#7 in the Series the 7 Most Commonly Misused and Abused Bible Verses in Church
Satan does not typically reveal his evil intentions and nature as he tries to tempt you. You can probably understand this decision, as very few people would fall prey to him if he led off with:
“Hi, I’m Satan and it is my great desire to trick you into wasting your life, making you miserable, and destroying yourself”.
It is not a great sales tactic.
Instead of the truth, Satan pursues his malevolent goals by hiding behind something that appears good.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
One of the more effective ways to carry out this deceptions with Christians is using the Bible. Your spiritual enemy attempts to hijack the authority of the Word of God through applying it badly, quoting it incompletely, or simply just twisting it to make it say things that it clearly does not say.
Despite the timelessness of this tactic, it is surprisingly easy to defeat. All you need to do is look to God’s Word itself. read the verses in context and compare them with what people claim its says. You will be surprised how often just reading the entire passage defangs a false argument.
This was my encouragement to you as this series, the 7 Most Commonly Misused and Abused Bible Verses in Church, began:
“Instead, He called on you to vigorously test everything you hear against the Word to ensure that it is reliable. This means not only when something strikes you as wrong in a sermon, but consistently following along with teachings like the church in Berea to make sure that it is not only throwing Bible verses at you, but also applying them correctly.”
I start my examination in this with #7 – “Touch Not Mine Anointed”.
Though this unbiblical concept is not as common as those above it, it is pure poison in so many ways. It not only badly applies the Old Testament, but does so in way that invites abuses of power and covering up of sins. It has been used consistently to excuse and condone the poor treatment of God’s people as a result.
It is therefore a great starting point for examining these poor Bible applications.
“Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do My prophets no harm.”
1 Chronicles 16:22
And the often cited related verses in support of the same principle:
And he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.”
1 Samuel 24:6
The Claim – God Loves Your Leader More than You
The Bible certainly sets out the need for men to guide the Lord’s people and exercise spiritual authority in the church. These leaders are called to be servants of all in the church. They are supposed to follow the model of Jesus in character, attitude and actions in doing so. Yet, despite Jesus’ clear example and His call to humility, accountability, and service, the ways of men can creep in. This often manifests in their reaction to criticism and wielding of power. You may have experienced this when a church leader summarily dismissed critics or questions by rolling out the idea of:
“Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed” or “Touch Not Mine Anointed”.
This expression sounds important and Biblical in nature. It often feels like an expression of Godly authority when said. It tends to appeal to your desire to be certain and secure in your beliefs. Yet, it is not Biblical. It also has been used on many occasions for ugly purposes. It tends to be deployed to allow a leader to refuse to be held accountable, end any discussion, and silence dissent. Anything that the leader feels is “touching the anointed” – them – can be hand waved away at their discretion with the implied approval of God.
Bad teaching, financial impropriety, questions about doctrine, parking space issues, sexual inappropriateness and abuse, authoritarian leadership, $2,000 suits, $1,000 sneakers and multi-million dollar homes – you are not allowed to bring those up:
Hand wave – “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed” –
Translation – I don’t have to answer to you because God says I am better than you.
The highly flawed logic underlying this claim is that leaders of the church are like the “anointed” men from the verses cited and therefore should never be questioned or criticized. It is only God who can call them to task or remove them from their position.
Here is one real example of this deceptive claim from a self declared “Apostle”:
The servants of God stand or fall before Him;
you have no authority to judge them, only God does.
In whatsoever you do, do not touch the Lord’s anointed.
Apostle Grace ******* (name withheld)
This may seem insane and abusive, yet this argument is regularly used to prop up leaders caught in open sin and to justify ministries that are harmful in nature. Rather than be required to answer a critic or respond to a wounded Christian, the leader need only declare:
“Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed”
Do you see how the claimed authority of God to first diminish and then silence and shame anyone who would dare question them?
No matter the nature of your concern, hurt, criticism, or issue, you have no permission to have it and certainly no authority to express it. The core message is terribly unloving and abusive in nature. It is nothing like Jesus.
This is good old fashioned sin at work.
The Huge Problems with “Touch Not Mine Anointed”.
Jesus loves you! Really, It is Important!
There are so many issues with this claim that it is difficult to list them all.
Yet, the simplest and most powerful starting point to disarming this terrible message lies in Jesus and His Gospel. Your Lord and Savior, Jesus, loves you perfectly and valued you so much He died for you. He does not seek to silence you, demean you, or treat you like a second class citizen of heaven. Jesus does not ever ask you to accept what these teachers try to crush you with. Though the ideas involved invoke God’s Word, they does so deceptively and only to twist them to make them contradict the message of the Gospel.
Think about the stark ludicrous contrast involved –
Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. If anyone had the right to “big time” you, claim He was too important, and stay far from you, it is Jesus. Yet, He chose to get up from the Throne of Heaven and earth and come down to live with you and love you.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Yet, leaders who are puny in comparison claim they are too important to do so?
Jesus’ sort of love never dismisses or silences you when you are troubled. Jesus type of love does not discard you when you ask inconvenient questions. In what is the exact opposite of man’s claims, rather than driving you away, Jesus calls you to come boldly to His throne and promises you will find His grace and mercy when you are there. He never presents leadership as looking like coldly exerting authority or hiding behind His position. The entire point of His coming as a man was just the opposite:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
You and I are the ungodly. Christ came for us when we were totally wrong and in open rebellion against Him rather than let us face what we deserve. When compared to Jesus, the entire framework of “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed” can be seen as nonsensical in concept.
The Apostle Thomas famously doubted Jesus and His resurrection. Thomas was definitely critical of Jesus’ work and plan.
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
What was Jesus’ response?
