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The first three elementary principles have to do with the basics of our justification by faith. We are to repent and have faith toward God and submit to baptism. This has to do with becoming believers. Now we will discuss the last three elementary principles for those who are believers: Laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and aionian judgment.
This principle addresses the idea of being consecrated to God. Before one can properly lay hands on someone else, one must first be qualified. In the law, we usually see how the hands and feet are to be cleansed, signifying one’s works and one’s walk (manner of life) in the world.
Our focus will be upon the hands, but we should be aware of the importance of the feet as well. James 4:8 says,
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Sinners need to cleanse their hands, James tells us, and this runs parallel to purifying one’s heart of a lack of faith. To be double-minded is to have doubts in the midst of faith, as we read in James 1:5-8,
5 But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God… 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Hence, while cleansing hands is for sinners, cleansing the heart is for those who have doubts. In the law, hands and feet were to be cleansed by water baptism to prepare to meet God in the sanctuary. This was the purpose for the laver in the outer court. Exodus 40:30-32 says,
30 He placed the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing. 31 From it Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they entered the tent of meeting and when they approached the altar, they washed, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
The purpose of such cleansing was first to qualify them spiritually to approach God. So we read in Psalm 24:3, 4,
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart…
Secondly, it signified that their hands were identified with the hands of God Himself as they performed their spiritual works. Recall that washing at the laver was part of the law of baptisms. Baptism itself signified putting to death the old self and changing one’s identity to the new self (Rom. 6:6). Hence, when the priests baptized their hands at the laver, they were, in essence, substituting their fleshly hands for the hands of God, so that their work would be acceptable.
Before the priests offered sacrifices to God, they had to lay hands on the animal. Exodus 29:10 says,
10 Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull.
Again, Exodus 29:15 says,
15 You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram.
The purpose of this was to consecrate the animal and impute to it a new identity— that of Christ Himself. In other words, legally speaking, the bull or ram was transformed into the Messiah, who, “like a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7), “He hath poured out His soul [i.e., His blood] unto death” (Isaiah 53:12 KJV).
This priestly work was predicated on their hands being clean and their hearts being pure. Their hands became the hands of God Himself, for Christ, the Antitype, was “smitten of God” (Isaiah 53:4), and “the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). Though He was crucified at the hands of men, God took the credit for it.
We see, then, how the doctrine of imputation plays such an important role in the laying on of hands. First, the hands of the priests, through baptism, were imputed to be the hands of God. Secondarily, when the priests laid their hands on the animal, they imputed to it the sinless nature of Christ.
This was the same principle that undergirded the laying on of hands to consecrate seven deacons. Acts 6:5, 6 says,
5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
Each of these deacons had a distinct calling, and no doubt each received some word of prophecy to accompany this consecration. In the next chapter we see how Stephen was stoned, for he was to identify with Christ in His death.
Later, we see how Philip was the first to go to Samaria to preach the word and then to be transported by the Spirit to Caesarea (Acts 8:39, 40). Philip, therefore, was called to play the role of Christ in His second coming. In Rev. 19:11 we see Christ pictured as coming on a white horse. Philip’s name means “lover of horses.”
Regardless of what role we play in the body of Christ, our work is done on behalf of the body as a whole. Hence, not everyone needs to be martyred with Stephen or to be transported with Philip. In each case, their work is imputed to us, as if we experienced it ourselves.
Philip’s evangelistic work in Samaria was so successful that the apostles in Jerusalem heard of it. Acts 8:14-17 says,
14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.
As Pentecostals, these apostles had access to the Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary. As we know, the outer court was reserved for those being justified by faith and who were baptized with water. This is the realm of Passover. The Holy Place is the realm of Pentecost. The baptism of the Spirit is thus the consecration to the priesthood, for only priests had access to the Holy Place.
The Most Holy Place, of course, was reserved for the High Priest alone. Jesus Christ is that High Priest, and for this reason, He was able to offer His own blood on the Ark of the Covenant in the heavenly tabernacle (Heb. 9:24, 25), that is, in the Most Holy Place.
