Doctrine of Christ

Laying on of Hands

The Fourth Principle of The Doctrine of Christ
By: Eldon McNabb

From ancient times, men of God used the act of laying on of hands for a religious ritual. They did so before and after Moses, and Christ Jesus and his followers in the New Testament continued the practice. (See Gen. 48:1-22 and Num. 27:12-23)

The Purpose

By the works of His hands, God made the Heavens and the earth, and all that is in them. (Gen. 2:2; Psa. 102:25; Psa. 95:5; Psa. 8:6; Job. 34:19) Although God finished His works of creation (Heb. 4:3), He still has works which must be done which pertain to His word and will. From time to time He sends someone, usually together with a group of workers, to fulfill His word and will, and performs His works by their hands. The Apostle Paul is one good example, mentioned in Acts 19:11. "God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul."

God made Jesus "to have dominion over the works of His hands." (Psalm 8:6) And Matthew told us that Jesus "taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matt. 7:29) Jesus transferred that dominion to His disciples when He left. He foretold of the transfer in the parable in Mark 13:34. He said, "The Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left His house, and gave authority to His servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch." Those disciples "spake the word of God with boldness, And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people." (Acts 4:29-31; Heb. 2:3,4; Acts 5:12)

In Mark 16:14-20, and Heb. 2:4, God tells us that those healings and other wonders were a sign of, and a witness to, that authority. As He said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. And these signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following."

So, the work of God which is done by those whom God sends, is witnessed by Him, through the laying on of their hands.

Examples Of Its Use

When we think of "wonderful works," we generally think of such things as healing or raising of the dead. Yet, one of the great marvels of the ministry of Jesus was that He ordained twelve, then seventy men, and immediately they began to preach and to perform wonders in like manner as He did.

The effect of ordination is but one of the several wonders which are accomplished by the laying on of the hands of those who are sent from God. (Acts 6:1-8; Luke 10:1-17) We shall deal with five examples here.

The Transfer of Authority: The Scriptures show that when Jesus was ready to depart, He ordained Peter to take His place, commanding him to feed His sheep and His lambs. He didnít specifically say that He laid His hands on him, but we know the consistency of God. John 21:15-17.

Jesus appointed Peter to be the Shepherd over the Church when He charged him to, "Feed My sheep." (John 21:16) That fact is made clear in Matt. 24:45. Quote, "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?"

Paul said, "Remember them which have the rule over you," because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday (under Moses), and today (the early church), and forever (even now)." (Heb. 13:7-8)

Ordination: We have already mentioned the marvelous results of Jesus ordaining His twelve and seventy. He gave that authority into the hands of His servants, and we see them exercising it throughout the book of the New Testament.

In Acts 6:1-8, the congregation chose Stephen, Philip, and five others. The apostles laid their hands on them, and Stephen, full of faith and power, did great miracles among the people. Also, one of those seven, Philip the evangelist, went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them: the people hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. Unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them, and many that were lame, were healed. (Acts 8:5-8; Acts 21:8)

Imparting Blessings: This wonder is demonstrated in the Old Testament by Jacob blessing Joseph. Jacob laid his hands upon the heads of Joseph's sons, "and he blessed Joseph, and said, God bless the lads; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. . . . He (Manasseh) also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: But truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations." (Gen. 48:1-22)

Later we see the effect of this blessing upon the head of Ephraim by the fact that his descendants became the dominant tribe of the ten-tribe northern kingdom. (See 1 Ki. 11:31) Although, the descendants of Manasseh did rule from time to time.

Jesus continued the practice of laying on of hands, and the people obviously expected it from The Man of God, for "they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them." (Mark 10: 13-16)

Imparting Gifts: There are at least three kinds of gifts which are given with the laying on of hands: The baptism with the Holy Ghost, Spiritual Gifts, and Gifts of the Ministry.

The Apostles Peter, John and Paul each laid their hands on believers, and imparted unto them the gift of the Holy Ghost. We could assume that other of the Apostles did so as well. This was not typical of other ministers, such as evangelists. Otherwise, Philip, the evangelist, would have imparted the gift of the Holy Ghost to those new converts in Samaria, but he did not. (See Acts 8:5-24; Acts 21:8; Acts 19:1-6)

Paul said he wanted to visit Rome that he might "impart unto (them) some spiritual gift." (Rom. 1:11) He also reminded Timothy to "Stir up the gift which is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the putting on of my hands." (2 Tim. 1:6 and 1 Tim. 4:14)

Healing: I have listed healing last here, because Paul shows us, in 1 Cor. 12:28, that these other things which we have mentioned are more important. Healing is, at best, a temporary blessing.

Jesus healed many times by the laying on of His hands. Some good examples are in Mark 5:23,24,38-43; Mark 6:5; Mark 7:32-37; Mark 8:23-25. Then, before He left, He told His disciples, "They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:15-18) They did so, and many were healed. (Acts 5:12; Acts 9:17; Acts 28:7-9)

However, miracles of healing were not always prominent in the works of God. For instance, "John did no miracle," though he was in the spirit and power of, the great miracle worker, Elijah. (John 10:41. See also John 5:36 and Eccl. 3:1-3) Nor did Jesus heal all the sick folks with which He came in contact. In Luke 4:40, Jesus "laid His hands on everyone of them, and healed them." Yet, in His own country, "He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them." (Mark 6:5)

What Jesus did was finish the work which His father had given Him to do. So when disciples of John the Baptist came to ask Him, "Art thou He that should come?" Jesus referred to His miracles of healing as part of the proof of His identity. (Luke 7:19-23) Because of prophecy, those miracles proved that He was sent from God. Therefore, He answered them in terms which He knew John would understand. (Isa. 35:4-6)


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