Laying on of Hands in Ministry

There are three general reasons this ministry was used in the Bible.

  1. To impart blessings, authority, and healing
  2. To impart the Holy Spirit and Spiritual gifts
  3. To commission ministers

Let us look closer at these uses of the laying on of hands found in the Bible.

I.    To Impart Blessing, Authority, and Healing

  • When Joseph brought his two sons to his father Jacob to be blessed, he laid his hands upon their heads. Genesis chapter, 48. When Jacob laid his hand upon the heads of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, he crossed his arms.  Joseph thought at first his father had made a mistake and tried to get his father Jacob to switch his hands. The right hand in blessing is the more powerful blessing.
  • Jacob corrected Joseph’s assumption by revealing it was God who told him which son to bless with which hand.  We see here there was a spiritual blessing released by the laying on of hands from the grandfather to the grandsons.
  • It was normal practice in early Biblical times for descendant blessings to be released by laying on of hands by the elder on the younger.
  • Again in Numbers chapter, 27, Moses had come near to the end of his earthly life and ministry.  He asked God to appoint a new leader over Israel.
  • Moses was told to take Joshua, son of Nun, “a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him.”  This action released the anointing and authority for Joshua to take over for Moses after he died.  He was to do this in front of all the people as a public sign for all to know God had laid His hand upon Joshua.
  • We see this another powerful release of God’s anointing in 2 Kings chapter 13, with Elisha and King Joash.
  • Elisha told the king to take a bow and arrow, lay his own hands upon them, and then Elisha placed his hands upon the king’s hands.  He then gave the king instructions to shoot the arrow eastward out of an open window.  It became a prophetic Word from God about the king having victory in Syria.
  • In the New Testament, we see the same action used by Jesus several times. He touched blind men, lepers, and many sick people.
  • Matthew 8:14 Jesus laid hands on Peter’s mother-in-law and she was instantly healed.
  • In Matthew 19 many little children were brought to Jesus and he laid his hands on them to bless them
  • Mark 6:5 Jesus laid his hands on many who were sick and they were healed.
  • Mark 16:18 Jesus commanded those of us who are believers to lay hands on the sick and they would be healed
  • James 5:14,15 James tells those who are sick to call the elders of the church and let them lay hands upon them.

II.  To Impart the Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts

  • Read Acts chapter 2 for an introduction to the coming of the Holy Spirit with power and evidence of speaking in other tongues.
  • Acts 8:14-18 We see Peter and John going to Samaria to follow up on the new converts there.  They prayed that they would receive the Holy Spirit, as they had gotten saved but not had a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.
  • They laid their hands upon them (vs 17) and they received the Holy Spirit.  It had to have been when they spoke in tongues given by the Holy Spirit that others knew what had happened, as in vs. 18, Simon the sorcerer “saw” that they received the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands, he offered money to get that same power.
  • In Acts 9:17-18, we see Saul who later was called Paul’s introduction to the Holy Spirit baptism. Ananias was sent to Saul by the Lord.  He was to minister to Saul and give him a message from Jesus.
  • When he came to where Saul was, he laid his hands upon Saul, and then spoke the words Jesus told him to say to Saul, he was immediately healed and was filled with the Holy Spirit.

III.   To Commission Ministers

  • Acts 13:1-4 we see the commissioning of Paul and Silas to do an assignment for God. As the local prophets and teachers ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit spoke to them to separate two of these people to go on an assignment for Him.
  • They called out Barnabas and Saul (Paul).  After they had prayed and fasted, they laid their hands upon them and sent them away.
  • There was a precedent set here for how to commission those who were sent out from a church.  The prophets and teachers were in prayer and agreement.  They knew these men had worked with them in the local church.  The Holy Spirit was evident in their lives and ministries.  They did not take it lightly but prayed and fasted before sending them out.
  • One thing to note in these passages is the use of the phrase “I have called them” in verse 2. It is in the perfect tense, indicating God had already spoken to Barnabas and Saul (Paul).  The laying on of hands was a confirmation to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit already inside these men.
  • Once they laid hands upon them, they spent further time in prayer and fasting for clearer direction.  Their part of this action did not stop at the commissioning but continued as they became a part of these two men’s new calling.
  •  2 Timothy 1:3-7  We see Paul connecting with his spiritual son, Timothy.  He reminds him of his early teaching through his mother and grandmother, and the fact that Paul himself, had laid hands on him, imparting Spiritual gifts.
  • He tells Timothy to remember it and stir up that gift again.


  • Human touch can be used by God to bring comfort, healing, impartation, and commission.
  • It is not to be done lightly, but as the Holy Spirit leads.
  • 1 Timothy 5:22 Paul tells Timothy “Lay hands suddenly on no man”  This passage is talking about directions for setting up a church. Paul gives instructions on how to treat each member.
  • He then starts talking about pastors who may be walking in error and sin (vs19-21).
  • The Passion Translation makes vs 22 more clear; “Don’t be hasty to ordain them with the laying on of hands, or you may end up sharing in their guilt should they fall.  Keep yourself pure and holy with your standards high.”
  • This last warning is so necessary for the world we live in today.  There are many charlatans claiming to be called by God when they are self-appointed and not anointed.
  • Each step of commissioning others should be bathed in prayer and fasting.  Also seeking the direction and purpose of the Lord.
  • When we follow these steps of guidance, we will be more likely to set the right person into the right ministry for the Lord.
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