Keith Hunt - FOOTWASHING ORDINANCE OR EXAMPLE? Part One Restitution of All Things

Part One

     In 1987 an article was published by ACD(Association for
Christian Development, WA) called "Footwashing - Ordinance or
Example?"  They put forth many arguments concerning this topic. I
answered them at the time. 
     Two of the main ministers of this organization at the time
was the founder Ken Westby and also the now late Dr.Charles
Dorothy. I was somewhat surprised at what I read in their article
because I had met both of them, even had a Feast of Tabernacles
with Dr. Dorothy present under their banner. I met and talked
with Charles Dorothy a lot over that Feast time. I really liked
him as a humble man. He was very down to earth, easy to dine and
relax with, and a very fine Flamenco Guitar player. He was also a
scholar of Hebrew and Greek.
     Dr.Dorothy had managed to show Ken Westby and the ACD that
they were wrong in their many years of teaching people that the
Feasts of the Lord were not to be observed. Now there was a
transition among them to return to observing the Festivals of
God as they had done when part of the old WCG. 
     I respected Ken Wesby for being willing to be corrected, for
realizing they had been wrong in that teaching, and a willingness
to change to the truth once more.
     So their article on "footwashing" was somewhat of a shock to
me. I felt it needed to be answered. I will now begin to present
to you their entire article as it was in 1987 and my answers to
their arguments. I have not had contact with the ACD and Ken
Westby for many years now. This old article I present to you with
FOOTWASHING!  I ask the reader to please keep that in mind. I
really do not know what their teaching is today on this part of
the Passover observance. But the article and my answers I hope
will be of service to those who are today questioning this
practice within the service of the memorial of our Lord's death.


     On a solemn evening almost 2,000 years ago, a young teacher
took a basin of water and washed the feet of His twelve students.
And ever since there has been controversy over the meaning of
what He did.
     Was He simply teaching a lesson - illustrating a point? Or
did He intend for His followers down to this day to wash one
another's feet as a religious ordinance or ceremony?

                 Different Points of View

     That teacher, of course, was Jesus Christ. And Christians
down through the centuries have had different understandings of
the meaning of His washing the disciples' feet(recorded in John
     Some have taken Jesus' example as an ordinance to be
performed by all believers for all time. They feel a foot washing
ceremony should accompany the taking of the bread and wine in
commemorating Christ's death. Some believe it should be done only
by the religious leaders.
     Another point of view is that Christ was not instituting a
ceremonial ordinance at all. Since the people of that day walked
dusty roads in open sandals, the washing of feet was part of
their daily routine. Christ was instructing His disciples to
serve one another throughout their lives, whether that required
performing even the most menial tasks like the washing of others'
dirty feet. Since people today wear shoes, walk on sidewalks, and
ride in cars, 20th century Christians should serve others in ways
more in keeping with our time and circumstances.
     Christ did not intend for the disciples to literally wash
one another's feet as a ceremony. Rather, He was simply giving
them a poignant example - as an object lesson of the attitude of
service they should have towards one another throughout the year.

Keith answers:

     I do take Jesus' example and words of instruction to mean
that Christ was instituting an ordinance to be performed by all
believers for all time. Certainly this ordinance is teaching the
lesson that God's children are to serve one another throughout
their lives.


                   The First Feetwashing

     There can be no doubt that the washing of feet was a very
practical part of daily living in the time of Christ. People wore
open sandals and walked dusty and muddy roads - feet got dirty. A
good host would naturally provide water for his guests so they
could wash their feet and be refreshed. See Genesis 18:4; 19:2;
24:32; 1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:38, 44. Naturally, the washing of
feet was considered a menial job - a person would normally wash
his own feet, or a servant would wash them for him.
     The evening before His crucifixion, Christ gathered with His
disciples for a final meal (John 13:1-17). After supper Jesus did
something that shocked the disciples. He washed their feet. This
would be like the company president shining the shoes of his
employers. It just didn't make sense to the disciples for their
Master and Teacher to be washing their feet. Yet it taught a
lesson that they needed very much to learn.
     That very evening the disciples had argued about which of
them would be the greatest (Luke 22:24-27). Christ responded,
".......but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the
younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve."  And
Christ, in washing their feet, was illustrating in a very
powerful way the type of lives He wanted them to live - lives
characterized by service. As He served them, so they should serve
one another as a way of life.

Keith answers:

     The washing of feet referred to in the first paragraph above
was done when the visitor entered the home. The foot washing that
Jesus performed had nothing to do with the host foot washing of
his guests. First, Jesus was not gathering with His disciples
just for a "final meal" (Mat.26:1,2,17-20). It was during(Greek
of John 13:2) this Passover supper meal that Jesus performed the
foot washing service. Yes, this service of Jesus did illustrate
the type of lives He wanted them to live towards each other. We
believe Jesus knew that His disciples would need a yearly
reminder of this, just as they would need a yearly reminder of
what His death for them should mean in their lives. So He
instituted a new ordinance to accompany the New testament
Passover ordinance. An ordinance that is physical (foot washing)
to remind us annually of the more important life style of serving
our brother with humility.


