Should an Unbaptized Person Participate in Footwashing?


In our last Q&A, we asked and answered the question whether footwashing is still necessary today as a part of the Passover ceremony.

We pointed out that footwashing at Passover eve is indeed a command by Christ which is still in force and effect today (obvious exceptions apply, for instance, when a person is alone and partakes of the Passover at home). We also mentioned that the entire Passover service is in remembrance of Christ’s death, and that it is only to be observed by properly baptized true Christians who have received the Holy Spirit. Those who have not (yet) been baptized in accordance with Scripture should not participate in the annual Passover service.

In our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days,” we stated the following on pages 10-12:

“The Old Testament demands that no male who was uncircumcised was to participate at the Passover (Exodus 12:48). Even though physical circumcision is no longer a requirement for New Testament Christians, they are circumcised spiritually (Colossians 2:11–12; Romans 2:26–29). This can only occur through the indwelling Holy Spirit, which God gives us after proper baptism. Christ’s disciples had been baptized (even though, in the extraordinary case of the eleven apostles, they had not yet received the Holy Spirit—they would receive it, however, on the Day of Pentecost).

“During the Passover evening, Christ told Peter and the other apostles, when He proceeded to wash their feet, that they had been ‘bathed’ or baptized (John 13:10). The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown points out that the term, ‘who is bathed’ [or ‘washed’ in the Authorized Version] means, in a ‘thorough sense… to wash “as in a bath.”‘ In regard to Christ’s subsequent statement that the one who is bathed only needs to wash his feet, the same commentary points out that ‘the former word [for washing, not bathing] is [used], meaning just to wash hands or feet.’…

“Christ waited until Judas Iscariot had left before He changed the Old Testament symbol of a Passover lamb to the New Testament symbols of bread and wine. The obvious reason for Judas’ exclusion from participation of the New Testament symbols of bread and wine was that Judas had not been PROPERLY baptized—his entire lifestyle and conduct showed that he did not have GODLY repentance. Judas was not qualified to participate in the new symbols—although he was present for the Passover meal and the footwashing. The symbols of bread and wine did not apply to Judas: ‘He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him’ (John 6:56). Note that after Jesus gave Judas the ‘dipped’ piece of bread (which was not the same as the bread representative of Christ, but it was just a part of the Passover meal, compare Psalm 41:9), ‘Satan entered him’ (John 13:27). Judas left following the traditional Passover meal and the footwashing, but before the institution of the symbols of the bread and wine…

“No male was allowed, in Old Testament times, to partake of the Passover, unless he was circumcised. True Christians are circumcised spiritually, in the heart, by and through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, after proper baptism. Therefore, only properly baptized members of the spiritual body of Christ—the Church—who don’t hold grudges against anyone, and who do not have hate toward others in their hearts, are to partake of the annual symbols of bread and wine. In doing so, they reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. This teaching is supported by the fact that Jesus waited until Judas had left them, before He introduced the New Testament symbols of bread and wine.”

The question arises, naturally, as to whether a person who is not yet baptized could or should nevertheless participate in the footwashing ceremony, given the fact that Judas did so before leaving. However, Judas was a special case. He was an apostle, who, with the others, had been given special powers from Jesus to cast out demons and heal the sick. He had also been sent out by Christ to preach the gospel. He had been baptized with the other eleven apostles. He was one of Christ’s intimate friends.

Even though he betrayed Him for money, the other apostles did not know what he was going to do until after the footwashing ceremony had been completed. That Judas was allowed to participate in the footwashing shows Christ’s great humility and servant attitude in that He washed Judas’ feet, even though He knew that Judas would betray Him.

When focusing on prospective members today who have not yet been baptized, it is the judgment of the Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates that these individuals ought not participate in the footwashing, as it has become an integral part of the entire Passover observance. It would make little sense to allow a prospective member to participate in the footwashing ceremony, but then ask him to leave the room before the baptized members partake of the bread and wine. This could even be quite embarrassing for everybody in attendance. Given the holiness and sanctity of the entire Passover service, it has also been the judgment of the Church of God that, barring extraordinary circumstances (which will be evaluated by the local pastor), unbaptized visitors, including children, should not be present during the observance.

Please recall that in Old Testament times, no uncircumcised male was to participate at the entire Passover ceremony. Since footwashing is today an inseparable part of the Passover observance, a spiritually uncircumcised person should not be participating at the entire Passover service, either, including footwashing.

It would be advisable, however, that a prospective member contemplate at home during the time of the Passover service on the meaning of the same, by perhaps reading literature about the Passover or listening to a related sermon, while spiritually preparing for and anticipating the time when he or she will be baptized and able to participate actively in the service.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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