The Theology Of Feet Washing

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by tyndale1946, Mar 28, 2002.

  1. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
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    Brother Robert opened up the topic the history of feet washing in the Baptist History forum and as a side note suggested we might like to also study the theology of it in Baptist Theology and Bible Study forum. The following is an article on the theology of feet washing from Elder F.A. Chick of the Primitive Baptist brethren... Brother Glen [​IMG]

    FEET WASHING.

    " What I do thou knowest not now but thou shalt know hereafter."

    Peter is recorded as saying, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." Dull and slow to learn (as are we all), he had not yet risen to a full understanding of this divine act. Still fleshly in comprehension, he COULD NOT understand how his Master and Lord could be to him a servant. The true Master and King is he who serves, but this he could not yet see. He would not hear; hesitated to wash the feet of his Lord. This to him would have seemed fitting. But for the Master to wash his servant's feet--this must not be. Yet herein lies the difference between the kingdom of heaven and all the kingdoms of a fallen world. Jesus, Lord of all, is among us as one who serves, and we recognize him not in such lowly, humble garb. We look for royal robes and power and rank and glory, and lo! we see an humble dress, and weakness, and humbleness, and shame. This is the kingdom of Christ. This is God manifest in the flesh. Peter had not learned this yet; but his spiritual gaze was clearer after awhile. Thou shalt never wash my feet! Another may, or I will wash my own feet, but THOU, NEVER! And yet, none but Jesus ever could really wash his feet. Only Jesus can really serve us. We can serve one another only as we have the free Spirit of Jesus formed in us.

    Then the Lord answered, "If I wash thee not thou hast no part with me." Jesus said not "if I wash not THY FEET," but "if I wash not THEE." Why does the Lord change the mode of address ? It seems to me in order that he may call up to our minds that service which is more than all other service, that service which lies at the root of all, and without which there could be no other service rendered. WE MUST BE washed from head to foot, since from head to foot we are filthy and sick and diseased. Peter did not then see, but our minds are carried irresistibly to the cross and to the blood, and to the robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. There was here an expression of that for which Jesus came, and which was before him in all his human life. "Except I cleanse thee thou hast no part with me." What poor, mean falsehood then, is that theory which would hold up the pride and religion and good works of men as being sufficient for their salvation! Except I WASH THEE thou hast no part in me. And it is so still. What we have of Jesus is what he is to us and what he does to us. Serving us he imparts himself to us, and so we become partakers of the divine nature. With ourselves, it is only as we serve men that they have any part in us. As brethren serving each other, we mutually have part in each other.

    Now Peter, still quick and impulsive, with one bound, leaps over to the other side, and still errs in feeling and in judgment, and in language, and says, "Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." But Peter did not need this. Only his feet needed cleansing. It seems to me that, symbolically, great and glorious truths of vital godliness are presented here. I think there is a reference to the cleansing power of the blood of Christ by which the whole man is washed from the only thing which can really defile--sin against God. This is the work of Jesus. And this he accomplished by being made in form as a servant, and by becoming obedient unto death. This being done once for all, needs not to be done again. By faith we personally and experimentally enter into possession of this infinite blessing once for all. However devious and :dark our path may be afterwards, we never pass beyond the strength and comfort of this hope. Having entered into it once, we never need enter it again, but must abide there forever. As Israel was sheltered by the blood of the paschal lamb, so does the blood of the Lamb of God shelter us forever. Peter had not yet come into the spiritual apprehension of this truth, and so on the one hand he says, "Thou shall never wash my feet," and then on the other, "Not my feet only, but my hands and my head." Not only has Jesus wrought the atonement out for us forever, but by the same having word which has entered our hearts we have been purged from our former sins, and having come up out of this Egypt we shall see it no more. This work also Jesus has wrought within us. This also, Peter did not understand then. And we are also slow to learn. We occupy a new relation to God, and never can renew the old relation. Henceforth we are to be dealt with as with sons.

    And so in verse 10th, Jesus said, "He that is washed needeth not, save lo wash his feet, but is clean every whit." This work of' redemption and this work of regeneration have both been wrought out. And as has been said, need not to be done again. A new heart has been formed within the disciples. This work is compared to a washing. Every Jew was familiar with the symbolical meaning of their frequent ceremonial washings. The disciples would well know that they represented a cleansing from sin and guilt. This, as has been said, could never need be done but once. But what then ? We have our walk in the world, and the world is filthy, and our feet are not always well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and in our walk defilement occurs. Only the clean in lips, hands, heart, and feet can enter into the joys of the heavenly sanctuary. Isaiah, finding his lips defiled, cried, "I am undone; woe is me!" And we, finding our feet defiled, also must cry, "I am undone!" Our defiled feet shut us out from God. How shall we enter there? how shall we eat and drink at his table again? We must have clean feet. And so Jesus provides for this also; he takes water and washes our feet. The same word of life that cleansed us first must cleanse our feet. If the bodies are washed with pure water so must the feet be also. The cleansing done in the atonement is done forever, but this needs to be done again and again. And Jesus condescends to do this also. Day by day he applies the word of cleansing and saves us from the world--defilement--which we encounter every day. Oh, how good it is that the Master continues to do us this service! How different his Spirit from ours. We pass by our erring, defiled brother, on the other side; Jesus only comes still nearer. Sometimes we think that we desire to wash our brother's feet; but when once only, he says that we shall not wash his feet, we go away. Jesus did not so. How slow we are to learn of this meek and lowly one l

