Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Foot-Washing and YEHOVAH's Ecclesia!
When Yeshua the Messiah COMMANDED his disciples to wash one another's feet he was building upon an ancient ritual carried out by the Levitical priesthood when they ministered in the Temple. The parallel between the foot-washing at the Laver in the outer court of the Temple, and that performed by the Messiah at his last meal, is clear and unerring. Both the Old and New Testaments point to a REGULAR -- not just once a year at the Passover -- foot-washing ceremony to remove sin that occurs AFTER baptism. Failure to do so renders us UNCLEAN in YEHOVAH's sight and allows "death" to enter into His weekly Sabbath meetings.
by John D. Keyser
How often should true Christians wash one another's feet? Since the "Lord's supper" was exactly that -- his supper, with his disciples, and not an observance we should try to emulate and place into the religious calendar -- it should be obvious that we should not keep the "foot-washing" at that time. On the other hand, should we do it every time we have a "Kiddush"?
When should the "foot-washing" ceremony be done? How often, and when, should Christians do the foot-washing ceremony? Or is this just figurative language Yeshua used to teach us a lesson to always remain in a humble attitude?
Let's notice the account. We read: "And supper being ended...Jesus...rose from supper and laid aside his garments, took a towel, and girded himself. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet" (John 13:2-4, NKJV). Notice! Yeshua rose from the supper table, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of all his disciples. This was actually BEFORE supper -- not when supper was "ended." The Greek for "ended" here is #1096 in Strong's Concordance and is ginomai which means "to be made," "to become," "to happen," "be brought to pass," "be performed," etc. in a future sense. This verse should be translated: "And supper about to be served."
This foot-washing ceremony was done when the supper was "about to be served." It was not done DURING or AFTER supper! We will see why later in this article.
When Yeshua began to wash Peter's feet, Peter remonstrated, saying he didn't need to wash his feet (v.6-8). Yeshua said, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me" (v.8). Peter replied, "Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well" (v.9). Yeshua answered: "'A person who has had a bath [baptism] needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And YOU ARE CLEAN, though not every one of you.' For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean" (v.10-11).
After he had washed their feet, and sat down again, he asked them, "Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I HAVE SET YOU AN EXAMPLE, THAT YOU SHOULD DO AS I HAVE DONE FOR YOU. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" (John 13:12-17, NKJV).
Notice! Yeshua gave a very direct COMMAND that we should do as he did -- and wash one another's feet! He set us a literal EXAMPLE in this regard! This was not figurative language, but a plain and direct command, a simple "thus-saith-the-Lord." We ought not to quibble about it, or question it, but OBEY it! Yeshua makes clear that his washing of the disciples' feet is no mere gesture of hospitality or a lesson in humility -- but an act which CLEANSES THEM and ensures their relationship with the Messiah. Through the Messiah's stern rebuke, Peter discovers both that foot-washing IS NOT OPTIONAL and that it has far-reaching significance.
When, then, should this act be performed? Should it be done the evening before Passover -- that is, on the beginning of Nisan 14? First of all, in answer to that question, Yeshua did not command us to do it that evening. He just said, "Do it"! He said we would be "happy" or "blessed" if we do it, and follow his example. Since he did not command observance of any dinner that evening, or institute any such observance, we should not superimpose one on our own authority. Therefore, we should not do the "foot-washing" that evening -- it is not a commanded celebration. It would be ridiculous to assemble only for a "foot-washing" ceremony by itself.
But some have wondered, what about doing the foot-washing every time we hold a Kiddush? Wouldn't that be appropriate? Should we keep it every time we hold a "Kiddush"? What did the early church do?
The Two Priesthoods
To answer this we must delve into the history of foot-washing. The foot-washing incident found in John 13 is not an isolated incident without typological significance, but contains a rich historical and theological context that hearkens back to the Old Testament. Its origins can be found in the Levitical priesthood and the brazen laver found at the entrance to the Holy Place in the Temple. When the Messiah washed the disciples feet he then said, in John 13:7, -- "What I am doing, you do not know now, but later you will understand."
The disciples knew it was a test of fellowship (John 13:8), but beyond that they didn't perceive what he was doing because Yeshua's actions involved the transference of priesthoods and, at that point, the disciples saw the Messiah as a prophet and king -- not as a priest. After the Messiah's death on the tree, the reality of his priesthood became apparent to the disciples, and their understanding of this key element matured until it culminated in Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews. As its central theme, Hebrews contrasts the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Melchizedek. Let's see what the apostle Paul says in the book of Hebrews --
"This Melchizedek, king of Salem, a priest of God Most High, met Abraham on his way back from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him....There is no RECORD of his father, mother, ancestry, birth or death; rather, like the Son of God, he continues as a priest for all time.
"Just think how great he was! Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the choicest spoils. Now the descendants of Levi who became priests have a commandment in the Torah to take a tenth of the income of the people, that is, from their own brothers, despite the fact that they too are descended from Abraham. But Melchizedek, even though he was not descended from Levi, took a tenth from Abraham.
"Also, he blessed Abraham, the man who received God's promises; and it is beyond all dispute that the one who blesses has higher status than the one who receives the blessing.
"Moreover, in the case of the [Levitical] priests, the tenth is received by men who die; while in the case of Melchizedek, it is received by someone who is testified to be still alive" (Hebrews 7:1, 3-8).
