Believers 101: Laying of Hands

So far in this series, we have been looking at Hebrews 6:1-2 as the writer hints to foundational teachings. We need to have a great understanding of these ideas so that we can move on to deeper concepts as the writer explains. We have looked at repentance, faith and baptisms so far. This time, we are going to look at the ancient rooted practice of laying hands. 

The act of laying hands on someone or something goes all the way back to the first book of the Bible. In the Old Testament, there were a few major roles and uses for people to lay hands. The first role in the laying of hands we see is to receive or give blessings to someone. In Genesis 48, Jacob lays his hands on his grandsons to give them blessings for their descendants. This was a way to symbolize the transferring of blessings and good will. 

In Leviticus, we see the laying of hands take on another role. In Leviticus 1:4 it says, Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you.” The priests were to lay their hands on the animal’s head to sacrifice or make atonement for the people’s sins. It was a way to transfer the guilt and sin onto another object. In these cases, it was an animal that would be the representative before God that would be presented as an offering. The laying of hands represented the sin of the people and atonement that animal was now going to be. 

In the New Testament, the laying of hands takes a different turn since Jesus was our sacrifice. Jesus uses them to heal the sick (Mark 6:5 or Luke 4:40). Jesus also blesses children by placing his hands on their heads (Mark 10:16). 

Later in the book of Acts, the apostles used this to ordain people to specific ministries (Acts 6:6) and they also lay hands to give spiritual gifts such as in Acts 8:17, “Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.” The term laying hands is interesting in greek. To lay means to ‘press upon’ and hands is a symbol of help or power. So the laying of hands is a symbolism of divine power coming upon another human. It’s one human representing God’s power coming on another human. 

The act of laying hands on someone is a symbol of divine power. In some cases, it is a representation of something spiritually happening or the act of commissioning. Other times, it can be divine power coming through the faithful act of laying hands. This is what the writer of Hebrews wanted us not to miss. Of course we can lay our hands on anyone and nothing happens. But there seems to be a power at work when believers lay hands in accordance with God’s will, real results can happen. Not because hands were laid, but because of the faith of those who laid hands. The laying on of hands is a great symbol, but also an act of divine power.  

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