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Updated on January 25, 2014
Jesus Washing Peter's Feet. Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893 Tate Gallery, London
Jesus Washing Peter's Feet. Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893 Tate Gallery, London
Washing of the feet. The Unknown Illustrator of "Vie de Jesus Mafa."
Washing of the feet. The Unknown Illustrator of "Vie de Jesus Mafa."


The most popular objection to this ordinance is that Footwashing was an ancient Jewish custom, and that Jesus did it to conform with that custom. It is not so. The custom was for each person to wash his face, hands, and feet according to Jewish custom. Jesus as master washed the feet of His disciples. This showed the master serving his servants.

Jewish Custom

We can see when Abraham met the three angels in Genesis 18:4, saying. "Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree."

Similarly Lot addressed the two angels who came to Sodom in the evening, saying, "Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet" (Gen. 19:2).

Again, when Eliezer Abraham's servant, was greeted by Laban when he went to seek a wife for Isaac in the city of Nahor, in Mesopotamia. Laban, Rebecca's brother, said to him, "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; and he gave him straw and provender for his camels, and water to wash his feet and the men's feet that were with him" (Gen. 24:31,32).

When Joseph's brethren went down to Egypt the second time to buy corn, and were invited to dine with Joseph, the ruler of his house "gave them water, and they washed their feet" (Gen. 43:24).

Jesus said to Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:44), with whom He dined, and where a woman washed and anointed His feet, "I entered thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet."

These examples showed conclusively that the custom was for guests to wash their own feet, and not the customary office performed by servants or by the host.

Footwashing becomes a sacrament because Jesus Himself ordained it as an example for us to follow. If therefore He has ordained the washing of feet as an ordinance in His Church, then we are bound to do it, and we have no right to forego from its obligations.

Besides, the Saviour's declaration, "What I do, thou knowest not now," and Peter's surprise and objection, as found in the context. (John 13:6-8}. The most important part of this was, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." To have no part with Jesus means a person has nothing to do with Christ, and is a foreigner.


Because Footwashing does not typify baptism and the Lord's supper. It is not a sacrament.


The nay-sayers refute Footwashing as a sacrament because they see no saving the action. Those in favour of the rite being performed because Jesus instituted the rite, and He served instead as a servant, and not as master..

John 13:8 states: "If I wash thee not, thou has no part with me."

What does "no part with me" mean? That means you are not a follower of Jesus. If you do not embrace His teachings, you are not a true believer and cannot enter into the kingdom of God..

What does footwashing represent? It represents the new walk after following Christ (Titus 3:5) and shows forth the humility and love of Christ.

What does the Lord's supper represent? It represents and shows forth the sufferings and death of Christ. Therefore, Baptism, Footwashing and the Holy Communion all typify or represent Christ. They are all important in the practice of Christianity.


Because its chief object was to enforce moral duties, therefore must be taken figuratively, and not literally.


This objection is only partly true that the Saviour did design to teach his disciples a moral lesson, and enforce the observance of moral duties. The duties Jesus designed to teach are humility, kindness, love and service.

However, it is untrue that this service must be taken spiritually, and not literally. Now, we say footwashing is a church ordinance. The proof will be found that this ceremony is to be taken literally, and spiritually, as Jesus very clearly explained to them.

John 13:13-15

  • 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. (my emphasis)
  • For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.


There is no evidence that the apostles and first Christians practised Footwashing as a divine ordinance.


It is unnecessary to have the example of the apostles and early Christians. The example and command of Christ are sufficient for this purpose. Why do we need the proof of the apostles and early Christians when Jesus Himself demonstrated the ordinance. Is the example of Jesus not more important than the apostles and early Christians?

The confirmation of 1 Timothy 5:10 is proof of the practice of Footwashing in the Ephesus Church.

What Jesus did and spoke should be gospel truth. We do not have a higher authority than Jesus because He was God on earth in the form of man.


No church receives Footwashing as a sacramental ordinance.


Untrue. Some churches regard it as a religious duty by the humble and faithful followers of Jesus Christ in different countries and various communities such as the Mennonites, Moravians, Free Will Baptists, River Brethren, Church of God, True Jesus Church (non denomination), and United Brethren.

Truth does not depend on the amount of numbers, but on fact. 1,000,000,000 may say white is black, but is not. Numbers do not prove the truth. The majority of the world may say that Jesus is not God, but Christians say He is and it is true because it is the truth.

Jesus said, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15)
Jesus said, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15)


Because the occurence took place under the law, and has therefore passed away like the passover, John's baptism, and the tradition of the elders.

As Christ is our passover, we need no Jewish passover, and as we have the institution of Christian baptism, we have no need of John's baptism. And as to the tradition of the elders, Christ positively repudiated them.


If the practice is true, why are we still keeping all the laws of the Ten Commandments, for example, the laws of killing, stealing, false witness against your neighbour, covetousness, etc? Why are they not passed away? Why pick and choose which law is on or which law is discarded?

It is true that the passover has been taken over by the Holy Communion, and John's baptism was superceded by Baptism of Jesus through the blood.

Also true are the oral laws of the traditions of the elders (613 mitzvot) taken away for they are cumbersome (Colossians 2:14). However, the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God remained, but not the oral laws kept by the rabbis.

  • Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.


Footwashing is not essential. Many go to heaven without it. Thousands, it is said, have lived and died happy, and gone to heaven, who never practised footwashing as a religious ordinance. Therefore it is not essential.


All those who died have not gone to heaven yet and are waiting for Jesus' second coming for the final judgment before He separates the sheep from the goats.

We are judged on whether we obey Jesus Christ or not. If we doubt His commandment, we are doubting Thomas. Jesus definitely said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).

In John 13:13-15, the Saviour definitely and expressly uttered, "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."

If we vigorously ignore the commandment of Christ, and brush it aside, then we are deliberately defiant of the Lord. If we are against the Lord, we are the enemies. Christians cannot go to heaven by being defiant to the will of God.

How can we say we obey, and love the Lord in humility in spirit but being carelessly disobedient to the words of Christ?

The Master stooped down in humilty to wash the feet of His servants. Who are we to turn a blind eye and deaf ears to ignore His commandment?

If then, Footwashing is an ordinance of the New Testament, it is a part of the will of God, and if a part of the will of our Father in heaven, it must be observed.


What then is the most important point to remember in Footwashing (John 13:13-15)? The example as demonstrated by Jesus for the disciples to follow must be done without bickering and doubting. An "example" means ideal, lesson, model, sample, and precedent Jesus has shown us how to conduct footwashing visibly and remember spiritually. We have to follow the words of Jesus fully in spirit and in truth. We cannot dissect the words into two and question the validity. Jesus is God in the form of man on earth and we cannot question God. We must believe in His mercy, love and truth.


All the objections have been refuted with reasonable answers. Most of the Christians do not question their churches' standing on this very important issue. Since Jesus instituted the rite and performed it Himself, there should be no doubt as to its validity and importance. To refuse the right to perform it against Jesus' commandment is outright disobedience.

Romans 5:19

  • For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Deuteronomy 26:16

  • This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: and thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.

Acts 5:29

  • Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

John 14:23; 1 John 2:17

  • Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Refuting Footwashing is Wrong

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    • einron profile image

      einron 6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      It is good to listen to other people's opiniion, but the best thing is to listn to the words of God. Peace!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      This is a complex hub. I have experienced this once and it was very moving. I look forward to reading comments by religious people.