    "And ye are clean, but not all, for he knew who should betray him, therefore he said, Ye are not all clean." Surely this awful language shows that Judas had no part in him--had never been washed at all. At another time he said, "One of you is a devil." At another time he said, "It had been good for that man had he never been born." All the rest were included in his redemption. All the rest had begun to. drink in of his Spirit. One had not so near as to lie on his breast, but this man had no part in him. "He was a thief." Yet other thieves had been saved, and are still saved, but this man had absolutely no spark of the life and Spirit of Jesus in him. He became the very incarnation of diabolic evil, in that he, unlike Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas', and the rabble, had lived with Jesus and yet could betray him. In him was exhibited, as never before, how dead man is. In him was the truth clearly set forth, that only a miracle can put truth in the inward parts and cause a man to love God. .:%11 men are just as bad as Judas. He was chosen in order that in him we might read how evil we all are and tremble. Surely, if out ward religious associations and teaching could change the heart and make Christians of men, then Judas had long before been a true disciple. Here we learn the extent of all human depravity, and the necessity of the miraculous grace of God to save. Left to ourselves, we all had betrayed our Lord. Let us humbly adore that grace that has kept us!

    One closing thought remains for me to say a word about Jesus said, "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you." And just before he said, "If I have washed your feet, ye ought to wash one another's feet." "The servant is not greater than his Lord," &c. Into this part of his blessed work he permits us to enter. We may also serve one another. Are we doing so? I cannot give a ransom for my brother; I cannot wash him as Jesus does in the new birth, but I may wash his feet. Am I doing so? Am I among my brethren as one that serveth? The first thing is to have the Spirit of service. If we have this lowly Spirit we have Jesus. By this we may know the man in Christ. He is not a lord, but a servant. And yet by service he is great in the kingdom. Just as baptism avails nothing unless we are first dead to sin and alive to God, or as the supper avails nothing unless we see in it not ourselves, but Jesus, so the outward form of service avails nothing unless the Spirit has learned of the meek and lowly one. And to him that possesses this Spirit, there is always opportunity for service. If we cannot wash the face or hands, we may the feet. If the notable thing is not ours to do, the little thing will be at hand. May God give us all the joyful free Spirit of willing service! I feel sorry to close these reflections. May God make them a blessing to all. Let those of us who practice this as an ordinance show that we do not think that when this is done all is done, and let those of us who do not practice it as an ordinance show that we do have the Spirit of service.

    Your brother in hope, F.A. Chick.

    Reisterstown, Md., January 4th, 1886.

    [ March 28, 2002, 12:44 AM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     
  2. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
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    Lets look at this according to scripture keeping in mind the following: John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

    2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;

    3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;

    4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

    5 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.

    6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

    7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

    8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

    9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

    10 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.

    11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

    12 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?

    13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.

    14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.

    15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

    16 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.

    17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

    Notice the supper being ended is when the foot washing was instituted. It has never been in our church part of the communion service but a practice carried on by Primitive Baptist separate from it. There are some of the Primitive Baptist around the country that don't observe the foot washing part of the service but its not a test of fellowship.

    Luke 7:36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.
    37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
    38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
    39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
    40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
    41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
    42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
    43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
    44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
    45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
    46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
    47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
    48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
    49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
    50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

    I feel when I am at the feet of my brethren washing their feet that in similitude I am washing my Saviors feet. We are all servants to one another and none should think himself above his brethren! We are still sinners and so much has been forgiven us. We must also guard against where our feet lead us and always follow the footprints of Jesus who will NEVER lead us in paths of unrighteousness... Just my thoughts... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  3. DocCas

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    In order to understand what Christ was talking about re footwashing, you have to follow the context. In the OT tabernacle, the priest worked in one of the most beautiful environments ever built, wearing some of the most beautiful garments every made, but the floor was bare dirt and the priest was barefooted. In John 13.10 Jesus says, refering to the OT priest who only had to periodically wash his feet in the brazen laver to remain clean and able to continue his function, that "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet," and thus the idea of footwashing is linked to the fact that we are in the world but not of it. We are washed in the blood, but tend to pick up the dirt of this world as we labor and minister in it. We only have to confess the sins we pick up daily, illustrated by washing the feet, to stay right with God.

    Note especially in verse 14 that it is Jesus who washes our feet, IE forgives us our daily sins, and we should do the same to others, forgive them the sins they sin against us.

