And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy.—Exodus 40:9
The book of Exodus ends with the successful completion of Israel’s great wilderness project: the construction of the Tabernacle. And they had done it all just right. The thirty-ninth chapter (next to the last) ends with these words:
And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.—Exodus 39:43
Then the fortieth chapter begins with the account of the assembling of the Tabernacle worship center. The tent was set up (vs. 1–2), the ark was put in and the vail hung (v. 3), the table of showbread was set up with the right things put on it (v. 4), the candlestick was brought into the tabernacle and its lamps lit (v. 5), the incense altar was placed before the ark and the door hung (v. 5), the brazen altar was put before the door (v. 6), the laver full of water was put between the altar and the door (v. 7), and finally the court was set up (v. 8). In many ways, it was perfect.
Truly it can be said that the Tabernacle in the wilderness with its prescribed rituals was the most perfect object lesson depicting the Person and work of Jesus Christ ever to be made. It was just right, but we note as the book comes to a close that the Tabernacle and its ministers were not yet ready. Something had to be done before ministry at the Tabernacle could begin.
The LORD told Moses that he must, “Take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein,” and by anointing it with the oil, all of it would be hallowed and holy and useful in the service of God (v. 9). So he anointed the brazen altar with the oil, and then the rest, and also the priests in their special garments. The Tabernacle and the priests were not ready until they were anointed.
Of course, anointing with oil was the ritual that symbolized the anointing with the Holy Spirit. In Old Testament days, men were anointed as they began their service for the Lord. In the sixty-first chapter of the book of Isaiah the prophet, we read: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me; because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel unto the meek… to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for the spirit of heaviness.”(Isaiah 61:1–3)
The book of First Samuel tells the story of David, and includes this record,“Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).
Throughout the era of the Old Testament economy, anointing oil represented the Spirit of God. And so Exodus 40 teaches that our witness for Christ can be right, perfectly right, while we are not yet ready for ministry. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes our gospel witness effective.
First Corinthians 15:1–4 defines the fundamentals of the gospel: the authority of the Scriptures, the deity of Christ, His blood atonement for our sins, His bodily resurrection from the dead, and salvation by faith in Him. Without all of these doctrines, you don’t have the gospel. Without accepting the gospel, you are not a Christian. True Christians are sometimes confused about other doctrines, but if they deny any of these fundamentals, they are not true Christians.
A Baptist is a Christian who practices New Testament practices. Questions of practice among groups of Christians have often been called matters that are “distinct” to that group. Church history defines a person like me as a Baptist because I practice what are called “the Baptist distinctives.” Among them are: believer’s baptism by immersion, regenerate church membership, two ordinances of the church, two officers of the church, the church of Jesus Christ as local and visible with Jesus as the head of each congregation, the separation of church and state, and individual soul liberty.
So I am a Baptist, and it is important. The Baptist distinctives are taught in the Bible. But being a Baptist is not as important as being a Christian. A person might get to Heaven without being a Baptist, but he cannot get to Heaven without being a Christian.
Even Baptists disagree about what the Bible teaches about lesser issues of doctrine or practice. I hold to views about what I understand the Bible to teach about issues of personal separation, about principles that apply to church music, about revival, about prayer, and about victory through Christ over sin and the devil. These are very important matters but they do not have the same biblical weight as do the fundamentals of the gospel or the distinctives of New Testament practice. I want to be right about these issues, all of them.
I’m not saying I have everything right, but I am saying that I want to have it all right. Don’t you? What Christian does not want to please God in every detail? Our doctrines and practices should all be biblical.
As I understand the light I have on these issues from Scripture illuminated by the Holy Spirit, I identify myself to be a fundamentalist Christian who is a Baptist by conviction. I also think I am using the right Bible and the right music, and living a holy life. I want to be as right as I can be in my point of view, but being right has never been enough.
Notice that the priests were not ready to serve in the Tabernacle until the Tabernacle and its furniture had been anointed with oil (read again Exodus 40:1–16). Aaron (the high priest) and his sons were to be washed, clothed, and anointed for service.
When Jesus was baptized by John, He was anointed with the Holy Ghost (Acts 3:36–38). On the great day of Pentecost, all believers in Jesus Christ were anointed with the Holy Spirit. (See this in Luke 24:45–49, John 14:15–27, John 16:5–14, Acts 1:1–8, Acts 2:1–18, 2 Corinthians 1:21–22, Ephesians 1:12–14, Ephesians 4:30, Ephesians 5:17–18, and 1 John 2:26–27—it will be worthwhile for a servant of Christ to review these passages and study the anointing again).
We are His priests, but the enduement of power our Lord promised resulting from the anointing of the Spirit does not happen until those sealed with the Spirit when they believed, are finally filled with the Spirit when they surrender. And this happens after they are washed from their sins (John 13:4–10 and 15:1–5) and clothed with Jesus Himself (as in Romans 13:11–14). Washed, clothed, and anointed, we are finally ready to be used of God to impact the dark world around us.
It really isn’t enough to be a practicing independent, fundamental, King-James, conservative, Baptist believer. We must be filled with the Spirit.
Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high—Luke 24:49b
As we have examined the weightier and lesser matters of the written Word of God, let us now examine ourselves, if we have been washed (by confessing our sins), clothed (by faith putting on Christ), and anointed (by surrender). Let’s hear revival preaching, engage in self-examination, unite in prayer meetings, and claim the power of God to evangelize the world! When we have taken such measures, we will be ready to preach our Lord Jesus Christ and to win many to Him. The lost world is waiting for us to get ready!