Why We Have the Laying on of Hands Ceremony
Good News Magazine
April-May 1965
Volume: Vol XIV, No. 4-5
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Why We Have the Laying on of Hands Ceremony
William H Ellis  

What is the purpose for this ceremony? What does it MEAN in baptism? in healing? in ordination? Do YOU KNOW?

   WHEN you were baptized, hands were laid on you by God's servants for a real purpose.
   When you are anointed for sickness or injury, why are hands laid on your head during the prayer for healing?
   Whenever a man is ordained to an office of greater service in God's Work hands are laid on him. In the ordination ceremony God's ministers lay their hands on those being ordained, and ask Almighty God the Head of this Church to continue to work in their lives.
   What is the purpose for the laying on of hands? Does God's True Church observe a ritual without a meaning? Certainly NOT!

A Foundational Doctrine

   The Apostle Paul tells us in Hebrews 6:1-2, "Go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of LAYING ON OF HANDS, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."
   But how can we "go on" from these foundational principles until we understated them all? Have you ever realized why the doctrine of the LAYING ON OF HANDS is listed by Paul with the very greatest, MOST BASIC PRINCIPLES of Christian life?

Why in Baptism?

   Receiving God's Holy Spirit being begotten as a candidate for His spiritual family Is CONDITIONAL TO the laying on of hands!
   Notice the example in Acts 19:1-6.
   When the Apostle Paul came to Ephesus he found disciples of Christ already there! They had heard of Christ from Apollos a Greek convert (Acts 18:24-19:7). He taught them that Jesus was the Christ, and that His sacrifice could cleanse away their sins. Apollos taught them from the Old Testament the New Testament, with its clarification of the Holy Spirit, hadn't yet been completed.
   Some few Ephesians realized they had been guilty of breaking God's law, and had come to real repentance. Acknowledging their repentance, Apollos baptized them as John the Baptist had, for the remission of their sins.
   When the Apostle Paul arrived in Ephesus, he asked whether these new converts had received God's Holy Spirit. They admitted they didn't even know such a thing was possible!
   After the Ephesians understood the promise of the Holy Spirit, Paul baptized them AGAIN, this time LAYING HANDS ON THEM! Precisely when Paul laid his hands on them, THEY RECEIVED THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!

God Works Through Human Instruments

   Why hadn't the Ephesian converts received God's Spirit when Apollos baptized them?
   Although Apollos was a competent teacher, he had not been given authority by God to lay hands on repentant believers for the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
   But this authority was given by Jesus Christ to the leaders of His Church the twelve Apostles. God's Apostles passed this authority on to the Apostle Paul and others who qualified for greater service as administrators leaders in the early New Testament Church (Acts 13:1-3).
   Notice that Jesus Christ intends that the administration the physical and spiritual government of His True Church be handled through HUMAN INSTRUMENTS! The Church is Christ's Body it is ruled and guided by Him as He works through His chosen human representatives.
   The Apostle Paul, one of God's human instruments, received the authority to bind repentant converts into the Body of Christ. Apollos hadn't yet received any such responsibility from God's Church.
   Jesus Christ honored the AUTHORITY of His human instrument by sending the supernatural power of God's Spirit to the twelve converts of Ephesus! (Acts 19:6-7.)
   When YOU were baptized, God's servants, sent from His modern Headquarters, laid hands on you and you received the gift of the Holy Spirit! Once again, FOR YOU PERSONALLY, God worked through His chosen human Instruments as He has done for over 1900 years! The men who laid hands on you were vested with this responsibility by Jesus Christ, the LIVING, ACTIVE HEAD of this Church!

What the Laying on of Hands Does

   In every case where the laying on of hands has been administered it has set apart someone for a special purpose.
   The birthright promise God Almighty confirmed to the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, was passed on by the laying on of hands. Notice the account in Genesis 48.
   God's promises had been passed on to Isaac by his father Abraham. Isaac had passed them on to Jacob whose name was later changed to Israel. As Jacob was dying he called Joseph to his side. Joseph brought his own sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to their grandfather's deathbed.
   In a ceremony of simple blessing and adoption. Jacob confirmed the birthright promise to Joseph's sons BY THE LAYING ON OF HIS HANDS (Gen. 48:13-16). The act of the laying on of Jacob's hands set apart Ephraim and Manasseh in God's sight to receive his inheritance.
   So important was this simple ceremony in the history of the world, that had it not been carried out by Jacob and backed up by the power of Almighty God, the nations of the United States of America and the British Commonwealth could not have achieved world influence. That's how vitally important the laying on of hands really is!
   When God Himself chose a physical priesthood, they were set apart for their holy duties by the laying on of hands. Only a tribe specially consecrated by this important ceremony could officiate in God's temple.
   Notice how the laying on of hands took place in the book of Numbers:
   After the men of the tribe of Levi were chosen to act in the capacity of priests for the people of Israel, they were separated in God's sight from the rest of the tribes (Num. 8:6). They were cleansed and prepared for the ceremony which would follow, and then brought before the tabernacle in the sight of all the people (Verses 7-9).
   When they were gathered together the people put their hands on the Levites, and Aaron, God's High Priest, presented them before God as a living sacrifice to "execute the service of the LORD" (Num. 8:10-11).
   "Thus shalt thou SEPARATE the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine," said God at the conclusion of this impressive service (Num. 8:14).
   The laying on of hands serves the purpose of setting apart anyone or anything in God's sight, for a SPECIAL USE OR PURPOSE.

