The Ordinances of the Lord’s Church

By: Elder Randy McCarthy and Elder Allen Daniels


1 Corinthians 11:1-2  Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.


In the context of the above statement by the Apostle Paul, the word “ordinance” is defined to be a rule established by authority; a law or statute of sovereign power.  Paul made this very clear in his epistle to the churches of Galatia, “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  (Gal 1:11-12).  He makes the same certification in this chapter to the church at Corinth in verse 23,  “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:” By definition, he declares that the Communion Service (the Lord’s Supper) is established as a “Church Ordinance”.

In our study passage the word is “ordinances” (in the plural).  In reading of the Old Covenant, we find that there were many such ordinances (laws, statutes, rules, commandments) that were delivered by Divine Authority to the nation of Israel; however, in the New Covenant, we find that all of those were fulfilled by Jesus and under the New Covenant (Testament) Jesus gave to His Church two new ordinances, which are Baptism and The Lord’s Supper (Communion).

In this essay, we will attempt to show that these two ordinances are given by divine appointment by our Lord Jesus and; therefore, are to be kept as delivered by Him to His Apostles and then to by the New Testament Church.  We realize that through the ages different people and groups have had different ideas about baptism and communion, but it is not our purpose to discuss views of others, but to set forth the truth of Scripture as to the doctrine and practice of the Primitive Baptist Church.  We should never apologize for believing the Bible and trying to use it as our sole rule of faith and practice, but at the same time to realize that because of the frailties of our human nature, God’s people can have, and have had, many differences of opinion on what the Scriptures teach on various topics.  Our prayer is that since all Scripture is given by the inspiration God (2 Tim 3:16), that He will also help us to correctly understand and apply them.  As we focus on the Scriptures, it is not our purpose to make any comments, editorially or otherwise, to be offensive to other groups, who sincerely love our Lord Jesus, who may view these ordinances differently, either with regard to form or application; nevertheless, as good disciples of our Lord Jesus, we believe it is our duty to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”.  (1 Peter 3:15)  The basic view of primitive Christianity is that the church (the local body of believers) should be voluntary believers; however, historically speaking, the New Testament church has found herself in almost all times and all places since our Lord was resurrected, all groups other than Baptists, have used the power of the state at different times to coerce, or force, obedience and belief by the people. Historians tell us that literally millions have perished over the past centuries for failure to submit their infants for baptism in the established state church.



The first of these two simple ordinances that the Lord Jesus has given to His church is baptism; the other is communion (The Lord’s Supper).  These two are highly related, in that according to the Scripture, the first is a prerequisite of the second; therefore, we will discuss them in the order given by Jesus.

At the very end of the Gospel according to Matthew, our Lord Jesus came and spake unto the Apostles, saying, “And All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.”  (Matthew 28:18-20


Prior to our study of the Church Ordinances, there are two points that we want to emphasize from verses 18 and 19 in the above passage of Scripture.  According to Strong’s Greek Dictionary, the English word power in verse 18 is a translation of the Greek word exousia (ex-oo-see’-ah), and is defined in the English language as: “delegated influence:  authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength”. Also the English word baptizing in verse 19 is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo (bap-tid’-zo), and is defined in the English language as: “to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the New Testament), especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism”.  We realize that the doctrine and practice of the New Testament Church cannot be validated by the Greek alone, but we insist that words have meaning and must be applied in the context from which they are used. The definitions of these two “Greek into English words” will become increasingly important as we continue this study; also, the above stated meaning for the word power, further validates our claim that the New Testament Church Ordinances are given by Divine Authority of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The Baptist view, which we believe is the Scriptural view, is that while even a child can be baptized, it must be a voluntary action motivated by the dictates of that person’s conscience; therefore, it is the belief of the Primitive Baptist Church that the Scriptures teach a “believer’s baptism”. Now let us notice the pattern established by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20: first teach them, then baptize them, then command them to observe all the Lord’s commandments.  This necessarily requires that someone be preaching the gospel in order for the disciples to come to an understanding of their duty to God.  If the Holy Spirit has worked a work of salvation in them, at this point they should voluntarily submit themselves to baptism as a result of the dictates of conscience upon their own heart.  Once baptized, they should continue to learn and grow in grace, following the Lord’s commandments as a publicly identified disciple of the Lord Jesus.


