feet washing?

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thistle93

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi! I was recently reading in John where Jesus washes the feet of His disciples.

John 13:[12] When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? [13] You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. [14] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. ESV

I personally believe this is symbolic of how we are to be servants to one another especially those of us who are leaders. We should be willing to stoop down and not be to proud to get dirty. I know some take this literally and that we should continue this practice. What are your thoughts?

Was this intended only for original disciples and/or us as Christ disciples today? I think it is just the original disciples but I can see how people do take it literal. It seems like a command much like the Great Commission (which all take as a command for all disciples, including future ones). How does ones hermeneutic decide what is only for original disciples and what is also for disciples today?
How does ones hermeneutic decide that which is prescriptive and descriptive?

Thank you!

For His Glory-
Matthew
 

Grillsy

Puritan Board Junior
There are a number of churches today who practice foot-washing as an ordinance. Some even call it a third Sacrament. They are, of course, wrong. You find this in many holiness churches and certain other groups coming out of the Restorationist movements (emphasis on the plural) during or around the time of the Second Great Awakening.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
It means we should act as humble servants. There is nowhere in Scripture that suggests the disciples or the early church practiced actual foot washing, nor any instructions for regulating such a practice.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
There is nowhere in Scripture that suggests the disciples or the early church practiced actual foot washing, nor any instructions for regulating such a practice.
Are these criteria universally applicable to all of Jesus' commands?
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
There is nowhere in Scripture that suggests the disciples or the early church practiced actual foot washing, nor any instructions for regulating such a practice.
Are these criteria universally applicable to all of Jesus' commands?
No, but it makes it likely he didn't indend for it to be a liturgical practice. Certainly, if your feet happen to be dusty and you have a need that way, I ought to willingly help you out. But my assumption is that the OP had in mind a regular, liturgical practice independent of any actual, everyday need to have one's feet cleaned.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Gosh, wouldn't your feet get awfully smelly if you didn't wash them? :lol:

This is also a practice of at least some of the Mennonites. What I have observed is a beautiful ceremony, but outside of the regulative principle. Should any washing be considered, I'd look at what was given for the start of worship at the temple which, of course, does not appear to be repeated in the NT, aside from the gentle service to one another in day-to-day life.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
There is nowhere in Scripture that suggests the disciples or the early church practiced actual foot washing, nor any instructions for regulating such a practice.
Are these criteria universally applicable to all of Jesus' commands?
No, but it makes it likely he didn't indend for it to be a liturgical practice. Certainly, if your feet happen to be dusty and you have a need that way, I ought to willingly help you out. But my assumption is that the OP had in mind a regular, liturgical practice independent of any actual, everyday need to have one's feet cleaned.
So we must have both regulation of and examples of all liturgical practices, correct?
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
It's a Catholic thing round here. At services on the Thursday before Easter, some senior cleric will ceremonially "wash" the hygenic, well-prepared feet of a lucky altar-boy - it happened to a friend of my son's once.
As usual Rome completely misses the point!
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
There is nowhere in Scripture that suggests the disciples or the early church practiced actual foot washing, nor any instructions for regulating such a practice.
Are these criteria universally applicable to all of Jesus' commands?
No, but it makes it likely he didn't indend for it to be a liturgical practice. Certainly, if your feet happen to be dusty and you have a need that way, I ought to willingly help you out. But my assumption is that the OP had in mind a regular, liturgical practice independent of any actual, everyday need to have one's feet cleaned.
So we must have both regulation of and examples of all liturgical practices, correct?
I'm not attempting to comment on liturgical practices in general. I'm just saying that for this particular command of Jesus we have to determine if he meant it as a liturgical practice or as instruction to act as humble servants. The fact that the apostles (who were there and heard the command) do not mention it as a liturgical practice in any of their writings is an indication that Jesus didn't intend it that way.
 
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E Nomine

Puritan Board Freshman
I have always wondered about this. To me, the plain meaning of the text, "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you," indicates that this is something we should continue.

An unbeliever stumped me a few years ago with this text as an example that we Christians "pick and choose" the parts of scripture we follow. I didn't have a good response for him, and I still don't (but I may, soon, thanks to Jack K's comments in this thread).
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
The force and beauty of Jesus' command to wash each other's feet is actually lost if it becomes a ceremony disconnected from truly dusty feet. The surprising act of humility aspect disappears, replaced by custom and symbolism. Jesus' footwashing met a functional need. If we want to keep his command, we should look for everyday, lowly tasks of service to our brothers and do them.
 

