Laying on of Hands

By COGwriter

Is the laying on of hands important?


Consider that Hebrews 2 states:

1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2, NKJV throughout unless otherwise noted).

1 Let us leave behind us then all the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to its completion, without going over the fundamental doctrines again: the turning away from dead actions, faith in God, 2 the teaching about baptisms and the laying -- on of hands, about the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement. (Hebrews 6:1-2, New Jerusalem Bible)

So, we see in both Protestant and Roman Catholic translations of the Bible that the "laying on of hands" is an elementary teaching, a fundamental doctrine, of the church. It is such a doctrine in the Continuing Church of God (see also Elementary Doctrines of the Church: Hebrews 6).

Do you know much about it?

This article is intended to explain more about the laying on of hands as well as to provide evidence of the historical continuation from the time of the original apostles to present.

From the books of Moses to the book of Revelation, we find the laying-on-of-hands ceremony used in a wide variety of circumstances.

It was performed as an official ceremony, generally by an individual ordained or commissioned by God.

The ceremony centered around God's servant praying aloud as he placed his hands on the recipient of his petitions. It was a formal request to God, usually for a specific blessing, gift or authority as in ordination. Usually a simple, short ceremony, but filled with meaning.

(Here is a link to a related sermon: Laying on of Hands and Succession.)

The laying on of hands sanctifies, sets apart, the one who has hands laid upon.

Let's notice some of the interesting and varied ways in which men of God have used the laying on of hands.

In the Old Testament

One of the earliest recorded biblical examples of laying on of hands is found in involving blessings in Genesis 27, where Isaac touches and then blesses Jacob, unintentionally--but God recognized the blessing.

Furthermore, in Genesis 48 the laying on of hands is recorded with Israel's (Jacob's) blessing on his two grand sons, Ephraim and Manasseh:

8 Then Israel saw Joseph's sons, and said, "Who are these?"

9 Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place."

And he said, "Please bring them to me, and I will bless them." 10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 And Israel said to Joseph, "I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!"

12 So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth. 13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near him. 14 Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 And he blessed Joseph, and said:

"God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
Let my name be named upon them,
And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."

17 Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head."

19 But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations."

20 So he blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel will bless, saying, 'May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!'" And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh. (Genesis 48:8-20)

Jacob's hands certainly didn't make Ephraim and Manasseh become the great peoples they are today — the power of Almighty God did that. But God used the physical symbols of Jacob's right and left hands to be a visible sign of the blessings He was to grant those two boys and their descendants.

In Exodus we see the laying on of hands during an ordination ceremony. And strangely enough, the hands were laid on animals by the persons being ordained. Here is how it happened.

In Exodus 28:1 God commanded Moses to set apart Aaron and his four sons to be priests.

They were then anointed with oil:

7 And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him. ... So you shall consecrate Aaron and his sons. (Exodus 29:7a, 9b)

So, they were set up, consecrated with anointing oil. This is consistent with the later practices of the Christian church regarding ordinations.

Now, in Exodus 29:10 we read:

"Then bring the young bull to the Tabernacle, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands upon its head; and you shall kill it before the Lord, at the entrance of the Tabernacle" (The Living Bible).

Verses 15-20 state that they were to do likewise with the two rams.

Why did they do this? Aaron and his sons were commanded to lay their hands on the animals' heads to symbolize their sins, their guilt being transferred to the animals which then suffered the penalty of sin.

Aaron and his sons should have received death.

Of course, this all cleansing had symbolic meaning since only Christ's blood really atoned for sin.

The laying on of hands in this example symbolized the cleansing and purifying of the priests through the transferal of their sins to the animals.

We will soon see that the laying on of hands often symbolizes a transfer, transmittal or granting of special gifts, blessings or authority — elements that are literally priceless. Things that are only God's to give.

"Then bring the Levites to the door of the Tabernacle as all the people watch. There the leaders of the tribes shall lay their hands upon them, and Aaron, with a gesture of offering, shall present them to the Lord as a gift from the entire nation of Israel. The Levites will represent all the people in serving the Lord… In this way you will dedicate the Levites from among the rest of the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. After you have sanctified them and presented them in this way," they shall go in and out of the Tabernacle to do their work" (Numbers 8:9-11, 14-15; The Living Bible).

Of course, the leaders' hands had no magical or mystical qualities. They merely symbolized and formally emphasized that God, not man, gave them authority and set them apart for a particular job. God commissioned them and issued them authority and jurisdiction to do His work.

Notice also:

9 "And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy. 10 You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy. 11 And you shall anoint the laver and its base, and consecrate it.

12 "Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water. 13 You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. 14 And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics. 15 You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations."

16 Thus Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did. (Exodus 40:9-16)

This again demonstrates one of the great lessons of the laying on of hands -- that God works through man -- even in ordaining His own servants. Even if the man he uses is uncertain of what he is doing (cf. Genesis 27:30-35).

Anointing with olive oil was almost always involved. Notice the following from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary:

Definition of anoint

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to smear or rub with oil or an oily substance

  3. 2a :  to apply oil to as part of a religious ceremony <The priest anointed the sick.>b :  to choose by or as if by divine election <anoint him as his successor>; also :  to designate as if by a ritual anointment

The Bible tells of "anointing oil" (that term is found 22 times in the NKJV). Some of the oils used were pure (single ingredient) whereas others were mixed with spices.

The Jewish Encyclopedia states:

In the Bible olive-oil alone is mentioned, although it may be inferred from the expression "shemen zayit" that other oils were known. (Hirsh EG. Löw I. Oil. Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1905, p. 391)

The term "zayit" is applied in the Old Testament only to the cultivated olive-tree, the wild olive, the oleaster of the ancients. ... For the best oil in Biblical times the fruit was crushed in a vessel without being pressed very hard (Ex. xxvii. 20, xxix. 40; I Kings v. 25; Ps. xcii. 11). Oil so obtained was used in the Temple. (Hirsh EG. Olive. Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1905, p. 394)

In the Church of God, olive oil has traditionally been used. Part of the reason for that olive oil is supported by the following :

20 "And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. (Exodus 27:20)

2 "Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. (Leviticus 24:2)

Another part of the biblical-reasoning would be the following:

10 But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. (Psalms 92:10)

The root of the word Hebrew word translated as fresh above, ra'aab means green. Olive oil is a greenish-oil.

