The Power of the ‘Fathers’ Anointing
” But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’ ” (Luke 1:13,17).
The angel foretold, and Jesus confirmed, that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah, who would go ahead of Christ with the specific purpose of turning the hearts of fathers and children to each other, and to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord. In Matthew 17 Jesus replied to His disciples’ questions concerning the prophesied coming of Elijah, and made the following comment. “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things”. This is clearly a reference to a yet future outworking of the prophecy, but to this He added, “But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, … the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10-13, also 11:13-14). Thus, Jesus Himself has made it very clear that this prophecy will be fulfilled twice.
Whilst John the Baptist was the specific fulfilment of the prophecy in relation to Christ’s first coming, Christ is coming again. And it is the second coming of Jesus which is more specifically referred to in the words of Malachi 4:5.
Both Elijah and John are types of the apostolic ministry, as we can see from these words in Luke’s gospel, “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ ” (Luke 7:26-27). The coming apostles are the ones who “will restore all things” and “make ready a people” for the Lord, as we have discussed earlier.
These apostles do come in “the spirit and power of Elijah”, and several similarities immediately occur to us when the ministries of Elijah and John the Baptist are compared with that of modern apostles. They were reformers, they spoke with a powerful authority, and were ‘sent’ to prepare a people for the Lord by changing their hearts and turning them back to God. Furthermore, they were spiritual fathers who pointed the people to another.
Elijah pointed Israel back to the true God, the God who could answer by fire, whilst confronting the false religion and idolatry of his day. John the Baptist also turned Israel back to righteousness, preparing them for Jesus, and pointing them to Jesus whilst, again, aggressively and forthrightly confronting the false religion and idolatry of the nation. Both Elijah and John were dealing with, not the idolatry of the pagans, but the idolatry of the people of God. Apostles today who come in the spirit and power of Elijah are likewise, ‘fathers’ who bring reform, pointing the believers to Christ, and challenging the idolatry and false religion that is in the church.
The ‘spirit and power of Elijah’ is actually an anointing — the anointing of a father. Elijah was not only a father to a son in the ministry, and to Israel, but one who successfully passed his ‘spirit’, that is, his anointing (the spiritual power and gift that God had given him) to another. Moreover, his son received it in double portion. This is the way the ministry of Jesus Christ is meant to function.
The ‘spirit of Elijah’ is not something that guarantees miracles. John the Baptist did not work miracles, and it was never God’s intention that he should. The degree to which the miraculous is a part of the apostle’s ministry will depend upon the purposes of God. According to Luke 1:17, the purpose of the spirit of Elijah i.e. the ‘fathers’ anointing, is to turn the hearts of God’s people to each other and to God. Specifically, it is to turn “the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers”, and as well, the “disobedient to the wisdom of
the righteous”, in preparation of God’s people for the coming of Christ.
This is a powerful and essential work that must be done, and for which God sends apostles. It takes great power to achieve these results, and that power is given to apostles. Note again, however, that the nature of that power is that it is a fathering anointing. It cannot be said that someone ministers in the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, unless they have the heart of the father. This is a grace, an anointing, and a wisdom in the heart given by the Spirit. The genuine apostle has a heart for his children, and creates in others also this love
of relationship, of personal covenant commitment from the heart to one another, as the true nature of the family of God.
Paul & Timothy as Father & Son
In the New Testament, the revelation of fathering and sonship in ministry is made quite plain by Paul’s words concerning both Timothy and Titus. Of the former he wrote, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).
He wrote similarly to others, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Philippians 2:19-22).
The relationship was real, not contrived, as seen in his personal manner of address to Timothy, “To Timothy my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), and also to Titus (Titus 1:4).