LeeJUk

Puritan Board Junior
I would say it's mainly a principal but I see nothing wrong with it taking place in a church as a sign of love for one another. It seems there have been services where this has happened and people have been emotionally healed and greatly moved by it. I don't know that I would have it in a regular service setting but perhaps a more informal gathering in a church hall or something like that.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
The force and beauty of Jesus' command to wash each other's feet is actually lost if it becomes a ceremony disconnected from truly dusty feet. The surprising act of humility aspect disappears, replaced by custom and symbolism. Jesus' footwashing met a functional need. If we want to keep his command, we should look for everyday, lowly tasks of service to our brothers and do them.
I don't think the outward reality of the command negates the importance of the symbol. :2cents:

I'm not attempting to comment on liturgical practices in general. I'm just saying that for this particular command of Jesus we have to determine if he meant it as a liturgical practice or as instruction to act as humble servants. The fact that the apostles (who were there and heard the command) do not mention it as a liturgical practice in any of their writings is an indication that Jesus didn't intend it that way.
It's pretty much indisputable that He meant for the reality behind the symbol to continue. On what basis do we disconnect the symbol from the reality?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
On an anecdotal level, I have had my feet washed by others as part of a time of fellowship related to hall activities at my college. In addition, at one PCA (elder) ordination I attended, one of the senior elders symbolically washed the feet of the newly ordained elders.

I certainly don't think that this is a commanded practice (except in a symbolic sense) but it's certainly allowable in a non-Sunday-worship setting.
 

Reformed Roman

Puritan Board Freshman
The force and beauty of Jesus' command to wash each other's feet is actually lost if it becomes a ceremony disconnected from truly dusty feet. The surprising act of humility aspect disappears, replaced by custom and symbolism. Jesus' footwashing met a functional need. If we want to keep his command, we should look for everyday, lowly tasks of service to our brothers and do them.
Completely agree with this.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I'm not attempting to comment on liturgical practices in general. I'm just saying that for this particular command of Jesus we have to determine if he meant it as a liturgical practice or as instruction to act as humble servants. The fact that the apostles (who were there and heard the command) do not mention it as a liturgical practice in any of their writings is an indication that Jesus didn't intend it that way.
It's pretty much indisputable that He meant for the reality behind the symbol to continue. On what basis do we disconnect the symbol from the reality?
Let's say you or your church want to wash feet as a symbol of humble service. You think doing this symbolic act will help foster non-symbolic acts of service. Okay. I think it's fine to do that (at a proper occasion and in a proper manner). I'm not sure it'll actually have the desired effect, but it might. I'd say to be careful not so get so wrapped up in the symbol that the spirit of service is lost. But you're free to try it.

However, this is not the same as saying that to obey Jesus we must include footwashing as a symbolic observance in the life of the church. For that, we need stronger evidence that Jesus meant for footwashing to continue as that sort of Christian observance. Where Jesus has given symbol-laden observances to the church (baptism and communion), Scripture also provides instruction showing how these observances are symbolically linked to Christ's death and resurrection and to the atonement. What gospel truth should ritual footwashing be symbolically linked to? Are we to guess? Because Scripture doesn't tell us. It doesn't say anything at all to suggest the practice continued as a symbolic ritual.

Jesus specifically followed up his one instance of footwashing by saying he had shown his disciples an example. Not a ritual to implement, but an example to follow.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
Let's say you or your church want to wash feet as a symbol of humble service. You think doing this symbolic act will help foster non-symbolic acts of service. Okay. I think it's fine to do that (at a proper occasion and in a proper manner). I'm not sure it'll actually have the desired effect, but it might. I'd say to be careful not so get so wrapped up in the symbol that the spirit of service is lost. But you're free to try it.
A friend of mine took this approach at his wedding, actually.

However, this is not the same as saying that to obey Jesus we must include footwashing as a symbolic observance in the life of the church. For that, we need stronger evidence that Jesus meant for footwashing to continue as that sort of Christian observance. Where Jesus has given symbol-laden observances to the church (baptism and communion), Scripture also provides instruction showing how these observances are symbolically linked to Christ's death and resurrection and to the atonement. What gospel truth should ritual footwashing be symbolically linked to? Are we to guess? Because Scripture doesn't tell us. It doesn't say anything at all to suggest the practice continued as a symbolic ritual.
It seems to me that John 13 links it to Christ's humility, does it not? Philippians 2:1-11 pretty clearly lays that out as a "gospel truth".

Jesus specifically followed up his one instance of footwashing by saying he had shown his disciples an example. Not a ritual to implement, but an example to follow.
Does Scripture make that distinction?
 

Grillsy

Puritan Board Junior
So Skyler, are you saying that all churches should now be practicing foot washing as an ordinance (or a sacrament as some scandalously claim)?
Does your church practice this?
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
How is this different in principle from head covering? There would appear to be an admonition from scripture to continue the practise...
 
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Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
So Skyler, are you saying that all churches should now be practicing foot washing as an ordinance (or a sacrament as some scandalously claim)?
That seems to be the straightforward reading of the text. I'm open to correction if I'm wrong. But as this is the semi-official position of my church, I will assume that it is true and defend it until I can no longer do so Biblically. =)

I think that answers your second question as well. We practice foot washing when we take the Lord's Supper.
 

Grillsy

Puritan Board Junior
That seems to be the straightforward reading of the text. I'm open to correction if I'm wrong. But as this is the semi-official position of my church, I will assume that it is true and defend it until I can no longer do so Biblically. =)

I think that answers your second question as well. We practice foot washing when we take the Lord's Supper.
I appreciate your response. I attended a church, during my formative years, that practiced the same. That is not to say that I endorse the position. I cannot for a number of reasons.

That being said I hope that you didn't take my original questions as an attack. :)
 
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