The laying on of hands is mentioned at least three times in the New Testament (Acts 8:18; 1 Tim. 4:14; Heb 6:2, as well as here). To the preacher the laying on of hands signifies the vindication of a man's ministry. Therefore, a preacher is not to lay his hands on another preacher in ordination hastily. To accept a man's ministry in a formal way is more than just a ceremony. It is more than a mere formality. Some even say we make it too formal. If we do not know a man, we should not vindicate his ministry. Otherwise, we are putting approval on a man and a ministry which we do not know.
We cannot trust the Lord until we know him and what he has done for us (Rom. 10:14). We cannot marry a wife until we know her. Likewise, we should not approve a ministry about which we know little or nothing. Many hands out of ignorance or apathy have been put on many heads which may very well be lazy and arrogant or unlearned and unwise. Paul warns young Timothy about this in this verse.
As a part of this instruction, Paul tells Timothy that he should not be partaker of other men's sins. In putting our hands on someone without knowing about that person and approving his ministry, and if that ministry is tainted with sin or sins of some kind, then we who place our hands on the head of that preacher are partakers with his sins. We are putting our approval not only upon the man's ministry but also upon whatever sins he has that will hinder and hamper his ministry in glorifying the Lord.
Sometimes several preachers will get together in an ordination service, and a preacher will be invited who does not necessarily know the person being ordained. The one who is invited may be asked to sit on the ordaining council. Sometimes he will do this out of deference to his friends and may without realizing it place hands upon a preacher who may not be qualified for the ministry. Friends are good, but we should not allow friendship to dictate what ministry we approve. I am sure many of us have had this temptation, but we should beware of this situation lest we approve an evil thing.
And what is the reason for this? The reason is so that the preacher may "keep thyself pure." Remember Col 2:20-23 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
The preacher's life should be pure. Notice the following scriptures:
- Matt. 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
- Phil. 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
- 1 Tim. 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
- 1 Pet. 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently