The Laying on of hands
Biblical accounts show that anciently, during Christ's ministry and during the time of the early church, the laying on of hands was done for many different reasons. Some of there reasons are noted in the following list:
- Bestowing a supernatural ability
- Change in the physical or spiritual condition of an object or a person
- Ordination to an office, function, or responsibility
- Evidence of an authorization to use the power of the holy spirit
- A point of contact through which spirit-energy flows
This section will explore various accounts and aspects of the act of laying on hands in order to show that this important practice has profound meaning, is a medium through which the power of the holy spirit flows, and is an important act to be performed during this gospel age of salvation.
Doctrine of laying on of hands
After the writer to the Hebrews acknowledges the validity of Christ as the high priest of the Sovereign Father's earthly children and reprimands these Hebrews for their lack of skill in the use of the foundational knowledge about righteousness, he makes the following statement:
"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to 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. And this will we do, if God permit" (Heb.6: 1-3 KJV).
The English phrase of the doctrine in verse 2 is translated from the Greek word didache, which means instruction.
The writer urges these Hebrews to go forward in knowledge and understanding from foundational teachings, which include the instruction of laying on hands. This tells us that the practice of laying on hands was firmly established as a foundational teaching in the early church. Therefore, its symbolism and practical application should be clearly understood and practiced by the elect today.
Although it is not specifically mentioned in James' instructions for healing within the congregations of the elect, when the many biblical accounts of laying on hands are reviewed and an analysis of the Greek words used in James' instructions is made, there is a strong indication that this act is applicable within the healing ritual.
Commission to Believers
Shortly after Jesus was resurrected, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene, and then to two individuals as they were walking to the village of Emmaus. After this, he met with the remaining eleven disciples and gave them what is commonly called the great commission as recorded by Matthew and Mark:
"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. You go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this age" (Matt.28:16-20 KJV Para.).
The English phrase to observe in verse 20 is translated from the Greek word tereo derived from the Greek word teros, which means a watch. Tereo means to guard (from loss or injury; properly, by keeping the eye upon). The use of the word tereo in verse 20 seems to indicate a guarded maintenance of the things Jesus told his disciples to teach, which includes what he said regarding healing.
These Signs Will Follow Them That Believe
Both Matthew and Mark record that the disciples were to go throughout the earth proclaiming the good news message Jesus brought from his heavenly Father and to induct repentant individuals into his Father's earthly family. But only Mark records Jesus stating certain supernatural signs would be evident among true believers:
"You go into all the world, and preach the good news to everyone. Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But those who refuse to believe will be condemned. "And these signs shall follow those who believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with languages new to them; They shall cast away serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mk.16:15-18 KJV Para.).
Jesus makes a statement of fact about supernatural abilities which will be evident among true believers who will have the authority and power to cast out evil spirits, speak languages which they did not previously know how to speak, have protection against poisonous snakes and liquids, and heal every type of physical or spiritual disability, illness, and mental disorder though laying their hands on the affected individuals.
Although Jesus promised these supernatural abilities in the context of proclaiming the gospel message and accepting those who believe into the Father's earthly family of believers, he did not place restrictions on who can be healed through the laying on of hands. Therefore, it seems logical that healing through the laying on of hands can be applied to the elect, as well as the unconverted.
The following accounts before the advent of Christ show the importance of the ritual of laying on hands in order to effect a result.
The patriarch Jacob laid his hands on Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and bestowed his name and the names of Abraham and Isaac on them in order to pass on to them and their descendants the birth-right and the prophetic promises of national greatness which the Creator made to him:
"And Israel [i.e., Jacob] stretched out his right hand, and laid it on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth" (Gen.48:14-16 KJV).
Although the laying on of Jacob's hands was symbolic of the prophetic blessings being bestowed, it actually passed the birth-right promises to Ephraim, Manasseh, and their descendants, which historical records show produced physical blessings for their descendants.
Throughout the Book of Leviticus, we see hands being laid upon the heads of sacrificial animals for the purpose of symbolically setting them apart for a scared purpose and conferring a condition of holiness to them so that they can be used to atone for sin or be presented to God as a peace offering.
