Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed?

There are many teachers out there, and all including myself have flaws. I believe that generally-speaking, it is bad practice for people to “name call” by stating why their theology or teaching is better than someone else’s. In my practice of writing many hundreds of articles, I have only called out by name just a very few people — people who have a long history of teaching some bad doctrines and who have had a major influence in the body of Christ. I do not mean to disparage them, nor do I want to promote an unholy attitude towards them or toward teachers in general. We should always have respect. But if a person continues to teach things that are not correct, and those teachings are leading people astray, and it is having a large influence in the body of Christ, then there is certainly nothing wrong with mentioning the name of that person. In fact, in Galatians 2:11, the apostle Paul does just that. He calls out Simon Peter by name — using his name, “Cephas” (yet another of Simon Peter’s names). Paul also calls out two others for their dangerous influence, namely Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17).

Had it not been for the passage in Galatians 2, concerning Simon Peter’s error, we would not have the beautiful passage, which reads, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. ” (Galatians 2:20) This has become a classic passage for many, and describes the transformed life. The transformed life is all about Christ living in us, and us in Christ. My friend John Woodward has a website devoted to better understanding the transformed life, which can be found at www.gracenotebook.com. There, you can sign up to receive many good devotionals, sent to you by email daily, or at basically any rate that you like. This is a free service which John has been working on steadily for many years. It is also one of the very best resources I know on the web today for understanding and living the transformed life. But back to my main point.

Had it not been for the passage in Galatians 2, in which Paul calls out Simon Peter (by his name Cephas in Galatians 2:11), that entire passage would not exist, for it hinges on it and is derived directly from it. So then, out of bad teaching (which was formerly embraced by Simon Peter), comes this extraordinarily good teaching — that the Christian life is one that is lived by faith in the Son of God, and that it is Christ in us who is at work. Understanding this principle, in fact, is the basis for all of Christianity. So praise God for being able to use Simon Peter’s error in such a tremendous way as to produce this wonderful teaching. Truly, God does cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (see Romans 8:28)!

On the other hand, contrast what we read about Simon Peter in Galatians 2:11 with what many are teaching in the body of Christ concerning touching not the Lord’s “anointed”. By this, they mean leaders in the body of Christ. Now it’s important to get this straight, because there is some good teaching here, but there is also some deceptive teaching. My job — if I’m going to do it correctly (which I am called to do) — is to carefully separate truth from error so as to allow the Holy Spirit access to a place where He formerly did not have any access. And I can promise you that there is a place in this teaching where the Holy Spirit has been denied access — but to reject the teaching outright would also be dangerous, because there are some gems here, as well. What we’ve got here is a cancer in the midst of a good thing. Can we separate the cancer and leave the good thing untouched? I believe we can. But we are going to need to be careful. That cancer is Satanic, and I’m going to show you how it is, in this article. I am also going to show you that rejecting the teaching entirely is also Satanic, so we’re going to have to tread a very fine line. Can we do this thing? Yes, we can do it!

If you listen to the likes of some teachers, you will hear them say that, essentially, that to touch the Lord’s anointed is to take up any offense against any leader in the body of Christ. Thus, if a leader sins, you are to leave that leader alone and God will take care of it. If a leader is engaged in bad teaching, you are to leave that leader alone and not touch it. You are to pray for that leader and God will deal with it. If you are beaten and disparaged, or mocked and ridiculed by a leader, you are again not to say anything bad about that leader. Pray for him, and after a time, God will take care of it. Essentially, your attitude is important in this issue, and the teachers will tell you that you are being tested. Well, partly that is true. You certainly are being tested when you are persecuted, or badly treated. The word of God makes that very clear. And we are to pass that test. I love some of this teaching, because it highlights the importance of always maintaining a right attitude towards leaders. There is sometimes a lot of negativity towards leaders. Some of that is unhealthy. Probably a great deal of it is unhealthy. I would not go so far as to say that it is all unhealthy, because certainly in the land of Judah, when wicked Athaliah was reigning as queen, there must have been a very large displeasure by the people. How do I know? “So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet. For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword at the king’s house.” (2 Kings 11:20) Thus, there must have been a lot of complaining before that! Not every amount of complaining against authority is wrong. That woman, before that, had destroyed all the royal offspring (2 Kings 1:1). So there is the good. There is the bad. And there is the downright ugly. The people would have been groaning under this woman. Oppression by a leader is a good reason to seek God and humble yourself. Of course, how did that leader get there in the first place? Some unrighteouness must have been stirring in the land in some form or another. Thus, oppression like this should cause us to seek God all the more.