Furthermore, Micah 6:15 essentially shows that olive oil was used for anointing, but those cursed would not be able to do that. Zechariah 4:11-14 also supports the idea of olive oil.

Notice what the Jewish Temple Institute reported about the laying on hands and the passing of the mantle:

April 27, 2020


Moshe placed his hands (the act of semicha) upon the head of Yehoshua bin Nun. He thus transfers the national leadership to his student, as G-d commanded, as the nation is about to cross the Jordan River into the Holy Land after 40 years of wandering.

According to Maimonides, it was here that rabbinic semicha – the transfer of rabbinic leadership and scholarship – was first introduced. The Mishna (Avot 1:1) states: “Moshe received the Torah at Sinai, and gave it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua gave it to the Elders…” Moshe thus taught all future generations: “Just like I appointed Yehoshua as leader with both my hands, you shall do the same. Continue the semicha, and thus guarantee the existence of the Oral Law for all generations.” Maimonides thus rules that the authority of all authorized rabbis, even today, stems from Moshe and Yehoshua. ( accessed May 1, 2020)

(More on the mantle can be found in the article: Herbert W. Armstrong, the Philadelphia Church, & the Mantle.)

Notice also something from the old Worldwide Church of God:

To Give Authority

God has also willed that THE LAYING ON OF HANDS be used in ordaining His servants to a position of responsibility. Moses passed on his authority to Joshua by laying hands on him. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and LAY THINE HAND UPON HIM; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. AND HE LAID HIS HANDS UPON HIM, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses" (Num. 27:18-20, 23). Notice that IT WAS NOT MOSES who put Joshua over all Israel. Moses merely laid hands on Joshua as a SYMBOL of the fact that GOD HAD PLACED HIM IN THAT OFFICE. (Wiedenheft RA. The Laying on of Hands. Tomorrows World magazine, April 1971)

Anointing was not limited to religious leaders.

The anointing was used for kings. The Bible tells of Saul and David being anointed (1 Samuel 9:27, 10:1; 16:9). Saul actually tried to kill David at least twice (1 Samuel 19:10-11, 20:33), and David had to flee (1 Samuel 20:33-42).

Saul's anointing was public and well known, David's was not.

David was actually anointed king three times. The first via God through Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1-9) which was a fairly private affair.

The second time was after Saul died by the men of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4). The third by the elders of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3).

Additionally, David's son Solomon was anointed twice to be king per 1 Kings 1:39 and 1 Chronicles 29:21.

So, we see the precedent where some have been anointed more than once for the same basic role, as well as sometimes being anointed by those of a lessor position.

Laying on of Hands in the New Testament

The Bible shows that the laying on of hands was done for the newly baptized (Acts 8:17; 19:5-6) as well as church leadership (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 4:14, 5:17-22; 2 Timothy 1:6) so that the Holy Spirit could be given. And this type of apostolic continuity has occurred with the true Church of God throughout history.


9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:9)

One is granted the Spirit of God by the laying on of hands.

Essentially, in a sense, all real Christians have a type of apostolic continuity as far as being a Christian is concerned. Thus, so does the true church.

Let's look at scriptures in the New Testament related to baptisms, starting with Acts:

14. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them; 15. Who, after coming down to Samaria, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16. For as yet it had not fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

17. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 1

8. Now when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he offered them money, 19. Saying, “Give this authority to me also, so that on whomever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20. But Peter said to him, “May your money be destroyed with you because you thought that the gift of God might be purchased with money. 21. You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22. Repent, therefore, of this your wickedness, and beseech God, if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you; 23. For I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bondage of unrighteousness.” (Acts 8:14-23, A Faithful Version)

Notice that money cannot buy the laying on of hands to gain the Holy Spirit. Oh yes, there are some unfaithful who may take bribes to lay on hands, but God will not respect such a person.

Of course, the leaders' hands had no magical or mystical qualities. They merely symbolized and formally emphasized that God, not man, gave them authority and set them apart for a particular job. God commissioned them and issued them authority and jurisdiction to do His work. This again demonstrates one of the great lessons of the laying on of hands--that God works through man -- even in ordaining His own servants. ... Along with the physical act of baptism is promised the Holy Spirit -- through the laying on of hands. Millions have supposedly been baptized, but very few have had hands laid on them for the receiving of the Holy Spirit after baptism. (Bradley A. Laying On of Hands. Good News, February 1974)

The clergy beseeches the Father to give the person His Holy Spirit via prayer and the laying on of hands. The Spirit is given by the Father, if the Father answers the clergy’s prayer, which is mainly dependent upon the sincerity/repentance of the person. Therefore, even if the specific clergy member who performed the ceremony has issues or falls away from the truth, the procedure is still valid. The Holy Spirit comes from God, not one's hands.

1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."

3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?"

So they said, "Into John's baptism."

4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."

5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all. (Acts 19:1-7)

Of course, not everyone baptized speaks with different tongues or prophesies, actually that is not recorded as happening after this account in Acts 19. But the point is that the Holy Spirit is given after the laying on of hands.

Because of ties to the Apostles, all members of the true Church of God have laying on hands succession from the Apostles and function as witnesses of being part of the true and original church.

Notice the following related to the ordination of deacons:

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6)

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus discussing the laying on of hands:

14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership (1 Timothy 4:14).

6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands (2 Timothy 1:6).

22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily (1 Timothy 5:22).

Thus, Paul is basically stating that authority was placed by him on Timothy through the laying on of hands, and that Timothy had authority to lay hands on people in Ephesus as well.

