Foot Washing

Question: How did footwashing become a sacrament?

How did footwashing become a sacrament?

Background to footwashing as a Jewish custom

The custom of footwashing originated in the ancient east:

When a guest arriving for the meal had been greeted, a slave would remove the guest’s sandals in preparation for washing his feet and so that the sandals would not bring in dirt that had been picked up along the way. Then the feet were washed by a servant, water being poured over them, which were then rubbed with hands and dried with a towel (Gen 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 1 Sam 25:41; Jn 13:3–5; 1 Tim 5:10).

Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times

An example of footwashing in the Old Testament Bible is found in the account of Abraham receiving three angels. His words of welcome were: “Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Gen 18:4).

Footwashing remained a custom in the New Testament, for we learn of John the Baptist telling the people that he was unworthy even to untie the straps of the Lord’s sandals (Lk 3:16). Also, we come across Jesus reproaching Simon, the Pharisee, for not providing Him with water for His feet when He went to dine at his house (Lk 7:44).

During the time of the apostles, the washing of the saints’ feet by elderly widows was deemed a virtuous service (1 Tim 5:10).

How did footwashing become a sacrament?

Footwashing became a holy sacrament when Jesus instituted it during His final Passover meal with the disciples. John 13:1–17 records what happened:

1. Jesus got up from the meal (v. 4)
2. He put aside His garments (v. 4)
3. He wrapped a towel around His waist (v. 4)
4. He poured water into a basin (v. 5)
5. He washed the disciples’ feet (v. 5)
6. He dried their feet with the towel (v. 5)
7. He took His garments and returned to His seat (v. 12)

Jesus then said to the disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:14–15). He added, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (Jn 13:17).


When should footwashing sacrament be performed?

The sacrament of footwashing should be performed after water baptism, before a believer partakes of the Holy Communion for the first time. Elders and deacons should wash the feet of the newly baptized person so that he has part with Jesus.

Aside from undertaking footwashing as a sacrament, when there is a need, members can also apply the Lord’s teaching by washing one another’s feet as a symbolic reminder about humility, love and forgiveness.

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Footwashing a Sacrament

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2 thoughts on “Question: How did footwashing become a sacrament?

    • Hi, thanks for asking! The sacrament of footwashing was personally instituted by Jesus, and He instructed us to follow His example. Thus we cannot forgo, the church today has the duty to keep His commandment. Importantly, the sacrament is directly related to our salvation, for Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). Read more on our post on Sacrament of Footwashing ( if you would like to know more and feel free to write to us again.

      May His Spirit lead us to all truth and understanding!

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