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September 9, 2018 The Laying on of Hands

 

Scripture reading: Hebrews 6:1-3.

 

Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God,2 teaching about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this is what we intend to do, if God permits. (New English Translation)

 

{I. Introduction] The church must go on to maturity. Indeed, I have already given many messages that have delved into the more mature doctrines of the faith. As I was considering this passage of Scripture, I realized that there was one of the elementary doctrines that has been neglected. You all have received instruction about repentance, faith, baptisms (both water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit), the resurrection (both the Lord’s and ours), and eternal judgment. We have not talked to any great extent about the laying on of hands. Yet, the author of Hebrews lists this as an “elementary instruction.” It is one of the “foundations” of the faith. Therefore, it deserves our attention.

 

It has been neglected by the church in the modern era. The first four years that I was a Christian I met with a Bible-believing denomination and never missed a church service nor Sunday School class. Yet, in all that time I never heard a single teaching about the laying on of hands. Then I met with a dynamic, Spirit-filled church while I was in college for five years. Although that church was a great blessing to me and I learned a great deal, I never heard a single teaching on the laying on of hands.

 

Of course, we must become familiar with the laying on of hands because it is an elementary teaching. We should also understand it so that we can move on to maturity. We must have the basics down before we tackle the more mature doctrines. Besides these two reasons I wish to give more reasons why we must understand the laying on of hands.

 

[II.] We must understand the laying on of hands because it was a practice of our Lord and Savior. And, we are to be like Jesus. We are to emulate his life if the things that he did can be apprehended. There are some things that he did that we cannot do. We cannot sacrifice ourselves for sin. We cannot raise the dead. We cannot speak infallibly. But those things are, actually, exceptions. They are prerogatives of his divine nature. Most of our Lord’s acts when he walked this earth issued from his humanity. Therefore, we must be like him in those ways.

 

whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. [1]

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.[2]

 

Let us see, then, that he laid hands upon people often.

 

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.[3]

 

See, in verse 13, that Jesus laid his hands upon this woman and she was healed.

 

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. [4]

 

And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching. [5]

 

Two incidental, but important, things may be observed about this passage. First, the power of God being manifested and applied is partly dependant upon belief. This is by God’s design, for God can do any miracles He sees fit to do without the help of man, including man’s faith. However, God has chosen to make his work known, including demonstrations of power, through our faith; that is, through believing what he has revealed. Secondly, Jesus’s main ministry before his great sacrifice was teaching and bearing witness to the truth (Jn. 18:37). His miracles were to confirm that his teachings were true (Hebrews 2:3-4). Hence, this should be our main ministry as well – teaching others what God has commanded and to observe what God has commanded (Mat. 28:20).

 

But, do see that Jesus laid his hands on some who were sick and then they were healed (vs. 5).

 

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.[6]

 

Again, we see that Jesus laid his hands upon the man’s eyes, this time twice, before he was healed.

 

We must understand the laying on of hands because it was a practice of our Lord and Savior.

 

[III.] We must understand the laying on of hands because it was the practice of the apostles.

 

Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. [7]

 

Here we see that the apostle Paul laid his hands upon the father of a leading official and healed him. Not only was this man healed but many came from this island to Paul and he healed them as well.

 

The apostles not only healed people through the laying on of hands, but also imparted the Holy Spirit through this means.

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. [8]

 

At this point some may be thinking, “Well, yes, this is Jesus and the apostles. Jesus was the Son of God and the apostles had a unique, one-time ministry. We ought not to expect that this practice to be continued today.” If you think in this way it is both natural and rational. Therefore, we need to see that…

 

[IV.] We must understand the laying on of hands because it was the practice of the common believers.

 

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. [9]

 

This is the account of how the apostle Paul was saved and commissioned by the Lord. It was not another apostle that laid hands upon Paul. It was Ananias. When he put his hands upon him his sight was restored and Paul received the Holy Spirit.

 

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [10]

 

Here is a promise from the Lord Jesus Himself. It is a promise for “those who believe.” Do you believe? Then this promise is for you! They will cast out demons. They will speak in new languages. They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.

 

Now, there is also a promise about not being hurt by serpents and poison. Is this still true? It is for those who believe, so there is no reason to think that these promises are not still in force. However, that doesn’t mean we need to be foolish about it. Recently, there was a pastor of a church that was dancing around with a venomous snake in his hands and it bit him. He came very close to death. In fact, his father dies doing the same thing. I do not see how that is nothing less than putting the Lord our God to the test, which we are forbidden to do (Deut. 6:16; Matt. 4:7). This promise is for those who are laboring for the sake of the gospel and come across the obstacles of the enemy to hinder them. Those will be protected. Not dancers in a church who are testing God contrary to his will.