The so-called Apostolic Constitutions claims to have recorded statements that the Apostles John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew made regarding the need for the laying on of hands for the appointment of the clergy, including deacons and deaconesses (Apostolic Constitutions, Book VIII, Section 3, XVII-XXII; while the apostles did not write this book, some of the information in it appears consistent with apostolic practices, while other information is not).

Hence, one should not baptize oneself nor ordain oneself (the clergy itself does not give God's Spirit at baptism nor ordination--God does THROUGH the laying on of hands).

The laying on of hands is the type of “succession” that the Bible speaks of.

This seems to be recognized even by Eastern Orthodox scholars. Priest Laurent Cleenewerck wrote:

Apostolic succession involves a physical link (the laying on of hands) between the Apostles and their successors. (Cleenewerck L. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (An Orthodox Perspective). Euclid University Consortium Press, Washington (DC), 2007, p. 53)

The Catholic Encyclopedia also endorses the “laying on of hands,” though it uses a slightly different expression:

The Apostles imposed hands on the newly baptized, that they might receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost in confirmation (Acts 8:17, 19; 19:6); on those to be promoted to holy orders (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Matthew 13); and on others to bestow some supernatural gift or corporal benefit (Acts, passim). In fact this rite was so constantly employed that the "imposition of hands" came to designate an essential Catholic doctrine (Hebrews 6:2). (Morrisroe, Patrick. Imposition of Hands. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910)

As Hebrews 6:2 states, the “laying on of hands” is an essential Christian doctrine.

Notice something from the old Worldwide Church of God:

Recognition of Authority

God has ordained that His Church employ THE LAYING ON OF HANDS AS A PHYSICAL SYMBOL OF THE AUTHORITY THAT GOD PLACED IN HIS CHURCH AND WITH HIS TRUE MINISTERS. Timothy couldn't have jumped up one day and proclaimed himself a minister all on his own — he had to recognize the authority in God's Church and in the Apostle Paul. He had to be placed into the ministry through THE LAYING ON OF PAUL'S HANDS; because Paul had been given authority by God — through THE LAYING ON OF THE HANDS of the elders and apostles before him. Thus the authority in God's Church went back to the twelve apostles, who were called, chosen, and ordained by Jesus Christ Himself.

Timothy couldn't have been ordained by just any church or any minister. He had to be ordained by the TRUE CHURCH and TRUE MINISTRY, THROUGH WHICH GOD WAS WORKING. (Wiedenheft RA. The Laying on of Hands. Tomorrows World magazine, April 1971)

God's word endorses the laying on of hands.

Laying on of Hands for Small Children, the Sick, and Possessed

The laying on of hands is not just for baptisms and ordinations.

Notice what Jesus did with small children:

13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there. (Matthew 19:13-15)

14 “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:14-16).

Yes, even children can have hands laid upon them, and for a purpose other than healing. For more information, see Blessing of Children or Infant Baptism?

Jesus also demonstrated that through healing and casting out demons:

40 When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!" (Luke 4:40-41)

Notice also the following:

1 Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" So they were offended at Him.

4 But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house." 5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching. (Mark 6:1-6)

Many heard, but few believed. But those that were healed by Jesus had hands laid upon them.

Notice something Jesus told His disciples:

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

The Apostle Paul did what Jesus said:

7 In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. (Acts 28:7-8)

The Apostle Paul had hands laid upon him to restore his sight:

17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. (Acts 9:17-18)

Although many professing Christians know nothing of God's promise to heal and cast out demons, there are that others make a public mockery and display of what they claim is the power of God.

Jesus had words for them:

21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matthew 7:21-23)

Despite religious hawkers, the Bible shows that the laying on of hands for healing is still to continue.


14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

Understand that no minister's hands are special or holy. No olive oil, which is typically used for anointing, has any mysterious power. It is God Himself who heals through His Holy Spirit. However, He has prescribed a physical act to show our faith and trust in Him and to show our acceptance of the authority He has placed with His servants.

Laying on of Hands and Leadership

Many believe that the true church can be traced through what is known as apostolic succession via the laying on of hands from the time of the apostles to the present. Actually, to one degree or another, this is the official belief of the churches that most who profess Christ are affiliated with (e.g. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Church of God), although the individual churches tend to interpret how and who a bit differently.

The term apostolic succession has several possible meanings. But for the purpose of this article, the following definition from a Roman Catholic priest and scholar will be used:

Apostolic Succession ... In its strict sense, apostolic succession refers to the doctrine by which the validity and authority of the Christian ministry is derived from the Apostles. The outward sign by which this connection is both symbolized and effected is the laying on of hands by the Bishop at ordination.

In its broader sense, apostolic succession refers to the relationship between the Christian church today and the apostolic church of New Testament times. Thus, apostolic succession refers to the whole church insofar as it is faithful to the word, the witness, and the service of the apostolic communities. Understood in this way, the church is not simply a collectivity of individual churches; instead, it is a communion of churches whose validity is derived from the apostolic message that it professes and from the apostolic witness that it lives (McBrien R.P. Apostolic Succession. 01/30/17).

In other words, according to the above priest, apostolic succession is actually related to the acceptance of the succession of biblical truth, as taught by the original apostles--spiritual apostolic succession is the most important factor to consider when it comes to the subject of apostolic succession. Plus, the 'laying on of hands' is also a factor as that is how one is ordained.

In addition to verses related to the laying on of hands, biblical support for the concept of apostolic succession mainly seems to come from a few passages in the New Testament.

The first involved Jesus:

16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:16-19).

This passage shows that the true church will not die out (the gates of Hades essentially means the power of death). Jesus was the Rock (see also Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom? ).

The Apostle Paul confirmed that the concept that the true church was built on more than just the Apostle Peter and that Jesus was the Rock. In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul makes clear that the Church was not just built on Peter but is built on the spiritual foundation of the apostles (plural) AND the prophets, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone, and including all the members in the church as well:

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Notice further that the passage above, by discussing the apostles and prophets, does not in any way imply that any single city, nor bishop to bishop transfer, is required for succession (which, biblically was prophesied to be impossible, cf. Hebrews 13:14).

