Feet Washing

Biblical Ordinances

All Christians are required to walk in the light of the Word of God. To walk in the light means to observe every ordinance by putting them into practice. The Feet Washing service is a sacred time for all who participate in the fellowship of this ordinance. Washing the saints' feet has been instituted to commemorate the heart of a true servant in the life of believers.

"[Jesus] riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:3-17).

A time of great joy and fellowship is always present when the ordinance of feet washing is heartily practiced in the proper spirit – the spirit of a servant. Many religious organizations have ceased observing the ordiance of feet washing. It seems that many people have falsely associated feet washing with the act of hospitality that existed in Eastern countries. It is commonly practiced that when a guest arrives at someone's home, a servant places a basin of water for the traveler to wash his feet. Sometimes the master of the house would have one of his servants wash the feet of the guest. This is possibly where the ordinance finds its model; however, its purpose far exceeds this simple show of hospitality.

It is erroneously believed that feet washing is a practice for those present with Jesus and for that time only. The biblical text offers no time of closure whereby there would be a cessation of this practice. It is a fact that the early Church practiced this as an ordinance. Jesus said in John 13:14-17, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For i have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." A careful reading an rendering of this text reveals several things. First, there was no time frame set to cease the ongoing feet washing practice. Jesus' own words, "ye also ought to wash one another's feet" and "happy are ye if you do them," gives rise to the following question: Why would anyone want to place a cessation upon an event that would result in one being blessed with happiness in a world of so much pain and woe? Jesus also admonished that His followers should proceed in the example He set. All Christians of every generation must continue the practice of the same teachings as the first century Church.

Another mention of feet washing is made in reference to the women who were to be counted among true widows in the Church. "...if she have washed the saints' feet..." (1 Timothy 5:10). If feet washing was only practiced by Jesus, then why was it made a required for a woman to be accepted into the number of widows? With God being no respecter of persons it can only be concluded that all saints were given the divine ordinance to wash the saints' feet.

There is compelling evidence that much care and concern has been placed upon the ordinance of feet washing by Jesus. If a person participates in feet washing and is unclean in any manner, then that one is betraying Jesus in that he is practicing the ordinance as an unworthy participant. Participants in feet washing should show forth a spirit of humily and unity. The ordinance should be a reflection of our acceptance of each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Therefore, a spirit of servanthood would be activated by true humility and fellowship in the Body of Christ as the Church washes one another's feet.


Additional Resources

This resource contains information adapted from Communion & Feet Washing, which can be obtained via the online store. Communion & Feet Washing is an Outreach Literature tract produced by The Church of God and is a concise summary of the ordiances of Communion & Feet Washing.


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