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).
The apostle Paul 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).
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).
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: “what I have I give you…” (Acts 3:6).
There are many other examples throughout the Bible of individuals or groups of people receiving an impartation from the Lord through another person:
- 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).
Does everyone receive the same level of impartation when hands are laid on? 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.” 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.
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).