Furthermore, as Jesus and Peter used the term prophets (see Matthew 7:12;26:56; Acts 3:18-25) as a description of part of the Bible and the fact that the apostles wrote nearly all books of the New Testament, this verse is a clearer endorsement of apostolic succession being based upon the teachings (especially the inspired writings) of the apostles and prophets as opposed to only some type of bishop succession that Paul does not mention in this passage.

And, I should add here, that the biblical idea that the true church would be built on an apostolic foundation is a valid view. But, it needs to be understood that the leaders are only to be followed if they are faithful to true Christian teachings. Consider what the Apostles John and Jude wrote:

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:19)

3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)

12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. 14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." Apostates Predicted 16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. 17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. 19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. (Jude 12-19)

Notice that both John and Jude are referring to people who claim to be Christians and have had some apostolic contact. Thus, it is more than contact that validates succession--only those who contend earnestly for the original faith could have succession.

Who do the records of history show was the recognized successor to the apostles?

While the apostles ordained many, one leader stands out having succession: Polycarp of Smyrna.

  1. Polycarp is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware of that there was a letter written to him while he was alive (yes, there were letters written in the New Testament to leaders, but are referred to as apostolic successors).
  2. He is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have written any document that we still possess to this day (there is a letter claimed to have been written by Clement of Rome, however, it does not say that he wrote it, nor is Clement considered to be the direct successor of any apostle--the Roman Catholic Church currently claims that Linus was Peter's direct successor; there are also letters written by Ignatius of Antioch, but the two Antiochian Churches I am aware of claim that Evodius, not Ignatius, was Peter's direct successor).
  3. Polycarp is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have any significant document written about him within a few weeks of his death.
  4. Polycarp is the only possible successor to the apostles that was clearly called "bishop" while he was alive.
  5. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Church of God historians all teach that Polycarp was a spiritually faithful Christian leader. Yet, Polycarp refused to accept the authority of the Roman Bishop Anicetus.
  6. Polycarp is also the only possible successor to have a writing perhaps directed to him in the Bible. Some scholars believe that when John wrote to the "angel of the church Smyrna" that this actually was addressed to the leader of the church (the Greek term translated as "angel" can mean human representatives, e.g. Luke 7:24) who they feel was Polycarp.
  7. Polycarp is also the only possible early successor who was declared to be the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world (The Martyrdom of Polycarp. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson). No other early leader had that written about him within weeks of his life.

The Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox saint Irenaeus wrote (circa 180):

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome...The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate...

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verses 2,3,4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

So we see from Irenaeus that there were many churches founded by the apostles, but that he only decided to mention two successors by name: Linus of Rome and Polycarp of Smyrna. Notice that Irenaeus is claiming that Polycarp was appointed bishop (pastor/overseer) of the Church in Smyrna by the apostles in Asia (which would most likely have been John and Philip and perhaps some others like Peter). Notice that Irenaeus is claiming that there was a list of men who have succeeded Polycarp until the late 2nd century and that they held to the teaching of the apostles. Thus, despite Roman and other claims to the contrary, the only universally accepted apostle to “bishop” transfer of leadership for the 1st and 2nd centuries that continued until at least the end of the 2nd century was through Polycarp of Smyrna.

By Tertullian's time (circa 195), he concluded that there were only two possibly apostolic churches, plus the heretics:

Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this (Tertullian. Liber de praescriptione haereticorum. Circa 200 A.D. as cited in Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

It is probable that Tertullian was aware of elders in Rome prior to Clement (as Irenaeus wrote prior to him), as well as bishops of Smyrna prior to Polycarp, but that Tertullian felt that apostolic succession could only have gone through Polycarp (who he listed first) or Clement.

Now this poses a problem for the Roman Catholic Church as its two primary sources of succession information disagree with one another. Normally, when there are two possibly reliable sources, historians tend to accept what they agree on, but place lower credence on those that they disagree on. Hence, from the position of a historian, Polycarp would seem to have been universally understood to have been the immediate physical successor to the apostles, but that Linus and Clement were not universally understood to be. It needs to be further understood that there is basically nothing known about Linus nor Clement--pretty much everything truly known about them came many decades after their death.

As far as Polycarp goes, he was the bishop of the Church of God in Smyrna:

Ignatius ... to the Church of God ... which is at Smyrna, in Asia ... See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles ... (Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Chapters 1,8. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885)

Polycarp called the true Church the "Church of God" in his Letter to the Philippians.

Polycarp, himself, was called, "the father of the Christians" by anti-Christians, hence it was he that they apparently would have considered to have been an apostolic successor:

12:1 Saying these things and more besides, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his countenance was filled with grace, so that not only did it not drop in dismay at the things which were said to him, but on the contrary the proconsul was astounded and sent his own herald to proclaim three times in the midst of the stadium, 'Polycarp hath confessed himself to be a Christian.'

12:2 When this was proclaimed by the herald, the whole multitude both of Gentiles and of Jews who dwelt in Smyrna cried out with ungovernable wrath and with a loud shout, 'This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the puller down of our gods, who teaches numbers not to sacrifice nor worship.' Saying these things, they shouted aloud and asked the Asiarch Philip to let a lion loose upon Polycarp (Lightfoot J. Martyrdom of Polycarp).

Anyway, Polycarp would have had hands laid upon him, as would his successors. Let's look at a succession list, consistent with what Irenaeus and Tertullian wrote, and based upon what Polycrates of Ephesus wrote through his time, plus with some other successors we have information on:

Peter/Paul/James through death circa 64-68 (mainly oversaw churches from Asia Minor and Jerusalem, though Paul was imprisoned in Rome)
John through death circa 95-100
(oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Polycarp through death circa 155-156
(oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Thraseas through death circa 160
(oversaw the churches from Eumenia, but died in Smyrna)
Sagaris through death circa 166-167
(died in Laodicea of Asia Minor)
Papirius through death circa 170
(oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Melito through death circa 170-180
(oversaw churches from Sardis of Asia Minor)
Polycrates through death circa 200
(oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Apollonius of Ephesus through death circa 210 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor).
Camerius of Smyrna through death circa 220 (possibly oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor).

