Question: In Taichow someone asked about the matter of the laying on of hands. Should we practice the laying on of hands today?
Answer: There is such a thing as the laying on of hands in the Bible. But it is not the so-called laying on of hands (or ordination) that men know of today. Today it is always those who are greater who lay hands on those who are smaller. But in the Bible, we find both the greater ones laying hands on the smaller ones, and the smaller ones laying hands on the greater ones. Acts 8 mentions Peter and John going to Samaria. They laid hands as the greater upon the smaller. But Acts 13 tells us that the teachers and prophets laid hands on the apostles. This is clearly a case of the smaller ones laying hands on the greater ones. In the church in Antioch we see some prophets and teachers. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit told them that they should send Barnabas and Saul out for the work which He had called them to do. They laid hands on the two and sent them out. We know that Paul and Barnabas were apostles, but the prophets and the teachers were the ones who laid hands on them. Ephesians 4 clearly puts the apostles first and the prophets and teachers second (v. 11). Acts 13 shows us that the ones who were second laid hands on the ones who were first. This shows that the laying on of hands is not an act of the greater upon the smaller, as some have imagined. In the Bible, the laying on of hands merely signifies fellowship, sympathy, and mutual union. The laying on of hands in Acts 8 indicates that the Samaritans were joined to the Body of Christ in the same way that baptism signifies one’s union with the death of Christ. The laying on of hands in Acts 13 signifies that the church was joined to, sympathetic with, and in fellowship with Paul and his companion. Their going was the whole church’s going. This laying on of hands shows that it was not just Paul and Barnabas who went on their missionary journey, but the whole church in Antioch went with them. It shows that their work and move were not just related to the two of them; they were related to the whole church in Antioch. The laying on of hands did not only signify their fellowship with those who laid hands on them; it also signified fellowship between the ones on whom the hands were laid and the whole church in Antioch. If any person goes out from us for some kind of work, it is best if he goes out after we lay hands on him.
We should brush aside or wipe away the dust of human tradition from biblical teachings as dust is wiped away from a mirror. Many people do not wipe away the dust. Instead, they think that the mirror is too dusty and break the mirror altogether. Many people think that talking about elders, deacons, and the laying on of hands will make us the same as the denominations. Actually, the original thing was not wrong; what was added later is wrong. Our goal is not to destroy the work of the denominations but to recover what God has ordained in the beginning. We cannot throw away the examples in the Bible just because all the other things are wrong. Our aim is to ask whether God has commanded something. When I go out to work, many times I wish that the brothers would lay hands on me. This shows that I am not going out alone but being sent by the whole assembly, and the whole assembly is sympathetic to what I am doing. I hope those who serve as elders among us would practice the laying on of hands in the future.
Question: Paul imparted gifts to Timothy through the laying on of hands (2 Tim. 1:6). Does this not mean that gifts come from the laying on of hands?
Answer: What is a gift? It is the capacity of a member in the Body. In other words, if you are an eye in the Body, your gift is your capacity to see. If you are an ear in the Body, your gift is your capacity to hear. When a man is joined to the Body of Christ, he immediately receives a gift. The laying on of hands by the apostles is their acknowledgment of a person as being a member of the Body of Christ on behalf of the Body of Christ. It pleases God to manifest man’s gift after such an act. Acts 13 also signifies a union with the Body of Christ. In Acts 13 the laying on of hands was not to manifest a gift but to express that they were all co-workers together. There was never a case in which prophets and teachers imparted gifts to the apostles. As to the miraculous gifts in the Bible, they should be present with us and should not be something of the past. I do not understand why there are no miraculous gifts today. The practice of the laying on of hands should not stop with us. Paul told Timothy that he should not lay hands on others quickly lest he partake of their sins (1 Tim. 5:22). Hebrews 6 tells us that we do not have to lay a foundation again. Such a foundation includes baptism and the laying on of hands (vv. 1-2). Hence, if we neglect the matter of the laying on of hands, we must have erred in the foundational matters. Of course, we cannot impart gifts by our laying on of hands as it was practiced in the days of the apostles; today we are merely practicing the principle. We admit that we are like the church in Philadelphia; we do not have much strength. All we have is a little strength (Rev. 3:8).
Question: At present, we have two meetings. How should the responsibility and work be distributed between the two meetings?
Answer: In the meetings in Gordon Lane and Wen-teh Lane, we should have two or three elders take charge of everything. There should also be a few deacons or deaconesses in the meeting in Gordon Lane, just as there are some in Wen-teh Lane. We mentioned the work in the brothers’ meeting last Saturday. We will have prayer meetings in Gordon Lane the same way that we have prayer meetings here. For the sake of the work in the future, we hope that the brothers meeting in Gordon Lane can rent a larger place. If we want to start any work there, the present rented place is too small. In the future, we may separate the Lord’s Day morning and afternoon meeting. We may meet in Gordon Lane in the morning and in Wen-teh Lane in the afternoon. We may even have the two places take turns holding the brothers’ meeting and the sisters’ meeting. Perhaps we will have them in one place one week and in another place another week. Otherwise, some will think that the meeting in Gordon Lane is the branch church of the meeting in Wen-teh Lane. Some have asked me if the meeting in Gordon Lane is a branch of the meeting in Wen-teh Lane. I told them it is not. The meeting in Wen-teh Lane is the same as the meeting in Gordon Lane.
Question: Should we not say “the meeting in Gordon Lane” and “the meeting in Wen-teh Lane” instead of saying “the Gordon Lane meeting” and “the Wen-teh Lane meeting”?
Answer: Yes, we should.
Question: If in the future we decide to start a meeting in Bao-shan, should we inform all the other brothers?
Answer: We should inform both meetings. First we should inform the meeting in Gordon Lane. Then we should inform the meeting in Wen-teh Lane. We should ask the brothers and sisters in both meetings to pray for this matter until they have the full assurance after their prayer. Then the brothers in Bao-shan can be given a definite answer. This is the best and most proper way.
Question: Concerning the matter of receiving others for the bread-breaking meeting, if the brothers in Gordon Lane are not clear about receiving a brother, can they ask the brothers meeting in Wen-teh Lane about this?
Answer: The elders in both places are the same group of elders. Therefore, Wen-teh Lane does not have anything more than what Gordon Lane has. When we receive a person, the “elders” in Shanghai, together with all the brothers, receive such a one; there is no difference whether the person is received in Wen-teh Lane or Gordon Lane. Concerning the matter of receiving a person, we have to practice it in a proper way in the future. Romans 14:1 says, “Now him who is weak in faith receive,” and 15:7 says, “Therefore receive one another, as Christ also received you to the glory of God.” Receiving is only part of the procedure. The question is whether or not a man has the faith. We ask whether a person has faith; we do not ask whether his faith is strong or weak. Moreover, the question is whether or not God has received him. Therefore, we have to be clear whether God has received such a one. If God has not received him, we cannot receive him either.