    It has nothing to do with what is commonly called "footwashing" today, but with daily forgiveness. [​IMG]
     
  4. Christopher

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    [John 13:14] If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

    While the act of washing the brethren's feet symbolizes something spiritual, the spiritual application does not cancel out the outward application. Baptism symbolizes something spiritual: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians practice baptism for its outward application. Christians are identified with Jesus in baptism to show they are dead to sin and have been raised to walk in newness of life [Rom. 6:4]. Washing the brethren's feet is a reminder of our call to servitude like our Savior who submitted Himself to the will of the Father [Phil. 2:8].

    By His grace, Christopher

    [ March 28, 2002, 02:36 PM: Message edited by: Christopher ]
     
  5. Jeff Weaver

    Jeff Weaver
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    Foot/feet washing is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace. I have heard many agruments against doing it, including some from Primitive Baptists, but once you have done it, you will never forgetit, nor want to take communion without it.

    Jeff
     
  6. rlvaughn

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    I want to chime in with Christopher and Jeff. Washing the saints' feet in a literal physical fashion in no way negates the meaning of the act, but rather serves to illustrate it, just as Jesus illustrated spiritual truth with His physical act when He stooped to wash His disciples' feet. I could see why someone would object to emphasizing the act to the neglect of the truth it teaches (and in my opinion, some do), but I can't really begin to understand why anyone would object to the practice itself.

    [ March 29, 2002, 09:40 AM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  7. rlvaughn

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    Some of you may be interested in reading what others have said on the subject of feet washing. Here are some theological discussions I have found over the years. These are by Baptists unless otherwise noted. Some of the books are out of print, but should be available in seminary libraries.

    ANTI
    The Apostolic Church (p. 281-287) by W. E. Paxton, Southern Baptist Publishing Society, Memphis, TN, 1876
    Baptism and Feet-Washing by Rev. P. Bergstresser (Lutheran), Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, PA, 1896
    Church Order - A Treatise (Chapter VI) by J. L. Dagg, Bible and Publication Society
    The Baptist Principle in Application to Baptism and the Lord's Supper(Chapter XXXVII) by William Cleaver Wilkinson, American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia, PA
    Footwashing by the Master and by the Saints by Elam J. Daniels, Christ for the World Publishers, Orlando, FL

    PRO
    Church Government and Ordinances by Robert Picirilli, Randall House Publications, Nashville, TN, 1973
    Exploring the Articles by Billy J. Casey, TN, (no other info, evidently personally printed)
    Principles of Faith by P. G. Hiebert (Mennonite), Gospel Publishers, Moundridge, KS, 1984
    Washing the Saints' Feet Shown to be an Ordinance of Christ by Joseph Sorsby, Christian Watchman Book and Job Office Print, Jackson, MS, 1867
     
  8. rlvaughn

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    Glen, it is my opinion that the tenor of Old Testament Scripture indicates that the general custom was for a host to provide water for a guest to wash his own feet, rather than for the host to actually wash the guest's feet. No doubt there were occasions in which a servant would wash feet. In washing His disciples' feet, Jesus elevated the practice beyond what was normally understood by it. In the context of John 13, it is evident the 12 couldn't grasp what was happening and were somewhat offended by it.

    Here is a little outline on feet washing that I gleaned from Matthew Henry years ago:
    1. Jesus washed His disciples' feet that He might give proof of the great love wherewith He loved them, vs. 1-2.
    2. Jesus washed His disciples' feet that He might give an instance of His own humility, vs. 3-5.
    3. Jesus washed His disciples' feet that He might signify to them spiritual washing, vs. 6-11.
    4. Jesus washed His disciples' feet that He might set before us an example, vs. 12-17.
     
  9. Graceforever

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    Amen Tom.....
     
  10. rlvaughn

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    FOR THOSE WHO OPPOSE THE LITERAL PRACTICE OF FEET WASHING IN CHURCH CAPACITY:

    Over the years as I have investigated this subject, I have noticed a fairly consistent position among the opposition that seems to indicate they believe that literally observing washing the saints' feet somehow obscures or negates the spiritual truths represented. Did Christ's literal washing of His disciples' feet obscure or illustrate the truth being taught?
     
  11. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
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    The question I would like to ask since I am one of those who wash feet do the brethren who hold this view feel this is beneath them? You who want to follow in the steps of Christ and be biblically correct, shouldn't you be feet washers?
    Why did Jesus wash the Apostles feet if it wasn't to set an example for us to follow?

    I would like to add something that was said by Jeff Weaver on another forum. The order of the feet washing is that men wash mens feet and women wash womens feet. In case there was a misunderstanding I wanted to make this clear and we never mix sexes in the feet washing service.
    Those of us who wash feet will continue this practice as it was set up by the Lord.

    John 13:12 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?

    13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.

    14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.

    15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

    16 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.

    17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

    I just want to add this after the brethren have washed my feet and I have done likewise you are brought to the realization that as you carry out lifes activities take care where your feet go and what path you take... Brother Glen [​IMG]

    [ April 16, 2002, 05:53 PM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     

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