September 15, 2019 Laying on of Hands

The Laying on of Hands

Scripture reading:  Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings (or, baptisms), the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.1

[I. Introduction] We have been pressing on to maturity.  For several years now we have been learning some of the deeper doctrines found in the Bible. Sometimes, it is worthwhile to revisit the foundations. Here, the author of Hebrews considers the doctrines listed as “elementary.” It is a sad commentary upon the state of the church in this country when even the elementary teachings are either unknown or misunderstood. 

There is a segment of the church, for example, that actually teaches that one does not need to repent in order to have one’s sins forgiven. More widespread than this is the misunderstanding of faith even among evangelicals. Many have the notion that “faith” is just agreeing with something. But, the biblical use of the word means more than mental assent. Faith is trust. It is reliance. It is a giving-over of one’s heart, mind, and life. There is no such thing as genuine faith without a changed life. Yet, so many made some kind of a “decision of faith” that resulted in absolutely no change in life. 

In fact, this misunderstanding of faith is so prevalent in modern speech, both among believers and unbelievers, that some very prominent church leaders have recommended not even using the word!2 Unbelievers misunderstand the word “faith” in even worse ways than Christians do. Most non-religious people think of faith as wishful thinking, or blind belief, or just a something that makes you feel good. Their idea of faith is that it is not grounded in anything. When, in actuality, faith is grounded in reality itself. Faith reflects what is true. Faith, according to the Bible, is inseparably linked with knowledge (Isaiah 40:28; 43:10; 45:3, 6; Matthew 9:6; Luke 1:4; John 8:28, 32; 21:24; Acts 2:36; Eph 1:17; I Tim 2:4; 4:3; Titus 1:1; Hebrews 2:3-4; 10:26; 2 Peter 2:20; I John 2:21; 4:16; 5:20; 2 John 1:1; 3 John 12). It is never opposed to knowledge.

We have covered these foundational doctrines before. However, there is one that bears revisiting. (We may revisit faith itself again, if the Lord permits.) That is the laying on of hands.

First, let us note that the inspired author calls these teachings the “doctrine of Christ.” This designation alone tells us that they are important. Yet, how often have you heard a teaching or a sermon on the laying on of hands, if at all? 

[II.] The first thing we can know about the laying on of hands is that it has to do with an impartation. There is an actual impartation. It is not a psychological impartation. What is fascinating is that, even in the material realm – only having to do with matter and energy, there is a transfer of energy when hands are placed on a person. David Blomgren, PhD, cites a scientific study conducted by the biochemist Justa Smith.3 Four flasks of an enzymatic solution were used. One flask was a control flask. Nothing was done to it. Two flasks had hands of the experimenters laid upon them for a total of 75 minutes per day. And, one flask was exposed to a high magnetic field. “The results showed that the two flasks that had hands applied to them demonstrated similar qualitative and quantitative effects to the flask exposed to the high magnetic energy field.”4

If even physical energy can be imparted through the laying on of hands then this points to the complementary truth that spiritual impartation can occur by the laying on of hands. Indeed, this is the biblical witness. There is spiritual power that is imparted through touch.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”5

This woman was healed when she touched the clothing of the Lord. Notice that Jesus perceived that “power had gone out from him!” There is an impartation of power and healing!

Nor, was this the only incident where the mere touch of Jesus’ garment brought healing:  “And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” 6

[III.] The laying on of hands imparts healing.

Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.7

See that Jesus laid his hands upon people and they were healed!

But, it was not only Jesus. The apostles also laid hands on many and healed them. 

[IV.] The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be imparted by the laying on of hands.

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”8

 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.”9

 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. 10

Nor was this practice limited to the apostles. It continued in the early church. Tertullian, about 200 AD, writes:

In the next place the hand is laid upon us, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit through prayer.11

The book of Acts also reveals that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is received apart from the laying on of hands (chapters 2 and 10). Hence, the laying on of hands is only one avenue to receive this blessing.

[V.] The impartation of spiritual gifts was through the laying on of hands.

 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 12

Paul writes to Timothy to remind him that he received a gift through the mutual acts of prophecy and the laying on of hands by the elders. He encourages him not to neglect this gift, that is, use it! Don’t let it sit dormant.

Timothy received another gift besides this one:

 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,13

At least twice Timothy had hands laid upon him and he received a spiritual gift each time.

[VI.] The use of the hands imparts blessing. 
 So he blessed them that day, saying, 
        “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, 
        ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’ ” 14

Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph through the laying on of hands (vs. 14).

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. 15

Do you desire a blessing from God? Then have hands laid upon you!

[VII.] Finally, the commission to ministry is by the laying on of hands (Acts 6:6; 13:3).

[VIII.] There is a caution regarding the laying on of hands. Not only did Timothy have laid upon him, but he likewise had authority to lay hands on others. (This shows that the laying on of hands is not restricted to the apostles or to elders.) Paul gives Timothy this charge:

 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.16

By this admonition Paul shows that the laying on of hands is more than just a simple ritual. It confers something: either an impartation or a commission. In either case, the implication in this verse is that we should know something about the person upon whom we lay hands.17  We do not want to impart something unworthily. The statement, “nor take part in the sins of others,” seems to be linked with the laying on of hands. This may be because that, in the Old Testament, there is the idea of identification with the laying on of hands (Leviticus 1:4; 3:2; 4:15, 24, 29, 33; 16:21; Numbers 8:12). If this identification continues into the new covenant then we must be cautious upon whom we lay hands.

[VIX. Conclusion] God is for his people! There is both healing, gifts, and blessings that the Lord desires to bestow. He has ordained the means as well as the ends. The means to receive what the Lord has waiting is through the laying on of hands. God is for you! Are you for God? If you are then come forward to receive your gift!

1 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 6:1-3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
2 E.g., Greg Koukl. See
3 David Blomgren, The Laying on of Hands and Prophecy of the Presbytery (Bible Press, Portland, OR; 1979) 15-16.
4 Ibid
5 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 5:24–30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
6 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 14:35–36). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
7 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 4:40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
8 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 8:18–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
9 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 9:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
10 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 19:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
11 Cited by Blomgren from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 3.
12 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 4:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
13 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 1:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
14 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 48:20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
15 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 10:13–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
16 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 5:22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
17 The preceding context has to do with elders. It may be that what Paul has in mind is the commissioning of elders via the laying on of hands. However, he does not specify this and the very next verse is on an unrelated subject. Therefore, verse 22 just as likely has wider application, i.e., any laying on of hands.