The Laying On Of Hands


If Acts 2 is the only instance of Holy Spirit baptism in the New Testament, how then do we account for the fact that many others in the New Testament performed miracles or spoke in tongues? If they were not recipients of Holy Spirit baptism, how did they get the ability?

The New Testament dictates only one other way to receive miraculous capability, through ‘the laying on of the apostles’ hands’. Only the apostles possessed the ability to transfer miraculous capability to others. Acts 8:17-21.

This description establishes two important facts

1. Only the apostles had the ability to impart to others the ability to perform miracles, and

2. Those other than the apostles who could perform miracles received their ability indirectly through the apostles, not directly from God via Holy Spirit baptism.

This fascinating feature of the existence of the miraculous in the first century makes it possible to understand how other individuals received their supernatural powers. For example, Philip, who was not an apostle, possessed the ability to perform miracles, Acts 8:6 / Acts 8:13.

If he wasn’t an apostle, and he didn’t receive direct ability from God via baptism of the Holy Spirit, where, then, did he derive his ability? Luke informs us that Philip previously received the laying on of the apostles’ hands, Acts 6:5-6.

Likewise, the first Christians in Ephesus were enabled to speak in tongues when the apostle Paul laid his hands on them, Acts 19:6. Even Timothy received his gift from the laying on of Paul’s hands, 2 Timothy 1:6.

Some have challenged the exclusivity of the role of the apostles in their unique ability to impart the miraculous element by calling attention to the admonition given by Paul to Timothy, ‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.’ 1 Timothy 4:14

Even though Paul plainly declared that the ‘gift of God’ which Timothy possessed was conferred ‘through the laying on of my hands,’ 2 Timothy 1:6 how does one explain the fact that Paul also stated that Timothy’s gift came through the elders, i.e., the eldership, as well?

Once again, the grammar of the text provides the answer. In 2 Timothy 1:6, where Paul claimed sole credit for imparting the gift to Timothy, he employed the Greek preposition ‘dia’ with the genitive, which means ‘through’ or ‘by means of’.

However, in 1 Timothy 4:14, where Paul included the eldership in the action of impartation, he employed a completely different Greek preposition, ‘meta’. The root meaning of ‘meta’ is ‘in the midst of’. It denotes the ‘attendant circumstances’ of something that takes place, the ‘accompanying’ phenomena.

It means ‘in association with’ or ‘accompanied by’. In other words, Paul as an apostle imparted the miraculous gift to Timothy. It came from God through Paul.

However, on that occasion, the local eldership of the church were present and participated with Paul in the event, lending their simultaneous support and accompanying commendation.

Consequently, 1 Timothy 4:14 provides no proof that miraculous capability could be received through other means in addition to the apostolic imposition of hands and the one other clear instance of Holy Spirit baptism.