There are a lot of blogs floating around nowadays which are trying to correct some of the weird excesses of the Charismatic movement. Some of these are really good and helpful, whereas some have thrown the baby out with the bath water. Because it hasn’t been clearly taught in a while, I am re-sharing the chapter on “impartation” from my book, The School of the Seers. Enjoy!
To understand impartation, you have to understand anointing, which in the Bible means “a smearing.” In Scripture, oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. When a prophet or priest poured, rubbed, or smeared oil over the head of someone, it was referred to as anointing that person. This actually gave the anointed person a measure of the oil that belonged to the prophet or priest. This is commonly referred to as transferring the anointing.
In the Old Testament, the oil was used to signify the passing of the anointing. In the New Testament we find that the anointing of the Holy Spirit can now be passed through the laying on of hands because the anointing abides within us: “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you...” (1 John 2:27).
Impartation Is Foundational
The writer of Hebrews named the laying on of hands as one of the six basic fundamental doctrines a Christian should understand. This places it in the very foundation of our Christian beliefs. In many circles of the modern Church, impartation is ignored, if not denied all together; in the first century, it was considered a foundational truth:
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of...the laying on of hands... (Hebrews 6:1-2).
The Apostle Paul also thought of impartation as part of the process of becoming established. He imparted spiritual gifts to the Roman believers to give them a better foundation: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established...” (Rom. 1:11 NKJV).
Impartation Is Intentional
In the Old Testament, the anointing was a very purposeful, pronounced event. Impartation occurs not just because of touch, but because a person places his or her hands on you by the direction of the Holy Spirit with a goal in mind. Intentionally, the impartation occurs.
To say that impartation occurs every time touch occurs would be similar to saying that if an Old Testament prophet had a leaky oil flask, then everything that he dripped oil on was anointed to be king. If it were just touch, then every time you shook someone’s hand, you would have some of him or her rub off on you. This is not biblical, and we are not promoting such superstition. We intentionally give that which we have, by the direction of the Holy Spirit as Peter said: “what I have I give you...” (Acts 3:6).
Impartation Is Biblical
There are many other examples throughout the Bible of individuals or groups of people receiving an impartation from the Lord through another person. Let’s look at a few of these.
Joshua and Moses: Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses (Deut. 34:9 NKJV).
Moses and the Elders: So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied... (Num. 11:24-25a NKJV).
Elijah and Elisha: And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me” (2 Kings 2:9 NKJV).
Peter: Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6 NKJV).
Paul and Timothy: 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 Tim. 4:14).
Timothy was deeply impacted by impartation. Specifically, as a result of impartation, he received a spiritual gift through the laying on of hands and prophecy by a prophetic presbytery of elders: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6 NKJV).
Impartation Is Individual
Does everyone receive the same level of impartation when hands are laid on? Some have thought that if a famous Christian leader lays his or her hands on an individual, then the receiver will get an impartation that instantly gives them an equal portion of the anointing.
Our character must be able to uphold the amount of power we carry.
It is the mercy of God that protects us from receiving more than we can handle. As Pastor Bill Johnson of Redding, California, says, “Revelation always brings responsibility, and hunger is the thing that prepares our hearts to carry the weight of that responsibility.”1 Our character must be able to uphold the amount of power we carry, or else we are a danger to those around us. So the answer is no, not everyone receives the same level of anointing in impartation. God knows what you need, and what you can handle.
Impartation Is A Seed, Not A Full-Grown Plant
The parable of the sower (see Luke 8:4-15) teaches us how the farmer spreads the seeds for salvation, and it also teaches us a principle of how we receive from God. Our heart is the soil, and Father God is the farmer who spreads seed, which is the Word of God (or, for our analogy, impartation). He casts it into the soil of our heart. Then the birds, which are demonic attacks, come to kill, steal, and destroy.
This is where the variation in impartation can occur. The difference in how any seed grows depends on the soil in which it is planted and how prepared and ready that soil is for seeds to grow. After the seed is planted, it can grow very quickly if it is given the proper water (time in the presence of the Holy Spirit—see John 7:38-39) and sunlight (Jesus is the light that the seed needs to grow—see 2 Cor. 4:4).
