The Doctrine of the Laying on of Hands


I was reading through Hebrews and stumbled upon chapter 6 and read:

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2).

I’m a big fan of doctrine.  Doctrine is the substance upon which we build our faith.  It shapes the things we believe and practice.  It establishes our level of expectation from the Lord.  I have been through many, many statements of faith (including my own) and have yet to see someone say, “I believe in the doctrine of the Laying on of Hands.”  We don’t hear about it very often, but there it is listed with the “principles of the doctrine of Christ”.  The laying on of hands is one of the principle doctrines of the church.

The Hebrew writer lists the following doctrines in verses 1 & 2:

  1. Repentance from dead works
  2. Faith towards God
  3. Baptisms
  4. Laying on of hands
  5. Resurrection of the dead
  6. Eternal judgment

Let’s have a selah (pause and consider) moment.

These are labeled foundational doctrines in the scripture.  Think about the last time you heard a message on any of these doctrines.  The only one I consistently hear from a preacher is “Faith towards God”.

Let’s run through each of these very briefly and then we’ll tackle the “Doctrine of the Laying on of Hands”.

Repentance from dead works

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:17)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

  • “Repentance (metanoia, ‘change of mind’) involves a turning with contrition from sin to God; the repentant sinner is in the proper condition to accept the divine forgiveness.” (F. F. Bruce. The Acts of the Apostles [Greek Text Commentary], London: Tyndale, 1952, p. 97.)

The message of the grace of God requires that we comprehend our condition apart from Christ.  We must realize that we are entirely lost, incapable of saving ourselves.  It is at this point where our minds begin to change.  That we begin to view ourselves and our sin through the eyes of God.  It is this revelation that propels penitent sinners to forsake themselves and fall upon the mercy of the risen Savior.

Faith towards God

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:20-28).

    • Faith is the steadfast confidence, trust and assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He said He will do.

    Doctrine of Baptisms

    Notice the word “Baptisms” is plural.  We find several baptisms listed in the scriptures for us.

    • New birth.  We are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.  “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
    • Water Baptism.  This is our declaration and identification with Christ.  This is the outward action that testifies of the inward work of the Holy Spirit.  “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)
    • Baptism in the Holy Ghost.  God’s power comes upon us to reside.  We are equipped to take the gospel to the world and fulfill the Great Commission.  “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:5)

    The Greek word baptizō (βαπτίζω) is used in each of the verses listed above and is defined as follows:

    1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
    2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe
    3. to overwhelm

    There is a lengthy sermon right there ( I love it when definitions preach for you), but it will have to wait.

    Resurrection of the Dead

    There are many instances of resurrection of the dead in both the Old and New Testaments.  Here are a few examples from the New Testament.

    • Resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3)
    • Resurrection of the body. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)
    • Resurrection of the righteous dead.When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:31-40).
    • Resurrection of the wicked dead.Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:41-46).

    Eternal Judgment

    And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

    And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:11-13)

      We are all going to spend eternity somewhere.  Heaven or hell is our final destination.  Judgment is waiting for us on the other side of death’s door.  Make sure your name is written the Lamb’s Book of Life before you leave this planet.

      Ok – finally, the Laying on of Hands:

      Old Testament examples:

      • And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock. And thou shalt kill the bullock before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar. And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul that is above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar. But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering. Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar. And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put them unto his pieces, and unto his head. And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the LORD: it is a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. (Exodus 29:10-19)
      • The iniquities and sins of the worshipper were transmitted to the sacrifice by faith through the laying on of hands.
      • And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.  And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. (Genesis 48:13-20)
      • The blessing from father to son was passed through the laying on of hands and the speaking of the word.
      • And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:9)
      • Joshua received spiritual impartation from God through Moses.  The spirit of wisdom was transferred into his life as a result of the laying on of hands.

      New Testament examples:

      In the examples below  hands were layed on believers to begin a new phase of ministry to the Lord.

      1. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:2-3)
      2. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:5-7)

      In the examples below hands were layed on the sick so that they may be healed.

      1. And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)
      2. Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. (Luke 4:40)

      In the examples below we read that spiritual gifts were imparted by the laying on of hands.

      1. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (1 Timothy 4:14)
      2. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:6)

      The laying on of hands should be practiced in situations listed both in the Old and New Testaments.  We should lay hands on men and women after the pattern laid out for us in Scripture.

      In the modern church there are those that lay hands on for the purpose of mere formality.  You will see this practiced at ordinations services or ceremonies for new ministers.  Some call this, “Laying empty hands on empty heads”.  As with everything in Christianity it is faith that activates the Word & power of God in our lives.

      You will also find that there are those who lay hands for anything and everything.

      • You cannot lay hands on someone so that they can receive things that only come through the crucifixion of the flesh and the renewing of the mind with the word of God.
      • You cannot lay hands on someone and expect them to receive a spiritual gift or office that God has not given them.
      • You cannot  produce anything by laying your hands on someone – only God working through you can make anything happen as a result of your hand touching someone.

      It is scriptural for believers to practice the laying on of hands.

      • Lay your hands upon your children and bless them in the name of the Lord.
      • Lay your hands upon the sick and expect them to recover
      • If you have been placed by God into a ministry office, God will use you to bless and impart spiritual things to others through the laying on of hands.

      I know this is an “on the edge” subject.  It is only this way because of the crazy things that humans do in the name of God.  The laying on of hands is a doctrine of the Bible.  Practice it the way the Bible says to.

      And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name … they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

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