This Week's Focus Passage

‘Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.’

Focus Passage: John 13:8b

‘Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.’

Jesus…….riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself. Then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, what I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. —John 13:4-8

There are those believing that the primary teaching of this portion of the Word of God, with its grand portrayal of the Servant of Jehovah washing the feet of His disciples, is meant to show us that we should wash the feet of others; particularly the feet of the saints; our brothers and sisters in Christ. That the example of Christ depicted here for us to read and consider, is not meant for our imitation is surely and clearly set forth. That this example is the primary teaching here may be in question. It is, without doubt, the teaching of the Scriptures that the brethren care for the needs of their fellows in the body of Christ. That the child of God is to exude the humility of a servant in demonstrable concern for others is not susceptible to challenge. This act of our Lord as He approaches the consummation of His work on earth, may be such as we are to literally imitate and literally wash one another’s feet. But it is also possible that the washing of feet is a beautiful metaphor which speaks directly of our Savior cleansing us, and indirectly of our responsibility to care for the cleansing of one another as the Lord gives us opportunity and occasion.

We read, do we not, in the epistle of Paul to Titus, But when the kindness of God our Savior, and his love toward man appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit; and does this not speak of the new birth? We take these two things as a parallelism; that is, the washing and the renewing. Do they not both speak of the work of the Holy Spirit applying the blood of Christ to those for whom He died? Is not renewing simply another way of expressing the washing? Does not regeneration involve both of these activities; washing and renewing? Did not Christ give Himself up for the church, that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word? Has He Himself not, according to 1 Corinthians 1:30, been made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption? If we are children of God, we have been brought unto Him through the blood of Jesus Christ, and the washing of water with the Word. And as we have been washed, through Christ, with the water of the Word, and at the same time, renewed by the Holy Spirit, are we not to desire and seek that continuing renewal of washing for ourselves and our brethren? Sanctification is not only an initial; a definitive event, but an ongoing activity. Jesus has prayed, Sanctify them in the truth: thy Word is truth. Having been brought to salvation; set apart—sanctified once for all—by the Truth, the Word of God; we are being sanctified progressively by the very same Word of God. When we read the Word; when we hear it read, or preached; when the Word is spoken to us by a brother or sister; or an Ahimelech for that matter, we are being sanctified by the washing of water in the Word. This is the manner in which we may wash one another’s feet. We read in Malachi 3:16, Then they that feared Jehovah spake one with another; and Jehovah hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name.

Paul has informed us that when we are come together that we be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.—Ephesians 5:18-21. Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, we are, metaphorically speaking, washing one another’s feet with the water of the Word. We are thus engaged in an activity which the Holy Spirit is pleased to employ in order that He may sanctify progressively in the water of the Word, those that have been sanctified once for all in the blood of the Lamb. The prayer of our Savior is being answered; we are being sanctified by the truth; the Word is truth. As we travel through this ‘vale of tears,’ we most naturally gather soil upon our feet, which then require to be periodically washed.

Should the Lord bring us into an upper room, as it were, and there are folk in need of foot-washing, may God grant us the grace of humility that we happily gird ourselves with the towel of love, and pour the water of the Word into a basin, and wash our brother’s, or our sister’s feet. And may we, by God’s grace, resist with all that is in us, the spirit of Peter when he reacted to Christ’s overture, saying, Thou shalt never wash my feet. May we know that we are not without fault; we are not without sin. The day will come when we need our own feet to be washed; the day will come when we require a word in season. God forbid that any of us should go about as ‘foot-washers’ imagining that our own feet shall never become soiled; let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.—1 Corinthians 10:12. And in the spirit of that admonition from Paul, cited above, we are certainly not to go about as examiners of others feet. There will be plenty of feet in need of washing without our seeking to find them. Let it be our concern to have our water and towel handy by exercising ourselves in the Word and prayer. And if we should ever despair of seeing enough soiled feet in need of washing; let us take our shoes off and sit back in our easy chair in front of a mirror.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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