Laying on of Hands

God speaks of the laying on of hands as a first principle of His revelation, a foundation of our faith. (He 6:2) Given its importance, perhaps we ought to be diligent in understanding and obeying it.

Throughout Torah, in purifying their flesh from the defilement of sin (He 9:13), God’s people would lay hands on the heads of animal sacrifices: for national sins of ignorance (Le 4:14-15), sanctifying priests (Le 8:14, Nu 8:12), and in transferring sins onto the scapegoat on the day of Atonement. (Le 16:21) In a unique instance, God instructed Moses to lay his hand on Joshua to commission him as a leader and put some of Moses’ honor upon him (Nu 27:18-20); Moses obeyed, laying his hands on Joshua (Nu 27:22-23), filling Joshua with the spirit of wisdom. (De 34:9)

Throughout the New Testament, we see laying on of hands as people are healed, dedicated for service, and given spiritual gifts: a father asks Christ to lay hands on His daughter and heal her (Mk 5:23) and Christ lays hands others as He heals them (Mk 6:5, Lk 4:40, 13:13), expecting His followers to do the same. (Mk 16:18Ac 28:8) The Apostles lay their hands on newly selected deacons after praying for them (Ac 6:6), and on new believers after praying for them and they’re filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ac 8:17, 19:6) The church in Antioch laid hands on Paul and Barnabas in dedicating them for mission work (Ac 13:3), and Timothy was given a spiritual gift through prophecy and the laying on of the hands of the local bishops. (1Ti 4:14)

As every single biblical context of laying on of hands involves prayer of some kind, and as our hands are the only physical part of us that we can use to firmly connect ourselves with others (by grabbing hold of them), it appears that this is how we express our spiritual connection with others in the presence of God, to identify with them in what we’re praying, and act out the reality of our spiritual connection with each other before God. Whether it be a sin offering which is taking our place on God’s altar, or souls we’re lifting up to God for help, who we’re connected with in a greater metaphysical organism (be it the Body of Christ or humanity itself), the laying on of hands is evidently the natural, organic way for us to express, illustrate and complete this interconnectivity with others before God.

In calling this concept foundational to our faith, it seems God would have us recognize that we’re not merely isolated individuals, but to be continually aware that we’re each an intrinsic part of a greater whole, and to honor this whole in our loving, benevolent, sacrificial behavior.

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