During the rituals on the Day of Atonement, Israel's high priest symbolically placed all the sins of national Israel on the head of a live goat which was sent away from the Israelite's camp carrying these sins (Lev.16:20-22). This ritual resulted in the removal of these sins which defiled the Israelites and their encampment. Moreover, the removal of these sins made it possible for the Creator's presence to dwell in the tabernacle for another year.
Moses and Joshua
The Creator told Moses to lay his hand on Joshua in order to bestow his honor and authority on him so he could lead Israel.
"And the Lord said to Moses, Take you Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And you shall put some of your honor on him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient" (Num.27:18-20 KJV).
The English word honor in verse 20 is translated from the Hebrew word howd; from an unused root meaning grandeur (i.e., an imposing form and appearance). The use of the word howd indicates that, along with Joshua being charged with the responsibility to lead Israel, he would have his physical appearance changed.
When Moses returned from Mount Sinai with the second set of tablets on which the law was written, his physical appearance was different from other men (Ex.34:29-35). This is the appearance given to Joshua through the laying on of Moses' hand as he was given his new responsibilities:
"And Moses did as the Lord commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses" (Num.27: 22-23 KJV).
In addition to his appearance being supernaturally changed when Moses laid his hands on him, Joshua was given given the ability to make wise decisions in order to lead and govern the Israelites:
"And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. 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 to him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like to Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut.34:7-10 KJV).
The laying on of hands was also performed to invoke and carry out the death sentence on individuals guilty of blasphemy and other capital crimes:
"And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him to Moses: (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:) And they put him in ward, that the mind of the Lord might be shown them.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Bring forth him that has cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him" (Lev.24: 11-14 KJV).
"At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put the evil away from among you" (Deut.17: 6-7 KJV).
Levites to Serve God
"Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And this shall you do to them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying on them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shall you take for a sin offering. And you shall bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and you shall gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together: And you shall bring the Levites before the Lord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands on the Levites: And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord" (Num.8:6-11 KJV).
Before the advent of Christ, there are many accounts of the ritual of laying on hands, which show it to be a symbolic acknowledgment of a person's position of responsibility and service and the dedication of an animal and its elevation to a holy condition so it could be sacrificed or otherwise used in the temple service. Additionally, the laying on of hands was symbolic of invoking a death sentence on a person who was to be punished for a capital crime.
The performance of this ritual was the means through which a transfer of blessings from one person to another was performed, something or someone was elevated to a holy condition, and a change was made in a person's characteristics or mental ability.
Healing Before Christ
Before the advent of Christ, the laying on of hands was performed for many different and important reasons, none of which the biblical record shows as being performed to effect the healing of individuals.
The following two accounts show that the laying on of hands was not necessary during the days of the prophets Elisha and Isaiah to effect healing. But, sometimes certain instructions were given for individuals to follow before their healing would take effect.
Naaman, who was the captain of the Syrian army came to the prophet Elisha's home asking to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha sent his servant to tell Naaman to wash in the Jordan river seven times and he would be healed. When Naaman performed this ritual, he was healed of his leprosy (2.Kgs.5:1-27).
The Creator sent the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah to inform him that he must set his house in order because he would die. After King Hezekiah beseeched God to heal him, the Creator sent Isaiah back to tell Hezekiah that he had heard his prayer and would let him live. Isaiah instructed Hezekiah's servants to take a lump of figs and lay it on the king's boil, after which he recovered (2.Kgs.20:1-7).
During Christ's Ministry
The many accounts in the New Testament of Jesus healing people reveal that no disability or illness is beyond supernatural healing through the power of the holy spirit and no specific method or ritual was necessary in order for Jesus to effect the healing of various physical disabilities, illnesses, or spiritual and mental disorders.
All of the examples of Jesus healing individuals reveal that people were healed instantaneously after a command was given to heal, or after a person followed instructions to perform a certain act.