Polycrates wrote that all who proceeded him (Polycrates specifically mentioned John, Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, Papirius, Melito, as well himself) were kept the original faith.

There basically is a Church of God 'apostolic succession list' from the original apostles that we can document through the middle of the third century (details on most those leaders can be found in the related links).

What about after the middle of the third century?

Essentially, because of the severe persecutions was under the reigns of Decius and Gallus in the mid-3rd century, the names of many of the successors are not clear. But a laying on of hands succession would have continued. Groups from Asia Minor, including some of the Paulicians claimed ties.

Throughout early history, some Christians apparently ended up in the British Isles. Interestingly, the Celtic/Keltic churches, around 600 A.D. claimed to have been descended from the church of the Ephesians/Smyrnaeans:

The Keltic Churches of Ireland, of Galloway, and of Iona were at one with the British Church. These claimed, like Southern Gaul and Spain, to have drawn their faith from the Apostolic See of Ephesus. Their liturgies, or such fragments as have come down to us, bear marks of belonging to the Oriental family of liturgies. (Dawson W. The Keltic Church and English Christianity. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (New Series), 1884, p. 377 doi:10.2307/3677978 )

These people had practices like the seventh-day Sabbath and Passover on the 14th of Nisan (see The Pergamos Church Era and The Smyrna Church Era).

The Bible teaches that there would be a succession of seven churches throughout history, until the end of the age (Revelation 2-3). The genuine Church of God traces itself through those seven churches, and holds the basic beliefs of them down to this day (more information can be found in the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3). Each era is connected through the laying on of hands, which in the New Testament church began with the apostles.

Interestingly, The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Paulicians admits:

They honoured not the Cross, but only the book of the Gospel. They were Iconoclasts, rejecting all pictures ... The whole ecclesiastical hierarchy is bad, as also all Sacraments and ritual. They had a special aversion to monks... Since Gibbon the Paulicians have often been described as a survival of early and pure Christianity, godly folk who clung to the Gospel, rejecting later superstitions, who were grossly calumniated by their opponents. ...

The emperor Alexius Comnenus is credited with having put an end to the heresy. During a residence at Philippopolis, he argued with them and converted all, or nearly all, back to the Church (so his daughter: “Alexias”, XV, 9). From this time the Paulicians practically disappear from history. But they left traces of their heresy. In Bulgaria the Bogomile sect, which lasted through the Middle Ages and spread to the West in the form of Cathari, Albigensians, and other Manichaean heresies, is a continuation of Paulicianism. In Armenia, too, similar sects, derived from them, continue till our own time. (Fortesque A. Paulicians)

Notice that even some Roman Catholic scholars admit the possibility that some of the Paulicians were the survivors of an early and pure Christianity and that they had spiritual descendants that continued into the future (Alexius Comnenus died in A.D. 1118 and essentially dealt with the Paulicians at Philippopolis in the late eleventh century: Hamilton J, Hamilton B, Stoyanov Y.  Christian dualist heresies in the Byzantine world, c. 650-c. 1450: selected sources.  Manchester University Press ND, 1998, pp. 166-170), such as those within the Thyatira era, as well into modern times! This, combined with Gibbon’s account, is supportive of the view that a laying on of hands continued from the beginning, through the late eleventh century and beyond.

The Cathari were also known to be pacifists, as were the faithful among the Paulicians. The same would be the case for the faithful among the Waldenses.

The Waldenses had at one time bishops but that was when the sect was more widely spread than it now is. [Much has been said of the origin of the Waldenses. Their own historians assert that the community has remained from apostolic times independent of the church of Rome and they boast they can show a regular apostolic succession of bishops from the earliest period of Christianity, till that of the reformation. ...] (Blackwell DC. A Handbook of Church History. Chapter V - Series: 1: Waldenses and Anabaptists. Ambassador College Thesis, 1973)

The ... Waldenses ... Their own historians assert that the community has remained from apostolic times independent of the church of Rome and they boast they can show a regular apostolic succession of bishops from the earliest period of Christianity, till that of the reformation. (Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association: ... Annual Meeting with Constitution and By-laws and List of Members, Volume 17; Volume 19. The Association, 1919. Original from the University of Michigan Digitized Oct 28, 2005, pp. 190-191)

The Waldenes claimed to have had a complete list of bishop succession from the apostles to the 16th century, but such document(s) were either lost, hidden, or destroyed. A list was reportedly given to a Roman Catholic bishop in 1467 (Podmore C. The Moravian Church in England, 1728-1760. Clarendon Press, 1998, p. 213). They claimed to have originally descended from the Greek church (Martin JH. Historical Sketch of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania With Some Account of the Moravian Church. Philadelphia, 1873, p. 8), which would have been Asia Minor or Antioch.

Hence, at least part of their succession list (which has since seemingly has been lost, destroyed, or hidden) likely was similar to that which the CCOG points to in the first couple of centuries of the Christian church.

We do not possess the list that the Waldenses claimed to have, but it may well have listed faithful leaders through out the church age from Acts 2 to the 15th or 16th century (the one beginning in 1467 to 1865 that I found related to part of the Moravians was not a Church of God list).

In the Third Lateran Council in 1179, the Cotterili were condemned (Third Lateran Council, Canon 27. 1179 A.D. Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner). It has also been observed that some of Coterelli (spelled Cottrell when Anglicized) moved to England and were also Sabbath-keepers who came to Rhode Island in the early 17th century (Nickels R.C. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1993, pp. 160-163 ) and some descendants continued at least two centuries longer than that with COG doctrines. Thus, it would seem that a succession through the laying on of hands has to have occurred, in at least one continuous family with Church of God doctrines, from 12th to the 19th centuries (Nickels,  Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. pp.41, 161-163; Spalding , Arthur Whitefield. Captains of the Host: A History of the Seventh Day Adventists. Published by Kessinger Publishing, 2005, p. 198; The Memorial: Portraits of William Bliss [and others].  G.B. & J.H. Utter, 1874.  Original from  the New York Public Library, Digitized Mar 3, 2009, p. 127).

