Touch not God’s Anointed: What it really Means

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This post is a quote from the appendix of a book I am currently reading, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century authored by Hank Hanegraaff in 2009 (published by Thomas Nelson).

Hendrik “Hank” Hanegraaff, before his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2017, was the president of the Christian Research Institute, an apologetic ministry founded by one of the brightest Evangelical minds in the 20th century, Dr. Martin Walter. For decades, Mr Hank was the anchor of “The Bible Answer Man.”

The first edition of Christianity in Crisis was published in 1993. It systematically unmasked the Word-Faith movement – a movement which threatens to undermine the foundations of the faith delivered to the saints.

The book was a bestseller and it won the Medallion Book Award for excellence in evangelical Christian literature. The new volume has been “augmented with a ‘Cast of Characters’ section that provides comprehensive information as well as biblical evaluation of the newest and most prolific stars in the faith galaxy—virtual rock stars who command the attention of presidential candidates and media moguls” (from the Introduction).

The following is an excerpt from Appendix A: Are “God’s Anointed” Beyond Criticism?

“During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ exhorted His followers to not judge self-righteously or hypocritically. Is this necessarily what Christians do when they question the teachings of “God’s anointed” preachers and evangelists?

Many teachers who claim such anointing would say so, and many more of their followers commonly reply to all manner of criticism: “Touch not God’s anointed.”

Some of these teachers even add that such actions carry literally grave consequences. Consider what prominent Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland affirmed in his taped message Why All Are Not Healed (#01-4001):

“There are people attempting to sit in judgment right today over the ministry that I’m responsible for, and the ministry that Kenneth E. Hagin is responsible for . . . Several people that I know had criticized and called that Faith bunch out of Tulsa a cult. And some of ’em are dead right today in an early grave because of it, and there’s more than one of them got cancer.

In addition to certain Faith teachers, such sentiments may be found among various groups involved with shepherding and other forms of authoritarian rule (from diverse “fivefold” ministries to a host of large and small “fringe churches”).

The leaders of these groups are commonly regarded by their followers as having a unique gift and calling that entitles them to unconditional authority—sort of a heavenly carte blanche. To dispute any of their teachings or practices is not distinguished from questioning God Himself.

Advocates of such unquestionable authority assume that Scripture supports their view. Their key biblical proof text is Psalm 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (KJV). But a close examination of this passage reveals that it has nothing to do with challenging the teachings and practices of church leaders.

First, it needs to be noted that the Old Testament phrase “the Lord’s anointed” is typically used to refer to the kings of Israel (1 Samuel 12:3,5; 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lamentations 4:20), at times specifically to the royal line descended from David (Psalms 2:2; 18:50; 89:38, 51), and not to especially mighty prophets and teachers.

While the text does also mention prophets, in the context of Psalm 105 the reference is undoubtedly to the patriarchs in general (vv. 8–15; cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15–22), and to Abraham (whom God called a prophet) in particular (Genesis 20:7). It is therefore debatable whether this passage can be applied to select leaders within the body of Christ.

Even if the text can be applied to certain church leaders today, in the context of this passage the words “touch” and “harm” have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone. Psalm 105:15 is therefore wholly irrelevant to the issue of questioning the teachings of any self-proclaimed man or woman of God.

Moreover, even if we accepted this misinterpretation of Psalm 105:15, how are we to know who not to “touch”—that is, who God’s anointed and prophets are? Because they and their followers say they are? On such a basis we would have to accept the claims of Sun Myung Moon, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, and virtually all cult leaders to be prophets.

Because they reputedly perform miracles? The Antichrist and False Prophet will possess that credential (Revelation 13:13–15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9)! No, God’s representatives are known above all by their purity of character and doctrine (Titus 1:7–9; 2:7–8; 2 Corinthians 4:2; cf. 1 Timothy 6:3–4).

If a would-be spokesperson for God cannot pass the biblical tests of character and doctrine, we have no basis for accepting his or her claim, and no reason to fear that in criticizing his or her teaching, we might also be rejecting God.

Finally, if any individual Christian is to be considered anointed, then every single Christian must be considered anointed as well. For this is the only sense in which the term is used (apart from Christ) in the New Testament:

“You [referring to all believers] have an anointing from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20). Thus no believer can justifiably claim any sort of special status as God’s “untouchable anointed” over other believers.

