Q: “What does it mean to not be a partaker of other men’s sins?”
A: It is important to understand what the word “partake” means. It points to “allotment,” “inheritance,” “participate,” “pertain,” “suffer hardship,” “fellowship,” “partner,” and “in company with.” If there is one word that summarizes “partake,” it would be “identification.” Jesus became a partaker with us when He gave up the glories of heaven and was fashioned as a man in order to become identified in our sin as the great sacrifice (Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 2:14-15). Hebrews 10:5, 10 states, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared for me:…By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Partaking is coming into agreement with someone on a spiritual level. To come into agreement in such a fashion, means you are opening yourself up emotionally and intellectually to be influence by the spirit motivating that person, action, or narrative. Consider what Ephesians 5:6-7 states, “Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.”
The particular Scripture reference you made mention of is found in 1 Timothy 5:22, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” Many people know that the New Agers and the occultists transfer spirits to others by the laying on of hands. The Old Testament priests would lay hands on the offering signifying the animal sacrifice was becoming a substitute. The leadership of the New Testament Church would lay hands on those who believed to impart the Holy Spirit and His gifts to them, and it is for this reason the laying on of hands was one of the six principle doctrines of Christ found in Hebrews 6:1-2. Partaking points to spiritual agreement.
When individuals come into spiritual agreement with someone who is in sin, they are not only becoming identified to the person’s sin, showing a type of approval, but they are opening themselves up to be influenced by a wrong spirit. It was for this reason the Christians of the Corinthian Church were told to separate from the fornicator who refused to repent in 1 Corinthians 5. A person who opens self up to the wrong spirit will lose the necessary discernment to rightly judge other matters and risk losing the authority to speak into the lives of others.
We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:17-21 that we cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils. We are to keep ourselves pure and such a mixture is considered unholy or profane and to come into agreement with it would pervert us. It is for this reason we are instructed to become partakers of holiness, spiritual things, His promises, our inheritance, our heavenly calling in Christ, and even the afflictions of the Gospel so we can become a source of consolation to others (Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 1:1-7; Ephesians 5:7; Colossians 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:8).
Christ became identified to us to become sin for us, but we must not become identified with others in their sin. We must separate from such wrong environments to ensure that we remain pure, our conscience clean, our spirit discerning, and our soul free from all oppression.