During Christ's ministry, he would sometimes lay his hands on individuals as a part of the process of healing various afflictions (Mk.6: 1-6; Lk.4:40). Jesus also laid his hands on little children as he blessed them (Matt.19:13-15; Mk.10:13-16). However, there are many accounts of Jesus healing people without touching them with his hands. Although Jesus did on occasion lay his hands on individuals or touch them in the process of healing them, he did not find it necessary to do this in every case. Sometimes, he just commanded a healing to occur or said it had been done according to a person's faith in his ability to heal them. See Mk.3:1-15; Lk.5:18-25; Jn.5:1-15.
No account in the New Testament shows Jesus' disciples performing the ritual of laying on hands to effect a healing during his ministry. But, it is likely that they did, because Jesus did. The disciples also anointed individuals with oil and healed them as they went about proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
During the Early Church
There are many accounts in the New Testament where hands were laid on individuals for various reasons. The following are several accounts which show the ritual as a symbolic acknowledgment that a person is being placed in a position of responsibility and service. These accounts document that the ritual of laying on hands accomplishes a tangible and perceivable result in the physical realm.
On one occasion, many individuals were baptized after hearing the preaching of Philip, but they did not receive the holy spirit until after the apostles Peter and John came and put their hands on them. It is important to note that Peter and John first requested the Father to give his spirit to these individuals before they put their hands on them:
"Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the holy spirit: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the holy spirit" (Acts 8:14-17 KJV). See also Acts 19:1-6.
Verses 18 and 19 of this account show it was through a request to the Sovereign Father and the ritual of laying on hands that these individuals received the holy spirit and were transformed into the Father's earthly children.
"And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the holy spirit was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whoever I lay hands, he may receive the holy spirit" (Acts 8:18-19 KJV).
The English word power in verse 19 is translated from the Greek word exousia, which means force (i.e., the power to cause an action). Simon the sorcerer recognized the effect of laying hands on individuals and wanted the ability to use this supernatural power.
After Saul who became the apostle Paul encountered Jesus near Damascus and was rendered blind, he saw a vision of a man named Ananias coming to him and laying his hands on him. A short time after this vision, Ananias entered the house where Saul was and told him Jesus had sent him and why he was sent. Then, Ananias put his hands on Saul and he received his sight and was filled with the holy spirit:
"In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight" (Acts 9:10-12 NIV).
Jesus tells Ananias in a vision to go to Saul who had been given a vision of him restoring his sight through the laying on of hands (Acts 9:13-16). Although Ananias was extremely apprehensive because of what he had heard about Saul's persecution of the elect, he knew that the person in the vision was Christ, so he went to Saul:
"Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the holy spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus" (Acts 9:17-19 NIV).
Because of the importance of the mission Saul had been selected to perform in proclaiming the good news message, Christ personally instructed both Saul and Ananias in order to facilitate God's plan to offer salvation to non-Israelites. Through the laying on of Ananias' hands, Saul's eyesight was restored and he received the holy spirit.
Ministering to Widows
As the early church grew, it became apparent there was a need for someone to care for the physical needs of the widows among them. As a result of this need, men were chosen by the membership of the early church and ordained by the apostles to perform this duty:
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples to them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the holy spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the holy spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they [the Apostles] had prayed, they laid their hands on them" (Acts 6:1-6 KJV).
The apostles laying their hands on these seven men was not just a symbolic gesture. The function and responsibility to care for the physical needs of the widows was now assigned to them and established in heaven through the laying on of hands. See Matt.18:18-19.
Barnabas and Saul
As Saul and other men who ministered in Antioch were fasting, Christ, through the holy spirit, gave an instruction to send Barnabas and Saul (i.e., Paul) to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles:
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the holy spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts 13:1-3 KJV).
We are not told what these men's prayers entailed, but it can be assumed that some of the things they requested were supernatural power, protection, and wisdom to be granted to Barnabas and Saul as they went about proclaiming the gospel. It would seem the only reason for laying hands on Barnabas and Saul would be to acknowledge their function of proclaiming the gospel message to the Gentiles and to bestow the supernatural powers and protection on them as requested in prayer.
As the early church grew, there was a need for men to teach and guide congregations of the elect in the Father's truth and to carry out other functions and responsibilities of the church. The New Testament shows men being ordained as elders and the granting of the authority to ordain other elders being passed from elder to elder through the laying on of hands.