Baptism does not make one a child of God; baptism does not serve to keep one from going to hell and ultimately being banished to everlasting bodily punishment in the lake of Fire at the Day of Judgment; baptism does not even wash away a single sin in one’s life.  Baptism does none of these things.  Instead, as Peter told us, baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God.  {1 Peter 3:21}


As Peter explains in the above Scripture (and elsewhere), baptism is a figure that represents the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  When we are enabled by the grace of God to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we should submit to this good work and be identified as a believer in this essential reality.  Remember the Ethiopian Eunich in Acts Chapter 8?  He desired to be baptized after hearing the preaching by Philip, and was permitted to do so upon his confession that, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”. That is the scriptural pattern, as well as the historical pattern of the Baptists.  (see Acts 8:26-40)

So members of the Lord’s Church need to be properly baptized before they can be recognized as such.  This is not our rule, it is the Lord’s.  In Acts Chapter 2, many people were added to the church by the Lord, and the entrance thereto was via baptism.  Thus, the early church followed the pattern as set forth by the Divine Authority of the Jesus as so stated in Matthew 28:18-20.


At the time of the writing of the New Testament canon (that is, the first century AD), there were no separate denominations as we know them today, although there were divisions and many false teachings even then.  Infant baptism had not been thought of, and would not be introduced until several hundred years later.  So the Scriptures do not expressly deal with what we should do in the situations of people having previously been baptized in an unscriptural mode (e.g., as an infant, via sprinkling etc.), or for an unscriptural reason (e.g., in order to get to “go to heaven,” etc.); however, there are several important scriptural principles laid out for us in the inspired Word of God which we can use to support our historical claims that we are required to “rebaptize” those who come to us from other orders that have been unscripturally baptized.  Again, remember that millions of our forebearers died rather than violate this principle.  We should not casually discard it just because it seems to not be “politically correct” to still require it today of those who come to us seeking membership from another order.


First, we believe that Acts Chapter 19 is given to us to show that baptism is more than just “getting wet” in some fashion.  In this chapter, some disciples were found who had been baptized in accordance with John the Baptist’s baptism.  Paul rebaptized them (or as some say, baptized them the first time with a gospel baptism) in the name of the Lord Jesus.  The Holy Spirit fell upon them, thus signifying among other things that God approved of this action taken by Paul.  We can identify a principle from this – God surely recognized that the disciples who had been previously baptized under the baptism of John entered into this with complete sincerity.  Apparently such sincerity, by itself, is not enough. {see Acts 19:1-7}


Second, it should be easy to see that, at least with infant baptism (or sprinkling, or pouring a small amount of water across the forehead even on an adult), does not conform to the scriptural practice of immersion (Remember our previously stated meaning of baptizing).  Simply put, since baptism shows the death, the burial, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, such sprinkling or pouring is inadequate to represent this, whereas total immersion is.  John baptized where there was “much water“, and the Scripture states that Jesus and John “came up out of the water“; therefore, the Scriptural mode for baptism is by immersion. (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10)


The harder question, though, is what if the person who wants to join our church comes from the background of another order who also professed to believe in the Lord Jesus?  Generally speaking, even though these groups may also practice baptism by immersion, yet these baptisms were performed by men (or maybe women) who are not recognized nor ordained by the Primitive Baptist church and consequently, do not have the Scriptural authority to baptize; furthermore, these baptisms were performed by individuals who teach doctrines which we consider unscriptural: such as General Atonement, Gospel Regeneration, Baptismal Regeneration; or Eternal Salvation by the works of man.  According to our interpretation of Acts 19:1-7, these baptisms are unscriptural and invalid.


