not the other way around…You must have both to adequately show forth Jesus to the world—to be His witness. It takes the presence to change you, while it takes the [Spirit upon] to communicate the presence out of you” (p.119, 121).

Spirit upon is a supernatural anointing of God’s power, enabling ministry and communication. Jesus taught that the purpose of the power is for witnessing. As he ascended he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Peter preached, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38). This summary in Peter’s sermon is a paraphrase of Jesus’ own statement of purpose. When Jesus preached in Nazareth, he applied Isaiah 61:1, 2 to himself and proclaimed “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19). The ultimate purpose of all anointing and all filling of the Holy Spirit is to proclaim and bear witness that Jesus is indeed who he said he is and that he alone is able to free and transform us.

The effect of Peter’s anointing is thus recorded: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44). These new believers are to witness to the fact that the year of the Lord’s favor will include Gentiles as well as Jews.

Spirit Among
The third dimension of anointed teaching is the work of the Spirit among. Anointing creates a new community where the Spirit is among the participants. The Spirit among is demonstrated as the anointing power and presence of the Holy Spirit becomes evident in the community. The community is transformed into one marked by trust, support, loving challenge, worship, ministry, spiritual risk taking, and transformational learning. The Holy Spirit works to construct the church and classroom into a loving, just, compassionate, and worshipping community that invites openness and dialogue.

Spirit among is based on God’s work with His chosen people as a group. His covenant was with a family group and not just with Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3). God tells Haggai, “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Haggai 2:5; see also Isaiah 63:11). Paul taught that we have received spiritual gifts “for the common good” (1 Corinthians. 12:7). The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) is immediately relevant to instructions such as “honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10), “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16), “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other” (Ephesians 4:32), and “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Fee (1994) notes that in the Trinitarian benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:13, 14, Paul selects fellowship to characterize the ministry of the Spirit (p. 872).

The anointing of the Spirit for teaching and learning is a rich and multifaceted experience. When the Spirit comes in sovereign visitation, these dimensions are present, but often the sense of power is what is most observed. As teachers seek to cultivate the anointing of the Spirit through prayer and spiritual openness, they should be aware of the richness of this empowerment and pray with commensurate breath for His presence and power upon the teaching and among the learners.

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About The Author:
Jim Wilhoit (Ph.D., Northwestern University) serves as the Price-LeBar Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL.

Linda M. Rozema (M.A., Wheaton College) served as Research Assistant in the Christian Formation and Ministry Department at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL.


Anointed Teaching is taken from the Christian Education Journal, CEJ: Series 3,Vol. 2, No. 2 ; p 239-255. All rights reserved. Permission granted by Christian Education Journal.

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  1. Laurie Newby June 23, 2015
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