The  Practice  of  Washing  of  Feet


The origin of this practice appears to be found in the hospitality customs of ancient civilizations, especially where sandals were worn.  A host would provide water for guests to wash their feet, serve the guests by washing their feet, or even provide a servant to wash the feet of the guests. This is mentioned in several places in the Old Testament (Gen. 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; I Sam. 25:41).  Though the wearing of sandals might necessitate washing the feet, the water was also offered as a courtesy even when shoes were worn.


What the Lord Jesus Christ did when He washed the feet of His twelve apostles has nothing to do with the Middle-eastern traditional custom of feet-washing.  It was administered by the Lord Jesus Christ before the Feast of the Passover during which time He would be crucified.  Washing of Feet was instituted as a sacrament for the Disciples of Christ to have a part with Him.


“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.” (Jn. 13:8)


From the Lord’s statement it is understood He intended the washing of Feet to be a sacrament for the spiritual cleansing of His Church; in which case the Christian needs only to have the feet washed only once.


“Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only,  but also my hands and my head!’  Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.  For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said , ‘You are not all clean.” (Jn. 13:9-11)


As a sacrament the Lord Jesus Christ has indicated the correct procedure for the washing of feet (Jn. 13:12-17).


12.  So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down  again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 

13.  You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, 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 should do as I have done to you.

16.  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.

17.  If you know these things , happy are you if you do them.


The example that Jesus showed is plain and simple.  It is the “Lord and Teacher” washing the feet of the disciples.  The disciples did not wash the feet of their “Lord and Teacher”.   It was not a reciprocal washing of feet.   In the application of the exemplary principle given by the Lord Jesus Christ washing of feet should be adminstered by the minister to the church members and to the newly baptized members.   According to this principle Church officers should administer washing of feet to church members whose feet have never been washed.


Mutual washing of Feet between church members may also be administered, not as a sacrament but as a symbolic gesture of love, humility, servitude, forgiving one another’s faults and reconciliation after conflicts and disputes.


The Early Apostolic Church also practised washing of feet as good works. The New Testament mentions older widows who were “well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.” (1 Tim. 5:10).


The  Washing  of  Feet  Service


A simple service for the Washing of Feet may commence with an invocation (prayer), followed by a hymn that relates to this subject. Bible reading from John 13:1-17 gives the congregation an understanding of its significance.


If there are several believers participating that consist of men and women, they may sit separately in the front row. They should take off their shoes and have bare feet. The sisters do not wear stockings. It may be a good procedure to have the male minister wash the feet of the brothers and the deaconess wash the feet of the sisters. ereHHHere is the example given by the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 13:3-5).


3. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,

4. rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.

5. After that He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.


The Washing of Feet service may conclude with a short prayer of thanksgiving.


May God Bless You




This Research Article is the response of Paul Wong
to a Request in the ARK Forum on April 6, 2006


For comments please write first to: arkpw@sbcglobal.net


Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in Houston.
The ARK Forum on the Internet is international and non-denominational.


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