Q: What’s the difference between baptism and anointing with oil? — Lionel
A: As Adventists we seek always to establish every point of faith and practice based on scripture. Our understanding of baptism comes from various passages in the New Testament that indicate that baptism by immersion is a public confession of our faith in Christ as our personal Saviour. Being “buried” in the waters of baptism symbolizes our death to sin and our new life in Christ that we experience through conversion. (See Romans 6, John 3:23, Acts 8:36-39). In Acts 2:38 we read that baptism follows repentance, and in Acts 3 we see that Peter connects baptism with repentance.
The Bible is very specific regarding anointing with oil. In the Old Testament it was used exclusively for anointing the high priest (Ex. 29:29) and the king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:13; 2 Sam. 2:4), and for the anointing of one prophet — when Elijah anointed Elisha (1 Kings 19:16). The anointing of the high priest and the king were types of the anointing of the coming Messiah (Jesus) who would be both King and High Priest, anointed by the Holy Spirit (Is. 61:1, Daniel 9:25, Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38, Matt. 3:16).
In the New Testament there are two texts regarding anointing with oil, and both are in connection with healing for those who believed in response to the prayer of faith (Mark 6:13 and James 5:17).
These are the only uses that we see in the Bible for anointing with oil. As a Bible-believing movement, we should not invent ordinances or practices for anointing with oil that scripture doesn’t sanction.
Some common uses of oil mentioned in the Bible not related to anointing include using oil as an act of hospitality, in cooking, and in preparing the dead for burial.
In 1 John 2:20, 27 we read about the anointing of the Holy Spirit, but nowhere does it mention that this is an anointing with oil. Instead, this text describes the gift of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:15-17 and John 16:13 Jesus tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who teaches and guides us.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit that we read about in Acts 1:5 is the “early rain” that watered the soil for the gospel seed to be planted and for the Christian church to expand.
Just before the harvest is the time for the “latter rain.” This is the time in which we are living. We need to pray for the same unity and “being of one accord” as were the believers in Acts 2. This prayer isn’t just for us as individuals; it’s for the entire church.
To learn more about being united in prayer and praying for the latter rain, I invite you to visit this website revivalandreformation.org and download a free copy of the book, “Praying for Rain.”