There are two matters here.
- Laying on of hands
The practice of the laying on of hands occurs 31 times in the New Testament:
- 3 times to bless someone (Matt 19:13, 15, Mark 10:16);
- 8 times to arrest someone to put them in prison (Matt 26:50, Mark 14:46, Luke 20:19, 21:12, 22:53, John 7:44, Acts 12:1, 21:27);
- 6 times to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17, 18, 19, 19:6, 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6);
- 10 times to heal someone (Mark 5:23, 6:5, 8:23, 25, 16:18, Luke 4:40, 13:13, Acts 9:12, 17, 28:8);
- 4 times with an unstated purpose but the context suggests that it was for the reception of the Holy Spirit or similar (Acts 6:6, 13:3, 1 Tim 5:22, Heb 6:2).
- Being filled with the Holy Spirit
Being filled with the Holy Spirit in the NT is only sometimes associated with the laying on of hands. Most times it occurred as the result of the circumstances and the decision of the Holy Spirit, eg, Luke 1:15, 41, 67, 4:1, John 20:22, Acts 2:4, 38, 4:8, 31, 6:5, 7:55, 10:47, 11:24, 13:8, 52, 19:2, 2 Cor 11:4, Gal 3:2, Eph 5:18, etc.
From this survey, the laying on of hands, is not essential to either receiving the Holy Spirit, or being filled with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it appears that essential requirement is: believing and accepting Jesus by faith as occurred in 2 Cor 11:4, Acts 2:4, 38, 4:31, 10:47, 13:52, etc. Let me quote some of these to illustrate:
- Luke 1:15 - for he [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall never take wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.
- Acts 2:38 - Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 6:5 - This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, ...
- Acts 10:44, 45 - While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard his message. All the circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
- Rom 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Eph 1:13 - And in Him, having heard and believed the word of truth—the gospel of your salvation—you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
In the specific case of Acts 9:17, was the laying on of hands primarily for (a) healing, (b) receiving the Holy Spirit, (c) both? If it was primarily for healing, the Paulk received the Holy Spirit because he believed. If it was both, then, again, Paul would not have received the Holy Spirit without first believing and trusting Jesus.