A Question I Was Asked:

What Does it Mean: Lay Hands On No Man Suddenly?

The Question:

Mark 16:18 tells us that as believers we should lay hands on the sick and they will be healed. However, in our church laying on of hands for the sick is now discouraged, following what I believe to be a misinterpretation of 1Timothy 5:22 (lay hands suddenly on no man). Please advise. So what is the meaning of "lay hands suddenly on no man." Is this about healing?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Some have indeed understood this as laying on hands to heal the sick, but others refute this understanding. The context of this chapter shows that the obvious meaning is a reference to ordination - not to 'laying hands on the sick.' It was usual to lay the hands on the heads of those who were ordained to a sacred office, or appointed to perform an important duty; consider 1 Timothy 4:14, comparing that with Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17. The idea here is that Timothy should not be too hasty in an act as important as that of introducing people to the ministry. He should take time to give them a fair trial of their suitability for Christian ministry; he should have satisfactory evidence of their qualifications. He should not be too eager to introduce a man to the tremendous responsibilities of Christian ministry, better to hold back and wait awhile. The Barnes, Clarke and JFB Bible commentaries all favour this view, as indeed I do.

Compare this with 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5. The real connection is with 1Timothy 5:1, 19 which sets the general context of the chapter we are looking at. The way to guard against scandals occurring in the case of presbyters is, be cautious as to the character of the candidate before ordaining him; this will apply to other church officers so ordained, as well as to presbyters, or elders.

A few (Ellicott and Wiesinger, for example), understand 1Timothy 5:22 just a little differently; for them this is about not receiving back into Church fellowship too quickly those who had been "rebuked" (1 Timothy 5:20) and then excommunicated (Matthew 18:17). But since in 1Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; 2 Timothy 1:6, the 'laying on of hands' is used of ordination it seems safer to infer the same meaning here.

Robin A. Brace. June 15th, 2012.