Sprit given to Samaritans via laying of hands, but to the gentiles upon the hearing of the word - Acts 8 and 10

Status
Not open for further replies.

KGP

Puritan Board Freshman
a month ago I posted with some comments regarding the Samaritan reception of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit in Acts 8, I believe that event carries symbolic meaning of reuniting the rebellious house of Israel (aka northern kingdom represented by capital of Samaria) under Christ, the promised king now seated on the throne of David. In 1 Kings 12:19 as we read the account of the division of the kingdom, we read 'So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.' In Acts 8, when the apostles from Jerusalem come to Samaria and lay their hands on the believers there to receive the same Spirit, it is as though you are witnessing the reconciliation take place. Christ is putting his house in order.

Now I am into Acts 10. It is of interest to me to see that the Holy Spirit in this instance comes upon the hearing of the Word. In fact, there is a heightened emphasis on the effect of the word in this whole account. But that the Holy Spirit comes by a different means in this instance with the gentiles than it did in Samaria is of interest to me, and it serves to further confirm what I saw in Acts 8, but again I am interested in hearing feedback.

The laying on of hands seems to be a gesture of reconciliation, of welcoming back, of receiving or restoring one to their former place. That in samaria the holy Spirit came by the laying on of hands points to the relationship being one of reconciliation and restoration of what was lost, namely the unity of the Kingdom under the reign of david's descendant. They had already heard the word, already believed, already been baptized, but laying on of hands here was necessary.

Acts 10 however does not involve laying on of hands (it is nowhere in the passage), it was upon the speaking of the word that the Holy Spirit comes which seems to me to underscore the fact that this is a new relationship - this is the language of new creation, which is not at all surprising, it is quite plain to see that what is happening here with the household of Cornelius is a new and glorious development in redemptive history; so the consistency here is not surprising, but the contrast with Acts 8, even with it's whole context of rebellion with the sorcery/witchcraft of Simon makes it that much more clear to me that Acts 8 is restorative - restoring unity to the kingdom - and Acts 10 is the kingdom taking new terrirory.

That I am writing this from Northern Canada is proof of just how much territory his kingdom has covered! To God be the glory!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Hands-laying is a biblical practice of most ancient source. While the phrase can be used in a number of different contexts, it typically means a deliberate or official act, those not always the same. So, it can mean an "arrest," even if it is not an "official" act; but when officials do it, or it is given the color of law, then it has that character, see Act.5:18 and 21:27. It can signal that further abuse follows, because the superior power by the initial act can be said to "crush" the one so taken "in hand" (see Ex.7:4).

To lay the hands ceremoniously is first mentioned at Jacob's blessing Ephraim and Manasseh in Gen.48 (cf.Act.28:8). Then, it is found several times in the Law, beginning with Lev.3-4, as symbolic of transference of guilt from the sinner to the sacrificial offering, and see 8:14,18 etc. The symbolic hand of judgment is also prominent, see Lev.24:14; cf. Ex.7:4. In it you have an official act that binds a judicial sentence upon the condemned. So, whether blessing/healing, or cursing/sentencing, we see the giving of something from the greater to the lesser.

But the most pertinent is the conferring or transference of some sort of authority (or passing of gift), as when Moses lays hands on Joshua as a means of passing the supreme judgeship and the gift of God to him, Num.27:18,23; Dt.34:9. Note the mention of the Spirit there as well, his initial possession is enhanced to "fullness" on account of his recognition. The church sending its missionaries commissions them by laying on hands, Act.13:3; see also Act.6:6 and 1Tim.4:14.

It is significant that in the NT a pattern of connection is set up, not to make "succession" an absolute measure, but because visible continuity is of real value. In the case of the Christians in Samaria, or later in Ephesus, Act.19:6, there is a benefit to having a recognized (visibly conveyed) connection to the rest of the church. Something similar happens in Antioch too. The church by its apostles, Jesus' ministers, attends, inspects, and recognizes the work done at a distance from Jerusalem and from their persons, as nonetheless Christ's work and the Holy Spirit's. "You are of us," is the signal.

Paul speaks in similar terms when he writes to the Christians in Rome. His desire to "establish" them, Rom.1:11, by his coming, thereby to seal their connection to the larger church by the conferring of those gifts of the Spirit which only the Apostles had the power to bring (Simon Magus' desire was to gain for himself this power to lay hands and give such "presents" to whom he would, Act.8:18-19; by which he showed that he understood nothing of the true spiritual nature of this business; cf. Heb.6:2).

What I'm coming to is this: I think analyzing the "laying on of hands" in Act.8 in terms of the reconciliation of the houses (Judah and Israel) may be a stretch. It is the preaching of the gospel that makes the difference in both Samaria and in Cesarea. Putting forth hands as a gesture of reunion is not a familiar one in Scripture. Kissing is more common, Gen.33:4; 45:15; Ex.4:27; 2Sam.14:33; cf. Rom.6:16, etc. "Laying hands" is not synonymous with "embrace," so I'm cautioning you from trying to force this contrast you are seeing beyond a biblical bound.
 

KGP

Puritan Board Freshman
Okay perfect, this is the type of feedback I was hoping for. I don't have knowledge extensive enough to recognize the history or insatnces of the laying on of hands. I 100% agree that the reconciliation comes through faith in the gospel, I'd see the laying on of hands there as symbolic but if there is no real precedent for the laying on of hands being a symbolic reconiliatory act then I am happy to leave off on pressing the idea further.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top