A Pentecostal minister once told me: “five years ago, God spoke to me about a ministry of laying on of hands, but I backed off from it. Even though God used me in it, some of the brethren didn’t understand it, and I didn’t want to make a doctrine out of it.”
“You didn’t have to,” I said. “Jesus made a doctrine out of it.”
The laying on of hands is a fundamental principle of the doctrine of Christ.
1 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,
2 Of THE DOCTRINE of baptisms, and OF LAYING ON OF HANDS, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
“Laying on of hands” is one of the fundamental principles of the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ listed in Hebrews 6:1 and 2. Those principles are:
1. Repentance—This leads to the New Birth experience.
2. Faith Toward God—The Bible says we can’t be saved without faith: “. . . 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” (Eph. 2:8,9).
3. Doctrine of Baptisms—Notice this is in the plural. There are three baptisms spoken of in the New Testament. First, there is the New Birth. When a person is born again, he is baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. Second, there is water baptism, which is an outward sign of an inward grace. Third, there is the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the Bible evidence of speaking in other tongues.
4. Laying on of Hands—We will examine this doctrine later.
5. Resurrection of the Dead—Notice Hebrews 6:2 does not say “the”
resurrection. It says,
“. . . and of resurrection of the dead. . . .” Had it said “the resurrection,” there would be just one resurrection; but there is more than one resurrection, so it says “resurrection of the dead.”
This includes the first resurrection, the second resurrection, and all other resurrections. It includes the fact that the dead in Christ shall be raised first; then
we who are alive and remain at the coming of Christ will be caught up too (this is the rapture of the saints).
6. Eternal Judgment—Again, it is not “the” doctrine of “the” eternal judgment; it is simply “doctrine of eternal judgment.” This is because there is more than one judgment, and all are involved in this doctrine.
These six fundamental principles are the foundation upon which the Church is built. Therefore, not one of them should be treated lightly or cast aside as something unimportant to the Body of Christ.
If I were to say, “I don’t much believe in the New Birth, water baptism, or the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” you’d be ready to quit me right now and run me out, and I wouldn’t blame you. And you would be certain something was wrong with me if I were to say, “I don’t think the dead will ever be resurrected.” Or “I don’t go along with this judgment business. I don’t think there’s going to be any judgment.”
You would say, “There’s something wrong with that fellow. He’s not solid. He doesn’t believe the fundamental principles of the doctrine of Christ.”
Well, no matter what else we believe, we must believe the fundamentals. (I can fellowship with anyone who believes the fundamentals.) And if one of the fundamental principles is right, they are all right. You can’t leave any one of them out.
The Doctrine of Laying On of Hands
The Bible has a great deal to say about the doctrine of laying on of hands. That’s why it’s surprising to me that some Christians see no significance at all in this scriptural ordinance and doctrine. We hear lots of sermons on repentance, and we hear much preaching on faith. Thank God for it! But we rarely hear any teaching on the laying on of hands. The lack of teaching on the subject has given many believers the wrong impression that it’s unimportant and of no particular value to us. But if it’s a fundamental principle of the doctrine of Christ, it is valuable!
I suppose the lack of teaching on the subject is the reason why so many Christians regard the laying on of hands with something like astonishment. Others regard it with fear. But the laying on of hands is one of the half dozen fundamental principles of the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ!
I have even heard Full Gospel ministers say, “I don’t much go along with the laying on of hands.” To deny one of the fundamental principles of the doctrine of Jesus Christ is a serious matter.
Scriptural Purposes for the Laying On of
Actually, the laying on of hands is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. There are several scriptural purposes for employing the laying on of hands. Let’s examine some examples from both the Old and New Testaments.
Old Testament Examples
In the Old Testament, we see that the laying on of hands was used for several different purposes.
The Book of Genesis reveals that the laying on of hands was used to impart blessings. Genesis 48:14 says, “And Israel [Jacob] 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.” Israel laid his hands on his grandsons and spoke words of blessing over them.
In Exodus 29, we also see that God instructed the Levites to use the laying on of hands during the worship service.
10 And thou [Moses] 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. . . .
15 Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the
ram. . . .
19 And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram.
We read here that the imperfections of the worshippers were transferred by faith to the sacrifice. The sacrifice was a type of Christ. The perfections of the sacrifice were received by faith by the man who laid hands on the sacrifice. It was God’s power that effected the two-way transmission.
The Bible reveals that another purpose for which the laying on of hands was used was to equip men to serve God. The following passage of Scripture tells us that when the time had come for Moses to leave this earth, God directed Moses to lay his hands upon Joshua, Israel’s next leader, to impart a measure of his honor to him.
18 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and LAY THINE HAND UPON HIM;
19 And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
20 And THOU SHALT PUT SOME OF THINE HONOUR UPON HIM, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
22 And Moses did as the Lord commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before
Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation:
23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.
Later in the Book of Deuteronomy, we read that Joshua had the same spirit of wisdom that Moses had because Moses had laid his hands upon him. This implies that what Moses had was transferred to Joshua by the laying on of hands.
9 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.
Today through the ordinance of the laying on of hands, God’s power is transmitted by faith through the minister to the seeker. Something mighty occurs when men of faith lay hands in the Name of the Lord upon those who, by faith, receive the impartation.