In 1.Tim.3:1-13, Paul lists for Timothy the qualifications a man must have before being ordained an elder, and later he tells him to be careful who he selects and ordains as an elder to minister to the elect:
"I charge you before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that you observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep yourself pure" (1.Tim.5:21-22 KJV).
The apostle Paul charged Titus the Greek, who himself was an elder, with the responsibility to ordain other men to a similar office within the church as he went about proclaiming the gospel and establishing congregations of believers:
"To Titus, my own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. For this cause left I you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed you" (Titus 1:4-5 KJV).
In Paul's letters to Timothy, he mentions supernatural abilities given to Timothy through the laying on of hands. Although we are not told what these were, it can be assumed these abilities were necessary in order for Timothy to carry out his function as an elder and an evangelist:
"Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you" (1.Tim.4:11-14 NIV).
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of you in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in you also. Wherefore I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands" (2.Tim.1:1-6 KJV).
The English word gift in Paul's comments to Timothy about the supernatural ability given to him through the laying on of hands is translated from the Greek word charisma, which is derived from the Greek word charizomai, which means to grant as a favor. Charisma in the context of verse 6 means an endowment.
Although the scriptures show supernatural abilities given to some individuals without the laying on of hands, before and after the advent of Christ, the biblical record also shows that, during the existence of the early church, some of these abilities were transmitted to individuals through the hands of the apostles and other elders. Therefore, it is logical to assume that this practice can be continued when applicable during this present age of the church.
Proclaiming the Gospel
Although the following accounts of healing are in the context of proclaiming the gospel message, they show that the decision to employ the laying on of hands to effect a healing is dependent on the circumstances in which healing is performed.
Paul at Melita
After being shipwrecked, and stranded on Melita, the apostle Paul had laid his hands on the father of Publius in order to heal him. After this he healed many other people while on the island:
"And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and courteously lodged us three days. And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed" (Acts 28:1, 7-9 KJV).
As an act of compassion, Paul heals Publius' father through the laying on of his hands. This account shows that Paul understood he was authorized by Christ to use this ritual to heal unconverted people as he carried out his responsibility to proclaim the gospel message. See Mk.16: 18.
Not all people who were healed by the apostles had hands laid on them. Paul healed a man who had been crippled from birth by just telling him to get up and walk. And he sent cloths he had handled to people to effect the healing of sicknesses and the casting out of evil spirits. See Acts14:8-10; 19:11-12.
There are many scriptures which show the apostles healing people as acts of mercy and compassion while going about fulfilling their commission to proclaim the Father's good news message and establish congregations of believers wherever they went. The scriptures clearly show that, when healing people, those doing the healing did so through discretionary use of their authorization to heal.
The following example of Peter healing a lame man also reveals that, when a person is given supernatural power to heal, it is not necessary for them to lay hands on an individual to effect a healing.
Peter Heals a Lame Man
In the following account, Peter uses his delegated power and authority over the physical laws of this world to heal a man who had been lame from birth:
"Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; . . .Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed to them, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold I have none; but such as I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise and walk" (Acts 3:1-2, 4-6 KJV). See also Acts 3:16.
Before performing this act of mercy, Peter said, "Such as I have I give you," which makes it very clear that Peter had the power to heal at his discretion. When Peter said, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise and walk," he was not only announcing by whose authority he was removing this man's paralysis and making him whole but also commanding the act of healing to be performed through the authority and power that he had been delegated through the office of Jesus Christ.
After issuing this command in the name of Jesus, Peter confidently reached down, took the man's hand, and begin to lift him to his feet. Instantly, the man was healed of his paralysis and had enough strength to stand, walk, and leap up and down. See Acts 3:7-8.
By Whose Authority?
While being questioned by the high priest and other religious leaders of the Jews about his authority to heal the lame man, Peter told them he received his authority and power to perform this healing through Jesus Christ who was also the Savior of humanity:
"If we be examined of the good deed done to this man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known to you all, and to all people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:9-12 KJV). Read both chapters 3 and 4 of Acts for more details.