In these verses Paul isolates an outstanding fact about Melchizedek. Like other humans, Melchizedek was born and he died. However, the names of his father and mother are not provided, his ancestry and posterity are not revealed, and the Bible contains no information about the beginning of his days or the end of his life. As a result, Melchizedek could fittingly foreshadow Yeshua the Messiah -- who has an unending priesthood. Since Melchizedek had no recorded predecessor or successor to his priesthood, so too the Messiah was preceded by no high priest similar to himself, and the Bible clearly shows that none will ever succeed him. Furthermore, although Yeshua was born to the tribe of Judah -- and in the kingly line of David -- his human ancestry had no bearing on his priesthood, nor was it by virtue of human ancestry that the offices of both priest and king were combined in him. These things were as a result of YEHOVAH God's own oath to him.
It is clear that Paul wants the readers to draw a parallel between Melchizedek and Yeshua whom, he has argued, is without sin and therefore righteous (Hebrews 4:15), in CONTRAST to the Aaronic priests. His main thrust is that Yeshua exercises his priesthood in heaven as a resurrected human being. Therefore, it literally has no end -- just as no end is reported of Melchizedek's life. This greatly contrasts with the repeated changes of ministry, even under ideal circumstances, in the Aaronic priesthood due to the deaths of the high priests.
As the Bible points out, Melchizedek's priestly status was HIGHER than the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood! Though the Levitical priests received tithes from the people of Israel, they, as represented in their ancestor Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek. As well as that, the superiority of Melchizedek's priesthood is shown in that he blessed Abraham. Such factors are among those making Melchizedek a suitable type of the great High Priest Yeshua the Messiah.
Moving now to Hebrews chapters 4 and 5 we learn more about Yeshua's role as High Priest:
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, JUST AS WE ARE -- yet was without sin....Every high priest [including the Messiah] is selected from AMONG MEN and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
"No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' And he says in another place, 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'
"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 4:14-15, 5:1-10, NIV).
The subject of Yeshua the Messiah as High Priest was introduced at Hebrews 2:17. Here Paul recapitulates what he said in 2:5-18 -- that Yeshua was a HUMAN BEING exactly like us, enabling him to empathize with our weaknesses, the ONLY difference between him and the rest of us being that he did not sin! He faced daily temptations just like we do. Because Yeshua did not sin, he passed into heaven at his resurrection from the dead.
YEHOVAH God appointed Melchizedek to be a priest. In discussing Yeshua's status as the great High Priest, Paul shows that A MAN does "not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest" of his own volition, but only when he is called by YEHOVAH God -- just as Melchizedek and Aaron also were. Paul also explains that the Messiah was glorified by YEHOVAH who spoke with reference to him: "You are my son; today [at the resurrection] I have become your Father;" and the apostle next applies the prophetic words of Psalm 110:4 to Yeshua the Messiah.
No individual since the time of Melchizedek received YEHOVAH's sanction to occupy BOTH the distinctly separate offices of KING and PRIEST. There was, however, David's prophetic passage which anticipated a messianic Priest-King. From earliest times the Jewish people have realized that David wrote Psalm 110 in honor of the Messiah.
According to Paul, there is NO WAY that Yeshua was NOT like us -- except in our sinning. Offensive as this may be to many Christians who prefer a pagan Greek view of a preexistent god -- untouched by real human feelings and tribulations -- the apostle highlights the fact that the Messiah was a MAN selected from "AMONG MEN" -- selected "to represent them in matters related to God." In this way Yeshua's priesthood is greater than the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood.
Finally, in the 8th chapter of Hebrews, Paul turns from Yeshua's credentials, character and status as High Priest to the nature of his work at the right hand of YEHOVAH God the Father:
"The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven....But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises" (NIV).
Notes David H. Stern: "Not only is Yeshua himself better than the Levitical cohanim [priests], as shown in Chapter 7, but the work Yeshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, since the place where they serve is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly original..." (Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 683).
The fact that the title "messiah" was also used of priests and prophets should be of no surprise because the great antitype -- Yeshua the Messiah -- embraced all three offices and functions of prophet, priest and king. In that sense the Messiah would be "set...above [his] companions" (Psalm 45:7-8) -- that is, above the "messiahs" or "anointed ones" of old. Some preparation for this triple assimilation of titles and functions can be seen in the fact that some of the Messiah's "companions" or forerunners in the Old Testament exercised two offices or functions: Melchizedek was both a priest and a king, Moses was a priest and a prophet, and David was a king and a prophet.
Paul clearly shows that the Levitical priesthood was the SHADOW of Melchizedek -- the type to the anti-type. Therefore, in order to come to grips with the foot-washing incident found in the New Testament, we need to understand foot-washing among the Levitical priests of the Old.
The Levitical Parallel
Notice, now, the parallel with the Levitical washings (baptisms). According to the Torah, the priests were required to wash their hands and feet before entering the Holy Place of the Tabernacle to offer sacrifices upon the altar. Exodus 30:17-21 relates the story of Moses receiving the following commands from YEHOVAH God:
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 'You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them -- to him and his descendants throughout the generations'" (NKJV).