Baptism can be thought of as a marriage ceremony, with the Lord as the groom and the church as the bride.  If the individual who is seeking membership with us is convinced that the Primitive Baptist Church is the true church and the doctrines and practices being taught are scriptural, then he/she should be willing to admit that the previous baptism was in identification with doctrines and practices which are no longer believed; therefore, the person should be willing to submit to baptism and be identified with the Lord Jesus in this group.  As an analogy, if a person should become a widow or a widower and later seek to be married again, it would surely be improper and inappropriate for them to demand that the new spouse accept the previous wedding ceremony and vows from the previous marriage! 


It seems incompatible with a spirit of meekness and submission to Christ to demand that one be admitted to the Primitive Baptist church without undergoing baptism by its ministers.  We are commanded to do all things decently and in order, and having a bright line rule such as we have, we believe that it accommodates and is consistent with Scripture and with historical precedent.  Each local church is autonomous, meaning, according to Scripture, the Lord Jesus gave the local church the authority to deal with individual cases and that they (the local church and her ministers) are accountable to Him only, and not any other group of churches, associations, or ruling elders.  They have been given executive authority by their Head to render judgments according to Scripture; to accept or reject any individual that comes seeking membership among them. If those decisions and judgments are wrong, then the church will suffer chastisement of the Lord; and if the church refuses to confess their error and repent, then according Scripture set forth in Revelation Chapters One and Two, they will come under direct judgment and condemnation of the Lord Jesus, who only is their Head.  No offense intended to our brethren, but at the same time, you do not have veto power over the local church’s autonomy. This authority belongs to the Lord Jesus only. He is the one who declares a church to be out of order.

Remember that in the book of Revelation, there were seven churches in Asia Minor to which the Lord addressed letters.  Five of these seven had serious problems and the Lord warned them that, unless they repented, He would remove the candlestick.  We take that to mean that He would remove His presence from among them and their status as a real church.  They might continue to meet, and even be recognized by others as a real church, but it is clear that it is God who determines if a particular group of believers is an authorized New Testament church.  The mere fact that “Primitive Baptist” appears in their name is no guarantee that they are, or will remain, a true church of God; only their continued obedience and His loving kindness will ensure their validity.  Our responsibility as a church of Jesus Christ is to strive, with everything we have, to remain faithful to the Lord, who is the Head of His church.  If He demands more of us than of others, what is that to us?  “Follow me” is His command.

Let us briefly notice some of the very firm and strong language that He states to these seven churches of Asia.  Unto the angel (the pastor) of the church of Ephesus Jesus states, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:5)  

And unto the angel (the pastor) of the church of the Laodiceans he states, “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.   As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:14-16, 19)  The Apostle John concludes this set of admonitions with these words, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)

Okay, so now we have the church membership made up of individual believers who have publicly professed their belief in the Lord Jesus and have submitted themselves to scriptural baptism via immersion as an answer of a good conscience toward God.  Let us now turn our attention to the second Ordinance given to the church by Divine appointment.

Communion: The Lord’s Supper
(What is it, and what is the significance?)


The second ordinance is identified in Scripture as the Communion, the Lord’s Table, and the Lord’s Supper, these all pertaining to the same thing, which is the highest form of fellowship among baptized believers. 


There are several places in the scriptures where we could go, but again, we will begin with Matt 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”


Notice that it is contemplated that when the gospel is preached, there will be people in attendance who are not church members.  Indeed, we don’t know how we could gain new members without such coming to church before they are baptized.  But the communion is a special time of fellowship.  The Lord Jesus instituted this the night before he was crucified, and it was with his closest friends and disciples.  The disciples clearly did not understand the significance of this at the time.


The time frame of the Lord’s (last) Supper is not left to speculation.  It is clearly stated in all four of the Gospel accounts and also by the Apostle Paul that the communion was carried out by the Lord at the conclusion of the Passover feast. “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:“(Luke 22:15)   As we read Paul’s account of this event, again notice that this ordinance is give by Divine Authority: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,” (1 Cor 11:23)  In this statement, Paul is here reaffirming the Lord’s declaration to His apostles immediately following the Communion Service, (Luke 22:28-30) “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  As previously stated, by definition, the Apostle Paul having received his authority from the Lord Jesus, declares that the Communion Services (the Lord’s Supper) is a “Church Ordinance”.

