I was talking to a friend in ministry about a question he was asked regarding the sin from one person transferring to another. This arose from a situation in his fellowship where an individual was struggling with a particular sin, but has laid hands on others to pray for them. The question is: does that sin transfer to the person being prayed for through the laying on of hands? Though this is an interesting question, God has already anticipated it. So, let’s look to His Word for the answer.
First, let’s talk about the laying on of hands. In Luke chapter 4, we see Jesus laying His hands on the people of Capernaum, a city in the Galilee region, to heal everyone who was afflicted with sickness or disease. In Acts chapter 6, when the seven were chosen to serve tables, that the apostles might dedicate themselves to God’s Word and prayer, they laid hands on the men and commissioned them for the work. In Numbers 27, Moses is commanded by the Lord to lay his hand on Joshua, the son of Nun, and commission him to lead Israel after Moses’ death. In Acts chapter 13, the disciples laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas, whom the Holy Spirit had separated for missions work, and sent them on their way. Lastly, Paul, in Acts chapter 19, had traveled to Ephesus and laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit.
So, with the laying on of hands, there has been the removal of disease and sickness, the commissioning of God’s servants, and the reception of the Holy Spirit. There is no indication in the Bible that sin is transferred by the laying on of hands when praying for others.
Now, in Leviticus, God commands a special process to take place when offering a sacrifice. The sinner was to bring a sacrificial animal to the altar, lay his hand on its head, and kill it. The priests would then offer the animal as a sacrifice to the Lord. In doing this, blood was shed, the sin was atoned for, and the sinner was forgiven. Hebrews 9:22 states, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin.” In a symbolic way, the sin was transferred by the laying on of hands from the sinner to the sacrifice. The repentant worshiper’s sin was now covered to a degree he or she could have the deepest fellowship possible under the Old Covenant. This Old Testament concept looked forward to the death of Jesus Christ, who shed His blood and was our sacrifice, a Lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet. 1:19).
Sin is not transferred from one person to another; sin is inherited. We are born with a sin nature (Psalm 51:5). It is in our genes. There was only ONE transfer, ONE exchange, ONE trade. It was when Jesus took our sin upon Himself and paid the ultimate penalty with His life. We owed a debt we could not pay, and Jesus paid a debt He did not owe. Though He received death, we receive life. And to this I say, “It is well with my soul.”