Exodus 40:30-32 then describes the carrying out of these instructions --
"He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing; and Moses, Aaron, and his sons washed their hands and their feet with water from it. When they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses" (ibid.).
In a similar fashion -- although more elaborate -- provisions for this washing were made in Solomon's Temple -- see I Kings 7:38 and II Chronicles 4:6. Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, mentions that a sea (laver) was available for the priests:
"And having filled the sea [laver] with water, he set it apart for the priests to wash their hands and feet in when they entered the temple and were about to go up to the altar..." (Antiquities, 8.87).
Writes John Christopher Thomas --
"Yoma (3.2-4, 6; 4.5; 7.3) [in the Mishnah] documents that the High Priest is expected to wash his hands and feet on the Day of Atonement. In addition, a meal offering could be rendered invalid if offered by a priest who had not washed his hands and feet (cf. Men. 1.2).
"The purpose of these REPEATABLE WASHINGS is connected to one aspect of the consecration the priests were to undergo. Each priest's consecration included being bathed in water. The precedent for this practice is found in Exod. 29.4, where Moses is instructed concerning the matter, and in Lev. 8.6, where the instructions are said to be carried out:
'Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them in water.'
"This action takes place AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE SANCTUARY to prepare the priests for entry. Such washing consecrates them for their sacred tasks" (Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community, p. 28).
Authors C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch explain that
"this cleansing from bodily uncleanness was a symbol of the putting away of the filth of sin; the washing of the body therefore was a symbol of spiritual cleansing, without which no one can draw near to God, and least of all those [priests] who were to perform the duties of reconciliation" (Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes: The Pentateuch. 1975, p. 335).
It is evident that the initiatory bath (Exodus 29:4) was VALID FOR LIFE since there is no evidence that it was to be repeated. "In CONTRAST," spells out John Christopher Thomas, "the hands and feet were washed regularly due to their constant exposure and possible contamination. Consequently, washings of the hands and feet are REPEATED ACTS OF PURIFICATION to prepare the priest for a variety of sacred activities" (Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community, p. 29).
Here was the Old Testament foot-washing. It was a BAPTISM reserved for the priests during their service at the Tabernacle, and later at the Temple. This fact immediately establishes the believer's PRIESTLY STATUS in the New Covenant or Testament. Yeshua, the new Moses who has fulfilled all Scripture, has ordained a NEW PRIESTHOOD to replace the old Aaronic priesthood. With Aaron, we find an initial baptism, covering THE ENTIRE BODY (Exodus 40:11-12). Later, he washes his hands and his feet alone in order to minister (Exodus 40:32). Compare this with the Messiah's reply to Peter when he pled for his head, his hands, and his feet to be washed --
"A man who has had a bath [baptism] doesn't need to wash, EXCEPT HIS FEET -- his body is already clean" (John 13:10, JNT).
One of the noticeable differences between the washings of Old Testament priests and New Testament priests is that we no longer wash our hands (hand baptism). Why? Because Old Testament men had unclean hands; they were unrighteous men whose sins were laid up until the release on the Day of Atonement -- once a year. The Messiah's atonement, however, was ONCE FOR ALL TIME! We who follow the Messiah are truly clean, truly righteous. Our hands are clean to exercise dominion upon the earth. In contrast, however, our feet are dirty because the earth awaits redemption. And that redemption cannot take place until the sons of YEHOVAH God are manifested. Notice what Paul says in Romans 8:18-22:
"Consequently I reckon that the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now" (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures).
The dust (the earth) is the place of Satan's dominion. The Christian crushes the Serpent's (Satan's) head, but the Serpent bites his heel. The dirt (the earth) is unclean because of death. As a result, sin affects the feet ONLY (Genesis 3:14-15).
From this typology we can see that while baptism cleanses the believer and makes him fit to enter the sanctuary, foot-washing makes him fit for the ministry. Writes the apostle Peter --
"And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also -- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21, NIV).
Notice "the pledge of a good conscience toward God." Therefore, while full body immersion (baptism) need ONLY OCCUR ONCE as an initiatory rite into the faith, FOOT BAPTISM IS A RITE THAT MUST BE PRACTICED REPEATEDLY! That is WHY Yeshua introduced it during his last meal with his disciples. Since this bread and the wine ceremony (the Kiddush) -- was intended to be practiced regularly, SO TOO WAS FOOT-WASHING!!
The Brazen Laver
Now that we have established that foot-washing is a FOOT BAPTISM that hearkens back to the Levitical priesthood and the ministry in the Tabernacle, let us take a look at the significance of the Laver. The Laver was a huge tub replaced periodically with clean water from the Gihon Spring below. Notes Smith's Bible Dictionary, it was
"a vessel of brass containing water for the priests to wash their hands and feet before offering sacrifice. It stood in the court between the altar and the door of the tabernacle. Ex. 30:19, 21. It rested on a basis, i.e. a foot, which, as well as the laver itself, was made from the MIRRORS of the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle court. Ex. 38:8."
The brass of the Laver and foot or base was so pure it served as a mirror. The Priest could clearly see his reflection in great detail as he washed. The Laver provided the Priest with a standard for self-evaluation -- to make certain he was presentable to YEHOVAH God. If he was not properly prepared he would have perished.
