1 Timothy 5:22 “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.”
There are certain practices within the church I have questioned for years. Some of the practices are traditions that had their beginnings in biblical truth while others have deeper spiritual ramifications I might have been too immature to understand in the past. Some traditions have formed because people have read a certain scripture and took it at face value, not fully recognizing the foundation by which it was laid.
The laying on of hands is one such practice that has developed over time into a litany of different practices, and like all biblical concepts, if they aren’t practiced appropriately they can turn into a false doctrine.
Expression of Unity
Traditionally, the laying on of hands has been a way for people to come together in prayer. The unity of lifting up someone in need as a body has been a supportive way to express our needs to God collectively.
I’ve often wondered why this practice is encouraged. I’ve had others pray collectively for me and done so for others on many occasions. I don’t feel any closer to God with one person or with many, matter of fact my most intimate moments with Him are alone in the mornings.
When examining the Word of God regarding unity I was surprised by a concept I hadn’t heard before.
Hebrews 6:1-2 “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”
I find it interesting in Hebrews how the practice of laying on of hands would be considered a process of maturity. Since there are deeper considerations as to how this is to be applied, I figure I should look intently into the Word of God and search it out. Considering the old law is a way to see how this practice was first formed.
In Genesis 48 we see one of the first instances of blessing being bestowed upon another. “And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” …
The act of blessing was intentional.
As Israel crossed his hands and blessed the younger over the older we see an act of Spirit led intentionality being exercised by a patriarch of God. We also see this practice carry forward in history in how it was employed in the Old Testament Church with the dedication of priests (Numbers 27:18, 23; Deuteronomy 34:9), and in the New Testament in the ordination of Christian office-bearers (Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), as well as by the Savior and his apostles in the performance of many of their miracles (Matthew 19:13; Mark 8:23, 25; Acts 9:17; Acts 19:6; Acts 28:8).
Since the laying on of the right hand was the greater blessing and the left hand the lesser blessing, the laying on of both hands is representative of the fullness of the blessing.
*Not only did the laying on of hands convey blessing but it also represents a unifying principle of agreeance.
Exodus 29:10-11 “You are to present the bull at the front of the Tent of Meeting, and Aaron and his sons are to lay their hands on its head. And you shall slaughter the bull before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.”
When the priests laid their hands upon the sacrifice they were associating with the sacrifice. In other words, the sins of the people were to be conveyed upon the sacrifice that was to die in their place.
Each step of the ceremony had significance and purpose.
The blood was regarded as the life (Genesis 9:4). The life consecrated to God and accepted by Him was given back by Him to His ministers, that it might consecrate them wholly to His service, and so fit them for it. Placed upon the tip of the right ear, it reminded them that their ears were to be ever open and attentive to the whispers of the Divine voice; placed on the thumb of the right hand, it taught that they should take in hand nothing but what was sanctified; placed upon the great toe of the right foot, it was a warning that they were to walk thenceforth in the paths of holiness.Ellicott
With all of this in mind, the encouragement in Timothy takes on new meaning.
1 Timothy 5:22 “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure”
When we place our hands upon another, we are not conveying some special anointing upon them like those who dwell in mysticism, we are conveying a sense of unity.
We associate ourselves with someone else’s pain, heartache, or needs when we draw around them. Are you ready to take on that responsibility as you unify yourself with another?
Far too often the church allows themselves to practice temporal unity without considering the sacrifice. Unity in the body is to bear one another up, strengthening one another, and helping one another through hardship—it is more than just a prayer, it is a commitment.
If someone is suffering because of sin, the answer isn’t prayer that they would stop suffering but rebuke by the Word of God and the wisdom for turning away from that sin.
Unity in Sin
Ephesians 5:11 “Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
There are times that people suffer because the Lord is taking them through a trial. Suffering may come because God is teaching His people to rely on Him, or He may be shedding away elements of our fallen nature so that we might be perfected.
Suffering also comes by way of sin.
Sin is the act of offending God’s law. When God’s law is offended, God is offended. People don’t need strength to endure the consequences of sin, they don’t need a reprieve while on the path of unrighteousness, the need correction.
There is a time to gather in unity, and there is a time to renew toward holiness. Remember, the laying on of hands is a time to impart blessing or in the pattern of priests a time to confer judgement.
Let us not be too hasty in how we pray or what we pray for, we might just find ourselves incurring God’s wrath rather than His blessing.
For about ten years I was involved with a homeless outreach in our town. It was an opportunity to show the love of God practically to those who were living on the streets. It was encouraged by the leader to pray with everyone who came to be served and so many of the volunteers would ask the homeless what they could pray for, the responses were typical; “pray to get my kids back”, “pray that I get a job”, “pray that I can get free housing”….and so the volunteers would pray without hesitation for these requests.
After praying with many people I began to ask them who God is and the responses shocked me. Most people either made up a god in their own image or had a completely false understanding for the God of Creation. I discovered that as we prayed, they were praying to an idol. If their prayers were answered as they had hoped, it was this false god they attributed glory upon.
I changed my prayers from asking about their needs to asking God to reveal His glory and Truth of who He is to them. I prayed that if their prayer was answered, they would know that it came from Christ alone.
I and many I served with were rash to unify ourselves in prayer with those who were lost.
Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
The church can practice certain habits that may look good but are not in accordance with Truth. We must be wise to how we practice our faith, unless it aligns with God’s directives we will suffer from practicing false religion.