                     Not An Ordinance

     Jesus went on to explain to the disciples what He had done
to them. He said; "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" (John
13: 13-15).

     Note that Jesus said nothing about WHEN or HOW they were to
wash one another's feet. And there is no record of the disciples
immediately taking up pans of water to wash feet. In fact, there
is no example anywhere in the New testament of feetwashing being
done as a ceremonial ritual.
     Paul, in giving the Corinthian Church the instructions which
Christ delivered to him (1 Cor.11:23), mentioned nothing about
     Matthew, Mark, and Luke all omitted Christ's washing of feet
in their accounts of the Last Supper. Evidently not one of them
considered the incident to be an integral part of the bread and
wine memorial Jesus instituted that evening.
     Only John mentions it, and he was writing 60-70 years after
the event and 30-40 years after Matthew, Mark, and Luke had
written their accounts. John's Gospel records many of the
profound teachings of Christ about love and service (see John
13-17). Jesus' example of washing the disciples feet that night
fit in as a vivid illustration of the spiritual principle He was
     There is simply no Biblical proof that the washing of the
feet was intended by Christ as an ordinance that should be done
by Christians today. Rather, His one-time example of feetwashing
illustrates the attitude that should characterize a Christain's
life 365 days a year.

Keith Answers:

     I strongly disagree with the statement "Jesus said nothing
about WHEN or HOW they were to wash one another's feet." The WHEN
is given by Jesus' example - at Passover. He could have performed
this foot washing on another day or on one of the other occasions
(there was more than one time they argued over who was the
greatest - see a Harmony of the Gospels book) when they disputed
among themselves as to who would be the chief. Jesus clearly
DONE TO YOU."  The example was at Passover time. The HOW is
simply to wash THE FEET of one or more of Jesus' disciples. Does
God have to give us a text book on "How to wash feet" ?  I think
     Because we cannot find another example in the NT of Passover
foot washing does not automatically nullify the example and
specific command Jesus gave us. Turn to Matthew 5:40,41. Can we
find anywhere in the NT a specific instance where a man was
sued at the law, his coat taken away and he gave also his cloak?
Finding no such happening, does that automatically "do away" with
this instruction from Jesus?  Can we find in the NT someone who
was compelled to go a mile and he went two mile?  Not finding
this happening does not annul the command of Jesus!
     Can we find in the NT where those commands and precepts are
repeated?  No we cannot!  But that fact does not make them void.
God does not HAVE to repeat Himself to make it true. Mankind may
have to do so, and have more than one witness, BUT GOD DOES NOT!
He is always true though every man be a liar.

     Concerning Paul writing to the Corinthians about things
Christ had delivered to him. Did Paul in his letter to them write
about ALL AND EVERYTHING that Jesus had taught him? I think not!
Paul was concerned with only TWO ASPECTS of the Passover service
in the main - the parts that were being perverted, and what had
been told to him were being done that should not be done, which
were: 1) Getting drunk on the wine. 2) Making a big meal out of
it and letting the poor go hungry.     
     He tells them the way it should be regards these two parts
of the Passover service. Presumably, they were not in error with
the foot washing part of the Passover. If they had only been in
error as to the taking of the wine, Paul would have only
corrected them on that. His letter is predominately a corrections
of SPECIFICS which were brought to his attention by another
party. The argument of silence is not one that I would like to
use when I face my Savior in the judgment.

     The argument of Matthew, Mark, and Luke not considering the
incident to be an integral part because they did not mention
it(the foot washing), reminds me of the Church of Christ minister
telling me that they kept the laws of God that could be found in
the NT. If they could not find a law repeated in the NT they did
not observe it. Or the group that told me they only followed a
point of instruction if it was repeated two or three times, for
the scripture said: "in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall
a thing be established." They forgot the context of the verse,
that it was for MAN within a court of law, and it was
to do with SIN or the DEATH penalty(Deut.17:6; Num.35:30;
Deut.19:15). God really does NOT HAVE to repeat Himself or be
backed up by anyone, He is God, and He is PERFECT, His word is
sure the first time out of His mouth. God is NOT DOUBLE
MINDED as man is(James 1:8,17).
     And there was the man who said to me he would only follow
the scriptures that Jesus had, and the four Gospels.

     Only MATTHEW mentions that Jesus would be "three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth."  Evidently Mark, Luke,
and John, did not find the ONLY SIGN that Jesus would give to His
Messiahship that important.
     John in his Gospel mentions many things that Matthew, Mark,
and Luke obviously did not find an important or intrinsic part of
the ministry of Jesus, if we use the same argument.
     The argument of this man only mentioning this, and that man
only mentioning that, and this was written by this man so many
years after this other man wrote, is an argument I have seen used
by many individuals and groups to "do away" with just about
any law, command or instruction that God or Jesus ever gave.

     The proof that the washing of feet was intended by Christ as
an ordinance that should be done by Christians TODAY, is found in
the CLEAR words of Jesus - so clear a child could understand: "If
I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, YOU ALSO

To be continued...

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