The Principle of the Doctrine of Laying on of Hands
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. “
The Practice of Laying on of Hands in the Old Testament
The common practice in the Old Testament of passing on a blessing, particularly the all-important blessing of inheritance from father to son, was solemnized by the act of laying hands upon the recipient’s head and pronouncing the blessing. This is demonstrated very clearly when Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob his father to receive a blessing. Joseph purposely steered his older son, Manasseh towards Jacob’s right hand because he believed that the greater blessing would be given to his first-born from Jacob’s right hand. This great blessing that Jacob passed on by the laying on of hands, he had received from his father Isaac. Isaac in turn had received the blessing from his father Abraham and Abraham had received the blessing from Melchizedek, in accordance with God’s promise.
It was also common practice in the Old Testament to bestow authority or the recognition of an office, by the symbolic act of laying on of hands. An example of this is found in Numbers chapter eight and verse ten, where the Levites were ordained as priests; “So you shall bring the Levites before the Lord, and the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites.“
Moses also ordained Joshua in a similar way. “And the Lord said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. “
The Practice of Laying on of Hands in the New Testament
The practice of the symbolic ‘laying on of hands’ continued in the New Testament time with Jesus laying hands on many people to heal them. Jesus also laid his hands on little children to bless them and pray for them. In Mark’s version of the Great Commission he gives instructions to us, the followers of Jesus, to “lay hands upon the sick and they will recover “. Examples of this practice can be seen in Ananias being sent to Paul to both heal him and to impart to him the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” “
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was also imparted to other recipients as recorded in the Book of Acts, through prayer and the laying on of hands. “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. “
The Old Testament practice of ordination or formalized recognition of office by the ‘laying on of hands’ was continued in the New Testament as can be seen by the ordination of Deacons in Acts chapter six. “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. “
This same practice is seen in the recognition of Paul and Barnabas as apostles who were sent out from the church at Antioch. “Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. ” It is also demonstrated in the case of Timothy, where it appears that his ministry gift was confirmed by a word of prophesy and then formalised by the Elders laying hands on Timothy and sending him out to fulfil his ministry. “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. “
The Principle of the Laying on of Hands
Having taken a brief look at the practice of laying on of hands to bless, heal or ordain, it should be fairly clear that although this is an important aspect of Scripture it does not really form part of our Foundation in Christ. However, when we understand the ‘principle’ behind the laying on of hands we are then able to very clearly see how that this principle is part of the cornerstone of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The principle is the motivation behind laying on of hands and the governing rule behind this symbolic practice; the Principle of the laying on of hands is therefore:
Passing on to someone else, the blessing that we have received.
We could also put this in Biblical language; “… And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, who said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “
In understanding this foundational principle we should not be distracted by the practice of laying on of hands and rather focus on understanding the principle of laying on of hands. The ‘Principle’ as expressed above, is that having received something from the Lord, we willingly and enthusiastically impart that blessing to our fellow brothers and sisters. Imparting this blessing may have nothing to do with actually laying hands on someone, but rather the impartation of the blessing.
The Practical Application of the Principle of Laying on of Hands
At first glance, this principle may seem to be of minor importance, but once we grasp the fuller understanding of the operation of the New Testament church, we will begin to appreciate how pivotal and important this principle is, for the healthy spiritual functioning of the Body of Christ.
Paul’s teaching from 1 Corinthians chapters 11 through 14 gives us a detailed insight into how all of the members of the church have a function of one kind or another, which involves imparting what they have received from the Lord to other members of the Body of Christ, so that all may be encouraged and built up. He teaches very clearly that “…Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. ” This is not just an isolated verse, but it follows the lengthy and detailed explanation in 1 Corinthians 12, of how the church is like a human body, with many different parts, but all have a vital function and all form part of the whole.
This same truth is again expressed by Paul in Ephesians 4:15 & 16 “..but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. “
The participation of every member of the Body of Christ in one way or another is also taught by Paul in Romans chapter 12.
You will note that in none of the passages quoted above is the ‘laying on of hands ‘ mentioned, but in all of the above examples of the operation of each member of the Body of Christ, the principle of giving what you have received is applicable. Or we could say that the principle of the laying of hands is applied even though we are not physically laying hands on anyone, but imparting a blessing through a Psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation, which is what the principle of the laying on of hands represents.
Ministry is given to Equip the Saints
There is a great danger in the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, becoming an end in themselves, rather than using these gifts as a means to equip the saints, with the knowledge, maturity and ability to minister to one another. This Principle of Laying on of Hands, focusses on this very issue. We all should have received something from the Lord that we can impart to my fellow saints. This is the Principle.
Our Participation with Jesus the Head of the church
If we can grasp and by God’s grace apply the principle of laying on of hands, we will be participating directly with Jesus the Head of the church, in His ministry to each part of the Body of Christ. It is in this activity that we learn how to receive from others but also how to give. Relationships with brothers and sisters develop, sometimes with much difficulty, but it is all part of our growing and maturing process, as we grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
This principle is so important that John tells us, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? “
The principle of laying on of hands (imparting the blessing) is therefore a demonstration of the love of Christ in us, pouring from us, to the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Heb 6:1–2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Gen. 48:13
 Gen. 27:24-29
 Gen. 25:5
 Gen. 14:19
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Nu 8:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Nu 27:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Mark 6:5;Mark 8:23-25;Luke 4:40). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Matt 19:13-15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Mark 16:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 9:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 8:14–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 6:5–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 13:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Ti 4:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 20:35). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Co 14:26). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Eph 4:15–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Jn 4:20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.