Saturday, September 17, 2016

Foundations of Faith notes: Laying on of hands

Laying hands on someone for the purpose of becoming a conduit for the Holy Spirit to work through was a common practice in the New Testament and is carried on in much of Christianity to this day. In Old Testament, laying hands on someone was used when blessing someone or giving authority to them. Hands were often laid on someone who was going into a special ministry for God. When laying hands on someone and praying or prophesying over them, there is a transfer of spiritual power from one to another (Genesis 48:12-16; Numbers 8:10-11; 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9). The laying on of hands is more than a symbolic act, although there may be symbolism involved. It has a real, tangible act with a real benefit as seen in the life of Joshua after Moses laid hands on him.

In the New Testament, the laying on of hands was used for supernatural signs. Jesus used the laying on of hands as part of His healing ministry, whether it was for just a few people or for a large, crusade-like group that sought healing from Him (Mark 6:4-6; Luke 4:40; 13:10-13). We know this was not confined to Jesus and that His followers were to do the same thing because He told them so before His ascension to Heaven. Jesus listed for His disciples some of the signs and proofs in a believer’s life that would follow them as they did their work for Him. One of the things He said was they would lay hands on the sick and they would recover and be healed (Mark 16:18). The one laying hands on the sick person transfers healing power from the Holy Spirit to that sick person’s body. It is an act of faith and obedience to God and His Word that Oral Roberts called a point of contact. It is important to know that not all healing happens instantaneously although sometimes it does (Mark 8:22-25). Faith must be maintained throughout the entire healing process to avoid becoming like those in Jesus’ hometown where He could not perform many miracles because of their lack of faith. I must confess that while I acknowledge that truth, this and other things in my life have been a hindrance to my own healing in different areas of my life,

Just as the Gospels show examples of Jesus using the laying on of hands for spiritual blessing, to heal, and for other supernatural signs and wonders, the rest of the New Testament--and the book of Acts in particular-- shows how Jesus’ disciples healed many in the same way (Acts 5:12; 9:17-18; 14:1-3; 28:7-9). In other instances, people took handkerchiefs, hand towels, face cloths, clothes, and work aprons that touched Paul and then laid those things on people to heal them or cast out evil spirits (Acts 19:11-12). That practice is still done in some Christian gatherings to this day.

Sometimes, although not every time, people were baptized in the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18; 9:17; 19:1-6). There are also examples of people receiving spiritual gifts this way (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).

The laying of hands was used to empower Timothy to fulfill God’s plan for his life. Anyone who has been prepared to serve God in some special way should go through this laying on of hands experience accompanied by prayer in order to receive the anointing from the Holy Spirit to do whatever God has called them to do (Acts 13:1-3). This was the case for the first deacons in the book of Acts (Acts 6:1-6). The first apostles laid hands on the first deacons as a way as endorsing them as qualified to hold the office they now held. By laying hands on them, they were being committed to God and given special empowerment to accomplish what God had for them to do. Jesus even did the laying on of hands to bless children despite his disciples’ initial objections (Mark 10:13-16). While it is not biblical to baptize infants, it is biblical to dedicate them to the Lord.

Laying hands on someone to endorse them or empower them for spiritual service should not be done quickly or flippantly (1 Timothy 5:22). Only people who have turned from their sins and put their trust in Christ alone for forgiveness of their sins should lay hands on others to bless them for spiritual service or dedication (Mark 16:17-18). Only mature believers should be appointed to special positions of service for God.