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Jesus said to Peter that his feet must be washed to "have part with Jesus" (John 13:9). Jesus also commanded all disciples to wash each other's feet (John 13:14)

Our church practices foot washing as a sacrament (must do to be saved).

I know that we are probably the only church that treats foot washing this seriously.

How do other churches approach the subject of foot washing and is it taken as seriously as our church?

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    Are you asking, what do all other Churches believe regarding footwashing as a sacrament? Asking "What is your stand on it" invites a lot of opinion and we try to avoid that. – Peter Turner Nov 24 '18 at 21:17
  • @NigelJ was in the wedding party a few years ago for a couple who washed each others feat as a part of the marriage rite. (Catholic). It was deeply moving. – KorvinStarmast Nov 24 '18 at 23:54
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    Our church practices foot washing as a sacrament What church are you a member of, Alex? That detail would be helpful in making this question clearer. Welcome to Christianity.SE. Please take the tour to get an idea for how a Q&A site in the SE format is different from a discussion forum. – KorvinStarmast Nov 24 '18 at 23:56
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    It's also a mistake to conflate the term "sacrament" with a requirement for salvation. Ordination is a sacrament in the Catholic Church (if I recall), and you don't need to be an ordained priest to be saved. – Zenon Jan 20 at 20:34
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Our church practices foot washing as a sacrament (must do to be saved).

This sounds like a point to be cautious about. I know of no place in the scriptures where it says you must wash feet to be saved.

I presume your church practices foot washing because of Jesus' words in John 13:14-15 Specifically Jesus says in verse 14, "you should wash one another's feet". The key word here is "should" rather than "must". "Should" was translated from the Greek the word ὀφείλω, which could mean "morally obligated"; however, this falls short of a requirement for salvation.

I know that we are probably the only church that treats foot washing this seriously.

How do other churches approach the subject of foot washing and is it taken as seriously as our church?

One may be surprised that foot washing is practiced by several Christian denominations; however, it is rather unorthodox for a church to insist that you must wash feet to be saved.

I believe that there is a bigger principle at work in John 13:14-15; Jesus teaches us to be humble and serve one another. Washing guests' feet was considered household servant's work in Jesus' day; yet this (servant's work) is what we're called to as Christians (Matt 20:24-26). Jesus modeled this servant's attitude with his life - Quoting from Philippians 2:6-7 (italics mine): "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

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A large number of denominations do practice foot washing on a regular or occasional basis, including (to my certain knowledge) Catholic, Anglican and Mennonite, and I have heard of others. All of them have something in common.

In each case foot washing is treated as a symbol of how people should treat each other, not as a thing that has merit of itself.

This is because virtually all denominations (and virtually all Bible students) consider that Jesus is here treating foot washing symbolically. He is not laying down a pattern of literal action, but performing a lowly task - in which the other person is treated as higher status than yourself - to indicate that the disciples must be prepared to undertake lowly tasks and to treat others as higher status than yourself.

In this view, actual washing of feet has merit only in that it reminds the people involved of how they should be treating others. Anyone who physically washes another Christian's feet, but then goes on to treat them disrespectfully or as having lesser worth, has gained nothing from the exercise and is not fulfilling Jesus' intentions.

For those who hold this view (which is the vast majority of Christians) this approach is not treating Jesus' commands less seriously, but in fact treating them more seriously, as it gets to the heart of what Jesus requires from us.

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Bible Churches, Methodist, and Baptist doctrines do not consider foot washing a sacrament (what one must do to be saved).

They would not interpret John 13 as having anything to do with Salvation.

10 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.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.JN 13:10-15

These churches would observe the following:

  1. Jesus says that they are already clean before washing their feet, except for the "one"
  2. Jesus most likely washed Judas feet however this did not save Him.
  3. Jesus was using this as an example on how they should treat others.
  4. They would be blessed if they followed these examples, not saved.
  5. Jesus is the one having the conversation directly the disciples, and not claiming that if you wash the feet of others they will be saved.

These churches would also recognize foot washing is left out of every conversation about salvation from sins in the scriptures. The scriptures do not say, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him AND has their feet washed" will have eternal life.

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Is foot-washings required for salvation?

We are used to sealed roads and footpaths. In Jesus' time, roads and paths were unsealed and dusty. In the wild west the roads and footpaths were also unsealed and messy. The difference between the two was that the cowboys were wearing boots, while people in Jesus' time were wearing sandals. Sandals are notoriously leaky, and feet needed to be washed frequently for that reason. It is possible to wash ones own feet, but it is a tedious endeavor. It is a lot easier to wash somebody else's feet.

1 Tim 5:9,10 (NIV) says that it was a good deed to wash somebody's feet:

"No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds".

A common inclusion in foot washing was also massage with various ointments, probably because foot-skin-cracks was a common problem. John 12:3 (NIV) says:

"Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume".

Furthermore, James 2:14-17 (NIV) says:

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead".

Consequently, in todays modern world good deeds like foot washings is not required for salvation, like it ones was. However, doing up-to-date good deeds is.

Rev 19:8 (ESV) "it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints".

Acts 10:31 (NIV) "Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor".

Mat 7:21 (NIV) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven".

  • This site is a bit different from others. We don't encourage people to give their own views on subjects, but instead to answer questions from specific denominational viewpoints. Also I think it's fair to say that very few Christians consider that literal foot-washing was ever a requirement for salvation. – DJClayworth Dec 1 '18 at 17:17
  • @DJClayworth. I agree with your last point. It couldn't have been a requirement for salvation in general. However, if the service was needed and a host didn't supply it, either direct or indirect through an intermediate, the faith of that host would be highly suspicious. – Constantthin Dec 2 '18 at 1:37

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