With this in mind, it is significant that the apostle John does not use this term with reference to inspired or dynamic preaching or teaching, but to the ability and responsibility of each believer to discern between true and false teachers (vv. 18–24). Nobody’s teachings or practices are beyond biblical evaluation—especially influential leaders.

According to the Bible, authority and accountability go hand in hand (e.g., Luke 12:48). The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability one has before God and His people.

Teachers and other leaders of the Christian community should be extremely careful to not mislead any believer, for their calling carries with it a strict judgment (James 3:1). They should therefore be grateful when sincere Christians take the time and effort to correct whatever erroneous doctrine they may be holding and preaching to the masses.

And if the criticisms are unfounded or unbiblical, they should respond in the manner prescribed by Scripture, which tells them to correct misguided doctrinal opposition with gentle instruction (2 Timothy 2:25).

There is, of course, another side to this issue: criticism often can be sinful, leading to rebellion and unnecessary division. Christians should respect the leaders that God has given them (Hebrews 13:17). Theirs is the task of assisting the church in its spiritual growth and doctrinal understanding (Ephesians 4:11–16).

At the same time, believers should be aware that false teachers will arise among the Christian fold (Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2:1). This makes it imperative for us to test all things by Scripture, as the Bereans were commended for doing when they examined the words of even the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).

Not only is the Bible useful for preaching, teaching, and encouragement, but it is equally valuable for correcting and rebuking (2 Timothy 4:2). In fact, we as Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole will of God and warning others of false teachings and those responsible for them (Acts 20:26–28; cf. Ezekiel 33:7–9; 34:1–10).”

[Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2009, pp. 382-386]

What it means to be “Born of Water and the Spirit”

Some have taught that being born of water means baptism (implying baptismal regeneration) and some others have interpreted it as physical birth. To find out, we need to take a look at the entire teaching of the New Testament.

John 3:3, 5 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again … Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”

If this text alone implied that baptism was a key prerequisite to entering the Kingdom of God, then Jesus would have made it a requirement of salvation, but this is not so.

Now, if baptism is not the New Birth, to what does the word “water” in John 3:5 refer? Let us look elsewhere and see what are the agents and instruments by which the work of regeneration is wrought:

1 Peter 1:23 “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”

James 1:18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

1 Corinthians 4:15 “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”

Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

In these passages we see that regeneration or rebirth is wrought by the word of God and Spirit of God. We are born again by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

Now in John 3:5, we have the Spirit directly mentioned but can the “water” be taken to mean “the word” without forcing the language? First, let’s compare it to Ephesians 5:25, 26:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Indeed, the Greek word translated “word” here in Ephesians (rēmati) is a different word from the Greek word translated “word” (logos) when the Word of God is spoken of. But in 1 Pet. 1:25 (“… And this is the word that was preached to you”), the same rēmati that is translated “word” in Eph. 5:26, is used twice of “the Word of God,” and that, too, is direct connection with regeneration by the Word.

In John 15:3, Jesus said: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” See also John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

But some may ask why did not Jesus say plainly, without a figure in John 3: “Except a man be born of the word and the Spirit”? The answer to this is very simple.

The whole passage is highly figurative. The word translated “the Spirit” (Pneuma) is itself figurative: means literally “wind” and is without the definite article.

Literally translated the passage would read, “Except any one be born out of water and wind.” In this, the wind symbolizes the vivifying element, the Holy Spirit. (Compare Ezekiel 37:9, 10.) Naturally, therefore, “the water” symbolizes the cleansing element, the “word.” (Compare John 15:3).

The passage thus reduced to non-figurative language would read, “Except any man be born of the word of God and the Spirit of God.” Thus we would have Jesus teaching the doctrine afterwards taught by Paul and James and Peter.

Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? (II)

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One of the common charges levied against the Bible is that, since the New Testament writers exhorted slaves to obey their masters in the Roman social system, the Bible actually approves of slavery and has contributed to inhumanity and oppression.

First of all, the atheist has no moral or logical ground to stand on to condemn slavery. If our actions are determined by random collisions of molecules in our brain – as many atheists believe – then slavery cannot be morally wrong. It would be an expression of natural selection.