To my knowledge, those who have some of the most powerful impartations are among the following: those who are hungry for more of God, pastors who are tired and burned out, and people whose ministry is desperate for a breakthrough. They are people whose soil is eager for seed, and almost as soon as the seed hits the soil, something sprouts. The soil is already prepared with water and sunlight, but the impartation is needed to move into producing. In contrast, there are those who have no hunger for God, do not spend time with the Holy Spirit, and do not walk in the light of Christ, leaving their hearts as hard as rocky soil. Usually, God has to plow this ground before any seed can grow there.
One other factor in farming is the needed pressure that dirt places against a seed so that the shell cracks open and the seed can begin to grow. Seeds that have never sprouted, because they have never been planted in dirt, have been found in the tombs of pharaohs. Some of these seeds, which are over 4,000 years old, have since been planted in dirt and have sprouted and produced. That is why seeds of salvation can be tossed out on the ground of peoples’ hearts day after day with no results, but when the trials of life give the needed pressure, the seeds crack open and life sprouts.
This pressure comes into the impartation discussion because not only spiritually hungry people get powerful impartation. Sometimes it is a person about to lose his or her ministry, or someone about to give up from difficulty. Someone under tremendous pressure in life may be the most ready for the seed of impartation to be planted in his or her heart.
You Can Only Impart What You Possess
It is crucial that we understand this next point: you can only impart what you possess—if you possess it, you can impart it. If you don’t have it, don’t lay hands on another and declare impartation. If you only have olive anointing oil in your flask, you can’t declare and impart cedar anointing oil to someone else. Yes, pray that God would give it to them. But don’t go claiming to impart what you don’t have in your own life. You cannot impart resurrection power to someone if you have never raised the dead, but you can declare and prophesy it over someone if the Lord directs you.
“The double portion,” as it relates to impartation, is a phrase commonly heard in some church circles. To understand the double portion correctly, consider the following scenario. If an Old Testament prophet was sent to anoint a king and the prophet may have ten ounces of anointing oil in his flask, so he can only give the king ten ounces. If the king asks him to give him a double portion of all the anointing that the prophet had, this would mean that he wanted not 10 ounces, but 20 ounces. He cannot give 20 because he only has 10. That is double the portion of all the anointing that the prophet has. This is what Elisha did when he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. Elijah responded by saying, “You have asked a difficult thing” (2 Kings 2:10a). Then, because an individual does not have the ability to give a double portion to another person, Elijah puts the responsibility on God by saying, “If you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not” (2 Kings 2:10b). This is a proper understanding of the concept of the double portion referred to by Elisha. Notice that even the prophet Elijah was not able to freely give away the double portion; he responded, in essence, that God would have to do it. If we study the life of Elisha, we find that he actually performed twice as many miracles as his mentor Elijah. So God did grant him double the anointing that was on Elijah.
Do Not Be Hasty
First Timothy 5:22 raises another important question regarding the practice of impartation: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” If pulled out of its original context, this verse can seem very contradictory to everything I have presented in this chapter. A large part of First Timothy is written about setting church leadership into positions of authority. All of chapter 3 lays out detailed qualifications about what type of person is to be put into leadership. A few verses earlier, Paul writes, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is tread- ing out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’ Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning” (1 Tim. 5:17-20).
Transference of the anointing by the laying on of hands for impartation...exists to help you grow.
In First Timothy, Paul is writing about the laying on of hands for setting leadership into positions of authority. This has nothing to do with the concept of impartation. It would not make sense for Paul to write in Hebrews 6 (if he wrote Hebrews) and Romans 1 that he wanted to lay hands on baby Christians that “they may be established” (Rom. 1:11), and then to warn in First Timothy that you can share in the sins of others by laying hands on them. If he is referring to the same type of laying on of hands in both passages, then wouldn’t he say to “keep yourself pure” by not laying hands on people who are not yet “established” (1 Tim. 5:22; Rom. 1:11)? There are two different types of laying on of hands: one for setting leaders into places of authority, and the second for imparting and transferring anointing. There are qualifications and restrictions on the first type, but the second type actually propels you toward being qualified. Transference of the anointing by the laying on of hands for impartation is for each and every Christian and is not held back; in fact, it exists to help you grow!