 

Those who believe will lay hands on the sick and they will be healed. This practice is not just for the apostles.

 

[V.] We must understand the laying on of hands because this was the practice of early church after the apostolic age. Some naysayers may still object, saying that the gifts imparted by the laying on of hands (e.g., healing, the receiving of the Holy Spirit in power, special gifts [2 Tim 1:6]), was just for the first century when the church was new and needed this sort of thing. They say it wasn’t needed after the first century.

 

This is where church history important. What the church taught and practiced in the first few centuries is relevant because the teaching of the apostles that had been passed on to their disciples and then to their disciple’s disciples was put into practice. The writings of the early church leaders reveal what these teachings and practices were.

 

“Next, the hand is laid on us, invoking and inviting  the Holy Spirit, through prayer.” – Tertullian, 198 AD[11]

 

So, we see that in the second century the laying on of hands was still being practiced. Here, as elsewhere, this receiving of the Holy Spirit is for power. All those who exercise faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus receive the Holy Spirit upon regeneration, that is, they receive the Spirit to indwell them and give them life. In the New Testament, when the apostles and Ananias laid hands upon some, the were filled with the Holy Spirit in greater measure.

 

“Prayer being made for [the Samaritans whom Philip baptized] and hands being placed  on them, the Holy Spirit was invoked and poured out upon them. This same thing is now done among us, too…by our prayers and by the imposition of hands, they obtain the Holy Spirit and are perfected with the Lord’s seal.” – Cyprian, 250 AD[12]

 

The laying on of hands was not only still being practiced in the third century, but it was effective to grant the Holy Spirit according to Cyprian.

 

Saint Patrick, who carried out his ministry in the fifth century, laid hands upon people and they would be healed of sickness.[13]

 

The laying on of hands was the practice of the post-apostolic church. It is something that has been lost through neglect or a lack of faith.

 

[VI. The Dynamics of the Laying on of Hands] What happens when hands are laid upon those who have faith? In order to answer this question we need to avoid speculation and look to God’s revealed word.

 

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” [14]

 

Jesus says that power went out from him into the woman who was not well. This happened by her simply touching his clothes! There was a transfer of power.

 

And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. [15]

 

It is clear, then, that power comes out from the one who can heal and healing is effected in the receiver.

 

Who has this power? Every child of God has this power. Some may have the special gift of healing. This only means that they have the power in greater measure. But all those who belong to Christ have it. Many of those who have it do not realize that they have it and so do not have faith to exercise it.

 

When I was a college student in California I was with two brothers at their apartment and one of them said, “My back has been hurting me a great deal. Lay hands on my back so that I might be healed.” At that time I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to do anything, but I’ll do it just because he asked.” So I laid hands upon him and prayed. He was sitting on his couch, his back away from the upright portion so that we could lay hands on him. He stood up and started moving his back and arms. “It’s gone! My pain is gone!” I had no faith in healing those many years ago but this young Christian did! Power went out from both of us into him and he was healed!

 

Around that same time I was in a home meeting at a pastor’s house. This was a man who operated in the power of God. But I was a skeptic about those sorts of things. Dennis, the pastor, asked if anyone needed prayer. I sister raised her hand and shared, just like my friend had done, that her back was in great pain. Dennis then closed his eyes and said, “The person who is to pray for you will feel a hot, burning sensation in their hands.” When he said this I thought to myself, “What a bunch of baloney this is.” But I no sooner had that thought when I felt a hot, burning sensation in my hands! Needless to say, I was shocked! Yet, I did not want to be disobedient to the heavenly message, so I got up and laid hands on this sister’s back. If I recall correctly I do not think that she experienced any immediate relief, as did the brother, but that experience taught me that God still works in mysterious ways.

 

The laying on of hands transfers divine power from the one placing their hands to the one who is being touched.

 

[VII. Conclusion] We still need the elementary teachings. They are a foundation for a life that can be blessed by the Lord. The laying on of hands is an avenue to receive healing, the filling of the Spirit, or the endowment of a gift. If you desire on of these then come forward now and you may have hands laid upon you and receive what the Lord has for you.

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 2:6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Philippians 1:21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 13:10–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:13–15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 6:5–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 8:22–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 28:7–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 19:1–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 9:10–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 16:17–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[11] David W. Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: a Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), 327.

 

[12] Ibid.

[13] Keith Sherwood, The Art of Spiritual Healing: Chakra and Energy Bodywork, 2nd ed. (Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2016), 142.

 

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 8:40–48). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 6:17–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.