According to Webster's Dictionary, to anoint means to "rub oil or ointment on," "to put oil on in a ceremony of consecration."
Anointing was a common ancient cultural practice. Shepherds often poured oil on the heads of their sheep in order to protect them from insects that would burrow in their ears and kill them. This contributed to anointing becoming symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment. Spiritually, anointing was related to the idea of strength or blessing.
God commanded the Israelites to anoint the tabernacle and altar..
Exodus 40:9-10 (NKJV)9 And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy.10 You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy.
In Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God's blessing or call on that person's life.
Priests were anointed with oil.
Exodus 29:4-7 (NKJV)4 And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall wash them with water.5 Then you shall take the garments, put the tunic on Aaron, and the robe of the ephod, the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the intricately woven band of the ephod.6 You shall put the turban on his head, and put the holy crown on the turban.7 And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him.
Samuel anointed Saul and later David as kings of Israel.
1 Samuel 9:27-10:1 (NKJV)27 As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us." And he went on. "But you stand here awhile, that I may announce to you the word of God." 1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: "Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance?
Another meaning for the word anointed is "chosen one." God anointed Jesus.
Luke 4:18-21 (NKJV)18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Acts 10:37-38 (NKJV)37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Acts 4:26-28 (NKJV)26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.'27 "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
In addition to Old Testament leaders and Jesus being anointed, the scriptures say that all believers (Christians) are anointed.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NKJV) 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
The Holy Spirit within every believer is associated with God's anointing. Every Christian is anointed or chosen by God as His children, set apart for Him. It means that you have been enabled, entrusted, and empowered to accomplish God's will.
Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
1 John 2:20, 27 (NKJV)20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge.27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
This anointing is permanent it never leaves you and can never be taken away
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NKJV)21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Anointing Comes With God’s Power But Anointing Is Not Power
We often talk about being in church and we comment that the Praise and Worship, the message or entire service was “anointed” or the "anointing of the Holy Spirit flowed." I was just in one. However we all too often imply that anointing is the power of God. God does move powerfully at meetings, through individuals and songs, however, the power of God and anointing are different concepts.
There Are No Levels Of Anointing
As believers we are either anointed — consecrated and set aside — or we are not. We can’t be more set aside or less set aside — we are either set aside with our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life or we are not.
Romans 10:12 (NKJV) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
Galatians 3:28-29 (NKJV)28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
I have one gift and another believer has another gift, that doesn’t mean that I am "more anointed" or have reached a "level" that someone else hasn’t. God blesses us with different gifts and ministries for His own designs. The fact that believers may have different gifts and ministries has nothing to do with anointing.
Romans 12:4-5 (NKJV)4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NKJV)12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?
Sometimes people try to use the scripture where Elisha wanted and received a “double portion” of Elijah’s anointing as evidence of levels of anointing.
When Elisha demonstrates the heart of a servant by nobly refusing to abandon Elijah. The word translated "double," can also mean "to repeat, or do again". What God did was to repeat the prophetic spirit or disposition with which He had blessed Elijah.
There Are Times We Are More Prepared Than Others
Sometimes, Christians are more prepared than at other times. Sometimes they may be able to spend time waiting on God more than other times. Times of prayer and fasting can heighten sensitivity to God’s voice. It is important to spend time in fellowship and intimacy with God in order to build up a preparedness to move when the Spirit moves. By being prepared, Christians are more able to tap into the full measure of the anointing upon their life.
For example my pastor went through a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for an annual healing and deliverance service. The power of the Holy Spirit was evident in the service as he anointed each person with oil and prayed with and for them. Other pastors, including me, also prayed with those the pastor anointed. None of us had a higher level of anointing than any other believer. Each of us was operating in the spiritual gift we received from God. Any blessings that come from that service are the result of the power of God not a special or higher level of anointing.
There is a price to pay in anointed ministry, such as waiting upon the Lord, praying, fasting, studying the Word and seeking the mind of the Spirit. There are sacrifices that have to be made in order to walk in God’s fullness. Preparedness affects the anointing of God upon an individual’s life.
All Christians are anointed equally. God uses His anointed ones (all Christians) to display His power in any way he chooses.