New Testament Examples
In the New Testament, we see some distinct purposes for which the laying on of hands was used. The number one reason the laying on of hands was used in the New Testament was to minister healing. There are more scripture references concerning healing in connection with the laying on of hands than concerning anything else. But we’ll skip over healing right now and look at the other purposes for the laying on of hands.
Another use of the laying on of hands in the New Testament was for helping believers receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:17, when Peter and John laid their hands on Philip’s Samaritan converts, they received the Holy Spirit.
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the
17 THEN LAID THEY THEIR HANDS ON THEM, AND THEY RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST.
Then in Acts 19:6, Paul laid hands on the disciples at Ephesus, and “. . . they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”
1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And WHEN PAUL HAD LAID HIS HANDS UPON THEM, THE HOLY GHOST CAME ON THEM; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
In nearly every instance in the Book of Acts where people were filled with the Holy Spirit, they received by the laying on of hands. (Exceptions were the spontaneous outpourings of the Spirit in Acts 2 and Acts 10.) Of course people can be filled with the Spirit in other ways, but the laying on of hands is one scriptural method.
Another common New Testament practice was laying hands on those who were being ordained and separated unto the ministry.
2 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.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
The laying on of hands was also used in imparting spiritual gifts. Now when I say “spiritual gifts,” I’m not talking about what we call the gifts of the Spirit. What I’m talking about is similar to what took place in Exodus chapter 29, when Moses imparted some of his honor and wisdom to Joshua. In the New Testament example of this, Paul told Timothy, “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
Tim. 4:14). Later Paul exhorted Timothy, “. . . 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
Tim. 1:6). Timothy had received special giftings to minister through the laying on of hands.
The doctrine of laying on of hands does not end with the ordination of
ministers, however, as so many denominations believe. That is only one facet of laying on of hands.
There is also scriptural precedent for laying hands on those being installed in certain church offices. In Acts chapter 6, seven men were selected to wait on tables, freeing the apostles to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. The apostles laid their hands on the seven, who were called deacons—“helpers” in the Greek.
So you see, the laying on of hands has several distinct purposes.
Laying Empty Hands on Empty Heads
I realize that there is an unprofitable kind of laying on of hands. There are extremes of it in the church world.
One extreme is a mere ritual. There are churches that have a ritual of laying hands on people to confirm them. According to some church creeds, one receives the Holy Spirit at this time. But this is a mere ritual and formality, and nothing happens.
On the other hand, there have been extremes even in Full Gospel circles. People have had hands laid on them for nearly everything you could mention— and some you couldn’t.
For example, a woman told me that she went to a meeting where hands were laid on her. She was prophesied over, and she supposedly was given “the gift of casting out permanent waves.” I told her if she could have gotten the gift of putting them in, she would have had something!
Once a man came up to me after a service several years ago and asked, “Brother Hagin, could you help me?”
I said, “I’ll be glad to if I can.”
He told me he had been in a meeting where someone laid hands on him and gave him the gifts of healing, the gift of the word of knowledge, and two or three other spiritual gifts. He said, “I can see that these things are manifested in your ministry. Maybe you could tell me how to operate them. I know I’ve got them, because that fellow said I did.”
I asked, “How long has it been since hands were laid on you?” “Well,” he said, “over six months ago.”
I said, “Has there ever been any kind of manifestation?” “Not that I know of,” he replied.
I said, “I’d forget it if I were you. You don’t have anything. If it’s there, it would rise to the surface.”
Then in another place I preached, a woman sat on the second pew, right in front of the pulpit, and rocked just like she was in a rocking chair throughout my sermon. I thought the poor dear was afflicted with some kind of serious physical ailment.
Afterwards I asked the pastor, “What’s wrong with that woman? People were looking at her. She was distracting from the message.”
“Oh,” the pastor said, “Brother Hagin, that’s a sad case. There’s nothing wrong with her physically. She’s not a member here, but she does come to church some. I’ve been intending to talk to her about it, but I just haven’t had time. She attended a meeting somewhere, and someone laid hands on her and gave her ‘the gift of rocking.’”
Several nights later that woman came up to me after the service accompanied by a woman who had told her there is nothing in the Bible about “the gift of rocking.”
She said, “De Edifier, explain my gift to this woman.”
Well, I thought that would be a good opportunity for the pastor to talk to her! I said, “I’m on my way out of the building. You go to the pastor of this church. He’s a man of God and knows the Bible quite well. He’ll be glad to help you.”
Afterwards, the pastor said, “You dog!”
I said, “Well, you said you wanted to talk to her, so I arranged it. Were you able to help her?”
He said, “Certainly not. No one could help her.”
I asked, “Well, what did she tell you? What is the purpose of this so-called gift?”
The pastor answered, “She said that God had given it to her so the pastor or the guest speaker could tell when things were in the Spirit. If she is rocking when we’re singing, testifying, or preaching, then everything is in the Spirit.”
I know this sounds ridiculous, but it is true. I’m not making it up. I call all these examples laying empty hands on empty heads.
I am not going to be frightened out of a New Testament practice, however, because of fanaticism, nor am I going to be frozen out because of formality. The real is not done away with because of excesses. I’m going to practice the New Testament doctrine of laying on of hands and it’s going to produce New