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Touch not God's Anointed

This is the fifth in a sporadic series on the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.  The previous post was Confirmation or Chrismation?

In the previous piece we discussed the chrism, or anointing immediately after baptism. Discussing this to the newly baptised and chrismated, Cyril makes a very bold statement:

Having therefore become partakers of Christ (Hebrews 3:14), ye are properly called Christs, and of you God said, Touch not my Christs (Psalm 105:15), or anointed. Now ye have been made Christs, by receiving the antitype of the Holy Ghost; and all things have been wrought in you by imitation (lit. imaging), because ye are the images of Christ. (XXI, 1)

In addition to repeating Cyril’s concept of baptism as the antitype of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan—and the descent of the Holy Spirit having chrismation as its antitype—this passage throws out a concept that flies in the face of a lot of what passes as “Holy Ghost led ministry”: the idea that everyone who bears the label of Christian and the name of Jesus Christ is anointed.

In setting this forth Cyril invokes a verse for his pupils that has to rate one of the most misused verses in the Old Testament:

He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. (Psalms 105:14, 15)

Anyone who has watched Christian television for any length of time knows what I’m talking about. We have the very well known preacher, usually under attack for financial dealings or moral failure, who invokes this verse to stop any kind of criticism or action against him or her. Since their ministry is successful, they are “anointed,” with the implication that we aren’t and thus have no right to question or criticise what they are doing.

There are two ways of coming against this kind of thing.

The first is to consider the nature of leadership: how do we know that this or that minister is a leader, and thus deserves “special treatment”? This goes to the whole problem of authority in evangelical churches, but it also brings up this:

Not every one who says to me ‘Master! Master!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. On ‘That Day’ many will say to me ‘Master, Master, was not it in your name that we taught, and in your name that we drove out demons, and in your name that we did many miracles?’ And then I shall say to them plainly ‘I never knew you. Go from my presence, you who live in sin.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

There’s no New Testament support to the idea that anointed people are beyond reproof on either side of eternity.

Opposed to this Cyril—and I’ve seen this point made elsewhere—sets forth what was more obvious to him than it is to us. With Greek as his primary language, Cyril proclaimed that the Christos was the “anointed one,” and that the Christians were likewise anointed. The whole act of the chrism underscored this simple fact.

And why not: if Jesus Christ dwells in us and what we do and have in this life that is of value is from and of God, then we too are partakers in his anointing, to repeat a verse that Cyril himself uses:

For we now all share in the Christ, if indeed we retain, unshaken to the end, the confidence that we had at the first. (Hebrews 3:14)

It’s worthy of note that Cyril does this in a era when the priesthood of a certain group of people was the accepted norm!

The sooner we get back to the Biblical concept that the anointing is the common property of all those called by the name of Christ the happier we will all be and the more fruitful the ministry of the church will become.


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