[this article is contributed by Alex Rover]
How does one come to be of the anointed?
What is it like to be anointed?
How can one be sure he or she is of the anointed?
Perhaps you have read blogs online where Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to partake of the memorial bread and wine, but you don’t feel anointed. Then you might wonder:
Should we partake even if we are not sure if we are anointed?
What about children or unbaptized Bible Students?
These are very deep questions for sure!
Every story, book or explanation has a beginning. This article is about beginnings, hence “Initiation”. As for “Sacraments” – the word loosely means ‘visible testimony. When you start partaking of Christ, this signals to others the beginning of something new in your life.
To understand the process of becoming anointed, this article will take you through history by examining the Sacraments of Initiation.
Catholics have several sacraments, but there are three that are called the sacraments of initiation. A quick dictionary lookup clarifies: “the action of admitting someone into a group”. Undoubtedly the Catholic sacraments of initiation result in one being admitted into the Catholic organization, and the same can be said of the equivalent process for Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and pretty much any religious organization.
But the sacraments of initiation are about more than joining a religious organization. They have a spiritual significance. So let’s take a look at the Catholic version:
- Baptism: Become baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Confirmation: sealed with the Holy Spirit. This parallels the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
- Holy Communion: sometimes called the Eucharist or the Holy Communion, partaking of Christ. This separates the partaker from sin.
They must always occur in the proper order: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion. There is also a time period between each of these steps, differently so than in the eastern Catholic and Orthodox Church, where all three steps occur in proper order on the same day.
How do Catholics explain the need for a time period in between baptism and confirmation?
St. Thomas Aquinas explains the fact that Confirmation is distinguished from Baptism and comes after: “The sacrament of Confirmation is, as it were, the final completion of the sacrament of Baptism, in the sense that by Baptism (according to St. Paul) the Christian is built up into a spiritual dwelling (cf. 1 Cor 3:9), and is written like a spiritual letter (cf. 2 Cor 3:2-3); whereas by the sacrament of Confirmation, like a house already built, he is consecrated as a temple of the Holy Spirit, and as a letter already written, is signed with the sign of the cross” (Summa Theol., III, q. 72, a. 11). – Vatican.va
That question was quite interesting to me, since I personally know another religion very well that doesn’t practice Holy Communion on the same day as water baptism.
Modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Jehovah’s Witness Sacraments of Initiation are as follows:
- Baptism: first you must be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You receive a measure of Holy Spirit and you become part of the household of faith, a domestic.
- Adoption: a limited number proceed and are confirmed or sealed with the Holy Spirit as anointed, adopted sons of God. The Holy Spirit testifies with your spirit that this is so, confirming with certainty that you have reached this level.
- Partaking: you may now partake of the memorial emblems.
For the vast majority of modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Sacraments look more like this:
- Announcement that you are now part of the theocratic ministry school
- Announcement that you are now a publisher
They are taught that in their case, their initiation is complete as someone with the hope to live on earth forever. Baptism is the end of the initiation, not the beginning! We know that was not always the case.
Let’s go back in time to understand what changed.
Bible Students (prior to 1934)
In the 1921 book ‘The Harp of God’, chapter 8, subtitle ‘Body Members Selected’ the following steps are outlined for those who might become a member of the body of Christ:
- Understanding and appreciation of the truths of repentance.
- Consecration: dedication to do God’s will, baptism in Christ’s death
- Justification: baptism into water in symbol of the true baptism of consecration
- Spirit-Begetting: adoption upon baptism in Christ’s death. It is listed after justification but it is later argued that spirit-begetting is related to consecration.
- Sanctification: the process that begins with consecration and ends with birth as spirit, the process of becoming holy.
Judge Rutherford did not include any reference to the memorial or partaking in this book, so where did it have its place in the list? Studies in the Scriptures volume 6 ‘A New Creation’, study 11, and subtitle ‘Who May Celebrate?’ states on page 473 that Elders can require these conditions for partaking:
- Faith in the blood
- Consecration to the Lord and his service, even unto death
In practice, consecration would be unknown to these Elders unless so symbolized by baptism, so we may certainly place partaking after the third step of justification. Notice the Catholics see The Sacrament of Confirmation as the outward proof of consecration, because a baby who is baptized in water cannot possibly have dedicated his body as a temple to God. So also for Catholics, partaking requires faith in the blood and consecration.