Now let us continue reading Paul’s account:  …That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. ” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Both the bread and the wine symbolize the sacrificial death of the Lord.  The bread symbolizes his body, and the wine symbolizes his blood, or life, which was poured out for His people.  The Lord Jesus said to His disciples that by partaking of this simple service, his disciples would be showing his death.  This establishes the primary purpose for the communion: it is to commemorate, and bring to mind, the sacrifice and unspeakable price given on our behalf to reconcile us to God.


The next significant point is set forth in the phrase “till he come”. In these three little words is set forth the hope of all of the redeemed family of God as stated by Jesus in John 14 and in Acts 1, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”   (John 14:3 ; Acts 1:11)


It is also significant to point out that the Lord gave them (and us) the bread and the wine to eat and drink.  It could have been implemented in such a way that the disciples merely looked at the bread and the wine but, the Lord saw fit to have these things consumed by the disciples, thereby showing that they (and we) are partakers of the Lord’s death “it is in us and it is part of us; we are partakers of him in the most intimate way possible. We died with Him.  We were raised with Him.  His life is in us and sustains us.  Because He lives, we will live.


In John 6:53, Jesus makes a very hard to be understood statement, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”  This statement was a hard and offensive saying to some to whom Jesus spoke, because of this statement and some other difficult to be understand remarks, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:66). Not only was it a hard saying to some of Jesus’ disciples, so it is to some today.  Some have concluded from this to mean that it is necessary (much like baptism) that we continue to partake of the communion in order for us to confirm, and maintain, our eternal life.  Others have concluded that something mystical happens during the communion that transforms the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ.  Neither of these views is scripturally true, nor what was intended.  In John Chapter 6, Jesus was clearly speaking of spiritual things, not his physical body and blood.  Notice his words, I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.   I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)  The Communion Service is a visible symbol of this reality, not a means whereby this reality is implemented.


As stated earlier, communion is a time of special fellowship with the Lord and with each other.  We gather together, in remembrance of what our Lord Jesus did, and we commemorate His death for us.  It is a very solemn time, but also very sweet and happy too.  It is so simple that even a child can understand it, but so profound that aged men and women, who have spent their lifetimes as members of the Lord’s Church, still marvel at the depth of this service.


The question has been asked by some of our friends, “Why do you use unleavened bread and real wine in the Communion Service?”  The short answer is, because these are the things that Jesus used.  This is reason enough, but there is a greater reason.  There are no other materials known to man that could have been used to show the divinity of Jesus than these. These symbols vividly portray the perfect life that Jesus led.  Leaven (yeast) is sometimes referred to in the Bible as a symbol of sin and there was no sin in the body or blood of our Lord Jesus. His sinless human body was nourished by sinless blood (else he could not have been victoriously raised the third day); therefore, we use unleavened bread as an emblem of the sinless body of Jesus and, for the same reason, we use wine as an emblem of His sinless blood.


Grape juice in its natural state contains yeast. The fermentation process that transforms grape juice into wine results in the killing of the yeast. As the naturally occurring yeast in grape juice digests the sugars therein, the byproduct is alcohol.  When the alcohol reaches a certain level (on the order of about 12%), it becomes toxic to the yeast and the yeast all die.  Wine is therefore the proper emblem for the perfect and sinless, atoning blood of the Lord Jesus.


You may recall that the Corinthian church had a lot of problems, and one of the gravest was its abuse of the Lord’s Supper.  As Paul discusses in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, he says that whatever it is that you think you are doing, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.  It seems that this church was guilty of everyone bringing their own supplies, and instead of having a communal service they each individually consumed what they had themselves brought without sharing to the point that some people went hungry while others got drunk.   Since one cannot get drunk on grape juice, the church was clearly bringing wine, not grape juice, to the service.  Yet Paul never condemns them for using wine.  What he condemns them for is consuming so much wine that some became drunk. There were also heresies and divisions among them on these and other matters.  Paul points out that these conditions prevented the church from carrying out a valid communion service.

