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

Part Two

                   Doing What Christ Said

     But, some will say, maybe we don't have to do it as an
ordinance at a certain time, but didn't Christ command us,
" 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"?
     Christ certainly did say that. But what did He mean?

     He also said: "If your eye offends you, pluck it out." What
did He mean? Do we accept that statement as a literal command?
Rather, don't we seek to understand the meaning of the words?

     Paul wrote five times, "Greet one another with a holy kiss."
What did he mean?  Do Christians today accept this plain
statement as a command?

     James wrote, "Is any merry, let him sing Psalms." What did
he mean? Do all Christians sing Psalms every time they are merry?

     Few of us take these other statements as commands or
spiritual requirements - we try to let the Bible interpret the
Bible in order to understand what is meant by the words.
     We should do the same with John 13:15-17.

Keith answers:

     It is true that Jesus said things that are not to be taken
in a literal sense, such as: "If your eye offend you pluck it
out." The rest of the Bible shows us that God would not want us
to mutilate ourselves. Yes, Jesus spoke in parables that were not
always to be applied literally in every respect, but had hidden
spiritual meanings or lesson. On the other hand, Jesus often said
things that were not analogies or symbolisms,  but were plain
do's and commands and teachings. With no spiritual
interpretations needed. 
     Must we be constantly seeking to "understand the meaning of
the words"? Must we always think Jesus was giving us a hidden
secret spiritual meaning to all He said and taught? 
     I have met those who look for the meaning of Jesus' words,
"I will come again" and do not believe He meant what He said, do
not believe we should take those words literally at all. Others
do not believe Christ pre-existed as an Eternal being, and the
statements of Jesus that show He did, they seek to understand the
meaning of the words - some hidden spiritualization. And so it
could go on and on, no one really knowing what the words of the
Bible are meaning, not knowing if an instruction was an ordinance
for the Church or just a custom, or a one time event, or
something else that needs interpreting another way. 
     It really should be no wonder that we have hundreds of
differing Christian sects, who differ on just about everything
the Bible says.

     The Bible should indeed interpret the Bible WHERE there is a
NEED to interpret and understand the meaning of the words. And in
SOME cases  THERE MAY BE A DEEPER SPIRITUAL lesson that is being
conveyed by a physical "do this in remembrance of me" command, or
"I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to
you" teaching. 
     BUT, the hidden meaning to the literal do's does not nullify
the performing of the physical, but adds more import and meaning
to the commands. 
     The spiritual meaning that Paul gives us about the physical
act of baptism in Romans 6 does not mean we are exempt from doing
the literal act. It adds greater meaning and insight and more
proof as to why we need to continue to do the literal command as
given by Jesus in Mat.28:19.

     As we follow the literal commands and instructions of
Christ's words REGARDING OTHER WORDS AND COMMANDS that He spoke,
so we should do the same with John 13:14-17. There is nothing in
those words to indicate it was a custom of the time at the
Passover meal to wash feet. The words show it was something NEW
that Jesus was doing, and the instructions He gave are pretty
straight and easy to understand. He said He was setting an
EXAMPLE for them to do likewise.

     Paul's admonition to follow courteous customs of the day
such as, "Greet one another with a holy kiss" or as we in this
age may say, "Greet each other with a hand shake" is a statement
that by the words and the context is a setting FAR REMOVED from
the context and words of Jesus in John 13. 
     There is little in common with Paul's general salutation for
people to "Greet one another with a holy kiss" and Jesus'
commanding words. I may write to a group of God's children and
casually - in a gernal way admonish them to greet each other with
a hand shake. It is an expression to get them to see that we
should appreciate each other. Not that I expect they will always
forever, and at all times, greet each other, without missing
someone at some time, with a hand shake.
     So it was with James when he wrote: "Is any merry, let him
sing Psalms." This is a GENERAL statement to praise the Lord when
you are happy. Not that other types of songs are excluded from
being sung, but a spiritual mind set should always be with you
at all times.
     Now compare these statements by Paul and James with Jesus'
words of John 13:14-17. I believe there is a LARGE DIFFERENCE! 
First, there are many more words from Jesus, as if He wanted to
make sure His followers did not forget or misunderstand that He
meant what He said and said what He meant. Second, the EXAMPLE -
that which Jesus DID was done so His disciples WOULD DO LIKEWISE.
     As a young child would find many other words of instruction
from Jesus easy to read and understand in other parts of the four
Gospels, so I believe these verses would be just as simple to
read and comprehend and follow by the same young child.

     It's time for more of us to be more childlike in our reading
and doing of the Eternal's word.


