March 9, 1909
We will try to give what information we can on the subject of feet washing, as requested by T. H. Cotten, in a letter from him in another column of this paper.
First, we call attention to the fact that the feast of the passover began on the fourteenth day of the month and ended on the twenty-first day of the month, thus continuing for seven days. See (Exodus 12). Now read (Matthew 26:1-16); (Mark 14:1-11) and ((Mark 2:1) (Luke 22:1-6), and you will find that before the feast of the passover began, Judas had covenanted with the chief priests and captains to betray Jesus into their hands. Now, let us read (Luke 22:1-6), which says:
Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him; for they feared the people. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude. Now read (John 13:1):
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.
Now read (Matthew 26:17-25) and ((2) (Mark 14:12-21) and you will see how that Jesus told the disciples to make ready the passover, and also the conversation which took place while they were eating the passover concerning His betrayal. It is clear and easy to understand that Matthew and Mark agree on this. Mark says:
And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, His disciples said unto Him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? And He sendeth forth two of His disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber where 1 shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And His disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And in the evening He cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto Him, one by one, Is it 1? and another said, Is it I? And He answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born. Instead of proceeding with the conversation which took place during the eating of the passover supper, as Matthew and Mark did, John breaks off from the conversation and in verses 2 to 17 relates the circumstance of the feet washing. Then in verse 18 he goes back to the conversation which was engaged in during the eating of the passover supper. Verses 18 to 32 read as follows:
I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, That when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me. When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom He spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto Him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent He spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him.
This shows very clearly to be the same conversation as recorded by Matthew and Mark, and which took place while eating the passover supper. It was while eating that supper that the conversation took place as to who should betray the Saviour, and while eating that, supper Jesus gave the sop to Judas, then Judas went immediately out. Hence Judas left them while they were eating the passover supper. Now go again to (Matthew 26:28-29), and ((22) (Mark 14:22-25) and you will find the record of the institution of the communion supper, which was done at the close of the eating of thu passover supper. And remember that this was the first day of the feast of the passover. Mark says:
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And He said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
Now let us read (John 13:2-17), and we will find John's account of what transpired concerning the feet washing after the supper was ended:
And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot Simon's son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He was come from God, and went to God: He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter 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 know hereafter. Peter saith unto Him, Thou shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean. So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was sat down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well: for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
It is truly clear that Jesus has said, “Ye also ought to wash one another's feet,” and we should do so for this reason. No matter if it does seem to us to be an empty rite, the Saviour said we ought to do it, and that is a good reason why we should. To say that it was an old Jewish custom, and therefore not required under the gospel, is to impeach the Apostle Peter with ignorance of the customs of his own people, for the Saviour said, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” Peter did know the old Jewish customs, hence this was not done as an old Jewish custom. In washing their feet Jesus said He had given them an example, that they should do as He had done to them. An example is something to follow. If the Saviour was immersed in baptism, we cannot follow Him in baptism unless we are also immersed. If He was immersed in baptism, and if His baptism is an example for us to follow, then we cannot follow the example unless we are immersed. Even so, we cannot follow His example in feet washing unless we wash each other's feet. Doing something else is not following the example. Washing the saints' feet is put down in the catalog of good works by the Apostle Paul in (I Timothy 5:9-10). It is clearly mentioned here as a good work. Then if we fail to do it, it is evident that we fail to do one good work the Lord has said we ought to do. If the Saviour had commanded us to practice something symbolizing our honesty, it would be right for us to do it. In (Matthew 6:16-17)the Saviour is not teaching us that we should not show our humility. Beginning with the (first verse of the chapter), He teaches us that we should not do the things mentioned to be seen of men. We should not engage in any service to be seen of men. If that is the object we have in view, then the service becomes an empty form, and is not acceptable service. If we are not to show humility, then we shouldnot perform any act that might be prompted by a spirit of humility. Instead of humility being something we should not show, it is something that we should show. If all the brotherhood would show and manifest toward each other more of the spirit of humility, we are of the humble opinion there would be less trouble among us. Washing each other's feet is an act of humility; Christ performed it as an example, and we should follow the example. We say, in washing each other's feet, that we have a desire to live at the feet of our brethren, and that we esteem our brethren and prefer them before ourselves. We profess this when we wash their feet; and then we should live the profession. Mr. Cotten's argument that a church cannot be held in fellowship because they do not practice feet washing, if it be a part of the communion, would require a non-fellowship for every church, almost, in existence-upon that parity of reasoning. The church at Corinth had some wrongs among them; nearly all the seven churches of Asia had wrongs among them; the Galatians had wrongs among them. Yet they were not non-fellowshipped as churches. We would not argue, however, for the encouragement of wrongs; but the idea we wish to present is that a church may be a church of Christ, and fellowshipped as such, and yet have some wrongs existing among them. If a church that does wrong cannot be fellowshipped, then few of them could be fellowshipped, for there are very few that do no wrong. As a rule the Primitive Baptists do not make feet washing a test of fellowship, although it is in many of their confessions of faith. There are some other points in the confessions of faith which could be named, also, that some individual members have not believed, and yet they retained membership and fellowship in the church. We think a fundamental point of doctrine, or an underlying principle of doctrine, should be made a test of fellowship. So should any practice which is a departure from the fundamental principles of the gospel be made a test of fellowship.
We do not want a controversy opened up in our columns on the question of feet washing, and neither do we expect to permit it; but as Mr. Cotten insisted by private letter that we publish his letter and make some reply to it, we have decided to do so, merely to give him the benefit of some of our views of the matter. We do not give our views as standard. The Bible is the standard that Baptists propose to go by. Let us take that as the “man of our counsel” and be governed by it, and let us try to do what it says do. May the Lord help us all so to do. C. H. C