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Question: Would you deal with the subject of the washing of feet as
an act of worship in church services?

Foot washing had been practiced for hundreds of years before Jesus
washed the disciples feet in John 13.  It can be found as early as
the days of Abraham. So Jesus merely performed a service for his
disciples such as had been long practiced. People then traveled
mostly by foot. They wore sandals or went barefoot. Water to wash
their weary feet was necessary for cleanliness and comfort. Usually
the host furnished water that his guests might wash their own feet
(Gen. 18:3-5; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Jud.19:21; 2 Sam.11:8; Lk.7:44).
The menial task of washing another's feet belonged to servants (1
Sam.25:41; Lk. 7:37,38).

In John 13, Jesus washed their feet because they were dirty. Having
already purified themselves, all that remained was to wash their
feet (Jno.13:10; 11:55). He could perform a needed service and by
this act He could teach them a lesson they needed on humility (Lk.
22:24-30). Jesus did not command them to "wash feet" as an act of
public worship.

Regarding the washing of feet as a religious service in the PUBLIC
ASSEMBLY OF THE CHURCH? It is no trouble to find proof that the
Lord's Supper, for example, is to be in the worship service, for
Paul shows that it was done when they "came together in the church"
(1 Cor. 11:20). But where does it say that Christians washed feet
when they came together in the church?

The only time foot washing is mentioned in the N.T. after the
church was established is in 1 Tim. 5:10. Are these home duties or
public services of the church. Washing the saints' feet is classed
with bringing up children, lodging strangers and relieving the
afflicted. Does Paul mean to say that bringing up children is a
public service to be done in the church? Does he mean that
strangers should be lodged and the afflicted relieved in the public
worship of the church? These were duties to be performed at home.
And washing the saints' feet is classed with them. So it is a home
duty; not a duty to be performed in public service. There is no
passage that says to practice it in the public service of the
church. These good works are not acts of public worship that are to
be performed in the public assembly.  You see, Paul speaks of feet
washing as a good work like bringing up children, hospitality and
relieving the afflicted.

     Yes, we should "wash one another's feet" as an act of service,
hospitality or humility as the occasion may demand or warrant, but
NOT as an act of public worship. If you are too proud to wash the
feet of disciples of Christ, you are too proud to be a faithful
servant of Jesus Christ.

Arguments from the Nichols-Weaver Debate:
1. It had a religious aspect: sang a hymn 
     Answer: Does not prove it was to be practiced in the church.
Afterward only connected with lodging strangers and hospitality,
together with other home duties (1 Tim. 5:10).
     Feet were not washed that night as worship, but to cleanse
them (215)

2. He instituted the ordinance of feet washing.
     Answer: This is false. Feet washing was practiced in O.T.
times (1 Sam.25:41. It was not something new. Jesus reproved a
Pharisee in whose house He was a guest for not providing water for
his feet (Lk.7:44-46). This was long before John 13. Hence, feet
washing was customary before John 13.

3. A command: Ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
     Answer. Feet washing was to cleanse them (Jno.13:10). He did
not teach them to wet feet which were already clean. They were to
do it to cleanse them and as an act of service.
     "So ought men to love their wives." (Eph.5:28). But this does
not mean the husbands are to have a wife-loving service in the
public worship in connection with the Lord's Supper.
     Jesus washed feet to cleanse them, and if we do it as an act
of worship, we are not following His example. He did not wash feet
until they needed it.

Nichols Affirmative: 
1. Where did Christ require feet washing as an act of public

2. Feet were to be washed to cleanse them. He says as an act of
public worship, and I say as a matter of cleanliness, service and

3. It is connected with home duties, and not with worship. 1
Tim.5:10. None of these were items of worship in the church, like
the Lord's Supper. This is the only passage mentioning feet washing
this side of the death of Christ on the cross. It is the only
reference to feet washing after the church was established on
Pentecost, and this one time classes it with hospitality in the
home, and not public worship in the church. Sound doctrine locates
feet washing with lodging strangers. This was done by a widow to
strangers who had come to her home. It had no reference to public

4. Supper being ended: reference is to the Passover supper.

5. Re. the wearing of Sandals
a) The Hebrews wore sandals and not our kind of shoes. b) The
sandal consisted simply of a sole attached to the foot by strings
to hold it to the bottom of the foot, leaving the foot exposed to
dirt, etc. c) Sandals were not worn indoors, any more than we wear
our hats in the house d) During meals sandals were removed, as at
the Passover. e) To unloose another's sandals, or wash his feet,
was a service performed only by those thought to be inferior to the
one being served. (p.197)

6. Simon was reproved for not furnishing water for the Master's
feet when He was a guest in the home (Lk.7:36-33).

7. Paul connected it with lodging strangers in 1 Tim. 5:10. It was
not catalogued with the Lord's Supper, and other acts of public
worship. It is classed with home duties. The widow to be supported
by the church must be one who had practical experience in serving
the people so she would be able to do just that kind of work as a
servant of the church. She cannot help others bring up their
children unless she has had experience in bringing up children of
her own. She can not teach others how to lodge strangers, unless
she has practiced that sort of work herself. She would not be able
to gracefully serve in washing the feet of strangers and bathing
and relieving the sick and afflicted and in serving among the
members, without having had experience....There is not an item of
public worship in this whole list. Paul connects feet washing with
lodging strangers on one side of it, and relieving the afflicted on
the other side of it.....there is not a passage in the O.T. about
feet washing which does not connect it with hospitality in the
home, or make it a matter of mere cleanliness and comfort.