     Christ was talking about much than a pan and a towel once a
year. He was giving His disciples an example of humble and
selfless service - showing the kind of attitude they ought to
have towards one another as a way of life - 365 days a year.
     In verse 17, He said: "If ye know these things, happy are ye
if ye do them."  THESE THINGS refer to a whole way of life - a
way of serving, giving, and sharing - a way He illustrated very
powerfully throughout His entire life, not only that night when
He washed the disciples' feet.
     Certainly it wasn't wrong to wash someone's feet. And it
isn't necessarily wrong for Christians to do it ceremonially - as
long as they don't consider themselves more righteous than those
who don't perform this ritual.
     What does count is for Christians to practice love and
service - to have a feetwashing attitude all the time as a way of

Keith answers:

     We have already agreed that what Jesus was doing in the
physical act and example of foot washing was to illustrate to His
disciples the life long attitude they should have towards each
other in humbleness and service.
     While Christ's words, "If you know these things" could be
rightly applied to refer to a whole way of life - a way of
serving, giving, and sharing, those words must also apply to the
immediate context of "you also ought to wash one another's feet.
For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have
done to you."

     ACD acknowledge it's not wrong for Christians to wash feet
in a ceremony service, but caution such not to consider
themselves more righteous than those who do not perform that
ritual. Self-righteousness is always to be avoided by the child
of God, or thinking oneself better than another. On the other
hand the instruction from Jesus is that the child of God is to
"hunger and thirst after righteousness" and to "do and teach"
even the least commandment (Mat.5:6,19).
     Did not Peter say that Christ left "us an example, that you
should follow His steps" (1 Pet.2:21). Maybe those who do follow
the example of Jesus in all things, will be accused of trying to
be more righteous than those who do not. But as long as their
attitude is one of humility, they have nothing to fear by this
argument from those who wish to spiritualize away the teachings
of Christ.
     The same argument could be used by those who believe they
can baptize with just a few drops of water, as opposed to
complete immersion. they could say: "Certainly it isn't wrong to
baptize by complete immersion in a ritualistic ceremony, as long
as those who do so practice do not consider themselves more
righteous than those who do not perform this ritual, but use a
few drops of water.
     There are those who practice keeping the "Lord's Supper" as
they call it, FOUR times a year(the SDA church is one of them) as
opposed to those who teach it should be observed only ONCE a year
on the 14th of Nisan. Now the four times a year groups could
argue, "Certainly it's not wrong to keep the Passover just once a
year, as long as those who do it this way don't consider
themselves more righteous than those who keep it four times a

     It's time to get from behind this wall of "we want to do and
believe what is pleasing to us" and realize God does have THE WAY
to live and worship Him. He does not give us the right to
determine HOW we shall worship or obey Him, but only WHETHER we
shall or shall not do it HIS WAY. Too many want to serve God
while they sing to Him the song "MY way" and have put aside the
example and attitude Jesus left us when He said to the Father
"not MY WILL be done but YOURS."


     The focal point of the meaningful occasion of observing the
death of Christ is JESUS CHRIST and His total sacrifice for us.
Our minds and hearts should be focused on Him when we gather
together to take the bread and wine in remembrance of His death.
And in many respects the physical logistics of a feetwashing
ceremony can detract from the meaning and significance of this
New Testament memorial.

Keith answers:

     ACD want us to understand that the physical "foot washing
ceremony" has a greater meaning than just the act itself, namely
- the spiritual lesson that Jesus' followers are to serve each
other on a daily basis, yet with such a great meaning behind a
physical acts they teach, "the physical logistics of a
feetwashing ceremony can detract from the real meaning and
significance of the New Testament memorial."

     I find this to be somewhat contradictory. It is human nature
to forget, as the weeks and months go by, the real meaning behind
the ceremony of the bread and wine - what it represents to us for
our eternal salvation - and start to take sin and holiness and
why Christ had to die for us in a less than serious attitude. God
knew this was the way of human nature and made sure that once a
year through a very special ceremony we would be reminded of the
death of Jesus. 
     So also with the instruction we are given over and over
again in the NT to love and serve the children of the Father. It
is human nature to forget those teachings and develop a less than
serious attitude towards serving our Christian brother and
sister. Knowing this to be the case, our Lord instituted a
ceremony on the last Passover He partook of that would, each
year, be an annual reminder to His followers that they were to
serve each other in humility every day of their lives. 
     That annual reminder was a foot washing service to be
performed each year on the Passover evening.

     No doubt other arguments could be found as to why we do not
have to perform feet washing on the Passover evening, but what is
the bottom line?

                      Bottom Line

     Turn to Luke 17 and verse 5. The disciples wanted their
faith to be increased. Look at the lesson Jesus gave them as to
HOW to have MORE faith. Notice especially verse 10. 
     Let's suppose you could argue correctly that you did not
have to be a part of a foot washing ceremony - that it is NOT
commanded of God. So you busy yourself finding all the laws and
instructions from the Eternal that ARE commanded. You busy
yourself doing them all your Christian life, and then stand with
confidence before the Lord one day. You tell Him you've done ALL
the things COMMANDED, and you await His reply.
     What a SHOCK to hear Him say, "After you have done ALL
THINGS COMMANDED you, do you not know that I still consider you
an unprofitable servant, for you have ONLy done that which was
your DUTY TO DO. I expect my servants to DO MORE THAN JUST THEIR

     I would rather be SAFE than  SORRY!!  If you have performed
foot washing and it was NOT required, what have you lost? 
Nothing!  You just increased your faith. If you did NOT perform
foot washing and it WAS required, what have you lost?

     Read again Luke 17:10 but this time also add Matthew

Written 1987
Keith Hunt

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