WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE TEACH ABOUT “LAYING-ON-HANDS?”
“Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” Acts 9:17-18
Of the 27 times the New Testament speaks about “laying-on-hands” it devotes only four references to the ordination of pastors and deacons. The other 23 times deal with the impartation of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, miraculous gifts, and other related topics. Tragically, much of the modern church denies the supernal works of God and has relegated hands-on ministry to those few practices of which it personally approves. The loss is tragic. For the first 27 years of ministry I too was a hard-line nonbeliever in the “hands-on” impartation and power of the Holy Spirit. Though there was no scriptural support for the position my denomination held, we insisted that miraculous gifts vanished when the Apostles died and I wrongly carried that error to others. We, like many evangelicals, would not admit that the Spirit’s withdrawal was because of our own unbelief. God had not left us; we had left Him. Not only did I preach against these “strange” ideas but ridiculed those who believed them. Then an abrupt change came: God sovereignly slammed me against my religious wall. In 1977, when I faced my greatest crisis, a young, Spirit-filled prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary laid-hands on me and I was delivered from a horrible spirit of depression, inferiority, other attitudes that had dominated my life, and was filled with the power of God.
The inmate’s exact words to me were “Brother Charles, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you came has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). I returned home and had an encounter with God so spectacular that I was totally–permanently--freed of oppression and changed forever. There is no way to describe the effects of the Holy Spirit’s impartation when that young man laid his hand on my head. As a Baptist pastor and Presbyterian Seminarian, I had come into the “Renewal Movement” explosively. Now, more than 40 years later I am still vibrating from the power of my “baptism in the Spirit.”
When I emerged again, submitted to God and better informed scripturally, I was a new man, had a new message, was anointed for new ministry, and walked with God in new authority and power. As with Israel’s double baptism—“baptized unto Moses in the sea and in the cloud” (I Corinthians 10:2) I too experienced a dual baptism unto Jesus. The first, had been in 1947,“in the sea,”—my water baptism—and in 1977, a wondrous baptism in the “Cloud”—the Spirit. Today, in my 67th year of preaching, my ministry is more relevant, more energized, more far-reaching, more consistent with first century Christianity than in all previous years combined--and the end is not in sight. I say that to the Glory of God. Since my “Renewal” I too have laid-hands on thousands of others and seen them be miraculously delivered and filled with the power of Almighty God. This includes alcoholics, drug addicts, suicidals, and scores of people battling life-destroying crises. Others have found themselves changed for Kingdom service. This note illustrates the power in “hands-on” ministry:
“Dear Charles, I want to tell you how I was blessed in Toronto. You came to the row where I was sitting with folks from my church and when you touched my forehead the power of the Holy Spirit hit me like lightning striking a tree. A little while later you came back through our whole row. Once again, the power of the Holy Spirit hit me and I fell. You prayed over me for a very long time. When you finished I felt if you had not stopped I would have died! ... We met again the next day when you were coming down the aisle before the morning session. You greeted me again--and the power of the Holy Spirit came once more. I was on the floor for a period of time ... I can’t thank you enough for your ministry in Toronto! It greatly blessed me! I needed a power-encounter with the Living God.” —Betty. Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.
The writers testimony is not unusual. She experienced a “sign and wonder” from the Holy Spirit and an empowering to benefit others (Acts 2:43; 4:30; 6:8). In the years following my renewal I have learned some valuable facts about “hands-on” ministry:
1. First of all, there is absolutely no power in the human hand. None. The Holy Spirit releases power from the “Temple of the Holy Spirit”( I Corinthians 3:16-19) which is inside the human body. The hand has value only because it is an extension of the Temple. When a ministering Temple touches a receiving Temple there is a power-transfer from one Temple to the other. This movement of the Holy Spirit can be restricted by “insulating” factors in either party; by “insulation” I mean attitudes of jealousy, anger, fear, pride, or other “works of the flesh.” Carnality grieves the Holy Spirit and restricts His ministry. Additionally, where there is no humbled-devotion and reverencing for the full New Testament truth there will be meager results.
2. There is a vast difference between “hands-on” ministry and prayer-ministry. The two may occur simultaneously but they are not the same and great care should be given so as not to confuse the two.
