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).
• Footwashing is 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 custom.
- 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 5:18-19; Rev 22:19). 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 13:14). 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 13:16).
- 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.