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Oil In Scripture And Church Practice


holy oil

Oil In Scripture And Church Practice

 Perspective

The Lutheran Reformation restored great truths to the holy Christian church, above all the primacy of God’s grace: namely that sinners are spared the condemnation due to them because to their sins solely on the basis of God’s grace and goodness!

No one can purchase his way into heaven, but it is “the gift of God, not of works, so that no man can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) This pure gospel truth has brought abiding peace, strength, calm and patience to all who believe it, in the face of every reverse that sin, death and Satan can bring our way.

Moreover, in the fray of the Reformation, the Lutheran church not only restored the gospel but was able to maintain the sacraments of Baptism, Absolution and Eucharist. This over against the Radical Reformation that hi-jacked the Lutheran Reformation and took it to places Martin Luther never dreamed of.

The history of the Protestant movement over the last 505 years is fascinating but we must skip over it for now. But in summary, in our day there are two main types of Protestantism: Lutheranism and all the other Protestant denominations.

To further confuse matters today all those Protestant denominations seem to have given up their denominationsl identity and to have melted into a single body that we can term American Evangelicalism (as seen in the mega church and “contemporary worship” landscape). While there are many differences between Lutheranism and American Evangelicalism we will address only one at this time: the use of externals in our holy Christian faith specifically that of holy oil.

But one more preliminary is in order. Namely this, that American Evangelicalism has a profound mistrust, disregard, and abiding fear of all externals. They consider them as the enemy of faith. Said another way, while our expression of the holy Christian religion includes many outward signs: bread, wine, water, liturgical rites and rituals, the sign of the cross and others; their expression of Christianity is exclusively internal. It resides in their minds, hearts and emotions.

 

good samaritan

Back to oil.

With the exception of Rome and the East the theology of oil in Scripture has been perfectly disregarded by all Christians, including Lutherans. By this essay I hope to help rectify that problem.

First let us learn that oil is the “sacramental element” of the Holy Spirit; much in the same way that bread and wine are of the Eucharist, and water of baptism. But because this element and its usage has been wiped from the Protestant memory for 505 years, such a statement might cause a jolt.

We first encounter oil and its connection with the Holy Spirit in Genesis 8:6ff.

“At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him.

10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.

13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.”

From this section of Scripture we learn the connection between the dove and that of the fruit of the olive, namely its oil.

From that time forward oil was employed in the Israel’s worship and, whether they understood it or not, such usage was a prophecy of the Holy Spirit who would anoint Jesus (John 1:33) who gives the Spirit to men, “without measure” (John 3:34)

Surveying Scripture we find the following passages, which are but a sampling, to serve as a catechism for the usage of oil in the church.

Oil was used to light the lamps in the temple. Exodus 27:20 "You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn.”

Oil was used to ordain priests. Exodus 29:21 Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons' garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons' garments with him.

Oil was employed to ordain kings. 1 Kings 1:39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, "Long live King Solomon!"

Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Psalm 45:7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

Mark 6:13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

Luke 10:34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

All of this leads us to a mostly forgotten but vital fact, namely that the title “Christ” means, “the anointed one.” That is to say, the One who is anointed with oil. Or “the oiled one”. Only in the case of our Lord we know that he was anointed not with the earthly element of oil, but with the actual Holy Spirit whom oil represents!

Consider:

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

John 1:33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'

John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

Matthew 3:16-17 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Hebrews 1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."

Also consider the following baptismal verses:

2 Corinthians 1:21-22  And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed/chrismated us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 6:10-17 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

***

Based on this revelation regarding oil the church has, from its earliest days (Mk. 6:13) employed oil as the “sacramental” element of the Holy Spirit. When the church baptized it also chrismated with oil. The rituals vary in different times and places throughout church history. But the most consistent practice was lathering a body with oil before the person was immersed into the river or font, then upon emerging was anointed again with aromatic oil (myron).

The belief is that the Holy Spirit is planted in baptism, but chrismation fertilizes the seed. This is how the church catholic conducts herself and always has. The reason Lutherans know nothing about it is because they rejected some treasures with the trash; and caused an institutional knee-jerk reaction against externals such as oil.

Oil was not used in Scripture pro-forma, as a mere charade or as a bow to the medical profession of the day. The Good Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of victim of highway robbers. But in the parable Jesus himself is the Good Samaritan who heals our sins with the blood and water that came from his side; and of the Spirit who is the Lord and giver of life.

Conclusion:

With this brief synopsis in mind I propose that Christ Lutheran Church should institute the use of holy oil for chrismating at baptism, and for the anointing of the sick. In order to do that we should, according to ancient church practice, bless the oil, using the following rite, on Maundy Thursday. This is the day that the Eastern and Roman churches bless theirs.

The Rite For Blessing Of Anointing Oil (Roman Catholic)

EXORCISM BLESSING FOR OIL (OLIVE) - FOR ORDINARY USE
(Use regular, 100% pure oil) (Priest vests in surplice and purple stole)

P. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

P: O oil, creature of God, I exorcise you by God the Father (+) almighty, who made heaven and earth and sea, and all that they contain. Let the adversary’s power, the devil’s legions, and all of Satan’s attacks and machinations be dispelled and driven far from this creature, oil. Let it bring health in body and mind to all who use it, in the name of God (+) the Father almighty, and of our Lord Jesus (+) Christ, His Son, and of the Holy (+) Spirit, as well as in the love of the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.
R. Amen.

P: O Lord hear my prayer.
R: And let my cry come unto thee.

P: May the Lord be with you.
R: And with your spirit.

P: Let us pray. Lord God almighty, before whom the hosts of angels stand in awe, and whose heavenly service we acknowledge; may it please you to regard favorably and to bless (+) and hallow (+) this creature, oil, which by your power has been pressed from the juice of olives. You have ordained it for anointing the sick, so that, when they are made well, they may give thanks to you, the living and true God. Grant we pray, that those who will use this oil, which we are blessing (+) in your name, may be protected from every attack of the unclean spirit, and be delivered from all suffering, all infirmity, and all wiles of the enemy. Let it be a means of averting any kind of adversity from man, redeemed by the precious blood of your Son, so that he may never again suffer the sting of the ancient serpent. Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

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To learn more about the Lutheran practice of blessing holy oil please see this but fascinating essay. 

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