I also confirmed the centuries long tie with Stanley Cottrell, and SDA historical lecturer, on 7/29/2008 and 7/30/2008.

I would also add that, from another source in the 21st century, I was told that some Cottrels were in the old Worldwide Church of God in Canada in the 2oth century.

Historian Philip Schaff understood that there were many (at least seventy-two) groups considered to be Cathari (c. 8th--14th centuries, but with claimed ties to the Paulicians and the apostles) and he indicates that some of the doctrines they held we would consider to be Church of God doctrines:

Agreed as the Cathari were in opposing many customs and doctrines of the established Church, they were divided among themselves and broken up into sects. According to one document seventy-two existed.

There are two Churches they held; one of the wicked and one of the righteous. They themselves constituted the Church of the righteous, outside of which there is no salvation, having received the imposition of hands and done penance according to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles. Its fruits proved that the established Church was not the true Church. The true Church endures persecution, does not prescribe it...The Roman Church is the woman of the Apocalypse, a harlot, and the pope anti-Christ. The depositions at their trials indicate that the Cathari made much use of the Scriptures...the Cathari also renounced priestly vestments, altars, and crosses as idolatrous. They called the cross the mark of the beast, and declared it had no more virtue than a ribbon for binding the hair. It was the instrument of Christ’s shame and death, and therefore not to be used.  1009 Thorns or a spear would be as appropriate for religious symbols as the cross. They also rejected, as might have been expected, the doctrines of purgatory and indulgences. (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Chapter X)

The Cathari seemed to recognize that there were basically two church groups. The persecutions from the unfaithful church tended to make the true Christians flee to more mountainous regions as those areas were more remote and thus a safer place to live during then.  However, the faithful still had to have outside interactions and apparently many compromised to some degree to remain alive. The fact that they taught they had “received the imposition of hands” helps demonstrate that the laying on of hands practice was continued among the faithful.

In the early 1600s, John Traske practiced the laying on of hands (Smith RM. Christian Judaizers In Early Stuart England. Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church Vol. 52, No. 2, June 1983, p. 127).

History records that the 17th century Sabbath-keeper, Edward Stennett, who descended from a Lincolnshire family in the British Isles, specifically taught the doctrine of the laying on of hands (Ball B. Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition. James Clark & Co., 2009, p. 120).

Another Sabbath-keeper in the 17th century, William Hiscox endorsed the laying on of hands and mentioned one of the Cottrells (who apparently he had issues with) as he wrote:

The general meeting of the church at Westerly, Sept the 17th, 1698, being the Sabbath; Samuel Beebee and MaryCrandall submitted to the ordinance of hands, and were added to the church ... John Cottrell, for some time stood as a brother in this congregation, and having for a long time neglected his duties in the church, ... and having withdrawn his communion from us, the church do take themselves discharged, from their watch and care over him ... (The Memorial: Portraits of William Bliss [and others].  G.B. & J.H. Utter, 1874.  Original from  the New York Public Library, Digitized Mar 3, 2009, p. 127)

One question was did Sabbath-keeping people with the laying on of hands make it to the Western Hemisphere?

This was something I wondered about, and so did research.

Nicholas Cottrell’s name is on a list of immigrants who settled in New England, primarily Rhode Island, and were Sabbath-keepers in what appears to be the late 17th and early 18th centuries (Dedication of Minsters’ Monument, Aug. 28, 1899. By Hopkinton (R.I. : Town). First Hopkinton Cemetery Association, First Hopkinton Cemetery Association, Hopkinton, R.I. First Hopkinton cemetery association, Hopkinton (R.I. : Town). Published by Printed for the Association by the American Sabbath tract society, 1899. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Mar 15, 2006, pp. 6,22). The reasonably long list of about 150 names indicates that perhaps many Sabbath-keepers did come to the New World (though many on the list appear to be descendants of those who arrived to the New World).

Notice also a meeting in the New World:

The object of this meeting was to bring the members, so widely scattered together at a communion season. ...

By this time, more members lived on the mainland than at Newport. Sabbath keepers had lived at Westerly since 1666, converts of Mumford. At a yearly meeting of the Church, at Westerly, on September 28, 1708 (New Style), the decision was made to separate into two churches. There were 72 at Westerly and 41 at Newport. (The Feast of Tabernacles for that year started Saturday, September 29.) Previously it was common to hold the yearly meeting at Westerly. Its first elder, John Maxson, was ordained October 1, `by fasting and prayer and laying on of hands.' (Nickels RC. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, pages 8-9, as cited by Fletcher).

In the year 1705, a church of Sabbath-keepers was organized at Piscataway, N.J. The first record in the old church record book, after the articles of faith, was the following statement. The record reads:

“The Church of God keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ, living in Piscataway and Hopewell, in the province of New Jersey, being assembled with one accord, at the house of Benjamin Martin, in Piscataway, the 19th day of August, 1705 -- we did then, and with one mind, choose our dearly beloved Edward Dunham, who is faithful in the Lord, to be our elder and assistant, according to the will of God; whom we did send to New England to be ordained; who was ordained in the church-meeting in Westerly, Rhode Island, by prayer and laying on of hands, by their elder, William Gibson, the eighth of September, 1705.” -- Idem, p. 121, Vol. 2, No. 3. (as cited in Dugger, A History of True Religion, pp. 275-277)

Here is a report of succession of early Sabbath-keeping leaders:


It appears, by the church records of Hopkinton, that Joseph Maxson was chosen to the office of an evangelist or travelling preacher, at Westerly, the 17th of September, 1732 ... and died, Sept. 1748, in the 78th year of his age ...

