What Does Anointing the Sick Mean


The Bible addresses the sick and gives instruction on what we should do. Scripture tells us to call the elders of the church and have them anoint us with oil and pray for us.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:14-16).

The elders of the church are biblically appointed to anoint the sick. God assumes their faith is great. To become an elder in the church there are a few requirements listed in Titus 1:6-9:

“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

I have been anointed twice. It is a powerful and sacred experience. No, it’s not weird. There are no magic voodoo powers in the oil. It’s just olive oil, for heaven’s sake. I bet you even have some in your kitchen.

The first time I was anointed was during my initial disability. Upon my request, three elders came to my house and prayed for me. Then one of them put the olive oil on his finger and applied some to my forehead. The Bible says, “the prayer prayed in faith will make the sick person well.” Indeed, I was made well! Not immediately, but eventually.

My second anointing was during my current disability. I asked the elders of the church if they would anoint me. The two elders agreed and anointed me one Sunday after church. Mark and our friends Bob and Barb sat with us. The first elder prayed in faith for my healing. Then the second elder prayed. If you read the scripture carefully, you see the responsibility of having faith lays in the prayers of the elders. The first elder who prayed took out a small bottle filled with olive oil, put some on his thumb and made a cross on my forehead. I have a picture of it, and you can see the shiny cross on my forehead. I left the oil on the entire day. It was a holy and sacred experience. If you are sick, call your elders over, grab the olive oil, and have them anoint you and pray faithful prayers. Your faith is represented in the asking for it. Just do it or ask on behalf of someone you know who is sick.

If this sounds freaky to you, it’s not. It’s like someone rubbing dirt on a wound, except the Holy Spirit is involved and the substance is oil instead of dirt. I think there is a stigma attached to being anointed with oil because it happens so rarely, and because it has been hyped up to occur in a way that was never meant to be. Biblical anointing is not like the ‘slaying of the spirit’ you may have witnessed in person or on television. Pastor and author John MacArthur argues that the practice of ‘slaying in the spirit’ is neither described nor prescribed, specifically in the Bible.1

The Greek meaning of anoint is made up of two words: chrió which means “to smear or rub oil”, and aleiphō, which means “to anoint.” The term aleiphō was commonly used to describe a medicinal anointing. There is no magic in the oil, but the oil also symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit 2 When David the shepherd was anointed by Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:1-13, verse 13 says, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.”3

Like God did not heal everyone during his ministry, healing on earth may not be in his will for everyone. However, if it is in his will, and you didn’t do your part by obeying scripture, you’ll never know. Maybe he is awaiting the anointing and prayer prayed in faith. I was anointed the second time over a year ago, and have improved, but I still can hardly walk.

Healing may also take time and not be immediate. Be prepared to accept and surrender to God and his will. We may not see all that God is doing, but he is surely doing something! After all, the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, is with us when we are anointed. Do not neglect God’s instructions to call the elders of the church for prayer and anointing if you are sick. The Holy Spirit was in my circle of prayer at my anointing to bring me healing. How cool is that?


Anointing was a normal occurrence in the Old Testament. Before prophets and kings were commissioned for a special mission, they were anointed. Samuel anointed David (1 Samuel 16:12-13). King David is often described as God’s ‘anointed one’ (Psalm 29:8). Moses anointed Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8), Zadok anointed Solomon (1 Kings 1:39), Samuel anointed Saul (I Kings 1:1), an unnamed prophet anointed Jehu king over Israel (2 Kings 9:6). The use of oil to anoint was to signify a divine influence or presence. To prepare a person for a special calling from God. The oil represented the presence of the Holy Spirit. Moses’ instructions for men who would serve him as priests were consecrated through anointing with oil, symbolizing spiritual endowment for serving God (Exodus 29:7).


  • Luke 4:18-19 Jesus read from the scroll that was handed to him when he went to the synagogue in his hometown Nazareth. He had just spent forty days in the desert and was now beginning his public ministry. These words were prophesied in Isaiah 61— “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  • Jesus was anointed before his earthly commission. Acts 10:37-39 says,You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how 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. “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross…”
  • When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles, “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:12).
  • In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Paul says, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
  • Hebrew 1:8-9 But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” This Psalm is repeated in Hebrews (Psalm 45:6-7).

Several other verses refer to Jesus as the Anointed One: Psalm 2:1-2, Daniel 9:25, and Acts 4:26.

I want to look at Luke’s account a second time because of its Wow! factor. While Jesus’ earthly ministry was commencing, after he was tempted in the desert by Satan, Jesus goes into a synagogue in Nazareth and stands up to read the scroll that was handed to him with the words of Isaiah the prophet:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

(Isaiah 61:1-2)

“Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:20-23).

Holy cow! Goosebumps! Can you imagine what it was like to be there? Can you imagine what Jesus felt when he waited his whole life to say these words that were prophesied about him? “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He’s saying in so many words, “I’m the guy you’ve been reading about all these years in the scrolls. I’m here! The anointed Messiah is here!”

At first this was well received by the Nazarenes, but by the time Jesus finished speaking, telling them that prophets are not accepted in their hometowns, the people in the synagogue became furious and drove him out of town and tried to throw him off a cliff! Some welcome. Hmpf. They already wanted to kill him, and even tried. But God had other plans for Jesus.

“But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”4


I think the sick have a special calling and that’s why God instructs us to be anointed. I think it is to have exemplary faith so that those who are watching on the fringe will also grow in their faith, or perhaps come to faith. It’s my opinion, but I see over and over again in Scripture, that a fringe benefit God gave to the crowds who were watching the healing of the sick, was “amazement” and “faith” in God. Faith came not because of what the sick did, but because of the power of God’s work, the workings of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is directly involved in healings.

Could it be that our anointing is for the benefit of other people? I think it is very possible. May our suffering bring others to deeper faith. My our suffering bring glory to God our Father, Jesus his Son and our brother, and our Counselor, the Holy Spirit.


1 MacArthur, John F. Jr. Charismatic Chaos: Signs and Wonders; Speaking in Tongues; Health, Wealth and Prosperity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993.

2 The MacArthur Bible Commentary: Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time, by John MacArthur, Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2006, p. 1897.

3 I Samuel 16:13

4 Luke 4:30

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