A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace.
Thus partaking as an outward sign finds it’s proper after water baptism as outward sign of consecration to demonstrate one’s receiving the Spirit Witness of his anointing. To partake before baptism would outwardly signal that you are worthy to receive anointing without having consecrated yourself first.
Next, “Understanding and appreciation of the truths of repentance” are inward and not outward. The same for the dedication prayer. They are proper steps, but not sacraments.
And while sanctification, the process of becoming holy may be observed outwardly in the believer, it is ultimately a process of perfection over time. It’s not an initiation.
The Bible Students Sacraments of Initiation were thus as follows:
- Justification: Baptism in Water in symbol of consecration – baptism in Christ’s death
- Spirit-Begetting: by reason of coming into the body of Christ through consecration. Receiving the spirit of holiness may be observed outwardly in the believer and is the beginning of sanctification. It becomes apparent as the Holy Spirit makes changes in the life of the consecrated one.
- Partaking as a visible declaration of believers’ union with Christ and spirit-begetting.
Is it Appropriate for Unbaptized Children to Partake?
Consider 1 Co 11:26:
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Notice that partaking is a proclamation. It is a sacrament. I have been reading on the internet some who encourage making the memorial like a family thanksgiving meal, even the children are encouraged to partake. In light of the material in this article, my conscience wouldn’t allow that.
The same logic applies to the Catholic who baptize young babes. I must ask, what is it a symbol of? Certainly the babe has not consecrated him or herself to the Lord! Further, is it necessary? Does the Catholic baptism of babes or the partaking of unbaptized young ones of the memorial symbols somehow benefit them?
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. – 1 Co 7:14
Catholic parents, your children do not become holy on account of an empty sacrament of water baptism. And our own unbaptized children don’t become holy on account of an empty sacrament of partaking.
If we truly care for them, then we must be believers, for on that account they are already holy.
By our conduct we set an example. We wouldn’t let our children get baptized when we know they are not truly dedicated, so why would we encourage them to partake before they have taken the steps to accept Christ? Signs are a noise-making cymbal if it’s not out of love. (1 Co 13:1)
This conclusion would reflect my understanding on the matter as it reflects my personal conscience. We must each follow our conviction.
But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. – Romans 14:23 NLT
Spirit Begetting: When?
Studies in the Scriptures volume 6, study 10, and subtitle ‘Baptism into Christ’s Death’ states on page 436 that one is baptized into Christ’s death the moment of his consecration.
So that spirit-begetting or anointing comes after our dedication or consecration makes perfect sense to me.
When compiling the ‘Bible Students Sacraments of Initiation’, I placed spirit-begetting after water baptism. Why not before? I kept going back and forth on this. If someone who has dedicated himself dies before he can symbolize his dedication, wouldn’t it be possible he received the witness of the spirit of his calling? That’s not an unreasonable position. Isn’t the dedication what truly matters most?
As ‘the altar’ is greater than the ‘gift’, we acknowledge that our consecration is greater than the baptism:
You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? – Mat 23:19
This is the perfect opportunity to clarify that sacraments can’t save a person. Faith – not works, but sacraments are works produced by faith. Catholics and Orthodox believe a babe is saved by works.
An old story goes like this: A baby was about to die and the priest made it just in time to the home to baptize the child. As the baby gave her last breath, someone thanked God the priest was wearing his running shoes that day, or he would arrived too late to save the baby.
Would a loving God truly allow the type of shoes determine someone’s salvation? Of course not!
In the case of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, they were baptized in water before receiving their respective anointing. And in my personal case, it took many years after my water baptism until I received my anointing. I know for a fact that I was not anointed at that time because I did not have the spirit bearing witness.
From this I concluded that spirit-begetting doesn’t have to be instant at water baptism or at one’s dedication. It might be, but doesn’t have to be.
Afterward I kept thinking about the words of the eunuch:
“Look, here is water. What doth hinder me to be baptized?” – Acts 8:36
If one has come to an understanding and appreciation of the truths of repentance, and with his entire heart and mind and soul consecrates himself to the Lord, wouldn’t he scream out: “What doth hinder me to be baptized”? Would he wait weeks, months, or years?
“Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” – Luke 6:45
I believe such one would look for the nearest opportunity to show outwardly what is abundant in his heart. With a heartfelt consecration, there would not expire any wasted time until baptism in water in symbol thereof.
The Father declared the Son after his water baptism. When we publically declare our baptism in Christ’s death we are also acknowledging Christ before men. So Christ promises to consequently acknowledge us before the Father who is in heaven. (Mat 10:32) The Father who has drawn us to Christ from the beginning (John 6:44), now receives confirmation from his Son and is ready to send his spirit to assure us and declare us as his child.
In case water baptism is not possible for practical reasons, then that person would in the meantime declare publically that he has dedicated himself and desires to be baptized at the first opportunity. If he died before he could be baptized, then that counted as his public declaration or sacrament.
Spirit Begetting or adoption occurs when Jehovah confirms your calling in you. If you have not yet received the witness of the spirit, have you fully immersed yourself in Christ’s death, dedicated yourself completed to the Father’s will for you in your life, and are you allowing his holy spirit to direct you in the path he has set out for you? Are you already making public acknowledgment of this so that the father may acknowledge you as well?
We shouldn’t tell others to partake if they admit they are not anointed, just like we shouldn’t tell a person to be baptized right there and then if we know they have not dedicated themselves. All people should be baptized, and all Christians are under the command to partake, but there is a proper order in which things take place (illustrated by Catholics since Dedication can occur years after Baptism, also in the case of many Witnesses who have not surrendered their life to death in Christ even though they are baptized). The bread and wine are not some talisman which causes a person to become anointed and neither does it grant eternal life. Partaking is merely a symbol, a sacrament of initiation or visible testament of one’s anointing and in itself does not save.
So if someone tells us they are not anointed, we should help them by sharing our hope (1 Pe 3:15) and knowledge from the Scripture so they also get to the stage where they consecrate themselves to sacrifice in union with Christ.
Partaking is an expression of what lives inside of you. It’s a very meaningful expression. No anointed can be told they are not allowed to partake. They would rather suffer ridicule, tribulation and death than refuse the symbols.
Receiving the Witness of the Spirit
How can someone know that he’s anointed?
First the Father calls us. We learn the truth about Christ and his saving grace, and grow in appreciation thereof. The spirit moves us to repentance and grows the desire in our hearts to do Jehovah’s will in our lives.
For some time, our natural person resists this and wants to hold on to its carnal will and desire. We may resist the spirit or even grieve the spirit in this manner, but our heavenly Father does not give up on you.
Sooner or later you surrender yourself to the will of the Father, and the words “Let thy will be done” take on a personal significance. You immerse yourself fully into his will. This immersion is your baptism into Christ’s death. It is the moment you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, and by this great victory of faith God now declares you righteous by the blood of his Son.
Receiving this seal of righteousness, the abundance of your heart now impels you to make a public declaration of God’s love on your behalf.
As you immerse yourself in a body of water, the thought goes through your mind that the old person has died. As you rise up, and open your eyes with water dripping off you realize that this symbolizes the start of a new life, justified to a deeper relationship with the Father thanks to Christ as your mediator.
Now the spirit proceeding from the Father becomes active in a process of bringing you from righteousness to holiness.
Though justified, you continue to dwell in an imperfect body and face tribulation in the flesh. Once more our flesh continues to resist the spirit. We may come to feel these words apply to us:
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. – Ro 7:24-25
For some time, we may resist the workings of the spirit in our lives. We may even grieve it by unrepentantly practicing what is wrong! Those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom. The key is that we must live up to our dedication and truly learn to hate what is evil and love what is good. We must put on the personality of Christ.
Another way the workings of the spirit might be resisted is when we are being misled in captivity to men. Jesus condemned the Pharisees of shutting the door of the kingdom of heaven from people (Mat 23:13).
When the spirit testifies to us that we are indeed God’s children, then any doubt is removed about our hope (Romans 8). It is another seal impressed upon us, a milestone in our process toward holiness.
All along the spirit was teaching us everything about our anointing and leading us up to this moment when our conviction becomes unshakable (1 John 2:27) that we are truly accepted.