The point is that the apostles’ hands were imputed to be the hands of God, and thus, the Holy Spirit was imparted to the Samaritans.
Again, we read in Acts 13:2-4 that the Holy Spirit sends out other apostles, commissioning them by the laying on of hands.
2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…
Just as clean hands were able to bring the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans, the same were used to send out apostles, “being sent out by the Holy Spirit.” (The word apostolos means “one who is sent.”)
The result was seen in Acts 19:6, which says,
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.
Likewise, laying on of hands was used to impart healing to the sick, although this was not always a requirement. In the case of Naaman the Syrian leper, he was healed without Elisha even seeing him (2 Kings 5:9-11).
Likewise, Jesus healed the Nobleman’s son from a distance (John 4:49, 50). Nonetheless, Jesus normally laid hands on the sick to heal them. Luke 13:11-13 says,
11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
Again, a blind man was healed in Mark 8:22-25 after Jesus laid hands on him twice. Perhaps more significant was the fact that this miracle of healing was juxtaposed with the “hardened heart” (Mark 8:17) of Jesus’ own disciples. Jesus then quoted from Jer. 5:21, saying in Mark 8:18,
18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?...
Hence, Jesus pointed out that He could heal the eyes of the heart as well as physical eyes. In fact, it would take longer to give light to the spiritual eyes of His disciples.
The same story is told in John 9, giving us more details. Here the healing of the blind man illustrated Jesus’ teaching in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world.” Those who see the Light are set free (John 8:36). Abraham himself “saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
Spiritual eyes are healed, not by physical touch, but by the touch of the Holy Spirit, which enlightens the eyes, imparts faith, and sets us free.
Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 1:6,
6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Paul may refer to the moment when he laid hands on Timothy to receive the Holy Spirit. This conferred upon him certain unspecified spiritual gifts. It seems that Paul worried that Timothy might neglect to use those gifts. Yet it seems more probable that Paul was referring to Timothy’s ordination by the presbytery. 1 Tim. 4:14 says,
14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed [didomi, “deposited”] on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery [or “elders”].
We are not told who spoke the “prophetic utterance,” but it is clear that Timothy was ordained by the elders, perhaps in Antioch, where Paul himself was ordained and sent out.
In similar fashion, Moses ordained and commissioned Joshua with a prophetic charge in Deut. 31:7, 8, and 23. No doubt Moses laid hands on Joshua as well, though we are not told this specifically.
Joshua had been faithful for 40 years and had proven himself to be a worthy successor of Moses. Paul gives instruction in 1 Tim. 5:22,
22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
Laying hands on anyone ought to be done only at the direction of the Holy Spirit, preferably with a prophetic utterance of some kind. Yet beyond this, one should not be too hasty, indicating that the one being ordained should have time to prove his calling by actual experience.
In other words, whatever gift he has is not necessarily deposited in him at the time the elders ordain him. We should keep in mind that God is the One who ordains; men simply bear witness to His ordination, much like the priest who bears witness after God heals lepers (Lev. 14:2, 3). Even as the priest baptizes the healed leper as the earthly witness to a heavenly act, so also the elders ought to view themselves as God’s earthly witnesses to God’s ordination.
To bear witness of such things is to take the time to observe what God has done and to receive revelation such as a “prophetic utterance.” Caution is recommended, as Paul tells us, because bearing witness incurs responsibility. To ordain a “sinner” to the ministry by the laying on of hands is to “share responsibility for the sins of others.”
Of course, we know that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), but Paul’s instruction speaks of those who are in the habit of sinning or who live a sinful lifestyle. We may, perhaps, point to the sin of Eli in regard to his sons. Because Eli did not remove his sons from the priesthood, he became liable for their sins and died the same day that they did.
For this reason, we should understand the importance of laying hands on those who are being called, as well as the responsibility to do so by the direction of the Holy Spirit. For the church to ordain those who live a so-called “alternate” lifestyle that is contrary to the law of God, or to refuse to remove them from office, incurs liability upon the church and its elders. Such churches and elders cannot expect to escape the judgment upon Eli.