And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
The title of “Christ” literally means the Anointed One and He invites his critic to come up close and personal with Him. He called Thomas to literally touch the Anointed On. The contrast between the claims made and the actions of Jesus is amazingly clear.
You Are Not Under the Law
The Old Testament is wonderful in so many ways. Yet, one of the most common tactics of false teachers and those with agendas is to misapply the Old Testament to a disciple of Jesus and to His church. Paul dealt with this same issue repeatedly in his letters.
Put simply, you cannot lay rules and requirements of the Old Testament on top of the New Testament church without ignoring Jesus and the meaning of the New Testament.
This does not mean discarding the Old Testament in any way or that it is bad. Rather, proper understanding of the Old Testament involves accepting what Jesus Himself said – Jesus fulfilled the Law or You cannot put new wine in old wine skins. This means that you cannot directly apply some of the ideas, doctrines, and lessons in the Old Testament onto the New Testament on a one to one basis without harming them both. You are not under the Law. You are not an Old Testament figure.
Trying to live in exactly the same way as before the Cross results in you missing the entire point of the Gospel…and the Old Testament.
“Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed” and its associated Old Testament passages are a clear example of the many problems with issue.
The context of 1 Chronicles 16 is song of praise. The specific passage relied upon involves praising God for protecting the patriarchs and prophets of Israel early in the history of the nation.
Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,”
When you were few in number,
Indeed very few, and strangers in it.
When they went from one nation to another,
And from one kingdom to another people,
He permitted no man to do them wrong;
Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes,
Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do My prophets no harm.”
1 Chronicles 16:18-22
These verses are certainly true and wonderful as applied to the situation set out in them. God remains faithful to His people and deserves to be praised. Yet, God never says in the Bible that this passage applies as to the New Testament Church – in any way.
The passage itself unequivocally identifies to whom it refers – the patriarchs – and when – in the early years of Israel. There is nothing in it that addresses leaders of the church of the New Testament. It should be obvious to say, but to be clear, there is also nothing that would carry the words over from this passage to the church, because:
Pastors and elders are not priests or prophets.
New Testament leaders are not the Patriarchs.
People who have questions, concerns, or criticisms of a leader are nothing like the Amorites or Amalekites – some of the Old Testament enemies of Israel.
Thus, there is nothing from verses themselves to indicate God meant them for the New Testament church. There is no reason to apply them as a result.
The application of the related passage 1 Samuel is similar flawed. It deals with David’s interaction with Saul, the King of Israel. Saul was specifically chosen and anointed King by God and David refused to raise his hand against him as a result. Again, it should go without saying that:
New Testament church leaders are not Kings of Israel.
New Testament pastors, elders, and leaders are not anointed like King Saul or King David.
The only Anointed One who matters in the New Testament, by position, is Jesus.
Since neither the passage nor the New Testament says anything that would lead to applying the idea of “Touching Not” to leaders of God’s church, it should never be read as such. It simply does not apply.
Thankfully, the church has 27 books of the Bible that God did directly to us. This brings up the second major issue with “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed”.
“Touch Not Mine Anointed” Contradicts the New Testament
The deeply troubling nature of this sort claim is even clearer once it is compared with the New Testament. The Bible is not silent on the qualifications, duties, and responsibilities of a New Testament leader. There is no need to search around in the Old Testament for what is clearly spelled out by Jesus and the early church.
The idea that leaders should not be “touched” taken to mean criticized or called to answer for their wrongdoing is never present in the New Testament. In fact, it consistently states just the opposite many times in different ways.
Jesus’s teachings and example, discussed above, never includes wielding authority as contemplated such a claim. Jesus was up close and personal with everyone. He ate with His critics and even washed Judas’ feet. He lived out His directions to you as disciple:
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
The church leader who sets himself up as the untouchable anointed one misses the point of Jesus’ words and life. That sort of pastor does fits comfortably within the description of a ruler of the Gentiles, though, which is exactly the problem.
The New Testament also does not create an upper and lower class of Christian as contemplated by this doctrine. There is no artificial separation between those who are called to lead and those with other roles in the church. The “professional” ministers are not better than or in any way superior to the laity – there is no first class anointed and coach non-anointed.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11
Pastors and leaders are not the prophets, kings, or priests of the Old Testament. They are not in a separate category of Christians set above the rest. They have one role among many and are just as saved by grace as every one else.
The New Testament is also abundantly clear that teachers should be questioned. As stated in the post that started this series:
The Bible warns of many false teachers who will come and shamelessly twist the Word for their own gain. There are also those who are not as overtly evilly motivated, but are not as careful with the Bible and mistakenly veer from the intended meaning of verses.
This is why God never says just take someone’s word for what the Bible teaches. He gave you a duty to make sure those who claim to be working for God teaching His Word are actually doing so:
Now these people were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. For many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1
Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
God does not ask you to sit back and passively accept the authority of any man. “Trust me, bro” is not a firm foundation on which to base your faith. That opens the door to teachings that misuse, abuse, and hijack verses from God’s purpose and intended meaning under the guise of His authority. It is only Jesus who bought you with a price and it is to Him your loyalty is owed.
Instead, He called on you to vigorously test everything you hear against the Word to ensure that it is reliable.
The Bible does encourage the church to honor and support Godly leaders. It also provides a word of caution about accusations against pastors, elders, or bishops. Yet, the New Testament never says leaders – whether they call themselves pastor, prophets, or apostles – are only answerable to God. In fact, it says just the opposite:
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.
Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
1 Timothy 5:17-20
Do you see what it says there in verse 20?
Those leaders who are sinning rebuke publicly. That is impossible if no one has authority over leaders but God – sorry, Apostle Grace. Since the New Testament directions and expectations for leaders are very clear and seem to be diametrically opposed to the claim that you should “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed”, you can see there is no room for them among God’s people.