There was also, one or two elders, by the name of Peckham, who officiated as ministers in the Sabbatarian order, about this time: but I find no regular account of what church they belonged to, or when they died. One of them I well remember, when I was young. (Clarke H. A history of the Sabbatarians or Seventh Day Baptists, in America; containing their rise and progress to the year 1811, with their leaders' names, and their distinguishing tenets ...  Seward and Williams, 1811. Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized Jul 21, 2008, pp. 19-22)

So there was some type of leadership succession in the Rhode Island area in the 17th and 18th centuries (some in them seemed to have adopted some non-COG doctrines).

One who claimed to be an early 20th century Church of God "successor" was A.N. Dugger. Notice some of what he wrote:

Apostolic Succession…

“The view that a wise and perfect form of church government and organization was set in order by the New Testament founders of the church, which has right to continue, and that that order has been handed down by the apostolic succession, was maintained by many.”… -- Britannica Encyclopaedia, volume 5, page 759, article, “Church.”…

That succession of the apostolic power has come down unbroken… Gladstone attacks this in a friendly criticism, by expressing doubt as to why a church would remain silent for some thirteen centuries and then be able to speak. This mystery, however, is made clear with a correct understanding of the prophecy of Revelation, where it was clearly shown beforehand that it would be so. The church was to go into the wilderness and be nourished there for 1260 years, from the face of her persecutor, the beast. Then as the earth helped the woman, she was to come forth again. This actually took place, and while remaining in silence, as far as the world was concerned, yet she is not only able to speak, but divinely empowered with the right to do so.

Britannica Encyclopaedia, volume 2, page 194 says, “Very early, however, the notion that the apostleship is essentially an hierarchical office, found entrance into the church…”

The Scriptures teach us most emphatically that the apostolic virtue and power was handed down from apostle to apostle by the divine ordinance of laying on of hands and prayer. -- Numbers 8:10, 27:28; Acts 6:6; 13:3; I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:5.

That the Sabbath-keeping "Church of God," has a most definite link of connection back through holy men to the days of the apostles is certain. The very same faith, and practice in divine worship, have been definitely handed down to the present time by strong men of God, filled with His blessed Holy Spirit, zealous for the precious commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, fervent in zeal, and faithful unto death. (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed.  Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day).  1990 reprint, p. 308)

Some will claim that these are simply A.N. Dugger's assertions, yet only those who kept the original apostolic practices could have "apostolic succession." (The clergy itself does not give God's Spirit at baptism nor ordination. The clergy beseeches the Father to give the person His Holy Spirit via prayer and the laying on of hands. The Spirit is given by the Father, if the Father answers the clergy’s prayer -- which is mainly dependent upon the sincerity/repentance of the person. Therefore, even if the specific clergy member who performed the ceremony has issues or falls away from the truth, the procedure is still valid.)

HWA claimed that A.N. Dugger had been unfaithful to the word of God (and he was) and that A.N. Dugger/CG7 no longer possessed the 'mantle' of leadership past 1933 (if not sooner, and if he ever had it. An other Sardis era leader, John S. Stanford, may have held it instead of A.N. Dugger). The old Worldwide Church of God taught:

Since Church leaders are appointed and not voted into office, and since, therefore, the members are not watchdogs over the leaders, who is responsible for keeping these leaders on track spiritually and administratively?

  1. The answer is that God's government in His Church is a government of faith. Simply put, this means members believe that behind the physical, outward appearance of the Church, is the unseen hand of Jesus Christ, who directs its affairs.

  2. True Christians today trust Christ to direct the Church, bless it, correct it or its officers if need be and steer its general course.

  3. From the time of Moses and the rebellion of Korab (a leader in the congregation who was killed by God for insubordination — Numbers 16), through the age of the apostles and the rejection of Judas Iscariot from his apostleship, to the present day, Christ has demonstrated His ability to:

    1. run His Church,

    2. place capable men in their proper positions,

    3. discipline those who need it,

    4. and reject from the Church those unfit to wear the Christian mantle.

  4. The very existence of the Church and the Church's continuing vitality proves this beyond dispute! (Doctrines of the Church: Church Governance. Worldwide Church of God, 1986/1987)

From the time of Moses and the rebellion of Korah (a leader in the congregation who was killed by God for insubordination — Numbers 16) , through the age of the apostles and the rejection of Judas Iscariot from his apostleship, to the present day, Christ has demonstrated His ability to run His Church, place capable men in their proper positions, discipline those who need it and reject from His Church those unfit to wear the Christian mantle. The very existence of the Church and the Church's continuing vitality prove this beyond dispute! (Prove All Things: Governance in the Church. Good News, May 1986)

This is important as, even though many have had hands laid upon them, they were not always faithful, yet the true Church has continued from the time of the apostles. But leaders who are not truly faithful, lose the mantle.

The old Radio Church of God did teach that the true church always had laying on of hands succession. Notice:

Paulician Church Government

The Paulicians claimed to be THE "holy universal and apostolic church" founded by Jesus Christ and his apostles. Of the false churches, they would say: "We do not belong to these, for they have long ago broken connection with the church."

They taught that the Church is not a building, not just an organization, but an organism — the body of truly converted baptized persons, which has continued unbroken with the apostolic traditions from its beginning. Jesus Christ was and is the HEAD of that Church.

Paulicians also taught that the Scripture is for the layman as much as for the minister. They continually urged the people to check the Scriptures for themselves, and accused the priests of hiding the Scriptures in order to deprive the people of the truth and of making monetary profit in addition by dispensing a SUPPOSED word of God in its place. ...

Four of their greatest leaders, the Paulicians called APOSTLES and PROPHETS. These directed the other ministers — "synecdemi" (itinerant evangelists), "poimenes" (pastors) and "notarii" (teachers who also had the responsibility, in the absence of printing, to laboriously hand-copy the Holy Scriptures). These ministers exercised the power of "binding and loosing."

Also mentioned in the Pergamos Era are "elders," "rulers," and "readers." Compare the supplementary offices of "... miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" — see I Cor. 12:28! ...

And unlike the supposed-to-be celibate priests of the false church — or the "electi" of the Manichaeans — the elders of the Paulicians not only might, but were expected to be married and the head of a family (Titus 1:6)! ...

