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July 03, 2020 Q & A

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.

 

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