Laying On of Hands (1)

"The doctrine of laying on of hands" is the fourth of the "first principIes" which form "the foundation" of the Christian life. Laying on of hands occurs a number of times in the Bible, and we shall consider most of these. However, as an elementary Christian doctrine, it specifically refers to the reception of the Holy Spirit. The act of laying on of hands, signifies "TRANSFERENCE, TRANSMISSION, IMPARTATION, and IDENTIFICATION."

WHAT DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT SAY ABOUT "LAYING ON OF HANDS"?

a. JACOB LAID HIS HANDS ON HIS GRANDCHILDREN AND BLESSED THEM (Gen. 48:14-16)

This is the first occurrence of the laying on of hands for the purpose of symbolizing the transmission of spiritual benefit. With his hands laid on the heads of Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob prayed "the Angel who has delivered me from all harm —may he bless these boys!" Thus, in this first instance of the laying on of hands, we are taught something of its symbolic meaning.

b. THE ISRAELITE AND HIS SACRIFICIAL OFFERING (Lev. 1:4; 3:2; 16:21)

God required the Israelite to bring an animal sacrifice to the "door of the Tabernacle" which was directly in front of the Brazen Altar. Before the sacrificial animal was slain and offered, the Israelite was required to "You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering", with the accompanying promise that "it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you." In putting his hand on the head of the sacrificial animal, the Israelite was indicating the transference of his sin and guilt to the victim, and by this symbolical act implying, "This animal is now myself, and its life is my life." As Jacob’s act symbolized the transmission of blessing, the lsraelite's act symbolized the transmission or transference of sin and guilt.

This is further seen in the sacrificial ceremony on the Day of Atonement. On this great day of national contrition, Aaron, the High Priest, representing the people, "He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelitesall their sinsand put them on the goat’s head. . .

Here, transmission and transference are clearly symbolized.

c THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL AND THE LEVITES (Num. 8:10)

The Levites were ordained by God to "they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting" (vs. 15). In this service they represented the congregation. The "laying on of hands signified that the obligation to assist personally in the service of the sanctuary was transferred from the whole congregation to the Levites". So, again, we see the principle of transference and identification symbolized in the laying on of hands.

d. MOSES AND JOSHUA - Num. 27:15-23; Deut. 34:9

In appointing a successor to Moses, God instructed the greater Leader to "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him." In so doing, God said, "Give him some of your authority." That there was also at that time an impartation of spiritual enablement, is indicated in the Deuteronomy passage, which says that "Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him."

WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY ABOUT "LAYING ON OF HANDS"?

a. JESUS AND HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY OF HEALING

Mark 6:5 — ". . . except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them."

Luke 4:40 - "At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them."

Luke 13:13 - "Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God."

b. JESUS AND LITTLE CHILDREN

Matt. 19:13, 15 — "Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them . . . When he had placed his hands on them . . .".

c. THE GREAT COMMISSION AND HEALING BY LAYING ON OF HANDS

Mark 16:18 — ". . . they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well! "

d. THE FULFILLMENT OF THE GREAT COMMISSION

Acts 5:12 (NASB) - "At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people. . . . "

Acts 9:17 - "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

Acts 14:3 (NASB) - "Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands."

Acts 19:11 (NKJV) — "Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul."

Acts 28:8 - "His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him."

Study Questions for Lesson No. 11

  1. What does the act of laying on of hands signify?
  2. List the Old Testament occurences of laying on of hands.
  3. For what purpose did our Lord lay on hands during His earthly ministry?
  4. Was the laying on of hands for healing to continue after Christ returned to heaven?
  5. Where in the record of the acts of the Apostles were hands laid on for healing?

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