Ep.1217: Should Christians Be Practicing Laying on of Hands?
Discovering the meaning and use of “laying on of hands” for Christians
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Theme Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:14
In the 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth, Christianity has in some ways progressed but in many ways fragmented. Depending on the doctrine or ritual you are looking at, you can find groups with a laser focus on it or a minimized approach to it. The early Christian ritual of the “laying on of hands” is a good example of this dichotomy. Some of us centralize its importance while others of us see it as a thing of the past. If laying on of hands was central, why was it NOT used consistently? If it was of little significance, then why was it used at all? The fact is, the act of laying on of hands was clearly present in the Old Testament. The apostles did plainly use this ritual several times. So, what is the bottom-line application of laying on of hands for Christians living today?
Purposes in the Old Testament
The Old Testament reveals that laying on of hands was used in ancient times in relation to several important functions:
- As a symbol of passing on a patriarchal blessing, as in the case of Israel with his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh in Genesis 48.
- As a symbol of dedicating one to a position of spiritual authority and responsibility, demonstrated in Numbers 8.
- It also came up in an instance of healing in through Elisha in 2 Kings 4.
The point is, this ritual had a clear foundation of acceptability and importance as Jesus later came on the scene.
What about Jesus?
Jesus did lay hands on others, but he was not consistent. While there are several accounts of him healing this way, there are also several accounts of him healing without touch. Jesus even healed when the sick individual was not in his presence. While Jesus did lay his hands on children to bless them, he also blessed others by just his spoken words.
If we move on to examine the laying on of hands regarding the apostles and disciples, we see the same inconsistency. They sometimes healed though laying on of hands and sometimes didn’t. Sometimes they conferred Christian authority and responsibility upon others using this ritual and sometimes didn’t. They were even inconsistent when it came to being the conduit for followers to receive the holy spirit. If our primary examples of Jesus and the apostles didn't display a clear example regarding this ritual, then what are we supposed to do?
Check out our February 21, 2022 podcast, “Should Christians be Practicing “Laying on of Hands?” for more. We trace how and why the Jewish importance of this ritual transferred to Christianity. We examine the New Testament inconsistencies regarding laying on of hands and find the reasons behind them. Most importantly, we look at what our responsibilities are towards laying on of hands today. The question of whether or not we should use this ritual is important and the Scriptures do give us a clear answer. Join us for a fascinating journey into an important foundation of Christianity!