“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God…repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands…” (Hebrews 5:12, 6:1-2).
Just as every language has an alphabet and every sport has its fundamentals, God’s revelation—both Old and New Testaments—has first principles which are foundational to a correct understanding of God and His will. Hebrews 6:1-2 identifies six. Each will be given its own consideration.
The Old Testament records the practice of laying on of hands in a number of different settings: 1) The consecration of an animal prior to being sacrificed (Leviticus 1:4; 4:4); 2) The transfer of guilt to the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:21); 3) The transfer of guilt to a blasphemer from those who were witnesses of his vile sin (Leviticus 24:14); 4) The blessing of a specific relative (Genesis 48:14); 5) The appointment of an authorized successor to a place of leadership (Deuteronomy 34:8).
In the New Testament, the laying on of hands are used primarily in situations when an authorized appointment is being made. When the seven Christian men were consecrated to the work of helping the needy widows in Jerusalem (Acts 6:6), when Paul and Barnabas were acknowledged and consecrated for the evangelistic work they were to embark upon (Acts 13:3), when elders were appointed to their work by Timothy as he worked as an evangelist (1 Timothy 5:22).
The laying on of hands was the way by which the first century church went about doing the Lord’s will decently and in order. It indicated the consecration of a man to doing the work God had authorized and a recognition of his authority in his work once he had been so consecrated.
The laying on of hands indicates a commitment to doing Bible things in Bible ways. It speaks to the authority of God’s will and the rightful authority godly leaders have once they have been consecrated to the work God delegated to them.
Obeying those who rule over you and being submissive to those who watch out for your soul (Hebrews 13:17) is an indispensable first principle of God’s oracles.