That the primary use of the brazen Laver was for washing or cleansing is commented on by Arthur W. Pink in his book Gleanings in Exodus --
"There is therefore no difficulty at all in perceiving the spiritual meaning of the holy vessel which is now before us [the laver]:...The laver tells of the need of cleansing if communion with God is to be maintained: CLEANSING NOT FROM THE GUILT OF SIN, BUT FROM THE DEFILEMENTS OF THE WAY...the question of sin was dealt with at the brazen-altar: that must be settled before there can be any approach unto God. Hence the brazen-altar was the first holy vessel to be met with in the outer court, being stationed just within the entrance. But having there slain the sacrifice and poured out its blood at the foot of the altar, the sons of Aaron were now able to advance; but ere they were ready to burn incense upon the golden-altar they must wash at the Laver. The need for this will be easily discerned."
Pink goes on to explain:
"Having officiated at the brazen-altar their hands would be unclean, smeared with blood. Moreover, as no shoes were provided for Aaron and his sons, THE DUST OF THE DESERT WOULD SOIL THEIR FEET. These must be removed ere they could pass into the holy place; as it is said concerning the eternal Dwelling place of God, "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth" (Rev. 21:27). The spiritual application of this to Christians today is obvious. The blood on the hands of Aaron and his sons evidenced that they had come into contact with death. So we, in our everyday lives, constantly have dealings with those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and their very influence defiles us. In like manner, our passage through this wilderness world, which lieth in the Wicked one [Satan] (I John 5:19), fouls our walk. THERE IS THEREFORE A DAILY NEED FOR THESE TO BE REMOVED."
It should be noted here that it was in their official capacity as priests -- not merely as Israelites -- that Aaron and his sons were required to wash their hands and feet at the Laver. "Had they failed in this duty," expounds Arthur Pink, "they had still been Israelites, but they were disqualified for entering into the holy place and ministering before God." Likewise, under the New Testament, the soiling of our hands and feet through association with Satan's world, and as a result of living in a world that does not know and love the Messiah, DOES NOT in any way affect our perfect standing before YEHOVAH God: "For by a single offering he has brought us to the goal for all time those who are being set apart for God and made holy" (Hebrews 10:14, JNT). But while the defilements of our walk through this world do not affect our standing, THEY DO INTERFERE WITH OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YEHOVAH GOD! "We cannot enter into our priestly privileges (I Peter 2:5)," concludes Pink, "nor discharge our priestly duties (Hebrews 13:5), till we have been cleansed at the Laver." The Laver, like everything else in the Tabernacle, pointed to Yeshua the Messiah and tells of his sufficiency to meet our every need. And, above all, it shows us that we must have recourse to him -- ON A REGULAR BASIS -- for cleansing!
Water -- and not blood -- was the element appointed by YEHOVAH God and used for the purification of his priests. There were, we should understand, TWO clearly defined types of cleansings or baptisms --
"Now it is of first importance that we should discriminate between two distinct types. Exodus 29:4 we are told, "And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and thou shalt wash them with water." While in Exodus 30:19 we read, "Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and feet thereat." The former was done for them; the latter was done by them. In the one they were COMPLETELY washed all over [baptism in the N.T.]; in the latter, it was ONLY THEIR HANDS AND FEET that were concerned [foot-washing in the N.T.]. The former was NEVER REPEATED; the latter WAS NEEDED EVERY TIME THEY WOULD DRAW NEAR THE GOLDEN-ALTAR [YEHOVAH's presence]. The one was a figure of regeneration, the other TYPIFIED THE CHRISTIAN'S NEED OF DAILY CLEANSING" (Pink, Gleanings in Exodus).
Now this use of the Laver for cleansing -- as well as for self-judgment -- has striking similarities to the New Testament description of the word of YEHOVAH God. Notice the following passages in the New Testament --
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-27, NIV).
This passage in Ephesians is interpreted by Augustine (early Catholic Church Father, 354-430 A.D.) in the following manner --
"Accordingly the Church, which Christ cleanseth with the washing of water in the word, is without spot and wrinkle, not only in the case of those who are taken away immediately after the washing of regeneration from the contagious influence of this life, and tread not the earth, so as to make necessary the washing of their feet, but in those also who have experienced such mercy from the Lord as to be enabled to quit this present life even with feet that have been washed. But although the Church be also clean in respect of those who tarry on earth, because they live righteously; yet have THEY NEED TO BE WASHING THEIR FEET, BECAUSE THEY ASSUREDLY ARE NOT WITHOUT SIN" (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, v.7, p. 302 (Schaff edition)).
James has this to say about the word:
"Don't deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it! For whoever hears the Word but doesn't do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25, JNT).
In the context of his discussion of foot-washing, Augustine says of the word:
"Let us rejoice in the hearing that comes from the noiseless speaking of the truth within us. For although when the sound is outwardly uttered, as by one that readeth, or proclaimeth, or preacheth, or disputeth, or commandeth, or comforteth, or exhorteth, or even by one that sings or accompanies his voice on an instrument, those who do so may fear to defile their feet, when they aim at pleasing men with the secretly active desire of human applause. Yet the one who hears such with a willing and pious mind, has no room for self-gratulation in the labors of others; and with no self-inflation, but with the joy of humility, rejoices because of the Master's words of truth" (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, v. 7, p. 304 (Schaff edition)).
Also, writes the apostle John --
"You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you" (John 15:3, NIV).