Did Jesus Christ Himself put men directly into the highest office of this chain of authority? And did He "ordain" them by the laying on of His hands? Mark 3:14; John 15:16. ...

Only by the choice of Jesus Christ, by the Scriptural ordinance of the laying on of hands, were different ranks of ministers ordained to authority, and that by those who were ministers before them. The succession of ministers thus begun by the hands of Jesus Christ remained unbroken in the True Church through all ages.

Some of the men so ordained may prove unworthy. (Judas is an example.) They may be more interested in physical things than in service or the gospel.

Among the Paulicians were men, from time to time, whose works made it obvious Jesus Christ Himself had ranked them as apostles.

An apostle need not be an impressive looking man, or of HUMAN nobility. Fishermen, publicans, and tax-collectors have been among Christ's apostles (Mat. 4:18, 21; 9:9; Luke 5:27). Any greatness is not of the man, but of the OFFICE. No man is qualified for it but through the Holy Spirit.

Though you might not respect the MAN, YOU had BETTER respect that OFFICE!

THAT office is of God. (Lesson 50 - I Will Build My Church, Part 2. 58 Lesson: Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1965; also Lesson 50 – What Became of the Church Jesus Built? 58 Lesson: Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1968, p. 14)

Regarding prophets, those in the Church of God believe that prophecy is one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10). And that one would have to have to be anointed one to become a prophet in the Christian era.  Here is something the Radio Church of God published in 1965:

God gives special gifts-special powers of His Spirit-to those who are set apart by the laying on of hands. Remember that it was by the laying on of hands that Timothy received the added ability, called “prophecy” by the King James translators...(I Tim. 4:14 and II Tim. 1:6)...This spiritual gift of inspired preaching was conferred to Timothy by the laying on of hands. (Ellis, William H. Why We Have the Laying on of Hands Ceremony. Good News. April-May 1965)

More on prophets can be found in the articles Church of God Leaders on Prophets and Does the CCOG have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?

To see a rather lengthy 'succession list' from the time of the apostles to present, check out the article: Laying on of Hands Succession and List.

As far as laying on of hands go for this author, WCG minister Charles Crane along with WCG deacon Norm Kubichek laid hands upon me for baptism on April 1, 1977. In 2008 formerly Armenian Apostolic Orthodox catholic, but then Living Church of God clergyman evangelist, Dibar Apartian in Evan, France confirmed myself and family as members of the “original catholic church,” which he also considered himelf to be.

On October 3, 2008, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, presiding evangelist of the Living Church of God stated that God may consider me to be a prophet. Dr. Meredith brought it up again as an email I sent him on November 16, 2008 stated, "Now, you have mentioned to me a couple of times that God may regard me as a prophet. And, of course, it was you and not I that first brought that subject up." In late January/early February 2009, Dr. Meredith told me over the telephone that if he (Dr. Meredith) was raised to the office of apostle, he was considering ordaining me (Bob Thiel) as a prophet. On February 4, 2009, Dr. Meredith told me over the telephone, "You have an in-depth understanding of prophecy and details of church history. You could be a prophet--that may be what God will have you do." He also asked me to pray then that he would live another 7-15 years then--I prayed and he did (he died on May 18, 2017--just a little over 8 years later.

In November and December 2011, I counseled with my pastor Dr. Fall, as well as LCG minister Gary Ehman, about the prophet matters. I told both of them that I thought that I needed to have hands laid upon me again in order to validate the view that I might be some type of a prophet. They both told me that, in their view related to being a prophet, baptism was scripturally sufficient. While that sounded logical, the statement from the Apostle Paul to Timothy about getting hands laid upon him (1 Timothy 4:14) gave me personal pause. And that caution led to me pray more about it. Thus, instead of concluding that I had sufficient anointing, especially considering the relative enormity of some of the ramifications of this as a conclusion, I searched the scriptures and concluded that, perhaps like Gideon (Judges 6:36-40), that I would seek further outside confirmation.

And I prayed God would provide that (or instead essentially provide information to deny that) when I was to visit Charlotte, North Carolina in December 2011. On December 15, 2011, LCG minister Gaylyn Bonjour, while laying hands on me, was moved by the Holy Spirit to pray that God would grant me a "double portion" of His spirit, which he said was reminiscent of the passing of the mantle from Elijah to Elisha as recorded in 2 Kings 2:9-13. Later, I told Dr. Meredith who did not deny the biblical laying on of hands here--he, of course, should have realized that God will find other ways to accomplish His will when those leaders who should have taken steps do not (cf. 1 Samuel 15:13-33; Job 32; Luke 19:40).

Because this 'double-portion' ordination was private, reminiscent of what happened to David when Samuel anointed him (who then had a public anointing years later), it looked like a more public ordination should be done. In Nairobi, Kenya on February 9, 2017 long time COG ministers/overseers  Evans Ochieng (of Kenya, formerly GCG) and Samuel Gyeabour (of Ghana, formerly CG7) publicly anointed me as an overseer, evangelist, and prophet. In this way, there were hands laid on me by men who were in (or had been in ) Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicean era churches.

Jesus taught that fruits were proof of prophets (Matthew 7:15-20). In Bob Thiel's case, these fruits include confirmed dreams and prophecies (see Does the CCOG have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?) as well as the fact that the CCOG has been the fastest growing COG (the most spiritual fruits) in the 21st century.


God used the laying on of hands in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, God used the laying on of hands to grant His Holy Spirit to the baptized as well as to those that are to be in His ministry. Plus, it is a tool God uses, when people avail themselves of it, for healing.

Church of God leader have recognized the doctrine of the laying on of hands throughout history.

The true Church of God has had laying on of hands succession from the time of the apostles in Acts chapter 2 to present.

The laying on of hands is an elementary doctrine of the true church (Hebrews 6:1-2).

It is an official belief of the Continuing Church of God (see Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God).

Here is a link to a related sermon: Laying on of Hands and Succession.

Thiel B. Laying on of Hands. COGwriter (c) 2017/2019/2020/2021 2022 2023 0313

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