The Significance of Foot Washing

Someone recently contacted us through Ministrymaker and asked if foot washing services are still relevant to the church today. The account of foot washing is given in John 13:1-17. Frequently people view things written in the Bible as antiquated and no longer applicable in our modern era. Should foot washing services be viewed in this way? Should foot washings be practiced by the church today?

Foot Washing Services are for Today

Foot washing was an example Jesus set for us to follow. Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, 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” (John 13:14-15). Unlike in Jesus’ day, ceremonial foot washing is not for cleaning feet, but is a spiritually significant act.

Foot Washing is a Sign of Humility

The roads were very dusty in Jesus’ day and it was the job of the lowliest of slaves to wash the feet of those coming in from a journey. Jesus was setting an example of humility in washing His disciple’s feet. The creator humbled Himself before His creation.

In a foot washing service we humble ourselves before a fellow brother or sister in Christ. In Philippians 2:3 and 5 Paul said, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Foot Washing Sets an Example of Servanthood

Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, 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. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:14-16). When washing someone’s feet we make ourselves the servant of our fellow brother or sister in Christ.

Foot Washing Symbolizes Cleansing of the Sins of the Saints

When Jesus attempted to wash Peter’s feet he resisted Jesus. In John 13:8-10 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.”

Peter was saying in verse 9, “Lord then give me a bath, wash all of me.” Jesus replied to him in verse 10, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.” In other words, “Peter, you are already clean (saved) you only need to wash that which has gotten dirty.”

Even after salvation we get dirty while walking through this sinful world. When we sin as a Christian, we don’t need to get saved again, we simply need to confess our sin and receive cleansing for that part of us which has gotten dirty (1 John 1:7-9).

Foot Washing Pictures Covering another’s Sin

When we wash one another’s feet it’s a beautiful picture of us supporting each another in times of weakness and failure. We put our arm around a fallen brother and help him rise again. This is a sign of true spirituality.

Proverbs 17:9 – “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates very friends.”

Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

This was exemplified in the life of Noah. After the flood, he planted a vineyard, got drunk and passed out, naked.

Genesis 9:22-23 – “Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”

In Genesis 9:24-27, Shem and Japheth were blessed by Noah for covering his sin while Ham was cursed. If we want the blessing of God on our lives, we must follow the example of Shem and Japheth and cover sin instead of exposing it. Jesus set this example by shedding His blood at Calvary to cleanse us from our sins.


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