The Old Testament unequivocally mandates the cleansing use of YEHOVAH's Law:
"How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:9-11, NKJ).
The New Testament book of Hebrews instructs us that all these things pertaining to the Levitical system were shadows of the eternal realities of YEHOVAH God's kingdom. This is readily highlighted in the sacrificial system which foreshadowed the Messiah (Hebrews 10:1). It is also true of the Tabernacle itself and its furnishings (9:1-11).
If it's true that the Laver represents the cleansing properties of the word of YEHOVAH God, then foot baptism represents the daily cleansing we receive from meditating on the Scriptures. It is evident that a priest had his feet and hands washed with the help of a Levite assistant; he did not dip his hands and feet into the laver and pollute the entire container. The water was dipped out and poured over the priest's hands and feet. Similarly, New Testament foot baptism requires one to be washed by a fellow believer. What this means should be obvious: Christians are to provide an edifying influence on one another on a REGULAR BASIS!
A Matter of Terms
An important factor to recognize is the understanding of the terms "washing" and "baptism." While it is true that these terms are different words in the Greek, they are the same in Hebrew! The Greek word baptisma -- which means "to wash" or dip -- is the word from which we get "baptism." In the Greek it is a term that refers to a ceremonial washing (which, incidentally, was not unique to Christianity) as distinguished from the usual washing of the hands and feet which is nipto in the Greek. However, in the Old Testament there is no such distinction and the SAME TERM is used to describe both the ceremonial washings of the Levitical priesthood and the mundane task of every day washing (rachats, see Genesis 43:24; Exodus 40:31, etc.).
Incidently, in John 13:10 two different Greek words are used for "washed" and "wash" -- "He that is washed needed not except to wash his feet." The word "washed" (Greek, louo, Strong's #3068) means to bath one's body completely. It speaks of the complete immersion that takes place when we are baptized. The word "wash" (Greek, nipto, Strong's #3538), on the other hand, is used of those who wash their hands and feet, symbolizing sanctification. Writes David M. Levy, "The picture is of people returning home from a public bathhouse. Their bodies being completely bathed, they need only wash the dust from their feet to be clean when they enter their houses. By washing the disciples' feet, the Lord taught that we who have been thoroughly cleansed through His blood [and have been baptized] MUST STILL BE CLEANSED IN OUR DAILY WALK WITH HIM. Daily sins must be confessed to God [ and our feet washed clean] in order to maintain an unbroken communion and fellowship with Him" (The Tabernacle: Shadows of the Messiah, Its Sacrifices, Services and Priesthood. 1993: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Bellmawr, N.J. P. 36).
There is another word in the Hebrew that is used in the context of washing clothes -- kabac (Strong's #3526) -- which means to trample, to wash (by stamping with the feet), however this word is NEVER used when referring to washing the body.
Now since the language of Palestine was Aramaic (a sister dialect of Hebrew), it would not be at all wrong to say that John the Baptist was simply known to the people at large as "John the Washer." Yeshua taught in Aramaic; so his words had to be translated into Greek by the original Gospel writers. It is also more than likely that the Epistle to the Hebrews was originally written in Aramaic.
An Extension of Baptism?
With this in mind, the reference in Hebrews 6:2 to the doctrine of BAPTISMS (PLURAL) takes on noticeable significance: It clearly suggests that FOOT-WASHING IS A FOOT BAPTISM, and is a part of the foundation of the elementary principles of the Messiah (Hebrews 6:1). Is it possible that YEHOVAH's Church cannot advance to perfection because, by neglecting FOOT BAPTISM, it lacks a completed foundation? Notice Hebrews 6:1-3 :
"Therefore, leaving behind the initial lessons about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of turning from works that lead to death, trusting God, and instruction about WASHINGS [PLURAL], s'mikhah, the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment. And, God willing, this is what we will do" (Jewish New Testament).
Now to what other "washings" could Paul have been referring? He could not have been referring to any ritual washings associated with the Pharisees because Yeshua strongly condemned those customs (Mark 7:1-8). The only other "washing" or "baptism" found in the New Testament is the FOOT BAPTISM of John 13!
The apostle John introduces the topic in his first epistle -- take a look at I John 1:7-10 --
"However, if we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have a sharing with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin. If we make the statement: "We have no sin," we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and TO CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness. If we make the statement: "We have not sinned," we are making him a liar, and his word is not in us" (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures).
Going next to I John 2:1-2 we also read:
"My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, IF ANYONE DOES COMMIT A SIN, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world's" (ibid.).
The apostle John goes on to say, in I John 5:16-18,
"if anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is a sin that DOES NOT lead to death. We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one [Satan] does not touch him" (NIV).
Each of these three passages deals not only with the concept of sin -- but specifically with sin committed by baptized members of YEHOVAH's Church! Evidently, certain members of the Church were claiming that, on the basis of their relationship to the Messiah, they were free from sin permanently. John asserts that those who make such claims deceive themselves, do not possess the truth, and make YEHOVAH God out to be a liar! Even though John desires moral perfection for the Church, he acknowledges the possibility of POST-CONVERSION SIN and the necessity of remedying it through the SAME MEANS by which their conversion was accomplished -- baptism!
