Laying on of Hands
“Laying on of hands” is a holy ceremony in which a representative of Jesus Christ extends his hands and places them upon the head of the person who is recipient of the prayerful request to God the Father. It pictures God stretching forth His holy hand to bless and to heal by the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:30). When “anointing the sick,” oil, representing the healing power of God’s Holy Spirit, is used in the laying on of hands.
Jesus Christ, as the Lord God of the Old Testament, established and utilized the “laying on of hands” as one of His foundational rituals. When it was nearly time for Moses to pass on his responsibilities to Joshua, the Lord told him to lay hands on Joshua so that everyone would look to Joshua in obedience, and Moses laid his hands upon him and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded (Numbers 27:18-23).
During His personal ministry, Jesus often employed this ritual in the dispensing of blessings and healings. “All they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto [Jesus]; and He laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.” (Luke 4:40)
“When Jesus saw the woman, doubled-over with a spirit of illness for eighteen years, He called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from your infirmity. And He laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.” (Luke 13:11-13)
The laying on of hands, then, is one of the essential doctrinal truths of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:2). It is the prescribed procedure for performing a number of divine functions, including, but not limited to:
The blessing of little children • Anointing for healings
Ordinations • The Blessing of marriages
Imparting the gift of God’s Holy Spirit at Baptism
The brethren of the Church of God are blessed to know and participate in these ceremonies, utilizing the laying on of hands by which God bestows spiritual gifts on them. Most religious organizations do not practice the laying on of hands or recognize the blessings that this intimate and meaningful doctrine brings.
God established the laying on of hands in order for us to see His direct intervention in our lives. When we are ill, it would be so easy to pray to God, with our head on our pillow and say, “Oh God please heal me.” But God tells us to bring a formal petition to Him through His ordained ministers. “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” God has promised to reward this kind of faith. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.” (James 5:14-15)
In the New Testament Church of God, we see examples of Christ’s ministers laying hands on those who were baptized, so that they might receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. “When [Peter and John] were come down, they prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: (For as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:15-17)
God’s Holy Spirit is imparted to new Christians, right after baptism, by the laying on of hands. “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them.” (Acts 19:5-6)
In the “Blessing of the Little Children” ceremony, our young children are dedicated to God. There is a special request made that God place His angels about them for their protection (Matthew 18:10). In the blessing of the young children, we are following Jesus’ example. “Then were there brought unto him little children, that He [Jesus] should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Allow little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them.” (Matthew 19:13-15)
A Christian marriage ceremony is another occasion for the laying on of hands. Marriage is a divine institution in which a couple enters into a covenant relationship with each other, and also with God. As the couple face one another and join hands, the presiding minister lays his hands on them, and asks God’s blessings on their marriage.
It is only after prayer, fasting and due consideration, that ordinations to special duties and offices are performed through the laying on of hands. Paul cautioned Timothy, “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” That is because stringent qualifications must be met by those men who become ordained servants of Jesus Christ (1Timothy 3:1, Titus 1:5). In the early New Testament Church when the number of the disciples in the faith increased rapidly, the twelve apostles asked them to choose men of moral character and good reputation to be “deacons.” “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, …whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:5-3)
A word of caution is needed because of the many false ministers that Jesus warned of. Many superstitious and unconverted men have coveted the power to bestow God’s gifts through the laying on of hands. God will not give this power to anyone except the true servants of Jesus Christ. “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” (Acts 8:18-21)
See other scriptures about the laying on of hands: Acts 9:17, Mark 5:22-23, Acts 13:2-3, Numbers 27:18, 23, Deuteronomy 34:9, 1Timothy 4:14, 2Timothy 1:6, Mark 6:5, Acts 28:8, Genesis 48:13-20.
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