With this week’s Tuesday Tea post I will examine an Article of Faith that is often misunderstood by those around Primitive Baptist and yet has been a marker of the church in many communities for centuries.  This Article of Faith is directly related to the ordinances of the church and yet is not a part of the ordinances.  This week I will examine the practice of feet washing in the Primitive Baptist Church.

“We believe that washing the saint’s feet is an example and duty, enjoyed by Jesus Christ, and should be done in church capacity.” (Article #9 from the Amarillo Primitive Baptist Church’s Articles of Faith)

An Example Provided

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)

I highly encourage you to go back and read the entire thirteenth chapter of John as the feet washing service is set forth.  The words in this chapter give us a clear model to follow when we engage in this service.  John concludes this chapter with the words of our Lord saying that he has given us an example to follow.

It is necessary to understand that the communion service is an ordinance, in other words the bread and wine are a non-negotiable and must be partaken of, but the feet washing service is not included as part of the ordinance.  However, if the Lord has told us that he has given us an example that we should follow that example that is a very strong statement and one that we should pay attention to.  The point I intend to make here is this — while the feet washing service is not commanded in scripture and could be left out of a church — if the Lord has given us an example and told us to follow it, why would we choose to not follow in his steps?

If we truly want to understand the entire lesson the Lord was teaching in the last supper we must also engage in the feet washing as our Lord did with his disciples.

A Mental, Spiritual, and Emotional Action

“Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.” (1 Timothy 5:10)

While the feet washing service is a physical act of kneeling in front of your fellow believer and washing their feet, the service is not about the physical but rather the mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects.  There are two clear parts to this service and let us examine these now.

The first part of this service happens as you are having your feet washed by a fellow believer.  What is the purpose to this time?  While we often speak of being uncomfortable and preferring to wash the feet of others we should also reflect on the meaning of our own feet being washed.  Symbolically, this has great significance.  The feet are representative of the walking we do in this world.  Because of the world we must tread in our feet become dirty, tired, and worn out with the sin, stress, and other things that surround us every day.  The symbolism of having your feet washed is the strengthening and refreshing that comes with being with your fellow believers.  As we have our feet washed we should be reflecting on the love, support, fellowship, and prayer that we are surrounded by with our church family.

The second part of this service is when we kneel before our fellow believer and begin to wash their feet.  The Apostle Paul told Timothy in the verse above that washing the saints’ feet was to be considered a good work.  Some would make this to be a work done in her own home but I personally believe Paul was referring to feet washing in the church.  Why would this be considered a good work?  First, it was not required thus it was a statement of her willingness to do as the Lord had set forth.  Second, it was considered a good work because it expressed her willingness to humble herself and serve her Lord and her fellow believers.  This – the willingness to put ourselves after our fellow believers – is the very point of this service.

Let us be diligent to follow the example our Lord has set forth.

May the Lord bless you this week,

Elder J.W.

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