R. E. Brown finds here a clear allusion to John 13 -- notice what he says:
"...the author found in I John support for this in the washing of the feet by Jesus at the Last Supper, an action symbolic of the cleansing power of Jesus' death (13.8, 10;...) which has been interpreted on a secondary level as referring to the effects of baptism. There Jesus instructs his disciples that, if he has washed their feet, they must wash one another's feet (13:14). This communion with one another is a context for cleansing by Christ" (The Epistles of John, p. 239).
In a footnote Brown points out that on the basis of the longer reading in John 13:10 a number of scholars believe that foot-washing itself was practiced for post-baptismal sin. I John 5:16-18 makes even clearer that POST-BAPTISMAL or POST-CONVERSION SIN was a concern among the early Church.
More than one interpreter of the New Testament has seen, in the foot-washing incident, an clear allusion to forgiveness of post-baptismal sin. Read what John Christopher Thomas says in his groundbreaking work Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community --
"The literary and exegetical analysis has shown that as a sign of preparation for Jesus' departure, the footwashing signifies the disciples' spiritual cleansing for a continued relationship with Jesus. As such, the footwashing functions as an extension of the disciples' baptism in that it signifies continual cleansing from the sin acquired (after baptism) through life in a sinful world. This act then is a sign of continued fellowship with Jesus, but it also functions as a sign of their continued readiness for participation in his mission" (Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England. 1991, p. 150).
Augustine affirms that Yeshua was referring to the washing away of sin when he said that the disciples had no need to wash except the feet. In Homilies on John 56.4 he explains John 13:10 by appealing to the sin accumulated on the journey through this life -- notice!
"But what is this? what does it mean? And what is there in it we need to examine? The Lord says, The Truth declares that even he who has been washed [baptized] has need still to wash [baptize] his feet. What, my brethren, what think you of it? Save that in holy baptism a man has all of him washed, not all save his feet, but every whit: and yet, while thereafter living in this human state, he cannot fail to tread on the ground with his feet. And thus our human feelings themselves, which are inseparable from our mortal life on earth, are like feet wherewith we are brought into sensible contact with human affairs; and are so in such a way that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
Not only does Augustine affirm the connection between the foot-washing and forgiveness of sin to symbolize the Messiah's forgiveness, but he also considers the foot-washing as a sign to that effect.
When the prophet Isaiah saw the vision of his uplifted Lord (Isaiah 6:1), the vision was of the Messiah. This explains why John's quote from Isaiah 6 is accompanied by his bold declaration that Isaiah "saw Yeshua's glory and spoke about him" (John 12:39-41). Jerome, in a discussion of Isaiah 6, compares Isaiah's need for cleansing his unclean lips with the disciples' need for cleansing their sin-stained feet --
"For example, Our Lord in the Gospel is girt with a towel, He prepares a basin to wash the disciples' feet, He performs the service of a slave. Granted, it is to teach humility, that we may minister to each other in turn. I do not deny that. I do not reject it. What is it that He says to Peter upon his refusal? If I wash not thy feet, thou shalt have no part with me. And he replied: Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. Because His apostles, as men walking the earth, still had feet stained by the pollution of sin, the Lord being about to ascend to heaven, desires to free them entirely from their transgressions, that the words of the prophet may be applicable to them: How beautiful are the feet of those that preach peace" (Epistle 17A.12).
Clearly, Yeshua's foot-washing removes the stain of sin's pollution accumulated by walking in a sinful world. The washing is also seen as preparation for the disciples' mission. It seems obvious that Jerome has in mind the disciples' POST-BAPTISMAL SIN, for he describes the foot-washing as freeing them entirely from their transgressions -- implying an earlier freeing from sin by John the Baptist's baptism.
In a number of his writings Origen (early Church Father, c. 185-254 A.D.) discusses the foot-washing in terms of cleansing. While relating the situations in which Joshua and Moses were instructed to remove their shoes because they were in YEHOVAH's presence, Origen (Homilies 6.3) suggests that the true Christian's ability to stand in YEHOVAH's presence is due to the foot-washing:
"From what source do we suppose that we have strength and merit to approach the Lord and be made worthy? Because he said to us that by the feet we are made alive, because they are enslaved in mortal bonds. In that place are of course the feet which Jesus washed; which if he does not wash, you have no part with him. If, therefore, from our life and consciousness, all the chains of mortal cares are freed, we immediately rejoice because we are brought nearer to the presence of God."
In this passage there is a hint that sins are forgiven in Yeshua's action of foot-washing. However, in another passage Origen makes it abundantly clear that foot-washing signifies the REMOVAL OF SIN -- notice!