Paul exhorted the Corinthians to imitate his ways in Christ, which he had taught them previously. He could not go to be with them at that time of need, so to help them imitate his example, he sent Timothy. As Paul’s son in the ministry, Timothy would guide the Corinthians in living for Christ according to Paul’s example. The situation needed Paul’s personal attention, so in response to the need he was not going to send just anyone, not just any teacher. He could only send one kind of person, one who had the heart of the father. He sent his son. Of him he said, “my son whom I love …is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ” (1 Timothy 4:17). Here is our model for the relationships that are the essence of true Christianity. The apostolic church is to reflect the nature of a Father/Son God, a relationship in which the son is of the same essence and nature as the father, is one with the father. A
relationship in which the son does what the father’s heart desires, and the father expresses himself through the son. This has to be the spirit of us all. The heart for this has to be restored to the church. This is apostolic Christianity.
The Relational Ministry
The ministry of the church must function through its ministers being in relationships of this kind. We also, not just the Corinthians, are urged to “imitate” Paul. The exhortation to “imitate …my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere” is now a scriptural command, and one which instructs us to imitate his relationships, values and lifestyle. Paul’s ‘way of life’ meant total commitment to these covenant relationships, which were very heartfelt, and personal, and permanent, as in any real family. Each of us is to be a son to a father, and to become a father to sons. The pastor of every church or fellowship should be a son to an apostle. Every such pastor or church should have an apostle as a father, and these relationships should be personal and wholesomely intimate. They require openness, honesty, transparency, and accountability. Their purpose is oneness and unity, as well as strengthening and encouragement. Further, the nature of these relationships of the heart must extend to everyone in the fellowship. Every believer will be helped into appropriate oneness in the body, and have supporting and accountable relationships, as they see the example of their leaders and are helped to understand the relationship dynamics of following Christ. The subordinate leaders, or the leadership team, must be fathers, sons and true brothers to each other.
Ultimately, each believer should be a Timothy to a Paul, and a Paul to a Timothy; and each of us should be a Barnabas to our Paul’s, or a Paul to Barnabas’, as well. This is the simple New Testament model for every believer to follow in being a father, a son, and a brother, in the ministry.
Need for Relational Ministry Training
Unfortunately, something else has been happening in much of institutional Christianity. Young people in the church would feel the ‘call to the ministry’ (i.e. the call to become pastors or missionaries), but the local church would say goodbye, and the denominational institution would take them over. No longer did the local church speak into the lives of those young people. The very womb that had born and nurtured them often had no further relationship with them. When they did come back to visit, a year or two later, or five or ten, it was never the same. The
relationship had changed. Institutionalism swallows up the candidates for the ministry. When they leave their local church, they are on fire for God, but after the years of being put through the ‘sausage machine’ of institutional training, they are cold and formal. They have often been trained in scepticism, and almost never in faith. For too many of these young people, the fire has been ‘educated’ out of them, and now the denominational parameters are locked in place, even more than before. It will take them years at the front lines of spiritual struggle in ministry to throw off those shackles, if they ever do, or else for the rest of their lives they are prisoners of traditional mindsets. Am I making it seem worse than it is? I don’t think I am in much of the case. I know there will be many exceptions, but I am here realistically comparing and contrasting institutional Christianity and its traditions, with apostolic Christianity, which is the life of Christ.
This is not to denounce education as such, or the many godly people called of God who are working earnestly to equip church leaders. There are a variety of effective ministries that provide a sound spiritual and biblical education for believers wanting to equip themselves for a life of service to Christ. The instruction and discipline of everyone for the ministry of Jesus Christ is vital. My comments are directed to the manner, or the spirit, in which this takes place, especially concerning the relational and personal nature of what that equipping should be.
It is critical that the pursuit of someone’s call to serve Christ should not be removed from accountable covenant relationships, wherein we walk with others in our pursuit of the Christ.
Christian ministry education should not be academic for its own sake, and institutions should not provide an education with an institutional mindset for the purpose of creating bondservants of the institution. Where should those ‘called’ be trained for the ministry? Allowing for exceptions, and the freedom and variety which the Spirit gives, generally they should be equipped under those who have the annointings for the ministry, that is, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers, in the very the life of the church. They should be trained in the community of faith, during the thrust of the battle, and under the immediate authority of those over them in the Lord, as were all
the ministers of grace who appear in Holy Scripture, who are our very inspiration.