This and other accounts of the apostles healing people reveal that it is not necessary for a person who has the authority to heal to touch a person, lay hands on them, or anoint them with oil in order to effect a healing. It also tells us that only faith is required in certain instances for healing to take place.
Because of a lack of understanding in today's world about God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, a man who is authorized to heal, just as the apostles Peter and Paul were, should clearly explain who it is that has given him the authority to heal. This makes it clear to those who are healed and those who are aware of the healing that all credit, praise, and honor for any healing performed by them belongs to God the Father and that the one performing the healing is doing so through the authority delegated to them by Christ.
Signs and Wonders
The New Testament record tells us very little about everything the apostles did with the tremendous supernatural power which they had been given in order to proclaim the gospel message, but the following two accounts indicate that what they did was much more than healing people:
"And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people" (Acts 5:12 KJV).
"And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands" (Acts 14:1-3 KJV).
Some might assume that the reference to hands in these two accounts is metaphorical and does not mean that the apostles used their hands in performing supernatural acts. However, there are many accounts in the biblical record which show a single hand or both hands together as instruments used to exercise supernatural power in order to initiate and accomplish tangible, perceivable results in the physical realm.
One or both hands are often used in the biblical record to visually symbolize an action or an event that is to occur; however, the use of one or both hands is many times more than just symbolism. There are many biblical accounts showing supernatural power being exercised and projected into the physical realm though hands.
When Amalek came to fight with Israel at Rephidim, Moses told Joshua to choose men to fight them and that he would stand on a hill holding the rod God had given him. When Moses held his hands up, the Israelites prevailed and when he lowered his hands because of fatigue, Amalek prevailed. Therefore, Aaron and Hur brought a large rock for Moses to sit on and then each of them held up one of Moses' hands until Amalek was defeated. See Ex.17:8-14.
Although the raising and lowering of Moses' hands was visually symbolic, it was much more than symbolism. This act demonstrates that supernatural power can be accessed and projected through the hands of a man authorized to use this power to effect a tangible outcome in the physical realm. See also 2.Kgs.13:14-20.
In many English translations of the biblical text, the word translated as hands from the Masoretic and the Textus Receptus is very seldom a plural word in the original text. This understanding becomes important when determining how to perform supernatural acts like the apostles did, as well as how to perform the healing ritual as instructed by James.
There are many scriptures which show the right hand position in relationship to the Sovereign God and the Creator God who became Christ as being a position of authority and power. Additionally, there are many scriptures which show authority and power being wielded through the right hand.
When Jacob put his hands on the heads of Ephraim and Manasseh, he put his right hand on Ephraim who was to receive the greater blessing (Gen.48:11-21). In the song of Moses, God's right hand is noted as the hand through which his power is expressed to accomplish his will in the physical realm (Ex.15:6-12). The Psalms show that God saves and does marvelous works through his right hand (Psa.17:7; 98:1; 108:5-6).
Healing the Elect
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (Jms.5:14 KJV).
James' instruction for the healing of the elect within a congregation with an active eldership does not clearly specify that the elders are to lay hands on the person who requests healing and is anointed with oil, so is laying on hands necessary while performing this healing ritual?
In order to answer this question, it is important to remember that Jesus promised believers would have the ability to lay hands on the sick in order to effect healing (Mk.16:18). Additionally, the use of the Greek word epi, which can be translated as over or upon in the phrase let them pray over him indicates that the prayer can be performed while laying hands on the individual.
Knowing these things and understanding that practice of laying on hands was the method through which the power of the holy spirit was exercised before the advent of Christ, during the ministry of Christ, and during the early church indicates that the laying on of hands during the performance of James' instructions is a necessary part of the ritual and should be practiced today.
Although the laying on of hands during the healing ritual mandated by the apostle James is symbolic of the healing to follow, this act is much more than symbolism. The person upon whom the elder's hands are laid is being brought before the Father for special consideration. The healing power of the holy spirit is to flow to the person being healed. Moreover, laying on hands demonstrates belief and faith in the promise Christ made to those of his Father's earthly family:
"And these signs shall follow those who believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with languages new to them; They shall cast away serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mk.16:17-18 KJV Para).
By B.L. Cocherell b8w16-7