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What is the meaning of the laying on of the hands in Acts 13:3 and 2 Timothy 1:6?


This question is one which has caused some concern to many over the years. In Acts 13 Barnabas and Saul are identified by the Spirit of God to the assembled company “for the work to which I have called them,” and as a mark of identification and fellowship they “laid their hands on them.” The expression “laying on of hands” simply refers to the act of literally placing one’s hands on another as a mark to identify with them; nothing is transferred from one person to another.

The Apostle Paul took Timothy with him to assist in the service when visiting Derbe (see Acts 16). In 1 Timothy 4:14 we are told that the gift which had been given to him had been recognized “with the laying on of hands of the presbytery [or elderhood]”; in doing this, they expressed their fellowship with Timothy’s service in the use of his gift.

In contrast, when we read in 2 Timothy 1:6, “stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands,” the word used here for “putting” means “conferring upon.” This gift conferred upon Timothy was an apostolic gift given by Paul through the Spirit of God and was to be used in a manner consistent with the verse 7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

In the case of the elders they identified and had fellowship with Timothy “with the laying on of hands”; the gift was given to Timothy “by the hands” of the Apostle Paul as the instrument of God’s power.

So, in accord with verse 7, in this day of weakness and departure the realization of the presence of the spirit…of power and love and a sound mind, enables us, as it did Timothy, to walk worthy of Christ for His glory and the blessing of His people.

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