Yielding to God's Church Government!

   Another example of the laying on of hands is found in Acts 8:9-25.
   Philip had been recently ordained a Deacon in God's Church, but did not have authority to set apart converts in God's sight and administer the laying on of hands (Verses 12-13). At his preaching, however, some of the Samaritans believed the Good News of God's coming Kingdom. Among those who believed what Philip said was the unscrupulous Babylonian magician, Simon Magus.
   Philip baptized those who believed, and Simon was among them although he had not repented of his pagan ways. He had only been impressed by the miracles God's Spirit had performed through Philip.
   Word was sent to Headquarters in Jerusalem of these baptisms, and the Headquarters Church dispatched Peter and John to Samaria to administer the laying on of hands. As yet none of the Samaritan believers had received the Holy Spirit! (Acts 8:14-16.)
   When Peter and John laid their hands on those who were repentant, they immediately received God's Spirit! But Simon hadn't repented (Verse 22). He was not given the gift of the Holy Spirit because he coveted it in bitterness, seeking to use it in working miracles for PROFIT! (Acts 8:17-20.)
   Peter saw through Simon's feigned repentance, and knew Simon was not willing to SUBMIT to God's Government, but only wanted to create a following after himself. He knew Simon wanted to appropriate the miracles of God's Spirit to begin a FALSE PAGAN CHURCH in OPPOSITION to God's True Church! Simon had NO INTENTION of submitting to God's Government as it was administered by God's human instruments!

The Meaning of the Laying on of Hands!

   The laying on of hands in baptism is one of the very first extensions of God's Government into your life. You must be willing to acknowledge and submit to the authority God has placed in His Church before you can be set apart to receive His Holy Spirit. By this means you may become a part of the Body of Jesus Christ.
   Jesus Christ is the Head of His Body, the Church (Col. 1:18). If you desire to be joined to that Body, you must be willing to accept the RULE the GOVERNMENT of Jesus Christ in YOUR LIFE!
   The authority to administer the Government of God's Church was given by Jesus Christ to His chosen human instruments, and it is through God's human instruments that Christ's authority touches your life. You openly SHOW YOUR WILLINGNESS TO TOTALLY SUBMIT to that authority when you are set apart in baptism and submit to the laying on of hands!
   It was by the hands of God's servants that you received the Holy Spirit and became a part of the Body of Jesus Christ God's True Church!
   By submitting to the hands of God's human instruments, you willingly put yourself under their authority, and acknowledged that Jesus Christ alive on His Father's Throne in Heaven is ACTIVELY RULING HIS CHURCH TODAY!
   Remember, in baptism we "act out" the burial of the old man, and the resurrection to a new spiritual life. In the laying on of hands we "act out" being set apart to serve God as a "living sacrifice" and submitting our will to God's divine Government. As Jesus said, "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).

Why in Ordination?

   Throughout the Bible the laying on of hands is used in ordination. Have you wondered why? Notice again this ceremony is symbolic of God's divine Government.
   In Numbers 27:18, God commanded Moses, "Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and LAY THINE HAND UPON HIM." In Verses 19 through 21 we see that Joshua's ordination as the leader of the "church in the wilderness" set him apart from the people and carried with it a charge a responsibility to lead and guide the nation of Israel.
   By the laying on of hands DEACONS WERE ORDAINED to carry out physical responsibilities in the New Testament Church (Acts 6:6) such as the serving of tables (Verse 2) and caring for widows (Verse 1). These were specific duties assigned to Deacons to maintain order in the New Testament Church. The Deacons were set apart from the lay members of the congregation to carry out a physical part of Church Government, and so were ordained by the laying on of hands!
   We have already noted that it was by the laying on of hands that the Apostle Paul was ordained (Acts 13:3).
   Ordination is the conferring of certain added responsibilities upon someone who has proven his trustworthiness. It is always preparatory to the doing of a job or the handling of a responsibility, never as a reward for work already done. With ordination goes authority! But that authority doesn't come from men, it is the charge of God Almighty and is confirmed by the laying on of hands!
   In I Timothy 5:22, Paul warned Timothy. "Lay hands suddenly on no man..." But Paul wasn't admonishing Timothy to avoid physical combat. This phrase is clearly translated in the Revised Standard Version, "Do not be HASTY in the laying on of hands."
   It is a true principle that a man can't execute authority until he has learned to thoroughly respect and instantly obey that authority. God will not give responsibility to a man until he has learned to rightly handle the duties he already has.
   Paul instructed Timothy to be sure over a period of time of how well a man handles his personal responsibilities before he ordained him to a place of service in the Government of God's Church by the laying on of hands.
   Ordination by the laying on of hands is God's way of setting apart and conferring the responsibility and authority of God's Church Government to a human instrument who has learned how to serve faithfully under the authority of that Government.

