Once I paused during a preacher’s message on the necessity of faith for believers. He’s the pastor of an upscale megachurch. He’s handsome, poised, and articulate. Networks beam his messages across the globe. This pastor emphasizes the necessity of the Spirit’s “anointing” from God, and insists that he himself has this anointing as a speaker.
As I watched, he abruptly turned to Hebrews 12. Often labeled the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” this chapter identifies human agents through whom God worked, who modeled faith. The author of Hebrews named some of them (Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, to list a few) and cited others—nameless—who were martyred for their faith.
Without referring to the context, this preacher quoted these words from verse 35: “Women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance.” Then he said authoritatively, “Those who were tortured weren’t delivered because they didn’t have enough faith!”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. He wrenched from this verse a meaning that’s opposite of what the Spirit-inspired author intended. They weren’t delivered because they wouldn’t deny or compromise their faith, which was a requirement for their release.
A cursory look at the context shows that these nameless persons were objects of praise, not reproof.
They didn’t accept their deliverance “that they might obtain a better resurrection” (v. 35). They, along with others cited in verses 36-37, were heroes of faith “of whom the world was not worthy” (v. 38). They wouldn’t renounce Christ, or in Old Testament times, wouldn’t engage in dubious practices insisted on by their captors.
I’d call that a positive endorsement of their faith, wouldn’t you?
None of us is an inerrant interpreter of God’s Word. In addition to dependence on the illumination of God’s Spirit when we study the Bible, we teachers must stand on the shoulders of godly scholars and commentators when we prepare a message. What I heard on TV was a flagrant example of eisegesis: reading into a text a meaning not intended by the author. Perhaps the cause was laziness, I don’t know. But he totally disregarded the clear implications of the context.
No teaching of the Bible is merely a human endeavor. The Holy Spirit must not only illumine our thinking, but He must also channel what we say from the ears of listeners to their hearts. If this is what the TV preacher means by “anointing,” so far, so good.
But just as study without the Spirit of God is vain, the so-called "anointing to preach" is futile without the hard work of study. “Be diligent to show yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
No wonder God reserves stricter judgment for those of us who communicate His Word (James 3:1)!
As teachers and preachers, what can we do to show more reliance on the Holy Spirit?
In relation to preparation, what changes should we make to keep us from making the same mistake as the TV preacher?
*Note: the preacher shown in the picture accompanying this post is NOT the TV preacher who's the subject of this article.