We will discuss five basic areas in which the laying on of hands is used. Other areas may emerge through further study, but these are the basic ones of Scripture.
- Blessing – A tremendous impact can be made in an individual’s life when a minister or saint of God lays hands on someone, invoking the blessing of God upon his life. Age is not barrier for being used of God in this manner or in receiving a blessing in this manner.
- Jesus laid His hands on children and blessed them (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16). Children need the blessings of God invoked upon them in this manner by their parents, the saints and the ministry.
- In blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob crossed his hands and blessed these sons of Joseph, imparting to them the birthright (Genesis 48:14-16). Similarily, Isaac blessed Jacob when he receive the birthright (Genesis 27:18-29).
Faith was an active force in both of these instances (Hebrews 11:20-21). Faith should always be in our hearts when we lay hands on someone in prayer, asking God to bless him or her. Our requests for a child or an adult must be reasonalbe and biblical for them to be effective.
- Leadership – When people assume leadership positions, especially when they succeeded someone else, it is essential for them to have the hand of God upon them along with the approval of people. Laying on of hands, by those in authority on those who are entering positions of leadership, brings blessing, guidance, and leadership from almighty God to their lives.
- Joshua, in succeeding Moses, had hands laid upon him (Numbers 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9).
- Levi and his descendants were specifically chose of God, but they were brought before Israel, and all the people laid their hands upon them (Numbers 8:1-22). It was a gesture of support, goodwill, and submission on Israel’s part, giving these men confidence to do their job, as they knew the people were supporting them.
- When the church sent Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey, the hands of the teachers and prophets, and possibly the congregation, were laid on them (Acts 13:1-4).
- Seven men were chosen to serve tables in the early church so the apostles could give themselves to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:1-7). Hands were laid on them as they were thrust into this responsible position of leadership.
Every capacity of leadership from the smallest to the greatest needs the approval, authority, and blessing of God, along with that of the men and women one is called upon to lead. When a local church, state, national, or international organization places people in leadership roles, it is scriptural for the pastor, ministers, or saints if called on to do so, to lay hands on the chosen leader. After this, they have the dual ordination of God and humans upon them; and as long as their life is pure and their efforts are their best, the people should support them in prayer, finance, and other means.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit – Faith in God, repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, are essential elements of the new birth. People can receive the Holy Spirit prior to being baptized but must then submit to water baptism (Acts 10:44-48). God also gives people the Holy Spirit when hands are laid upon them, but it is not essential for hands to be laid upon them in order to receive the Spirit of God. Someone who has the Holy Spirit cannot simply confer it upon someone who does not have this gift. God baptizes with the Spirit (Acts 1:5), and He can do so whether hands are laid upon the candidate or not. Since He gives the Holy Ghost, He deserves all the glory when someone is filled with the Spirit. Laying hands on people and asking God to give them the Holy Ghost is right and scriptural. It can be a great help in encouraging the seeker to have faith to receive. Ultimately, however, we must leave the matter to God. (See our Salvation course, Lesson -The Gift of the Holy Spirit for an in-depth study on the Holy Spirit.)
- Peter and John went to Samaria, where Philip had been preaching and baptizing the Samaritans in the name of Jesus. They had not received the Holy Spirit before this time, but when the apostles laid hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-25).
- Ananias went to Saul (Paul) and laid his hands on him to receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:17-18).
- At Ephesus, Paul laid his hands on those who knew only the baptism of John the Baptist, and they received the Holy Ghost, speaking with tongues (Acts 19:1-6).
- Healing – The Bible contains many references to healing through the laying on of hands. God does the healing; it is not the power or holiness of the one laying on hands that brings healing (Acts 3:12-16). God can and does heal without hands being laid on the sick, but God does use this method and even commands believers to use it, as we will see in this lesson.
We need to address two important matters in this study for clarity, to remain scriptural and to avoid confusion.
- Laying on of Hands by Believers – All saints are allowed to lay hands on the sick, asking God to heal them (Mark 16:18). The laity (saints) should not anoint with oil; this is reserved for the ministry, our those appointed by the ministry.
- Laying on of Hands by the Ministry – Ministers are to anoint with oil in the name of the Lord, asking God to heal the sick. They may also lay hands on someone without anointing them with oil, asking God to heal him. There are not healing properties in the oil; healing comes from Jesus Christ. Anointing with oil is an act of faith and obedience to God’s Word.
Numerous passages shed additional light on this subject. (1) Believers are to lay hands on the sick (Mark 16:18). (2) Ministers are to anoint with oil (James 5:14-15). (3) Jesus healed the multitudes (Luke 4:40-41). (4) Jesus laid hands on a woman with a spirit of infirmity and healed her (Luke 13:11-13). (5) Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law by touching her (Matthew 8:14-15). (6) Peter took a lame man by the hand, and he was healed (Acts 3:1-16). (7) Jesus healed some in Nazareth by the laying on of hands, but unbelief hindered Him (Mark 5:5-6). (8) Jesus healed a blind man by laying hands on him twice (Mark 8:22-26). (9) God performed special miracles by the hands of Paul (Acts 19:11-12). (10) Publius was healed with the laying on of hands (Acts 28:8). (11) Christ healed the leper with a touch (Matthew 8:1-3).
In each of these, hands were used as channels through which God brought healings. May we in our day of abounding sickness and disease consecrate ourselves to His service and become a channel through which He can touch others.