Notice what Paul says: “Now in this that I declare [unto you] I praise [you] not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, [this] is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before [other] his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise [you] not.”      {1 Cor 11:17-22}


Paul brought to their minds again what Jesus did when He instituted the communion service, and reminded them of the purpose of the communion, that is, the sharing of bread and wine by believers who have come together in the fellowship and unity of the Spirit “to shew the Lord’s death till he come.

Paul then concludes with these words, which are worthy of our consideration:  “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.” {1 Cor 11:27-34}


This section bears comment on a number of issues.  First, when Paul warns against participating in the communion “unworthily,” he does not set a standard so high that no one could ever meet it.  Of course, none of us are worthy to participate in the communion in the sense that we are sinless or can achieve by our own selves a level of righteousness that would entitle us to demand a place at the table.  This is not what Paul is talking about when he says “unworthily.”  Rather, what he means is that those who participate must first examine themselves, their hearts and motivations, and be in such a spiritual frame of mind so as to perceive the Lord’s body (and hence, His death) in participating in the communion. 

If we are in a natural frame of mind and we proceed with the communion, we are bringing judgment (condemnation) upon ourselves by God.  In the Corinthian church, the excesses were so extreme that Paul stated categorically that some were afflicted with sicknesses, and others had even died, because of the Lord’s displeasure with their abuse and lack of attention to the communion.  This was written for the benefit of the church throughout the age and clearly the Holy Spirit revealed this to Paul.  The lesson for us to take from this is to realize the seriousness of the communion, and to ensure that we have prepared our hearts to enter into this most solemn and intimate association with our Lord Jesus.


This is another reason why we practice so-called “closed communion”.  We will have communion with members of other Primitive Baptist Churches, but generally not with anyone else.  This is not because we think these other people are not God’s children, but the problem is, unless you have been scripturally baptized, there is no verifiable evidence that the person has in fact given the necessary introspection in examining themselves.  If we liberalized our membership and communion practices to simply allow either or both without following the New Testament pattern, we would be violating the very commandments that our Lord Jesus instructed his follows to observe.  We would possibly be bringing great condemnation upon ourselves, and failing to sufficiently warn others of the gravity of the situation which they are placing upon themselves.


So baptism and communion go together, and both are ordinances of Divine appointment by the Lord Jesus Christ.  The question we should be asking ourselves is not what we think communion is, but rather what does the Lord tell us that it is?  And how we are to prepare ourselves to enter into? When we do it according to the Scriptural pattern, it is one of the most blessed times of refreshment in the Lord that we can enjoy, but it comes with a warning that we ignore at our own peril.

Washing of the Saints Feet


Finally, let us address briefly the subject of the “washing of the saint’s feet”.  Most Primitive Baptist churches have the feetwashing with the communion, but some do not and to those who do not, it should not be made a test of fellowship by those who do.  Technically speaking, it does not appear that feet washing is at the same level as the ordinances of baptism and communion, but rather is considered as an example of the Lord Jesus that we should follow in conjunction with the communion.


The story of the feetwashing service (the night before our Lord died) is set forth in John Chapter13, where Jesus set aside his garments, girded himself with a towel like a servant, poured water into a basin, and washed each of the disciple’s feet in turn.  If you study the events in the four gospels carefully, you may be surprised to find that it appears that the feet washing came first, followed by the communion service, although we usually do it the other way around (Judas was apparently present for the feet washing but left before the communion).


Interestingly enough, the Lord taught a very important lesson by this.  Most surely all of the disciples were very uncomfortable with this event: they recognized the Lord as their master, not their servant, and it was probably embarrassing (and they felt highly unworthy) to be served in this way.  Peter went so far as to ask the Lord what he was doing, and after being told that he would understand it later, Peter was still unwilling to let it happen to him.  Let us read together from John Chapter 13, “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 shalt 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 (Judas Iscariot); therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.”  {John 13:6-11}.