How the spirit makes this conviction sure in you personally can vary from person to person. In my case my conscience started accusing me for having rejected Christ’s sacrifice at a memorial of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I continued to resist the workings of the spirit, my conscience caused me to have recurring dreams of the memorial and each time I rejected it made me sadder to the point I woke up in the night crying like a child. From then forward I resolved to stop resisting and learn about my anointing.
The learning process leads up to conviction. And even once you start to receive the testimony of the spirit, it is still possible to resist it. Now the Devil uses his most time honored tool: fear of men. Our conviction is not complete if we are under bondage or fear of men.
This is the true significance of partaking. It is signaling that out of the abundance of your conviction, your heart impels you to make a public declaration that the Father through his spirit has given you undeniable proof that you are accepted by him.
For further meditation on this topic, compare the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13).
A Calling to Sainthood
That anointing is a calling, is clear from Scripture:
“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – Ro 1:7 ESV
“For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” – He 9:14 NASB
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” – 1 Co 1:2 KJV
Not many noble or wise, but the humble out of this world are called (Compare 1 Pe 5:5-6).
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to use wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’.” – 1 Co 1:26-31 NASB
There is only one calling, and a time when you are called:
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called” – Eph 4:4 NIV
All those who are called have one hope. The word Christian is derived from the word Christ, which means “anointed one”. Anointed consequently and rightfully call themselves Christian. For this reason you will sometimes read on this blog that there is only one hope for Christians.
How can you know for sure that you have become anointed?
It is time to do away with the urban legends. Some Jehovah’s Witnesses think they cannot be anointed because Jehovah doesn’t call. Others think that because they haven’t got some dream, vision or voice or overwhelming emotion, they aren’t called. Still others think they cannot be called because they are undeserving, foolish or weak. The very opposite is true!
Scripture is full of treasure waiting to be found. When we find treasure with great meaning to us personally, it stays with us for the rest of our lives. Revelation 3:20 took on such a personal meaning for me.
Where are you Christ?
“Here I am!”
I’m not sure, how can I know for sure?
“I stand at the door and knock”
I hear your call, what must I do?
“If [you hear] my voice, [open] the door”
What if I accept your call?
“I will come in and eat with [you]”
Are you waiting to hear a voice from heaven that says: “you are my son, I love you”? How can we “hear his voice” and hear him “knocking”? If we don’t know the answer to this question, perhaps we might wait all our lives. The answer lies in faith, a fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22 KJV).
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” – Galatians 3:26 NIV
Fruits take time to grow, so also with faith. Under the subheading “Receiving the Witness of the Spirit”, I gave examples of how we might be resisting the workings of the spirit.
“For those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God” – Ro 8:1
If we resist the spirit, then the spirit cannot produce the fruit of faith. Fruits of the spirit can be cultivated, and faith is the very thing that assures us of our hope.
“For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” – Gal 5:5 HCSB
Cultivation is the word. Notice the wording in the WT of January 15, 1952, pp. 62-64:
“Now God deals with you and he must by his dealings with you and his revelations of truth to you cultivate in you some hope. If he cultivates in you the hope of going to heaven, that becomes a firm confidence of yours, and you are just swallowed up in that hope, so that you are talking as one who has the hope of going to heaven, you are counting on that, you are thinking that, you offer prayers to God in expression of that hope. You are setting that as your goal. It permeates your whole being. You cannot get it out of your system. It is the hope that engrosses you. Then it must be that God has aroused that hope and caused it to come to life in you, for it is not a natural hope for earthly man to entertain.”
When we become anointed, some of us may experience feelings of intense joy or ecstasy. We can be happy for each other when this is the case. Jesus Christ, upon his anointing was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. In his first experiences after becoming anointed, he was subjected to temptation, had to resist the doubts the Devil tested him with. So instead of joy, we may also experience persecution and face doubts upon becoming anointed. Let’s also rejoice for each other when this is the case, because their experience is very much like that of Christ.
The transition to modern JW doctrine
The October 1st Watchtower of 1934 points out in the article ‘Purpose of Gathering the Saints’ that “not everyone who makes a covenant by sacrifice proves faithful” and “only the faithful ones are the saints [..] those who are in the covenant by sacrifice of Jesus Christ”.