"O Lord Jesu, Son of David, come I pray Thee, lay aside from Thee the nature wherewith Thou hast clothed Thyself on my account and gird Thyself for my sake and pour water into a basin and wash the feet of Thy servants and cleanse away the filth of Thy sons and of Thy daughters. Wash Thou the Feet of our mind, that we, imitating and following Thee, may put off from us our old garments and may say, 'By night I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?' For as soon as Thou shalt have washed my feet, make me to recline with Thee, that I may hear Thy words, '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'. I too, therefore, am willing to wash the feet of my brethren, to wash the feet of my fellow disciples. And therefore, I take water, and I draw from the fountains of Israel that which I wring out of the Israelitish fleece. For at one time I wring water out of the fleece of the Book of Judges, and at another time water from the fleece of Kingdoms, and water from the fleece of Isaiah or Jeremiah, and I pour it into the basin of my mind, conceiving the sense in my heart; and I take the feet of those who offer themselves and prepare themselves for supper; and, in so far as the power lies in me, I desire to wash the feet of my brethren, and to fulfill the commandment of the Lord, that through the word of teaching the hearers may be purged from the contamination of their sins, and may cast away from themselves all the uncleanness of their vices, and may have clean feet wherewith they may mightily walk towards the preparation of the gospel of peace; so that all of us purified together in Christ Jesus by the Word, may not be rejected from the Bridegroom's chambers, because of our unclean garments, but that with shining vesture and washed feet and clean heart, we may recline at the banquet of the Bridegroom, our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
David H. Stern, in his commentary on John 13:8-10, tells us to compare these verses with Exodus 30:20:
"Compare Exodus 30:20: 'Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet...when they come near the altar to minister..., so that they will not die'! The cohanim [priests] were already cleansed from impurity, but even so they had to wash their hands and feet.
"Once sins of the past have been forgiven we need not have them forgiven again; the initial confession and immersion [baptism] that washes away PAST SIN need not be repeated. But there is A CONTINUAL NEED TO REPENT OF NEWLY COMMITTED SINS, make reparation for them [through foot-washing] and seek forgiveness for them" (Jewish New Testament Commentary, pp. 194-195).
Part of this process is foot-washing!
In explaining John 13:10-11, Theodore of Mopsuestia (early theologian of the school of Antioch, c. 350-428/9 A.D.) affirms that foot-washing removed the sins of the disciples which had been committed AFTER their baptism at the hand of John the Baptist. Notice:
"This is not baptism in remission of sin (which they surely received once for all), neither again is there need for another baptism, for total cleansing is received the first time (it is performed). Now it is needful to wash only their feet in order to cover [sins], which things are committed again [i.e. after baptism] as you well know" (Commentary on the Gospel of John the Apostle 6.26-30).
The disciples' baptism at the hands of John the Baptist designated initial belief and fellowship with the Messiah, whereas foot-washing signified the continuance of that belief and fellowship. As a sign of Yeshua's departure, foot-washing signifies the disciples' SPIRITUAL CLEANSING in preparation for both a continuing relationship with the Messiah and for taking on his mission in the world of Israel. In light of this, an identification of foot-washing with the cleansing from the sin contracted through daily life in this world is an appropriate one! So Peter (the believer) who experiences baptism -- which signifies a complete cleansing from previous sin -- does not need to be re-baptized but undergoes foot-washing -- which signifies the removal of sin that might accumulate after baptism as a result of living in this sinful world. In this way foot-washing IS AN EXTENSION OF BAPTISM, for it signifies the washing away of post-baptismal sins in Peter's (the believer's) life.
How Often Should We Practice Foot-Washing?
While the initiatory rite of baptism should only occur once, FOOT BAPTISM SHOULD BE AS FREQUENT AS THE WEEKLY KIDDUSH! Why? Because foot-washing was an integral part of that last meal Yeshua had with his disciples (John 13:2, 4, 8-10). The Kiddush cannot be considered complete without foot-washing!
That foot-washing was a common part of the Agape meal is recognized by the Catholic Church Father Tertullian (c. 155-222 A.D.) who mentions a "manual ablution" -- notice!
"Our feast explains itself by its name. The Greeks call it agape, i.e. affection....As it is an act of religious service, it permits no vileness or immodesty. The participants before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the craving of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste. They say it is enough, as those who remember that even during the night they have to worship God; they talk as those who know that the Lord is one of their auditors. After MANUAL ABLUTION, and the bringing in of lights, each is asked to stand forth and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either one from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing -- a proof of the measure of our drinking" (The Apology 39; written in 197).
The term "manual ablution" here refers to foot-washing. As such, this term coincides with similar language found in Augustine and John Cassian.
Additional evidence for the WEEKLY practice of foot-washing is found in B.W. Bacon's work The Sacrament of Footwashing (1931-32, pp. 218-21), where he states that "instead of the washing of hands belonging to the Jewish KIDDUSH he [Yeshua] substitutes a rite of the Ephesian Church, a washing of the feet of the Bride [the Church]. In 13:10 it is interpreted to symbolize removal of post-baptismal sin that all the Church's members may be sanctified, cleansed by the washing of water with the word. Thus the Bridegroom [the Church], in due time, will 'present her to himself a glorious bride, holy and without blemish.'"
When we look at most of the Churches of God today, what do we see? In the most part we see the well-intentioned religion of men. It bears little or no resemblance to what we see in the Bible. In not practicing foot-washing on a regular or weekly basis allows such churches a nominal Christianity. People can eat at the Lord's meal, as did Judas, and remain in fellowship because, to use modern vernacular, the rubber never meets the road! In so doing, these churches allow self-deception and allow for their churches to fill with tares. There is no accountability, no judgment, and no cleansing. The Lord's Table becomes the Table of Demons and of a syncretistic "Christianity" -- a Gnostic "Christianity" (I Corinthians 10).
