Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are not to use anointing oil. However, it is important to consider how and for what purpose anointing oil was used in Bible times, and if it would serve any purpose today. Anointing the body or head with oil was a common practice with the Jews, as with other Oriental nations. God’s prophets, the Levitical Priesthood, and the High Priest, were all anointed to their offices. Anointing was also the principle and divinely-appointed ceremony in the inauguration of Israel’s kings. In most instances it was a visual token of the special office of service that the individual was entering into.
Additionally, oil was used extensively for its medicinal qualities. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are told the Samaritan poured oil on the wounds of the injured traveler. (Luke 10:34) We do know that anointing with oil was a Jewish practice that was not mentioned amongst the Gentiles.
There are only two scriptural passages in the New Testament which mention anointing oil in connection with healing. Mark 6:13 is the first account that follows the commission by Jesus for the disciples to go out in pairs to work miracles on his behalf. It states “And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.” Whether the oil was used for its medicinal benefit or as a visual symbol of God’s grace being extended to the one being healed, the miracle was performed through the faith of the disciples and by the power of God. The oil itself had no value. It is interesting to note that the apostle Paul, the most prominent of all the apostles, never used anointing oil when he performed miracles. It is also important to realize that the apostles never prayed for healings on their own behalf. The only exception was when Paul asked the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” a request that was denied. (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9) The fact that the gift of healing passed away with the death of the apostles, would seem to suggest that the practice of anointing with oil likewise was to end. As Christianity took root and began to grow, miraculous gifts were no longer necessary.
The second passage where anointing oil is mentioned is found in James 5:14-15. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” The sickness mentioned in these verses may not have been a physical ailment. Any spiritual weakness, feelings of alienation from God, or backsliding into sinful habits could be a reason for an individual to request prayers and spiritual support from the elders in his fellowship. Notice again, it was the prayer for forgiveness offered in faith that was answered, not any value in the oil that caused the afflicted one to be restored. It may also be that this anointing with oil was symbolic of the holy spirit working in the hearts and minds of the elders, and the collective strengthening influence they would have on the one who is struggling with their faith. “The prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) The call to Christians during this age is a call to serve, sacrifice, and suffer for the name of the Lord. It would be inappropriate for a dedicated Christian who has placed his life in the hands of the Lord to pray for physical healing or for the removal of difficult trials, whether physical or otherwise. However, asking for help in one’s spiritual struggles and growth is entirely appropriate. “We glory in tribulation, knowing tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the holy spirit that was given to us.” (Romans 5: 3- 5) In all experiences of life our attitude should be that of our Lord’s when he prayed, “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).