Chapter 9: Footwashing
9.1 Footwashing is merely
a Jewish custom; it is not a sacrament and has no relationship to a person’s
salvation. The Lord Jesus washed the feet of his disciples only to set an
example of humility and serving others.
The footwashing that
the Lord Jesus instituted is beyond being merely a custom. According to
tradition, slaves washed the feet of the master, never the reverse. The Lord,
however, washed the feet of his disciples even though he was their master.
Peter, not realizing the significance of this footwashing,
refused to be washed by the Lord (Jn 13:6,8).
directly related to salvation for the following reasons:
Jesus told Peter, “If I do not wash you, you
have no part with Me” (Jn
13:8). To receive footwashing is to have part with
the Lord. As such footwashing cannot be simply a
Jesus also said, “He who is bathed needs only to
wash his feet, but is completely clean” (Jn 13:10). A
person who is baptized needs also to receive footwashing.
Though formerly a custom, footwashing
becomes a sacrament that carried great spiritual power and effect after the
Lord Jesus had performed it and explained its meaning and efficacy and had
commanded his disciples to do likewise.
9.2 Footwashing cannot be
a sacrament. If footwashing is so essential and
relates directly to a person’s salvation, why is the institution only found in
the Gospel according to John and not anywhere else in the Bible?
Despite the fact that footwashing
is found only in the Gospel according John, it is still to be kept and its
relationship to salvation is still valid.
All of the Lord’s commandments need to be kept.
Not a single commandment should be neglected regardless of how many times they
are being mentioned in the Bible (see Mt -19;
). The Lord
instructed his followers to perform footwashing as he
had done for his disciples; therefore, we also need to keep this commandment.
9.3 The Lord Jesus instructed his disciples, “If I
then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one
another's feet” (Jn ). But why is that during the footwashing
sacrament in your church, only the ministers wash the feet of new members, and
other members do not wash one another’s feet?
The footwashing the
Lord Jesus established serves two functions, namely: 1. sacrament 2. spiritual teaching.
As a sacrament, footwashing
is to have part with the Lord. The disciples did not wash each other’s feet
during the sacrament. It was performed by the Lord Jesus for the disciples.
That is why he did not say, “if you do not wash each
other’s feet, you have no part with me.” Rather, he said, “If I do not wash
you, you have no part with me.”
Today, during the footwashing sacrament, rather than
washing one another’s feet, the church performs footwashing
on the Lord’s behalf so that the believers who receive the sacrament may have
part with the Lord. The sacrament does not involve mutual washing. Instead, the
task of of performing the sacrament is given to “he
who is sent” (i.e. those in the church who administer the sacrament on the
Lord’s behalf; “he who is sent” = apostles; see Jn
As a spiritual teaching, footwashing
shows believers that they should love one another (Jn
13:1), humbly serve one another (Jn 13:4-5,12-17),
forgive one another (Jesus also washed the feet of Judas Iscariot), and keep
their holiness (Jn 13:10). While the mutual washing
of feet with water is still practiced in the church on occasion as a sign of
love and forgiveness, what is most essential is that we follow the spiritual
teachings behind this action.