3. Prayer is supplication; Laying-on-hands is impartation. Here is an interesting example from the Old Testament: Numbers 27:18. “And the Lord said to Moses: Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” Deuteronomy 34:9-10. “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him.”
4. Talking, counseling, conversation, can be a handicap to hands-on ministry. “Hands-on” ministry is distinct, separate from prayer, and in a league to itself. Jesus did not say “These signs will follow those lay-on-hands and pray.” This may seem to be a needless point but let me explain: Prayer is out-going, it is the outward flow. In hands-on ministry the direction must be reversed, the person receiving should stop talking, singing, vocalizing in any capacity that keeps them in control, and consciously do what Jesus said. His instruction was “Come to Me and drink!” It is impossible to drink and talk at the same time. Talking locks a person into his own introspection and self-consciousness. Jesus must become the center point not the individual.
I believe this so profoundly that there have been times when I put my hand on the person’s mouth, forced him or her to stop speaking, and said, “Please! Reverse the flow and drink!” Other times when the conversation has been centered too long on the problem, I have said to the person, “I am going to leave you for a few minutes–but I will come back. In the meantime, please forget me, forget your circumstance, forget everything around you, and be ready to receive from the Lord. Receiving is vital. Begin to drink.” Rarely have I known such instances to fail. When people make the transition from supplication to impartation they usually drop under the power of God. I have seen people drop to the floor, begin vibrating with such intensity that they actually “floated” down the aisle. Why? What was the purpose? I don’t know. It was simply a “sign and wonder” which God did not explain. Sometimes I am in meetings where several thousand people receive “hands-on” ministry and crash to the floor under the Holy Spirit’s impartation. It would be totally impossible for me to minister to such crowds if I stopped to pray with each one. I repeat: I believe in prayer! But “hands-on” ministry is impartation–not supplication! It is distinct, separate from prayer, and in a league to itself. I cannot overemphasize the fact that “hands-on” is God’s way of releasing His power from a ministering-Temple into a receiving-Temple. Someone says, “But, I am being obedient and laying-hands on others but nothing like that happens. What do I do?” Our duty is to trust Jesus who said, “These signs will follow those who believe: They will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” True, none of us are worthy of that privilege. But, we must never forget that we function in the imputed righteousness of Christ not our own righteousness. (Imputed is another word for imparted.) You and I are not responsible for the results. We are responsible only to obey, to be certain we are true worshipers of Jesus, that our Temples are honoring the Holy Spirit, and that He feels welcomed and wanted inside us. Fear is a frequent handicap in those ministering to others–that is, fear that nothing will happen; the one ministering fears he or she will look inadequate, unspiritual, incapable, etc. Such fear reveals two possibilities: The absence of faith and/or the presence of ego. In such cases there can be no expectation. And faith is expectation. Insecurity tempts the one ministering to by-pass impartation and provide more supplication. The great danger is that religion will then give a sense of false satisfaction without having met the need; in other words, duty has been discharged but the circumstance is left unchanged. To hide their deficiency, some over-zealous ministers push people to the floor in an imitation of spiritual power. This is contemptuous to God. Remember also that God has not surrendered His sovereignty; He knows facts about the people we minister to which we don’t know. They may be resisting the Holy Spirit and privately protecting themselves from Him. A man may fear deliverance from a demon he wants to keep–lust, power, intimidation of others, etc. While you are to “lay hands suddenly” on no one”, that is, acting on your assumption about the person and not the Holy Spirit’s specific leadership, keep seeking His guidance and direction. At some point when you lay hands on another person the Holy Spirit will move in dramatic power. The first time it happened with me I was more surprised than the one who lay at my feet. In a surprising suddenness the Holy Spirit dropped the man into a deep, deep tranquility and took him far beyond our earthly realm. The following letter comes from a precious woman whose life was marked by constant abuse and pain but who received hands-on and entered into the “Lord’s rest.” Listen to what she says: “Dear Brother Carrin, It is now two o'clock in the morning and I still can't sleep. I am shaking all over. I just think about the Holy Spirit and the shaking gets harder. It is not a bad feeling but like waves rolling over me. Tuesday night when you laid hands on me and I went down, I came up laughing like a dam bursting in me. That is when the shaking began ... Wednesday night when I came home it was as if I were up above the bed floating and shaking. If I even think the word "Holy Spirit" the shaking gets harder ... Brother