Q: #112. What does the Bible say about laying hands on people?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Laying hands on people is found all through the Bible. It is mentioned in conjunction with 5 things basically:
Healing: (Mk 6:5)(Mk 8:22-26)(Lk 4:40)(Lk 13:11-13)(Acts 9:12-17)(Acts 28:8)
Commissioning: (Num 8:10-11)(Num 27:18-23)(Deut 34:9)(Acts 6:5-6)(Acts 13:3)
Blessing: (Gen 48:14-20)(Mt 19:13-15)(Mk 10:13-16)
When receiving the Holy Spirit: (Acts 8:14-19)(Acts 9:17)(Acts 19:6)
Giving spiritual gifts: (1 Tim 4:14)(2 Tim 1:6)
***Note: A warning is issued in (1 Tim 5:22)(NASB) "Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily..." This is primarily a warning not to be "hasty" in commissioning elders before they have been tested.
The Bible clearly shows that laying hands on people does not NEED to be done in order to do any of these things. For example, Jesus also healed many people He did not lay hands on (and certainly could have healed those He did lay hands on without laying hands on them), and the Holy Spirit was also given without the laying on of hands (Acts 10:44-48)(Acts 2:1-4).
Laying hands on people certainly has Biblical support, but sadly today this is often turned into some kind of a mystical ceremony where a person or persons are "transferring their anointing" into others. It is being taught by some, largely in charismatic circles, and usually in the areas of healing and receiving the Holy Spirit, that when an "anointed" person lays hands on an individual, they will be healed or receive the Holy Spirit because this happened in the Bible.
It is important to note, however, that when this did happen in the Bible, the person or person who had hands laid on them were ALWAYS healed or ALWAYS received the Holy Spirit. Today, this is not ALWAYS the case when these "anointed" people lay hands on others. Tragically and quite sadly... as a result, the blame for it not occurring is laid on the person upon whom hands were laid. They weren't healed or didn't receive the Holy Spirit because "They didn't have enough faith" or "Their life wasn't where it should be, so they couldn't receive it." Sometimes, they even go so far as to blame it on God by saying, "Well, I guess it just wasn't in God's timing." How destructive... Where did any of this happen in the Bible in conjunction with the laying on of hands?
Today, the laying on of hands is viewed by many people as largely a symbolic act. I tend to agree with this position. I see a parallel to this in the Old Testament when the Israelites used to lay hands on different animals. For example, people would lay their hand on a bull before sacrificing it as a sin offering (Lev 4:13-15), or the High Priest would lay hands on a goat (a scapegoat), and the sins of the people were placed on the goat before releasing it into the wilderness (Lev 16:20-22). Now, the sins were not actually transferred to these animals, but rather, it was a symbolic act that pointed to Jesus who actually would take on our sins and make atonement for them.
Having said this, however, let me make it clear that I DO view the act of laying hands as a POSITIVE thing. I know there is power in this. I have been a part of laying hands on people, and have been on the receiving end of having hands laid on me. At times, I have seen God do some mighty things as a result. However, there has ALWAYS been one common factor that has been a part of these times of the laying on of hands, and that is PRAYER! It wasn't about the act of laying hands, per se, it was about the power of prayer to change lives.
There is an intimacy and bond that comes from laying hands on others and praying for them that goes beyond just simply praying for a person. I am not saying it is necessarily more powerful, but simply more personal. Sometimes, we all need to have the bond and warmth that comes with a physical touch, and laying hands on people can be a powerful way to convey this. For those of you I minister to online, this is another reason why I continually push you to be involved in a real life church, and not make the online world your church. It can never be the same.