Separating and Releasing
- The first purpose for the laying on of hands is promotion and exaltation, which includes the impartation of wisdom and honor. The laying on of hands imparts blessing to the person being prayed for.
- The second purpose laying on for of hands, together with prophetic, prayerful declarations, also releases gifts and equips people to fulfill their callings.
- A third purpose for the laying on of hands is to separate and release ministry gifts into the earth. Barnabas and Paul were separated and released into their apostolic ministries through the laying on of hands: As they worshiped the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit . . . —ACTS 13:2–4
In the third case, it was accompanied by prayer and fasting. Again, we see the principle that when the Lord desires to release His power into the earth, He often does it through the laying on of hands.
There are several points I want to emphasize in these verses. Number one is the Holy Ghost said that they should “separate” Barnabas and Saul. Barnabas and Saul were now to be separated to the ministry that they had been previously called to. The Holy Ghost had already called them to be apostles, but they had not yet been separated to that call.
There is a time period between calling and separation called preparation. That period of time was now finished. The laying on of hands was for their separation to their ministry. There is a time for calling, a time for preparation, and a time for separation. The calling is sovereign, and it comes by the Holy Ghost. The preparation for the call depends upon the individual’s willingness to pray, study, and develop the character of Christ. There are different periods of preparation for different people. For some it is longer than others. Patience is required until the time of separation to the actual ministry.
The Holy Ghost knows the time of separation. Just because a person has a call does not mean that he or she is ready to function in that capacity. The call is only the beginning, followed by preparation, then separation. The gifting and equipping for ministry can also come at the time of separation for ministry.
In other words, you can receive the grace you need to fulfill your call at the time of separation through the laying on of hands. People often go into ministry prematurely, without the necessary equipping and separation that are accomplished through the laying on of hands. This is one reason why so many ministry gifts are weak and ineffective. It is not because they have not been called, but because they have not been properly equipped and separated. Separation has to be done in proper spiritual timing. It should not be done prematurely, but rather it should always be done by the leading of the Holy Ghost.
Notice also that the apostles did not leave the church at Antioch without first receiving the blessing of the leaders of the church. The Holy Ghost honors submission to the presbytery that comes through the laying on of hands.
After Paul and Barnabas were released to minister, they remained accountable to the leaders of the church at Antioch. They reported to this church after their missionary journeys. They were submitted and accountable to the ones who had laid hands upon them. Barnabas and Saul had to be separated from the local church to travel as apostles. They had to be released by the church. They were not sent forth by the Holy Ghost until they were sent away through laying on of hands by the presbytery.
Even though the Holy Ghost is divine, He works through men. This is one of the ways the Holy Ghost separates and releases ministry gifts into the earth. We see here the authority that is given to the local church by the Lord. The Lord honors and recognizes this authority because it comes from Him. That authority to separate and release ministry gifts is released through the laying on of hands.
Based on this biblical pattern seen in the church at Antioch, there are several questions to ask if you feel called into the ministry:
- First, do you have the necessary preparation (training, study, wisdom, character) to be separated to the call?
- Do you have the necessary gifting and equipping to fulfill the call? (This will often come at the time of separation.)
- Is it the right time for separation to that call?
Remember, the calling is sovereign and comes from God through the Holy Ghost, but the preparation is dependent upon your response to the call. You have a part in the preparation by studying, praying, and developing the character of Christ, and this will take different amounts of time for different people.
The gifting, equipping, and separation can be done through laying on of hands after the calling and preparation have been established, but the separation depends on Spirit-led timing. In turn, gifting, equipping, and separation will hinge on how well developed the church is in the area of prophetic presbytery.
The body of Christ as a whole needs more mature prophets so that this process can function according to the biblical pattern.