The fourth foundational doctrine in Heb. 6:1-2 is the laying on of hands. At first glance, this may seem an unusual choice to be placed among the foundational doctrines. It may not even as essential as other doctrines in the list. However, we know that God does place tremendous importance on the laying on of hands, and it is thus imperative for us to study and practice it.
The laying on of hands is the practice where one believer lays his hand on another, as a physical sign that God is imparting something spiritual to the person. It was practiced throughout both the old and new testament. It is a natural sign of the spiritual work that God is doing.
There is nothing magical about the laying on of hands; the person putting his or her hand upon you does not have some kind of mystical power. The blessing does not come from the hand of the man touching you but comes instead from the presence of God. The laying on of hands can be a contact point between man and God.
Purposes for the Laying on of Hands
There are many circumstances where the practice of the laying on of hands took place in Scripture. In this section, we will look at four of the primary reasons:
The laying on of hands was used throughout Scripture as a means of blessing others. It is generally the right hand that is used in order to impart the blessing. Israel blessed Joseph’s two sons by placing his hand on their head, saving the greater blessing (the right hand) for the younger son Ephraim – Gen. 48:14. Jesus also laid His hands upon people to bless them. Mat. 19:13-15. The little children were blessed when Jesus laid His hands upon them; Jesus desired to bring blessing to the people. The laying on of hands still brings tremendous blessing today. Parents should lay hands on their children often, praying for the blessing of God to be upon them. Often times, when a congregation is praying for someone and it is impossible for everyone to lay hands on the person, the people will stretch forth their right hand towards the one being prayed for. This is another form of blessing through the laying on of hands.
2) Commissioned for Service and Ministry
Moses laid his hands on Joshua in front of the whole congregation of Israel. Joshua received the delegated authority to lead Israel as commanded by God. The laying on of hands by Moses cemented Joshua into his position- Numbers 27:22-23.
When the first seven deacons of the Early Church were chosen, hands were laid upon them as they were set into position. Hands were laid on those called to leadership roles, even in the practical aspects of the church life – Acts 6:5-6.
Also, when Barnabas and Saul were sent out as missionaries, the other church leaders laid their hands upon them – Acts 13:2-3.
The baptism, anointing, and gifts of the Holy Spirit imparted through the laying on of hands. A spiritual “transfer” can take place where God imparts spiritual things to the one who has laid upon him or her.
Other Scriptures: Acts 8:17, 1 Tim. 4:14, 2 Tim. 1:6
Physical healing is often released through the laying on of hands. As part of the Great Commission, Jesus promised His followers that they could heal the sick through laying on hands.
Scriptures:Mark 16:18, Mark 6:5, Luke 4:40, Luke 13:13, Acts 28:8
Thus, we should lay hands on those who are sick in our churches today. Physical healing will come if we are faithful to keep in to pressing in to God in this matter.
Who Should Practice Laying On of Hands?
Leaders in the church should be active in the ministry of laying on of hands. Most instances of laying on of hands in the New Testament were done by leaders in the church.
Mark 16:17-18. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they[a] will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Although the laying on of hands is primarily practiced by church leadership, it is not exclusively that way. Jesus promised that all believers could lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Therefore, all believers should be engaged in the laying on of hands at one time or another.
Care Should Be Taken
1 Tim 5:22 – “Do not lay hands hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.”
Although all believers may lay hands on others, however, care should be taken before this is performed. We should not be quick to lay hands on others. This is particularly true in the context of placing people into leadership positions, as the above Scripture is primarily referring to.
Those with unrepentant sin in their lives should not practice laying on of hands to others.
The laying on of hands comes with impartation, and sin can be imparted as well. Thus, make sure there is no unrepentant sin in your life before laying hands on others.
Moreover, you should also beware of who you allow to place their hands on you. You should not allow backsliders or those with serious sin to impart their sin into your life.
That is why churches often limit the laying on of hands during a church service to pastors and leaders. This is wisdom and a safety measure, and ensures the congregation that only known and proven men and women will be engaged in the ministry. This does not mean those who are not leaders can ever lay their hands on others, but rather that they should only do so if they have the approval of the church authority.
The laying on of hands is an invaluable foundation that needs to be in every Christian life and every church. It brings great strength and blessing to the body. We should seek God to give us ever – increasing wisdom in this area, so that we may practice this activity on a continual basis, in His Word.