There are two resurrections, the first one reserved for the overcomers and the second for “the rest of the dead” (Rev. 20:5). For that discussion, see my book, The Purpose of Resurrection. But since Paul uses the singular form, it appears that he was referring to the idea of resurrection, rather than trying to distinguish between the two.
The Pharisees believed in a literal resurrection, wherein people would be raised bodily (new bodies, of course). The Sadducees disagreed. So we read in Acts 4:1, 2,
1 As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
Peter had just healed a lame man, raising him to his feet (Acts 3:8, 9), and he used this example as proof of the resurrection—Jesus’ resurrection in particular. This greatly offended the Sadducees, of whom we read in Acts 23:8,
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resur-rection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
The debate about resurrection had been ongoing for more than a century by this time. When Paul defended himself before the Council, he exploited these differences, saying in Acts 23:6, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!”
Paul omitted the fact that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead, proving the truth of resurrection. The Pharisees were indignant that a man should be tried for his belief in the resurrection, saying, “We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” (Acts 23:9).
Jesus’ resurrection was literal (Matt. 27:53; 1 Cor. 15:4)) and is always treated as a bodily resurrection throughout the New Testament. The stone had to be rolled away for Him to emerge from the tomb (Matt. 28:2).
More than a century later, when the Greek worldview became dominant in the church, a new belief was introduced whereby our promise of resurrection was said to be fulfilled when we were justified by faith. Baptism was seen as the fulfillment of the promise of resurrection, in that it signified death and resurrection on a spiritual level (Rom. 6:5).
This Greek view came in through Gnosticism, which was founded by Simon Magus. It was based on the Greek view that matter was evil and only spirit was good. By this view, they rejected a bodily resurrection, for it made no sense to them that Christ would be raised into an evil body.
In fact, they also had problems with Christ being born into a physical body. By distinguishing between Jesus (the physical man) and Christ (the spiritual man), they were able to satisfy their theology. No doubt this is why John refuted this view in 1 John 4:2,
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
The Greek view of evil matter eventually spread through the church, limiting resurrection to one’s faith and baptism. Paul found it necessary to address this problem in 1 Cor. 15:3-23. First he established the fact that Christ appeared to all of the apostles. Though Christ had the ability to appear and disappear at will, he always showed Himself in a body that could eat and be touched physically (Luke 24:39-43).
This was in accordance with the law of priestly garments in Ezekiel 44:17-19. They were to minister to God in linen (spiritual) garments, but they were commanded to minister to the people in the outer court realm in woolen garments—that is, in a physical body that can “sweat.”
In 1 Cor. 15:12, 13 Paul says,
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.
Paul clearly speaks of a future resurrection “at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:23)—not the spiritual one that we currently experience through baptism. Christ’s resurrection is as “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Our resurrection to newness of life through baptism does not replace the physical resurrection from the dead. It merely tells us to live as new creatures the lifestyle that we will do more perfectly when we are raised to incorruption and immortality at the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:54 KJV).
This is what it means to walk in the Spirit, rather than in the flesh. If we are indeed new creatures in Christ, it will be proved by our way of life, and though we still struggle as much as Paul struggled (Rom. 7:19), nonetheless, we know that all such struggles will be resolved at the resurrection.
Meanwhile, baptism does not fully resolve this struggle, for we still live in a fleshly body that we inherited from Adam, the “old self” (Rom. 6:6). Hence, we have to “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31) and be raised daily. As with Old Testament sacrifices, this needs to be repeated daily. But when the New Covenant promise is fully realized at the resurrection, the old self will be put to death permanently.
Paul’s main point is to teach believers that they are to put into practice (as much as possible) the lifestyle that they will practice fully at the resurrection of the dead. We are to identify with the new creation man and allow this “new self” to replace the “old self.” This is how we walk after the Spirit, and put away the deeds and lifestyle of the flesh.