Then later in the article its stated that in Christendom, many are misled as prisoners under the influence of clergy and they haven’t fully lived up to their requirement. Psalm 79:11 and 102:19-20 is quoted to support the idea that Jehovah may yet show mercy on these:
Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die. – Ps 79:11
As irony would have it, Jehovah’s Witnesses today have their own clergy and prison. In 2014, Gerrit Losh of the Governing Body made a deposition when he was requested to testify in a pedophilia Lawsuit against a former brother and stated as a matter of written, legal record who holds the highest authority over our faith. Not Christ, not Scripture, but the Governing body:
Today Jehovah’s Witnesses gather nearly 20 million attendees to their yearly memorial. Only about 14,000 partake from the symbols at this event. They have been told by the clergy class of Jehovah’s Witnesses that they are not baptized into Christ’s death. They have been kept prisoner to the truth by this clergy class because just they were forbidden to understand the Bible for what it teaches them when they read it independently. They were even told the Bible does not belong to them, but to the Organization.
Watchtower Oct 1st 1967 p. 587
They have been baptized in water, but not as symbol of their death in Christ. If not a sacrament of consecration to sacrifice, then of what a sacrament?
Since 1985, the baptismal vows have been unchanged :
(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?
Studies in the Scriptures Volume 6 study 3 from page 124 onward taught that a consecration to follow righteousness was the sacrament of the Great Crowd, the antitypical Levites, and this was a different consecration from the Levite Priests who additionally made a consecration to sacrifice. The consecration to follow righteousness and water baptism are thus symbolized by the “white robes” the Levites wore.
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses accept Jesus sacrifice cleans their sins, but they don’t make sacrifice with their own body, something that is required of the anointed. So the anointed among JW are a group within a group, just like the Priests were a group among the Levites. It seems common in Christianity as well: Professing dedication but not willing to sacrifice themselves to Christ and give up their lives for it.
Russell saw the ‘consecration to sacrifice’ as a process, which began with the ‘consecration to follow righteousness’ in love out of a pure heart (1 Tim 1:5). It was a race toward the heavenly price.
The partaking of the symbols was then a sacrament or testimony to being in that race.
What would you say if you spectated a team sport match where only a few players tried to win and the rest stood still after reaching half-time? Or if only one racer was running with the prize in sight and the other runners were happy just to stay in the race until someone else won?
By changing the prize, the Organization has made the Witnesses run for another prize. They have in fact entered a different race all together! In this race, they are told that they can preserve their lives instead of sacrificing it. They are told to set their heart on future treasures on earth instead of in heaven.
The second baptismal vow indicates subjection to the rules of the organizers of this race.
The first baptismal vow however, holds out hope. It’s all about Jehovah and doing his will. If that was your dedication, then your baptism was in symbol of that dedication and valid.
You vowed to do God’s will. The second point was not a vow. It was an understanding. That’s what you understood at that time as God’s will for you.
A new Hope
The transition to modern JW doctrine has two key components:
- Changing the hope of the Great Crowd from heavenly to earthly.
- Changing that not all Christians should strive to achieve the ‘better’ reward because the ‘Gathering of the Saints’ had drawn to a close or near-close.
A new hope emerged in the Watchtower of May 1st 2007, where the Questions from Readers section answered that the calling for the heavenly race has not ceased. It further stated these comforting words that are arguably the most significant glimmer of light from the presses of the Watchtower presses in nearly 80 years:
How should a person be viewed who has determined in his heart that he is now anointed and begins to partake of the emblems at the Memorial? He should not be judged. The matter is between him and Jehovah. (Romans 14:12)
With this the holy spirit has caused an earthquake and set our brothers and sisters free from imprisonment, like what happened for Paul and Silas:
Suddenly there was such a massive earthquake that the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! – Acts 16:26
Our own “prayer for the prisoners” in Psalm 79:11 has been answered! Now imagine the organization as our jailer, as thousands more and hopefully tens of thousands start partaking. In Acts 16:27 the jailer consequently drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul cried with a loud voice:
Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.
When the doors opened we could have left immediately, but we are all still here because love hopes all things. Read what happened to the jailer in verses 30 and 31.
This is our testimony.
 See WT June 1st 1985, p. 30