What does the Bible say about the Laying on of Hands?

What does the Bible say about the Laying on of Hands?

The laying on of hands is an act in which one person places his hands upon the body of another person with some definite spiritual purpose.

The laying on of hands has great significance as a religious rite or ceremony in the Bible and in the history of the Christian church. As a matter of fact, it is considered one of the foundational doctrines of the church.

Purposes of the Laying on of Hands

The religious rite of laying on of hands is often associated with the bestowal of divine blessings and authority upon a person; it is also used as a special form of recognition for persons set apart for God’s service, in the Old Testament practice of sacrifice, and for healing.

To Bless and Consecrate

In the old Testament, Abraham and the other patriarchs placed hands on their descendants to confirm a birthright or to convey a special blessing, as when Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:14, 18). By this method, the possession of the covenant blessings was transferred from himself to his progeny.

Sometimes, the ceremony also implied the transfer of authority.

Purpose of the Laying On of Hands

In Numbers 27:12-14, God showed Moses the land that He promised to the nation of Israel from afar. But he won’t be able to enter it because he will be gathered to his people as a result of his rebellion at the waters of Meribah.

So Moses appointed Joshua to be his successor and laid his hands on him as the Lord commanded (Numbers 27:18-20). By this act, Moses empowered Joshua and Joshua was said to be “full of the spirit of wisdom” (Deuteronomy 34:9).

Also in Numbers 8:5-20, the Levites were given authority to serve on behalf of the Israelites, when gathered at the Tabernacle, the people placed their hands upon the heads of the Levites.

Transfer of Sins to Sacrificial Animals

On the Day of Atonement, the high priest placed his hands on the head of a goat before releasing it into the wilderness.

Leviticus 16:21-22

“Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land, and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”

Through this rite, the high priest symbolically transferred the sins of the people to the scapegoat. Identification of transfer of sins to sacrificial animals as a substitute for the people may also be implied in the burnt offering presented by the priests in the Old Testament times (Leviticus 1:4).

Commissioned as Representatives before God

In the New Testament, the laying on of hands is used for commissioning God’s people into the ministry. In Acts 6:6, when the church appointed seven men (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas) to serve as official assistants to the apostles, they prayed and laid their hands on them.

The laying on of hands also served as a formal declaration of identification by the church at Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, whom they were sending out as missionaries (Acts 13:2-3).

Commissioned into God’s Service

Young Timothy was the recipient of grace for his appointed service when the elders placed their hands on him, and Paul instructed him not to neglect the gift given to him by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership (1 Timothy 4:14).

Timothy was sent off for a specific assignment with the public recognition of the church leaders not only by their words but through the visible and tangible laying on of their hands. Later on, Timothy was instructed by Paul to also do his part in commissioning others.

This charge from Paul comes in a section about elders to honor the good and discipline the bad (1 Timothy 5:17-25). So when church leaders formally lay their hands on someone for a particular ministry, they put their seal of approval on the candidate and share in the fruitfulness and failures to come.

For Healing

Placing hands on persons in need of healing has a strong biblical precedent as well. Although there had been times when Jesus healed the sick without necessarily laying His hands on them, He certainly laid His hands on many of those He healed (Mark 6:5; Mark 8:22-25; Luke 4:40; Luke 13:13).

What does the Bible say about the Laying On of Hands

Laying on of hands is one of the ordained ways to heal the sick (Mark 16:18). And Jesus promised that any believer could do this, including you. You can lay hands on the sick and see them get better. You just have to open yourself up to God and allow Him to heal through you.

*Related Article: Why Does God Not Heal Everyone Who Asks in Faith for Healing?

However, this does not mean every sick person you pray for and lay your hands on will be healed. At the end of the day, God is still God and He is sovereign. So whether God chooses to heal or not to heal is all up to Him. But it is every believer’s responsibility to pray for the sick and lay their hands on them.

To Impart the Power of the Holy Spirit

Although the impartation of the Holy Spirit does not always come through the laying on of hands such as what we read in Acts 10:44-46, there appears to be a connection between the laying on of hands and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17-19; Acts 19:1-6).

Since the days of the apostles, the laying on of hands after baptism signified the actual moment of the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

The laying on of hands is a powerful biblical truth which the church today should embrace with knowledge and wisdom. God is still in the business of calling people into His service and equip them to be more effective and productive.

1 Timothy 4:14

However, we need to understand that the hands have no power in themselves. It is the Holy Spirit who will work in us and through us; we’ll just have to exercise faith and fully submit ourselves to God and His purpose.

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