Unbelievers vainly boast that humans, not God, put an end to slavery in America while the slave traders justified their dehumanization with some Bible verses. The fact is, the abolitionists were Christians, and they appealed to the Bible to support their anti-slavery stance.

The chancellor of Protestant University, William Wilson, stated that slavery was “at war with the image of God in which man was created” as it treats other humans as less than human as God created him and lowering the person to property.

On the other hand, the biblical texts the pro-slavery advocates were able to cobble together were weak, astutely wrenched and tortured paths.

These men were simply a bunch of wicked, racist and bigoted folks who used the Bible to rationalize their atrocities. That didn’t mean the Bible was really on their side.

Even the most well intentioned religious text can be misinterpreted and misused by people for their own advantage. Interestingly, the Western slave masters and modern atheists are united in their absurd misinterpretation and mutilation of the Bible. They approach the Book the same way a butcher approaches a hog!

It’s not enough for skeptics of all stripes to quote some extracted Bible verses (often to “prove” their preconceived notions), we must examine the complete testimony and see the big picture.

Of course, the dogmatic Bible hater will derisively dismiss this, but once their false assertions are refuted, their propaganda collapses into a pile of pixie dust.

The following texts are often quoted to “prove” that the NT upholds slavery:

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Colossians 3:22).

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ” (Ephesians 6:5)

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative” (Titus 2:9).

1. Jesus Christ had already pointed to the mission of freedom from all forms of slavery: spiritual, mental and physical. Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, He declared:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Lk. 4:18).

The practical application of this verse is what led to the elucidation of freedom and the denunciation of forms of slavery.

2. The church was born into an already existing secular social world. Christianity didn’t come with a social reform programme for Israel and Rome, because that is not how the kingdom of God – which is inward, rather than geographical – works.

Therefore, when apostle Paul exhorts slaves within the Roman systems to behave themselves, he is not promoting or advocating the situation they were in, but was calling for good conduct while in such an already existing predicament in the hopes that their masters would see such good conduct and convert to Christianity and be saved (Titus 2:10). It was for the benefit of people’s eternal salvation.

3. The apostles weren’t revolutionaries and the early Christians were minorites. The older religions within the Roman Empire (Heathenism, Mystery Religions, State religion) should have borne a higher responsibility of emancipation of slaves because they had greater political might.

As for Eph. 6:5 what did unbelievers expect Paul to say? Should he incite Christian slaves to defy their Roman masters? What do they think happened to insubordinate slaves under Roman law? Did they even bother to think that far?

Under Roman law, a runaway slave was often mercilessly dealt with:

“He could be scourged branded, mutilated, or fitted with a metal collar, perhaps even be crucified, thrown to beasts, or killed. (Joseph Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon, Doubleday Publishing, 2000, p. 28).

I am sure that if the NT had admonished Christian slaves to rebel against their Roman masters, modern atheists would still find a way to gripe over that. If believers walked by the Tiber, cynics would still say they walked because they couldn’t swim.

4. Paul exhorts slave masters to treat their slaves well. He commands those who are slave masters in this existing social system to be good to and not threaten their slaves.

Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your hearts. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free” (Eph. 6:6-8)

5. Paul affirmed freedom over slavery

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so” (1 Cor. 7:21).

Gleason Archer has shown that while Paul exhorted slaves to obey their masters, he said that slaves should do do all in their ability to purchase their own freedom. (Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, p. 87).

6. The Bible does not support Slave and Master casses

Slavery runs on the cultural machinery of racial, political, religious and social-economic superiority. But the Bible elevates man as created in the image of God and affirms the equality of all men. This conflicts with the idea behind slavery.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1)

Here, apostle Paul affirms both slaves and masters are equal having a true master in heaven, and that masters on earth must not mistreat their slaves.

7. The Bible condemns slavery and the slave trade

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).

Notice that slavery is included in the list of vices here and slave traders are grouped together with murderers and ungodly people.

In Revelation 18:10-13 Babylon is rebuked and judged in the context of trafficking slaves and greedily making wealth with merchants:

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore … cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.”

Most unbelievers are fond of selectively citing bible passages and neglecting cross-references, hence giving a distorted picture. And the most arrogant part is how they believe they know the Bible more than Christians who have spent the whole of their lives studying it.