Carrin, this is where I need your help: I don't know what to do with this experience. It's like I hunger, I long, just to sit in the presence of the Lord. At the same time, I know that it is leading me somewhere. The Spirit is saying that He has important things for me to do.” As happened with the writer above, the Holy Spirit frequently identifies specific people in the congregation at the end of a sermon and has me call them out first for hands-on ministry. Whenever the order comes, I try to be obedient and minister to the party promptly. But it hasn’t always been that way. The first time I received such direction was at a Conference years ago in Indianapolis. All the while I spoke, it was as if the Holy Spirit were saying about a young woman in the congregation, “This one! This one! Now!” Whatever my reasons were, I allowed fear to stop me. She left without receiving ministry. God never let me forget my defiance--nor did He let me forget her need. The good effect was that my failure forced me to be more attentive to the Holy Spirit. Significantly, He has taught me truths about hands-on ministry that has proved to be immensely valuable. The question arises, “But why is ‘hands-on’ ministry so powerful? What does it mean?” I can only answer that Jesus commanded us to do it. Millions of people world-wide have been dramatically blessed because another “Temple of the Holy Spirit” laid hands on them. I am merely one of those ordinary disciples who believes Jesus meant what He said. There is nothing special about any of us except that Jesus is willing to confirm His word if we obey. He is the Source, the Power, and the Glory! One of the greatest thrills I get in hands-on ministry is in seeing children and young people experience a life-changing encounter with God. Listen to what this mother says: “Dear Brother Carrin, I want to thank you for what you have meant to my life. I brought my daughter to you (she was 17 at the time) and you prayed for her. It was the beginning of a restored life for her. As a child, she was labeled as ‘learning disabled’ and was afflicted with epilepsy, migraines, and numerous other problems. She has not had one seizure, nor one migraine since you laid-hands on her. It is truly a miracle. I will never ever forget. Thank you!” You can understand my gratefulness for the Holy Spirit’s changing my ministry. The first 30 years were good–but powerless. I could not say with Paul that my speech and my preaching were “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” for they were not. Nor could I say that my preaching had confirmed my congregation’s faith “in the power of God.” That had not happened (1 Corinthians 2:.5,6) But, obedience to the Holy Spirit has not been without a price. Almost immediately after my baptism in the Spirit, my home church in Miami, Florida–the one that had ordained me in 1949–cancelled my ordination. In surrendering my credentials, I explained about my new ministry and the benefits others experienced through the laying-on-of-hands. I assured them, “By the power of the Holy Spirit I routinely–sometimes daily–see drug addicts, alcoholics, suicidally depressed people, others with crushing problems, be delivered and permanently set free. Lives are changed, bodies healed, homes saved, children rescued. What better reason do I need to continue in my present work?! I could never go back to my former ministry in which I was powerless to help these people. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is the greatest blessing my life and ministry ever received!” Strangely, one of the men who signed the Revocation Order had just seen his son released from prison for homosexually molesting little boys. He read my letter in which I specifically told about such men being helped. I was totally baffled. Why did he not say, “Yes! Yes! I want that for my son! I want hands-laid on him in the Name of Jesus!” That never happened. Personally, I will spend the rest of my life wondering why good, God-loving people refuse the grace-gifts God offers. In appealing to others to believe in the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit, I find testimonies speak with loud authority. Here is another dramatic account of a family being healed emotionally, spiritually, domestically, and numerous other ways. It was a simple laying-on-of-hands in the Name of Jesus that brought these wonderful results: "Dear Pastor Carrin, Your ministry has changed my husband’s and my life. We lost our 4 year old daughter in a boating accident. We were Christians but knew nothing of the deeper workings and the healing power of the Holy Spirit. We were both very depressed and angry at God. When you *ministered to us we were “slain in the spirit” for the first time. The Holy Spirit began a healing work in us that has given us a reason to live and to worship His Holy Name. A hunger for more of God began in us that summer night--and praise God--the hunger has never been satisfied!! Since that time, we have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit operates in our lives. Thank you for giving your life to the ministry of people who are hurting; hopefully my husband and I will have the opportunity to give to others as you have given of yourself. GOD BLESS YOU!" —Susan Archer, Birmingham, Alabama *hands-on Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s impartation that comes throught the “laying-on-of-hands!” Charles