Jesus said, "Ye are clean, but not all." (Jno.13:10-11) His
language has a spiritual application. Just as each one was clean,
"but not all"--all clean except the feet--so as a group they were
clean spiritually--"but not all"--not Judas.

Not once after the cross was feet washing connected with the Lord's
Supper, or any item of public worship. WE have the Lord's Supper
and other items of worship mentioned in Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor.
11:30; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Eph. 5:19; but not one word about washing
feet in such worship. The disciples came together to break bread
(Acts 20:7). But where did they ever come together to wash feet, as
some do?

Feet were dusty when wearing sandals (Mk.6:11)

Spirit was to come to the apostles on Pentecost to guide them into
all truth (Jno.16:13). L.S; Singing; Contrib; Pub. teaching. That
is what the early Christians did in worship. But where  is the
passage which tells of their coming together to wash feet?

     Even the night of the Passover, "There was also a strife among
them, which of them should be accounted the greatest
(Lk.22:24)....Peter was blocking the Lord's effort to teach them by
an object lesson, and he would have no part with him (217)

My notes from the Thomas-Miller Debate (oral) on Footwashing

In Jno.13, were they in worship at this time? They were in a
worship service when Jesus washed their feet.
Answer: Emphatic no. They were not engaged in public worship when
Jesus washed their feet. They had just observed the Passover,
washing of the feet had to do with purifying themselves for that
feast (Jno.11:55). They had already purified themselves by bathing.
Jno.13:10: their feet had become defiled again by walking to the
upper room. Peter, you have already been bathed all over, you just
need to wash your feet.

"You ought to wash one another's feet." Ought is a command. 
Answer But where does Jesus say you ought to do it? Where does
Jesus say that it is to be done when the church comes together for
public worship.

Gave us an example. We all know what an example is.
Answer: Where did He give us an example to do it in public worship;
that is the issue.
Thomas: we have no more right to put footwashing into the public
worship than the Pharisees did to make the washing of hands a
religious ceremony. He wants to put footwashing where God never put
it. Jesus rebuked them for binding the washing of hands as an act
of worship.

When feet were washed in Bible times, there was something on the
feet that needed to be washed off.

There is no relationship between the Lord's Supper, and the washing
of their feet. There is no mention in Jno. 13 of the Lords Supper;
there is no mention of the other Gospel accounts of feet washing.
In fact there is no passage that mentions the washing of feet and
the Lord's Supper together.
     Acts 20:7-came together on the first day of the week to break
bread. No mention of foot washing.

Washing of feet from the beginning is an act of kindness, of
service that was rendered. 1 Tim. 5:10: widow: lodged strangers,
every good work, If washing of feet was done as public worship in
connection with the Lord's Supper, she would have washed the saints
feet. He would have no need to mention that. He would just as well
have said, If she has taken the Lord's supper, given of her means.
These things belong to the public worship. Feetwashing does not. 
     Perhaps she washed the feet when she lodged them. Individual,
home service, act of kindness. Nowhere as an act of public worship.
Washing of feet takes place in the same place as lodging strangers
     Why take one of these as a public act of worship, and then
leave the others where they are, as home duties.

     When they came into the house they would take their shoes off.
When they came into the house they would wash their feet. Because
Simon failed to do this Jesus rebuked him. Lk.7:34.


1 Sam. 25 A case of one washing the feet of others. Jesus was not
instituting something new.

The Lord's Supper was to be eaten each 1st day of the week. How
often are feet to be washed?

Must distinguish between acts of service and acts of worship. Not
everything that Jesus did was an act of worship: turning over
tables. Telling disciples where to catch fish.

Jno.14:26: H.S. would bring to their minds all that Jesus had
commanded them. Where did H.S. ever bring to their remembrance
anything about washing feet as an act of public worship.

                        Biblical History

Gen. 19:2 Lot's house
Gen.24:32 servant who went to get wife for Isaac
Ex.30:19; 40:31
1 Sam. 25:41: Abigail: let thine handmade be
Psa.58:10: Symbolic
Song of S. 5:3
N.T> Lk.7: House of Simon: rebuked Simon for not offering him water
when he came in. All of these passages are before Jesus washed the
feet of the disciples. Jesus did not institute the washing of feet.
This had been practiced through the years.
1 Tim. 5:10

If you have corrections, questions, comments or suggestions about these questions and answers, please contact Leon Mauldin directly at

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