It is not hard for us to imagine that in Peter’s mind, he truly meant what he said, that is with as much dignity as he could muster, that the Lord would never wash his feet.  Each of us would probably have felt the same way had we been there.  But when Jesus said, if I don’t wash your feet, you have no part with me, Peter immediately changed his mind.  It is plain to see when Peter saw what was at stake; he perhaps leaned his head forward and threw his arms out to the Lord and with sincerity stated, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”  If what was at stake was his continued fellowship with his Master, then he was absolutely serious in wanting the Lord to wash everything.  The Lord knew all about Peter (as he does us all), so perhaps the Lord smiled, and maybe even chuckled in a kind and loving way at Peter’s response. It is plain to see the genuine faith and intense love that Peter had for the Lord Jesus (if often misguided).  The Lord said that it was not necessary to wash his whole body, but only to wash their feet.  The phrase “he that is washed needeth not save to wash [his] feet” uses two different words in the Greek for “wash.  The first time is “louo” and the second time is “nipto.”  The word “luou” means a deep and thorough cleansing that someone gives in tending to another, like the washing of a dead body, or the washing out of a deep wound.  The word “nipto” on the other hand means a more casual self-cleaning, such as when you wash your hands prior to a meal, or your feet or face after a long and dusty walk.  The proper interpretation of Jesus statement is, “If I have cleansed you (luou) from your sin in my shed blood and applied it to your heart in Spiritual regeneration, then you do not need to be cleansed in this manner again. You are clean every whit and you need to only to wash off the dirt from your hands or your head or your feet (“nipto”) from time to time.”  Just as we need the cleansing of Jesus to washing off the dirt (sin) we pick up from our association in the world.  This was the lesson that Jesus was teaching to His disciples, and it applies to us as well.  We have been cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and stand legally and positionally before God as a justified and holy people; yet we find ourselves sinning on a daily basis and are in need of “nipto” to restore us to His fellowship. In reference to our need for this timely daily cleansing, the Apostle John made this most comforting statement, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9):

However in the example set forth by Jesus in the washing of His disciple’s feet, He was making a more important and even more direct point.  He acknowledged that He was indeed their Lord and Master, and yet He took the role of a servant and washed their feet; therefore, He said, “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 ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John 13:14-15, 17)

A lot of people look at this story and figure that it was merely illustrative, and not literal.  But these same people consider the Lord’s command to eat the bread and drink the wine as a literal command, and not illustrative.  If the truth be known, it is more likely their pride that causes many to not partake of this example, however, the Lord surely intended for His disciples to follow his example. It is hard to comprehend how one can follow His example without a literal pan of water and a towel; yet our Lord knew that we would benefit by literally doing it.  The language of John Chapter 13 is not hard to understand, but the blessing does not come in the knowing of it but in the doing, as Jesus so clearly stated, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”


It is hard to think very highly of oneself when you are kneeling down as a servant washing your brother’s or sister’s feet.  And that is the whole idea; and yet at the same time, if we don’t see beyond the literal application of Jesus‘ example, then we are still not getting the whole lesson, which is, that we are to always be the servants of each other and to be helping each other in our daily Christian walks.


In summary, the Holy Communion has both the bread and wine component, which is followed by the feet washing, but these are only available to those who have submitted themselves to baptism in the form and order which we understand the Scriptures to teach.  It is a very solemn time, but also a time of great joy as we remember and commemorate the Lord’s death.  There are valid and very serious scriptural reasons why we do not accept the baptisms of other groups, and hold a closed communion, although by doing so, we are not making a statement as to whether these other groups are or are not New Testament churches.  Our responsibility is to the local church of which we are members, and to observe all of the Lord’s commandments as best we can.


It is our sincere desire that we will all in the coming days purpose in our hearts to love one another and pray more fervently that our Lord Jesus will be in our midst as we enter into this most sacred service.

May the grace of our Lord and Master abide with you continually.

Posted On: 9 Nov 2017 by WAD & RKM