For Special Gifts

   God gives special gifts special powers of His Spirit to those who are set apart by the laying on of hands.
   Remember that it was by the laying on of hands that Timothy received the added ability, called "prophecy" by the King James translators. This word should actually have been translated, "inspired preaching" (I Tim. 4:14 and II Tim. 1:6).
   By setting apart Timothy in ordination by the laying on of hands Timothy received the additional help of God's Spirit in preaching. Timothy's natural ability coupled with God's power helped him become Paul's right-hand Evangelist a DYNAMIC SPEAKER.
   This spiritual gift of inspired preaching was conferred to Timothy by the laying on of hands. Why? So that Timothy could better serve God's Church.
   In the case of Joshua we are told, "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!" (Deut. 34:9.)
   Joshua was given additional spiritual wisdom in governing God's people by the laying on of hands. Wisdom is also a spiritual gift.
   God's spiritual gifts were given to those who were set apart by God to carry out the service of Government as God's chosen human representatives!

Why Then in Healing?

   Jesus Christ commanded His representatives to administer the laying on of hands when anointing you when you suffer sickness or injury (Mark 16:18)! The healings that have followed for 1900 years are among the identifying signs of His true servants (Verse 17).
   God's twentieth century Church still follows in Christ's footsteps!     
   Many thousands of you know personally how the signs of healing have followed this Church.
   This world would consider it ridiculous if it could witness God's minister anointing you for the healing of your body. The Apostle Paul said, "The natural [carnally minded] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14).
   When you go to God for healing, you are submitting your body to Jesus Christ. By the laying on of hands, you are symbolically set apart in God's sight, putting yourself under His authority submitting your sick or injured condition to God's divine will as a living sacrifice! This proof-in-action of your willingness to submit to God's human representative God's minister for anointing and the laying on of hands is "acting out" your willingness to accept the spiritual Government of Almighty God Himself over your physical life.

Special Miracles

   Healings that God effects through anointed cloths are called special miracles! (Acts 19:11-12).
   Those who are faithful and obedient to God's Government follow His instruction to call for the Elders when they are sick (Jas. 5:14). If an authorized representative of God's True Church can't reach them personally, an anointed cloth is sent. The sick person must willingly take the cloth as a symbol of God's Government in his life, even though God's human agent is not present!
   Because it is a special art of faith in God's Government, and in His healing power, God looks upon the healing of such a person as a SPECIAL MIRACLE!

God's Church Headed by Jesus Christ

   The laying on of hands is one of the most basic foundational doctrines of God's True Church! And it has a definite purpose.
   The laying on of hands shows us that although God Himself is invisible to our limited human eyes, His own Son Jesus Christ is the LIVING, ACTIVE HEAD OF THIS CHURCH.
   By this simple ceremony we submit ourselves to Jesus Christ the Great High Priest as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1). At the same time we show we are set apart from this world, as the Apostle Paul continues, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God!" (Rom. 12:2.)
   Through His human representatives, Christ is adding SPIRIT-FILLED MEMBERS to His Church by baptism and the laying on of hands. Through His human agents, He QUALIFIES more men for responsibilities of service in His growing Work! They are ordained by the laying on of hands. Through the laying on of hands and prayers of His human instruments, Jesus Christ is raising the sick and injured just as He personally did over 1900 years ago!
   Too often we forget that this Church of God has Jesus Christ as its LIVING, ACTIVE HEAD!
   Christ is guiding His Church to greater goals, increased growth, and unlimited future service it is Christ who guides the decisions made by His ministers!
   Christ has personally guided this past Ministerial Conference the greatest to be held since the beginning of the Philadelphia Era of God's Church! Christ will continue to guide the Ministerial Conferences of the future by the POWER of His Holy Spirit.
   Jesus Christ is LEADING THE WAY. Let's all be following where He leads!

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Good News MagazineApril-May 1965Vol XIV, No. 4-5