A Gnostic Christianity wants to forget the Great Commission to preach the good news of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God to the world of Israel and, instead, seeks to take flight from the world of Israel. It wants liberation from the flesh into the life of the spirit. The result is a neglect or even contempt for the ordinances of the faith laid down by Yeshua the Messiah and YEHOVAH God. For Gnostic-infected Christians foot-washing is such an earthly thing which is beneath their dignity and what they consider to be the "higher spirituality" of the enlightened! Gnostics used to worship by just sitting. Meditation was popular with them. Preaching was never straightforward and words were riddles to be decoded. Gnostics had little use for kneeling, weeping, laughing or raising their hands in worship. They just sat there and played mind games. The early Church rejected Gnosticism but, unfortunately, absorbed many of its tenets. Foot-washing is not a marginal issue but one that lies at the very CORE of the building of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God on this earth, and is a tremendous antidote to the Gnosticism in the Church.
The Messiah's last meal included the Kiddush, which was observed on every Sabbath and Holy Day. As such, ALL the practices introduced at the beginning of Yeshua's last meal -- INCLUDING FOOT-WASHING -- should be retained in the Kiddush or weekly Agape Feast. No elaborate ritual is needed for foot baptism. A prayer for the one being washed, a word of encouragement, a spirit of humility and service -- these are all that are needed. Partners should be chosen by lot. That avoids favoritism. If there is strife in the congregation, we should make sure that the antagonists are matched up. Foot-washing greatly contributes to the healing of strained relationships. YEHOVAH's people have robbed themselves by its neglect.
Some have wondered if we should do it "after" having a meal? Some would do it after having the bread and wine as symbols of the Messiah, as a "final act" showing humility. Also, it has been suggested that this is "part of preparation for the Passover." Is this true? Not at all. First of all, Yeshua set the example of doing it BEFORE the meal, when the meal was about to be served -- not after the meal! Secondly, proper "preparations" for Passover are given in the original commandment -- putting leaven out, and preparing the lamb, and the Passover dinner. No other acts would constitute "preparation" unless Yeshua commanded it as preparation. But he did no such thing. He merely said to do it, but never connected it with Passover itself! That is nothing more than human reason! There is no Scriptural justification for it!
The reason why the foot-washing ceremony should be performed BEFORE the bread and wine and the following meal is because it replaced the Jewish tradition of washing the hands before partaking of a meal. And, also, because of of the symbolism associated with the Laver and the priestly washings. It is important to realize that the Laver stood in the OUTER COURT and not within the Holy Place -- which was the chamber of worship. If the sons of Aaron failed to wash at the Laver and then proceeded into the Holy Place to serve at the golden-altar, they would have committed an unspeakable insult to YEHOVAH God by passing into the Holy Place with soiled hands and feet! In fact, YEHOVAH God would have put them to death for such an act.
In a similar manner, we cannot enter into a meaningful relationship with YEHOVAH on the Sabbath or Holy Days until we first wash at the Laver -- the confessing of our sins and the consequent washing of our feet should take place BEFORE, IN THE OUTER COURT! Failure to do so at this point -- BEFORE THE BEGINNING of the Sabbath or Holy Day services -- is to, morally speaking, bring "death" into the service. "So let a person examine himself first, and then he may eat of the bread and drink from the cup" (I Corinthians 11:28, JNT). This involves washing our feet at the "Laver" BEFORE coming to the Lord's table.
Brethren, it's time we WAKE UP, and watch out for our selves, and our salvation! Solomon warned, "He who walks with WISE men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20, NKJV).
Solomon also wrote: "Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; reprove one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge" (Proverbs 19:25). He added: "CEASE listening to instruction, my son, and you will STRAY from the words of knowledge" (v.27).
Let's quit listening to seducers, filled with guile, and self-will. Let's quit listening to seductive false teachers who try to use their snake-oil charm and winsome smiles and then inveigle themselves into our midst, and who bring in heresies and seek to teach things which they ought not! Let's stop listening to EVEN ONE WORD from such wicked and deceitful servants of Satan the devil!
It all seems to begin to innocently. And then, sooner than you can say "Gotcha!" -- they indeed "got to you"! Remember, Peter warned, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them -- bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned" (II Peter 2:1-2).
Jude warns, "For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
John writes: "Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but GOES BEYOND IT, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome ANYONE who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person" (II John 8-11, NRSV). Isn't that plain enough?
We must not fall into the trap of "adding to" the Word of YEHOVAH God. We must stop associating and listening to false teachers, who attempt to seduce YEHOVAH's people, and lead them astray. "Adding" an observance to what YEHOVAH God commands may seem like such a small, innocent thing, but that is how Satan always begins his seduction. Taking the one little bite of one piece of "forbidden fruit" seemed so harmless to Eve -- yet look at all the tragedy it has caused!
I sincerely hope that some of you will take this seriously, and quit having anything to do with those who teach and propound serious error. They may be charming, friendly men who seem so innocent. But they inwardly are "wolves" who seek to lead you off into the "wild unknown" (II Corinthians 11:13-15). They may seem ever so sweet and delightful. But such fellowship is EVIL -- it is DANGEROUS!
Remember -- Satan seeks to divide us -- and destroy our unity. We must stand together -- or he will pick us off, one by one. Please give this instruction your utmost attention -- and do not deviate from it! Your crown of salvation and eternal life could be at stake!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
Hope of Israel Ministries
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