Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 94 of The Berean Manifesto brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to continue our series on the elementary teachings of Christianity with this, our fourth installment.
I would encourage you to start at the beginning of this series in season 2 episode 91 about baptism. The topics in this series are the milk of Christian theology. These are the things we understand to be the very first basics that you should teach a new Christian you are discipling. Something we don’t see a lot of these days, discipling, so a lot of Christians haven’t been taught this stuff. This list comes straight from Hebrews 6:1-2 CSB, “ Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God,  teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” In this installment we’ll be taking about the laying on of hands. There are three major uses of the laying on of hands recorded in the New Testament. These are for healing, for ordination to official positions of ministry, and the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit. There is also reference to Paul using the laying on of hands to stir up the gifts of the Spirit in Timothy, but this probably took place at Timothy’s ordination and with lack of any other mention doesn’t make it to our list.
The most common instance of the laying on of hands in the Bible is for healing. Jesus did a lot of commanding people to be healed, but He also did a fair amount of touching people and they were healed. In Mark 16:18 Jesus tells the disciples that believers in Christ will lay hands on the sick and they will get well. We only have one recorded instance after that point in the Bible that clearly tells us that someone laid hands on someone else and they were healed. Acts 28:7-9 CSB, it says, “ Now in the area around that place was an estate belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably for three days.  Publius’s father was in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went to him, and praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him.  After this, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.” We shouldn’t be too concerned at the lack of recorded instances of the laying on of hands for healing in the New Testament. Given the prevalence of healings that were recorded as being performed by Christ and the fact that Jesus gave the laying of hands for the sick for their healing as one of the key identifier of believers, it was probably such common place that it’s likely that the New Testament authors didn’t give a second thought to writing down every time someone was healed after the laying on of hands.
So, as a Christian, should you lay hands on the sick in prayer and expect them to be healed? Absolutely! Will it always end in the person being miraculously healed? In my experience, no. Also in my experience, sometimes. Being a human, and therefore imperfect, unless the Holy Spirit imparts you with special knowledge you can’t know what is going on in someone’s life or their heart. Most of the time when Jesus healed people He credited their faith for the miracle, not His power. It’s your job to obey the Holy Spirit and minister love to others, sometimes that means praying for someone and they’re healed. Sometimes that means praying over someone and sticking with them through their struggle if that healing doesn’t happen.
Let’s talk about ordination. Ordination in the Christian church is similar to the passing of blessing or mantle of ministry from the Old Testament, like Moses to Joshua or Elijah to Elisha. However, with ordination both the ordained and the one ordaining walk away with a full portion of anointing. The first time we see this amongst the church is in Acts 6:1-7 CSB, “ In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.  The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, "It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.  Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."  This proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a convert from Antioch.  They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  So the word of God spread, the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.”
The care of orphans and widows were a big deal in the Jewish community and for the early church. The Hellenistic believers had a complaint against the Hebraic believers about the care of widows. I’ve dropped the redundant term of Jew here because there were no gentile believers yet. The difference between these two parties are that the Hebraic Jews grew up in Israel and preferred to speak Aramaic, while the Hellenistic Jews had moved away from Israel and returned to Jerusalem and preferred to speak Greek. Likely these Hellenistic Jews were comprised mainly of the three thousand men who were led to salvation on the Day of Pentecost. So, the twelve apostles call a meeting to appoint seven men to serve as basically deacons who could oversee the day to day operations of the church community while the Apostles dedicated themselves to ministry. They laid hands on them to ordain them into their new positions and as a result of the Apostles being freed up to do ministry, there was a huge influx of believers even from amongst the Jewish priests. That’s a big deal, drawing Jewish priests away from Judaism and into Christianity. That’s no small feat.
For our final instance of laying on of hands were looking at the laying on of hands for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19:1-6 CSB it says, “ While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples  and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" "No," they told him, "we haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."  "Into what then were you baptized?" he asked them. "Into John's baptism," they replied.  Paul said, "John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus."  When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak in other tongues and to prophesy.  Now there were about twelve men in all.”
So Paul comes across these twelve men who were recent converts and were still being discipled. Paul seemingly wants to make sure they are receiving full training and asks them if they’ve received the Holy Spirit. Not only had they not, but they’ve never even heard of the Holy Spirit and the baptism they received was one of water for the repentance of sins instead of the spiritual baptism of grace into Jesus. Paul lays hands on them and they are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to move in the gifts of the Spirit.
In closing, let’s look at one more excerpt of scripture to add some perspective. Acts 8:4-25 CSB “ So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the word.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.  The crowds were all paying attention to what Philip said, as they listened and saw the signs he was performing.  For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.  So there was great joy in that city.  A man named Simon had previously practiced sorcery in that city and amazed the Samaritan people, while claiming to be somebody great.  They all paid attention to him, from the least of them to the greatest, and they said, "This man is called the Great Power of God."  They were attentive to him because he had amazed them with his sorceries for a long time.  But when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.  Even Simon himself believed. And after he was baptized, he followed Philip everywhere and was amazed as he observed the signs and great miracles that were being performed.  When the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.  After they went down there, they prayed for them so the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit because he had not yet come down on any of them.  (They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)  Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.  When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money,  saying, "Give me this power also so that anyone I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit."  But Peter told him, "May your silver be destroyed with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!  You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart is not right before God.  Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, your heart's intent may be forgiven.  For I see you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by wickedness."  "Pray to the Lord for me," Simon replied, "so that nothing you have said may happen to me."  So, after they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they traveled back to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.”
Just a side note: in the first entry in this series we talked about baptism and the difference between water baptism and spiritual baptism and the journey of Peter on his revelation about baptism. Here we have Phillip. Phillip is the only of all the New Testament ministers that when we track his journey of ministry he didn’t lead people to the Lord and then baptize them, part of his leading people to the Lord was water baptism. He considered it all to be one event. It wasn’t like today where you go to a church and you say a prayer and then later you sign up for baptism. Phillip believed that dipping them in the water was part of their spiritual baptism into Jesus and that it all occurred at the exact same time. As far as how that lays out in theology, it really doesn’t. If Phillip felt that was the way ministry was to be done was the he need to go down into the water with people and dip them in the water while they made their decision of belief then that’s great for him. We’ve talked about if you feel like you should get water baptized, then you should, but it’s not a requirement of salvation. I don’t want to have any confusion, in the scripture when it talks about Phillip baptized them. Every time it talks about Phillip doing baptism, it is talking about literal water baptism. Make sure keep that in mind while you’re reading scripture. Not every time it says baptism is actually water baptism unless Phillip is involved, then it’s water baptism.
The main reason we brought in this last bit of scripture here is because I do want you to feel confident and assured in laying hands on others for healing, the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, and, if it comes to it, the ordination of others to ministry positions adjacent to or under your authority. In this last scripture we see there are those who have tried to manipulate the Holy Spirit and abuse the laying on of hands. If you’re going to be doing ministry, and laying on of hands is ministry, then you must do so with your heart right before the Lord. The laying on of hands shouldn’t be a part of a fundraiser. Ministry is free, you impart the healing to those who need it for free. And those who aren’t healed, you have a responsibility to stick with those people as they move forward. It’s not something you go around doing willy nilly, and if it doesn’t work then they’re on their own. That’s not responsible ministry. You should feel confident in laying hands on others, and listening to the Lord and following the Holy Spirit. If your heart is right, and if you’re sensitive to the holy spirit, then you’re going to do just fine.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”