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Question and Answer

The Laying on of Hands

Question:

Does OPC believe in the laying of hands for healings and blessings? If yes, does OPC believe that any Christian can can do it, or must it only be done by a pastor or elder?

Answer:

Your question interests me personally because my early experience of Christianity included the healing by laying on of hands.

The laying on of hands in general was a way the early church used to set men apart for ministry (Acts 13:1–3). Ordination confers spiritual authority along with the enabling power of the Spirit. It represents a personal commitment by the church, and especially by the elders and apostles, to pray for and support that person in prayer and concern in their ministry. And, yes, that includes the hope that God would bless them and their work. In our denomination (and most other Presbyterian denominations and Methodist and Baptist) it is practiced when men are ordained and set apart for ministry. There is also a caution in Scripture that we not lay hands on such people carelessly (1 Tim. 5:22). 

As to laying hands on people for healing, the Bible nowhere commands this. Jesus did sometimes do that with the blind, the lame and others, but other times he simply spoke and they were healed (e.g. Luke 18:35–43), and Saul received his sight back when Ananias laid his hands on him and sight was restored to him (Acts 9:17). But there is no connection in Scripture to the laying on of hands and healing, at least in no way that tells us that we must do that. 

James 5:13–16 says that the elders of the church may pray for a sick person and the Lord may heal him/her, but that text does not command the laying on of hands. I know of elders who have done that with members, and I am sure that Scripture does not forbid it. So it would appear that the elders (and that includes pastors) may do that, but, again, there is no guarantee that the Lord will, in raising the sick person up, heal him/her. It seems to me that he will support them in some way, and that could mean healing or simply encouragement. 

By all means keep praying for more insight, but at this time, this is the understanding on this issue that I have to offer you. I hope I have helped you.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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