I like the fact that those who teach us not to “touch the Lord’s anointed” zoom in on the importance of praying for our leaders and not grumbling against them. There is a lot of merit to that. The good part of this teaching is that it seeks to promote a godly attitude towards leadership. All this is good. What is not so good is that the teaching usually goes much too far and extends beyond the biblical boundaries. The first real danger of this teaching is that it seeks to import a passage from the Old Testament and make it apply in a non-biblical way to the New Testament. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at the word “anointed”. This is in reference to the one God has chosen. The actual term in the Old Testament was reserved for the kings of Israel. These were the Lord’s anointed. However, in the New Testament, we come across a different teaching. All Christians are in fact anointed.

In the New Testament it says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” (1 John 2:20) And again, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27) So who are the Lord’s anointed in the New Testament? They are all His children — and that’s you and me, if you have genuine saving faith in Christ. So if it’s true that in the New Testament we are to “touch not the Lord’s anointed,” then who would that apply to? So the statement is really not transferrable, as is. So what has happened here? What has happened is that the term “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” has been imported from the Old Testament, but it does not quite fit. Conceptually, it’s quite good not to speak evil of rulers, and it’s important to honor leaders. But on a technical level, the passage is being misused, because the ones who are anointed are all Christians, for we are all anointed of God.

The “touch not the Lord’s anointed” teaching seeks to honor teaching from the New Testament about honoring leaders, which in fact, causes a huge problem in the end. We agree it’s important to honor leaders. But because each Christian is anointed of God, according to 1 John 2:27, this teaching has serious problems and has provided an opening for Satan. Why? Because it’s unbiblical, and all unbiblical teaching causes a door of opportunity to be opened for Satan. If we were to forget the line, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” and merely stick with New Testament teaching, we would do much better. How so? We would not get into the problem of using an Old Testament word (anointed) to mean something that it does not mean in the New Testament. In the Old Testament it means king of Israel or Judah. In the New Testament it means every follower of Christ. So when a person says, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” and seeks to apply that to church leaders, they are, in a word or two, royally confusing the definition. And Satan himself thrives on confusion. I’m not at all against honoring leaders. We should pray for them as the Bible tells us to (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Furthermore, we are told that those who rule well are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). I’m not sure if “double honor” means “double pay” … I think not! But regardless of what double honor means, those who lead are not the only ones who are “anointed of God” but rather, as Christians, we all are (according to 1 John 2:27).

This teaching is really important because now I’m about to come to the abusive part, which is where Satan gets his hook. This is where we need to carefully separate the good from the bad. Please be careful! This separation is not carefully done in most churches that teach this. In fact, I don’t think it’s done at all … otherwise, they would not be teaching this! First, in terms of authority, what type of authority was given to kings in the Old Testament? These men could put you to death. They could collect taxes. They could enact laws. This is a great deal of authority. It almost seems supreme. What about leaders in God’s household. What type of authority do they have from God? It is similar? Well, no, not at all. In fact, in the New Testament, Jesus contrasted Gentile kings with His own leaders. We read, ‘And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (Luke 22:25-26) What is in the mind of those who teach people to not touch the Lord’s anointed? Unfortunately, it is often the picture of the Old Testament king who was very much like the “kings of the Gentiles” which Jesus is talking about here. Do you see Jesus’s contrast? It’s hard to miss. So then, transferring “Do not touch the Lord’s anointed” from the Old Testament (kings) to New Testament (leaders) becomes extremely problematic. No wonder so many of the leaders of these churches where this type of thing is taught drive BMWs or Mercedes-Benzs. Am I against those types of cars? No comment. Except that I can tell you that from where I am standing, I have seen this happen many times where these leaders seem to be worshipped as some type of king. They get the royal carpet, and are not treated with double honor, but with 1000 times honor, and the people seem to love it. Why? They love it, because they love the model of a king who has authority over them, for they seek someone to control them. I know this sounds crazy, but a lot of the behavior that is exhibited is just like this. So “touch not the Lord’s anointed” does transfer, but it does not transfer in a very nice way!

It’s very important to make sure that word definitions line up, but because they do not line up, this is a very dangerous teaching. Leaders in the New Testament are not kings, they do not collect taxes, and they do not make laws. This presents with it a whole set of other problems, because many of these New Testament leaders (the “anointed” ones) do act as though they are tax collectors. For example, they institute the tithe, which if you examine it carefully, you will see that this was form of taxation in the Old Testament — so it was collected by the government. There was always freewill, and there was always required giving in both the Old and New Testaments. Required giving is taxation. Freewill giving is the type that happens in the sanctuary of God. Nowhere does Paul teach tithing. He would have if it had been required. We are called to give freely. Some people say the bar has been raised and we are to give more than 10 percent. But not even that is true! We are to give freely. Period. Give out of your heart. That is the teaching of the New Testament. So we can see that trying to import the teaching, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” into the New Testament carries with it a pile of problems.