Have you ever thought about the origin of the name “Christian?” Acts 11:26 tells us that this was something the followers of Jesus were called from a very early time in the church’s new covenant history, but what is the significance of that name? This title is closely related to the title of our Savior, “Christ.”
The word ‘Christ’ is from the Greek language and came from the Hebrew and Aramaic word, Messiah. The word ‘Christ’ literally means, ‘anointed,’ ‘the anointed one.’ In the Old Testament, a person would be taken from among his fellows and placed into a position of leadership, whether as a prophet, priest, or king. This person would then be responsible to lead the people according to his office, and the people would be responsible to follow his leading as their officer.
The anointed one served as a mediator between God and the people of God as prophet, priest, or king. This person did not take upon himself this role, but he was appointed. You may recall that Samuel anointed Saul and David. The anointing was done with oil and symbolized that the person was filled with the Holy Spirit in order to carry out his office.
There were three offices in the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. In this series of meditations, we hope to consider each of the three offices of as represented in Jesus, the Son of God. As an introduction to this series, we first consider that the Son of God has an official role. Jesus fulfills the office of Christ.
A Divine Commission
Jesus was ordained by God the Father. We read from John 5:31–44 that the Father “sent” Jesus. In the event of the baptism of Jesus, a voice came from heaven that affirmed Jesus to be God’s Son. When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a voice also came from heaven reaffirming this, with the added command to listen to Jesus. The Father chose His Son and ordained Him to be the Messiah, the Christ.
This is not man’s estimation of Jesus. To the contrary, man rejected Jesus. It is only when God changes our hearts and reveals to us the identity of His Son that we confess that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus did not take upon Himself this role. It was given to Him, assigned to Him by another, by one who is greater.
Think of someone who claims to be the president of our country; he does not merely take this upon himself. He must have the commissioning of the Electoral College. If the voting of the Electoral College suffices to appoint a person as the president of our country, how much more does the appointment or ordination by God the Father serve to have the Son of God be the Christ!
The Son of God is our Christ. He is our head, leader, and ruler. We are to follow Him. What if a voice had come from heaven during the inauguration of the president that this one was God’s chosen ruler, ordained by God to govern the country for the next four years? What effect would that have had upon you? It ought to confirm in your hearts that he is the leader of this land, and it ought to cause you to follow this leader and not grumble against him.
How much more it is with our Savior Jesus. What a comfort it is to know that Jesus is the Christ, that He is all that we need as a mediator, to bring God’s blessings to us and to fill our needs with God’s blessings. God has ordained Jesus to be our only head; we do not need to seek another; we need only follow His lead.
Jesus has been ordained by God the Father. Jesus has been appointed as the Messiah; you and I have not. Yet so often we get frustrated when things do not go our way, as though we have a right to have people do what we think they ought to do, as though we deserve to direct the affairs of life. God did not ordain you or me to be the Messiah. He ordained Jesus. God ordained Jesus as our official, not us. We are not to live as we think is best, but as Jesus commands in His Word. God ordained Him as our King.
A Divine Empowerment
When the Holy Spirit came upon him, Samson grew strong enough to kill a lion with his bare hands, to rout the enemy by himself; Gideon grew brave enough to confront tens of thousands of soldiers with only three hundred men. They became powerful by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So also Jesus was empowered by his anointing. This does not mean that Jesus was weak and fearful before His anointing. Rather it demonstrates the power that the Holy Spirit imparts to the one upon whom He comes. As the Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the deep during the week of creation, being the active agent of the forming and fashioning in the creation week, so it is this powerful One who empowers God’s chosen one for service. The Son of God was given a great calling by God the Father; the Holy Spirit empowered Him to fulfill this calling.
We confess that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. This was not an anointing with oil. There is no scriptural instance of Jesus being anointed with oil, nor does oil itself have any power. This is being anointed with the Holy Spirit. Luke speaks of Jesus coming in the ‘power of the Spirit’ leading to His authoritative teaching, His miracles, and the casting out of demons. Jesus read the prophecy of Isaiah 61 that spoke of being anointed by the Lord and having the Spirit of the Lord upon Him. When He had finished reading, he said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, anointed with the Holy Spirit.
We often vote for our leaders based upon their natural abilities and acquired skills. We expect they will grow while in office, but if they are not qualified for their office, we do not elect them to office. The office to which the Son of God was called, however, surpassed the capabilities of any mere human. It was nothing less than paying for the sins of God’s people by His life, death, and resurrection. It was nothing less than breaking the bondage of sin that held God’s people for thousands of years, the bonds by which today every man, woman, and child is bound by nature. It was nothing less than restoring the decay and death that Adam brought into God’s world by his rebellion against God, bringing eternal life, resurrection to us. There is no human track record or experience for this task. It is only being anointed with the Holy Spirit that equips Jesus for this task. This does not deny that Jesus is the Son of God, but it affirms that it is in Jesus’ humanity that the person of our Savior performs His office of mediator, of Christ, and this humanity must be empowered, which is the proper work of the Holy Spirit.
The anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit demonstrated that the properties specific to His divine nature did not intermix with His human nature, or else the anointing with the Holy Spirit would not have been necessary. It is because the properties specific to His divinity do not intermingle or mix or ‘cross over’ to Jesus’ humanity, that the incarnate Son of God must be anointed with the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit who empowers for service in God’s kingdom. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit; He received divine empowerment.
This anointing is not partial; this empowerment is not halfway. John 3:34 says that God gave the Spirit without limit upon Jesus. John 1:16 says that from the fullness of Jesus’ grace we have received one blessing upon another. It is not as though God anointed Jesus with the Spirit for only part of the tasks of mediator, of Christ. Whereas in the Old Testament, an individual was anointed for a particular task or office, Jesus was given the Spirit without limit, empowering Him to meet every need that His people have. He is not only prophet or priest; He is prophet, priest, and king. He is the anointed One, to which all of the Old Testament offices and officers point, from which all of the Old Testament offices and officers derive their meaning. Jesus the Christ is the pattern, so to speak, upon which all other anointed ones were based.
Therefore know for certain, Jesus has the power to address every situation in your life, every need that you have. He has done this in His earthly life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit has not left Him since then. Rather, the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:17 that the Lord is Spirit. As we read in Romans 1:4, Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness.” After His resurrection, the empowerment becomes even greater, as the human nature of Jesus has been exalted beyond the frailty of flesh unto the power of an indestructible life.
We can say for certain that Jesus’ power, by the working of His Spirit, sustains us in our illnesses, in our sorrows, and in our discouraging situations, so that we are not overcome and need not despair. By the working of His Spirit, Jesus grants joy in the midst of our trials, even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death. He grants joy because He has reconciled us to God. Because of Jesus’ mediation, His blood covers the sins of those who trust in Him, removing their guilt, turning aside the wrath of God from them. You have forgiveness by His shed blood through faith in Him. You have confidence that God is your Father for the sake of Christ His Son. On the day when the Father sends Jesus back to this earth, He will raise your dead body to be like His glorious body. He will roll back the physical bondage into which this world was cast by Adam’s first sin.
A Gracious Outpouring
Adam forfeited the Holy Spirit by rebelling against God in the garden. Adam freely chose the path of destruction and death by his sin rather than walking in step with the Spirit of Life. Consequently, as a race, we are without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, without empowerment from God even though our race is still held to the requirements to which God commissioned Adam: be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; obey God’s commandments and glorify Him. Our race has the calling but lacks the power (the Holy Spirit) because of Adam’s sin compounded by our own personal sin. Jesus came to undo the works of the devil, to restore mankind to his former glory and even greater glory, to pour out the Spirit of the holy God upon us so that we fulfill our calling given to us by God.
It is not enough for one person to receive the Holy Spirit. It was enough so that our redemption could be accomplished by Jesus, but each member of God’s kingdom must also have the Holy Spirit indwell him.
Jesus was at work throughout the history of the church, even in the Old Testament, but it was not until Jesus accomplished our redemption, paid the price for our sin, raised our nature from death unto resurrection life, that He received from the Father the gift of the Holy Spirit and poured out His Spirit upon the church. This happened on Pentecost. The curse of Adam has been repealed by the work of Christ for us; therefore, we no longer lack the Holy Spirit, but on the contrary, have had the Holy Spirit poured out upon us.
Do you wonder why you carry the name ‘Christian?’ It is because you are a member of Christ. Because you are a member of Christ, you share in His anointing and therefore have a name like Christ’s name, founded upon the name of Christ. Jesus is the only Christ, but He pours out His anointing upon His people, upon those who are members of Him, who belong to Him body and soul in life and in death.
Yet, in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit and share in Christ’s anointing, is it not enough merely to be present among God’s people. It is by faith that one is a member of Christ and so shares in His anointing. Jesus will not pour out His Holy Spirit upon one who is not truly part of His body, even as the apostate Simon the sorcerer discovered when he tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit from the apostle Simon Peter.
We are called Christians because by faith we are members of Christ and so we share in His anointing. No “second blessing” is needed. Every Christian shares in Christ’s anointing; every Christian has the Holy Spirit. Yes, Christ distributes gifts differently throughout His body according to His will and good pleasure, but it is the same Spirit, the same body, and we are members of this body by faith.
Man cannot manufacture this. Man cannot claim it and in claiming it make it so. Oh, there are many who claim to be Christians, but their claim is hollow because they lack faith; they lack membership with Christ. They lack the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and do not share in Christ’s anointing.
Being a Christian defines who you are because you share in Christ’s anointing. Certainly, we all must discern by studying the Scriptures, by prayer and by gathering advice the vocation or career to which God is calling us, but each Christian has a calling in life, an appointment, a commissioning, and empowerment that transcends, and is not limited to, our individual callings. We share in Christ’s anointing.
Therefore, pursue your Christian calling wholeheartedly. Do not waver when you face opposition to being a Christian. Do not question your commission from God even in the midst of a society that rejects it. When you face weakness and sin within yourself, do not despair, but realize that you are a member of Christ by faith and so you share in His anointing. The One who overcame sin for you, who brings forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin to you is the very One who empowers you by His Spirit to live as a Christian.
Rev. Talman Wagenmaker is the pastor of Grace United Reformed Church, Waupun, Wisconsin