Question and Answer

Anointing Oneself at Home with Anointing Oil


Can I anoint myself at home with anointing oil without a pastor? I remember as a child in a Baptist church the pastor used to anoint us in some services and my mom did anoint us at home. I see biblical support for this matter but what is the OPC’s view?


Dear sir:

Your question indicates to me that you are doing some serious thinking. There is a difference between putting water on yourself and being baptized by a pastor of a Bible believing Christian church. During the long Old Testament history of the Jewish people before the first coming of Jesus, who is the promised Messiah, anointing with oil was an ordinance of God (Ex. 28:41, 29:7, etc.). It was to be done whenever a descendant of Aaron was inaugurated as a priest (Ex. 3:30). But this ordinance was not continued under the New Testament administration. The reason was that everything in the pre-Christian administration was symbolic, pointing to something that was future. The sacrifice of lambs, for example, was meant to teach what Jesus would do when he gave his life blood to save us. And the anointing with oil was similarly intended to point forward to the time when all of God’s true believing people would receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was poured out (fulfilling the pouring out of oil symbol) on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4). That was the real anointing by God that the oil had only symbolized. And later on, in the apostle John’s first epistle he says, concerning New Testament believers, that they have received “an anointing” (1 John 2:20, 27).

It is also true that the word “anoint” is mentioned a few times in the New Testament, but with quite a different meaning. The instance which often comes to mind is James 5:14, “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.” (James uses the same word for “anoint” that Jesus used in Matt. 6:17 for “anointing your head,” meaning to put on hair lotion. The reference was to a normal part of festive dress, not a ceremony of any kind.) The elders are to provide medical care, while publicly looking to the Lord as the healer.

In our Lord’s famous parable of the good Samaritan it is clearly used in a medicinal sense. The good Samaritan who found a wounded man by the side of the road took care of him by pouring oil and wine on his serious wounds (Luke 10:25–37). You probably go to a doctor yourself when you are injured, and he will treat your injury much as the Good Samaritan did. But you can also, in many instances, do it yourself. So when it comes to the New Testament era the only authorized use of anointing with oil is this medicinal purpose. And it makes no difference whether it is self-administered or administered by someone else. What matters far more is whether or not you have received the Holy Spirit’s anointing. This has always been my sincere hope for my people in my service as a pastor.

May the Lord grant you the Spirit’s anointing.

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