the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation Öof laying on of hands (Hebrews 6:1-2).
The custom of laying on of hands is well attested in both the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus practiced the rite to bless and heal (Matthew 19:13, Mark 7:32etc); his followers did so to bestow the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6), to set people apart (ordain) for a specific ministry (Acts 6:6), or for a special task (Ac 13:3). The practice was also imposed to bestow a special gift during ordination (1 Timothy4:14, 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6). In every case, laying on of hands declared that the Holy Spirit works in and through the body of Christ and its individual members. In short, the practice is Godís means of ordaining and empowering his people for the work of the kingdom.
The modern church often stumbles over this elementary principal of Christ by disregarding its solemnity or claiming it has some purpose it does not. Sometimes the laying on of hands is nothing more than a prop in a circus side show. Men and women calling themselves anointed leaders claim to impart the power of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hands. Others ignore the Holy Spirit altogether and make laying on of hands an empty act used to convey legitimacy to ordinations prohibited by the Bible. In either case, the true nature of the rite is repudiated and it is made to serve ungodly ends; laying on of hands gives manís actions the appearance of legitimacy even as he thumbs his nose at God.
If we are to move beyond the elementary teaching of laying on of hands, the Church must learn to make proper use of the rite. It ought not be used to serve the sensational. Nor should it to be used to imply Godís favor of ungodly leadership. And lest we conservative evangelicals think we are immune from criticism in this matter, it is important to understand what Paul means when he tells Timothy, do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other peopleís sins; keep yourself pure (1 Timothy 5:22). In other words do not hastily appoint a man to Christian ministry of any kind. Instead let him prove his maturity and call to ministry before he receives the laying on of hands.
Make no mistake, no one is well proved by graduating from seminary. Moreover, it is the rare man who is mature enough in life or the Lord to take leadership in the Church prior to age thirty (consider David or Jesus himself for instance). Thus a man who believes he is called to the ministry should remain in his home church and serve the Body of Christ under the watchful eye of church leadership over a period of years. Moreover, it is best if he pursues seminary training while in regular attendance at his home church. With the myriad of external and online educational opportunities these days this is relatively easy to do.
Unless we recognize the significance indicated by the laying on of hands, we remain stalled in the elementary principals of Christ. We must understand it is a rite designed to express the great responsibility of those set apart to ministry (of any kind). It is designed to express the approval and empowerment of God in pursuing Christian ministry. It implies a thorough knowledge and personal approval of the one receiving the rite. To misuse the laying on of hands reveals a preference for milk rather than the meat of mature doctrine.