What is chrismation, and is it biblical?

Chrismation is a rite that is performed in the Orthodox Church and seen as the time during which the Holy Spirit comes upon the individual. It is viewed as a sacrament in the Orthodox Church, meaning, it is viewed as a method of receiving God's grace. It bears some similarities to confirmation in the Catholic Church. In the Orthodox Church, chrismation goes hand-in-hand with baptism. Baptism serves as a picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus, while chrismation serves as a picture of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person. During chrismation, the individual's body is anointed with a blend of oils called holy chrism or myrrh. It generally directly follows a person's baptism, often as an infant but chrismation is also performed for adults.

The Orthodox Church in America has an official description of chrismation on their website. They describe chrismation in this way: "In chrismation a person is given the 'power from on high' (Acts 1—2), the gift of the Spirit of God, in order to live the new life received in baptism. He is anointed, just as Christ the Messiah is the Anointed One of God. He becomes—as the fathers of the Church dared to put it—a 'christ' together with Jesus. Thus, through chrismation we become a 'christ,' a son of God, a person upon whom the Holy Spirit dwells, a person in whom the Holy Spirit lives and acts—as long as we want him and cooperate with his powerful and holy inspiration."

If viewed as only a portrayal of how the Holy Spirit indwells a believer, chrismation could be considered a thoughtful ritual and an opportunity for contemplation. The Orthodox Church, however, believes that this rite is necessary in order for one to be filled with the Spirit: "Thus, it is only after our chrismation that the baptismal procession is made and that we hear the epistle and the gospel of our salvation and illumination in Christ" (see https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/chrismation). The belief that the rite is completely literal is an unbiblical one because chrismation is never mentioned within the Bible.

In John 14, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come to all who believe in Him: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:16–17; see also Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit indwells believers at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13–14). The Lord freely gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). From a biblical perspective, chrismation plays no part in actually receiving the Holy Spirit. Baptism is spoken of as an ordinance within the Bible, meant to be a physical demonstration of what happens in salvation and intended for professing believers, not infants. Grace is not received through baptism; rather baptism is a picture of the grace through which salvation is received by faith.

If we had to do something to earn the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives, that would be unbiblical, because the Spirit comes with our salvation. Just as we cannot earn our salvation, neither can we do anything to "earn" the Spirit's indwelling (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8–9, 18). The Holy Spirit indwells all who truly believe and, on the other hand, will not indwell those who may not truly believe but go through the performance of a rite. The Holy Spirit's presence in our lives is how we access God the Father and is a sign of our being in Christ: "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14).

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