Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2 KJV)
Several previous articles dealt with the first two foundational principles of the Christian life, repentance and faith. Now we proceed to the next two, baptisms and laying on of hands. In order to understand these we must turn to the law of Moses. With respect to the burnt offering we read, And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. (Lev. 1:4) This putting of one’s hand on another (person or thing) is the laying on of hands.
Many teach that the act of laying hands onto an Old Covenant sacrifice symbolically passed one’s sins to the animal to be slaughtered for those sins, but it is more than that. It represents the actual identification of the sinner with the beast. This is why the apostles warned us not to lay hands hastily upon any man. Our act of laying hands upon someone connects us with that person in a spiritual bond. If we lay hands upon an unbeliever in an attempt to bless or impress him, we have become unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Paul warns us not to do that.
A sick woman laid her hands upon Jesus in a frantic attempt to be healed of a chronic disease. Immediately power left Jesus and the woman was healed. But, Jesus did not ignore this spiritual connection. He turned and demanded that the one who laid hands upon him confess the fact. The woman humbly admitted her act and Jesus commended her faith. But, what if a demoniac had touched Jesus with such impunity? What might have happened to that man? Lay hands hastily upon no man!
But, why is identification with a sacrificial animal important? Because it is an identification with Jesus Christ himself. Do you remember the Scripture that declares that Paul suffered persecution in order to complete was still lacking in Jesus’ sacrifice? That idea is utterly contrary to all doctrine we hear concerning Jesus. Most Christians declare that Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished everything needed for man. Why, then did Paul say this?
Paul identified himself with Christ. He knew and taught that Christ was being formed within him. He preached that the mystery of the Gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” He understood that his sacrifices of flesh meant age-lasting glory and blessings to others. He taught that he and other believers actually comprised the “body of Christ,” that they and we are really part of Him. Jesus himself taught that He and the Father were One and that we believers could also be one with them. The whole Bible, then, points toward this identification of man with God. Doesn’t the Book begin with “God made man in His own image” thus identifying man with God?
The Israelites of old identified with their sacrificial animals by laying hands upon those animals. The animals in turn represented Jesus who willingly gave up his flesh in order to serve and save men. Likewise, those animals typify men who willingly give up their lives for the sake of others. Today men lay hands upon people in order to bestow spiritual blessings, to pray for another, or to simply identify with another’s position. Men also lay their hands “to the plow” in order to do the living works that God has called them to do. Our hands represent us and what we do. The doctrine of the laying on of hands speaks of a life given to the doing of the Gospel, to doing the word of God.
This leads us to the fourth elementary teaching of the Gospel, the doctrine of baptisms. Like most basic doctrines of Christianity, this too has been misunderstood. In order to understand it we once again must turn to the Old Testament. In Leviticus chapter 1 we see the baptism, or washing, of the burnt offering sacrifice. Here we see that the priest offering the sacrifice must wash the entrails and the legs of the sacrifice with water. We have moved now from the laying on of hands by the man who offers the sacrifice to the washing, or baptism, of the sacrifice by the officiating priest of the sacrifice.
This explains why Jesus had to be baptized by John the Baptist. John himself was a priest from the line of Aaron. John’s father, Zechariah, was serving in the temple of God when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and announced that he and his wife Elizabeth would bear a son named John. The angel prophesied that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and that he would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. The angel said that he would go before the Lord himself in the spirit and power of Elijah in order to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and that he would make ready for the Lord a people prepared. See Luke 1:5-17.
John the Baptist appeared in Israel months before Jesus showed himself. John came preaching a baptism of repentance from sins and of preparation for the kingdom of God. He was recognized by the people as a true prophet and as a true priest of the Most High. Finally Jesus himself came to be baptized by John, but when he did, John told him that he should be baptized by Jesus instead. But, Jesus wanted John to baptize him and said, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) What does this mean?
Jesus was fulfilling the Levitical law of the burnt offering sacrifice. John was the officiating priest and Jesus himself was the sacrifice to be offered. As the priest John had the responsibility to wash, or baptize, the sacrifice. Jesus knew that he would become a burnt offering and, therefore, in order to fulfill the righteousness of God’s law, he knew he must be washed by the priest. Not only did Jesus identify with the sacrifice; he was the sacrifice.
My image is my identity. God’s image is His identity. The identity of elohim is the image of God. I am Elohim. Who are you?