[Question submitted to DJ and Gordon Ferguson]
A couple of members of our church have a question regarding anointing a sister who has been ill for some time. What does the Bible really say about anointing? What are we supposed to do? -- E. & M.
From DJ: My thoughts on anointing, for what they are worth, are expressed briefly in my book The Spirit, in "miscellaneous" chapter. Please read what I have written. I do not necessarily think it is wrong for a non-elder to anoint a sick person. I doubt very much, though, whether NT anointing was thought to cause healing. If you have not read my earlier thoughts (published originally 25 years ago), please do, then get back to me with any further questions.
From GF: I read Douglas' comments in his book The Spirit and thought they were good. Perhaps the oil was used in that first century setting in anticipation of the healing that came through the elder's prayers. That seems logical. When praying and anointing with oil, as most of us elders do (at least the ones with whom I have worked), we explain to the one being prayed over that we do not understand everything about the passage in our setting 2000 years later, but are trying to simply do what it says with a simple faith ourselves, and will leave the results to God. As to the other question, certainly anyone can pray over a sick person, but elders specifically are mentioned in the passage under question, likely for the reasons Douglas noted.
I share the same conviction about the fact that we don't know how God works, but we just want to do as God tells us to. After all, God does the healing, not the oil or the elders or the prayer. But I still have one question: Who are the elders mentioned in the passage? (In other words, who in our congregation would be qualified to anoint?) I read that the elders are the people leading the local church, but in other passages, elders are described as people with certain qualifications. Can you please help me with this question? -- E. & M.
DJ: I guess I would not be too dogmatic that only a fully qualified elder is able to anoint. Perhaps the point is simply that we should be asking the more spiritual members of the church to pray for us. (Gordon seems to agree with this idea.) Note: my view of the anticipatory aspect of anointing came originally from Tony Coffey (of Dublin). Oil was used daily as part of hygiene. See Psalm 104:15. This did not entail anything miraculous.
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