Being "Washed" and Feet Washing

This paper is an extract from a published address, entitled Loved unto the End.

Let us follow the instruction of the chapter a little further. Peter, looking upon the scene in a natural way, had first of all refused to allow the Lord to wash his feet; but on hearing that the washing was with a view to having part with Him, he exclaims with his usual fervency of spirit, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." This gives occasion to the Lord to make the important statement of verse 10, "He that is washed [bathed] needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." It is evident that the figure used is that of a person who has bathed, and in walking from the bath has defiled his feet with the dust of the floor. He does not need to return to the bath; he only requires that his feet should be washed, to be "clean every whit."

Let us seek in the first place to understand what is meant by "he that is washed." It has sometimes been taken as the cleansing of the blood, but this has no warrant in the scripture. It is expressly cleansing by water, and where we find this in Scripture it seems to me to be a figure of passing into a wholly new order of things, and of being made suitable for it. The priests were washed in the day of their consecration. (Exodus 29:4.) It was a ceremony indicative of the fact that they were set apart for this special service; it was their introduction to a new order of life; and was expressive of the fact that they were introduced to it in a way that rendered them suitable for it. Scripture speaks of the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5), where the thought is evidently that of introduction to a totally new order of things; and Paul says to the Corinthians, "Ye are washed" - enforcing thereby the fact that they had been brought out of everything that constituted their former life. Now, how had the disciples been "washed"? May we not learn something as to it from John 15:3? "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." The word of Christ had wrought in power in their hearts, and they had been introduced by it to an entirely new order of things. No doubt the new birth is essential to this, and the "washing" involves the thought of the death of Christ, and is, so to peak, the application of His death as that which separates us from the world and from ourselves as in the flesh; but it evidently includes the knowledge of Christ by His word. "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." Christ had made Himself known, by His word, in the hearts of the disciples. His word expressed Himself, and the knowledge of Himself had freed their hearts from everything that was of the world. It was a great thing for a few fishermen to be found in complete superiority to all the political, social, and religious influences that were around them. They were delivered from the whole current of things and opinions that prevailed in the world. They were brought outside it all - morally purified from it all - by the knowledge of Christ. "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life," are words which express the heart-feelings of the company thus "washed" and "clean." They had, if I may so say, the moral cleansing of a new Object. The knowledge of that blessed Person had delivered them from the thoughts of men, and from the motives and principles of the world. The "expulsive power" of the knowledge of Christ had displaced other things, and by the knowledge of Him they entered into an entirely new world. They were "washed."

"He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet." The cleansing of the whole moral being, in the way of which I have spoken, is a divine operation that is never repeated, but there is continual need for the feet to be washed. It is the point of contact with this present scene which is the point of danger, and we cannot avoid this so long as we are in the world. The very thought of this may well move our affections deeply when we consider that it necessitates the untiring and devoted service of the One who loves "unto the end." It furnishes Him with opportunity to give continual expression to His love. But for this ministry of divine love our contact with the world, and our susceptibility to the influences of this present scene, would have the effect of permanently withdrawing our hearts from part with Christ in the circle of divine affections. Little do we know how the blessed Lord longs to have our hearts in company with Himself in that wondrous circle. May He be graciously pleased to draw us near to Himself, and give our hearts a deeper sense of His love!

The question may be asked, "How does the Lord wash our feet?" I cannot say much about it, but it seems to me that the washing of the feet partakes of the same nature as the washing all over. It is of the same character, though with a more limited range according to the present need. I believe our feet are washed by a fresh presentation of Christ to our affections. He brings Himself and His love before our hearts, and thus He displaces the dust of the world. It is a distinct service - the special service of His love while we are in the world. If our hearts are really touched by this I am sure we shall count more upon the Lord for His service, and we shall look more to Him for it. No doubt this service of love is for all "His own," but we ought to be exercised as to whether we have been in a condition to get the good of it. One must be consciously of "His own," and have the world as a judged thing, before he can realize the good of this precious service of divine love. There must also be a response - a looking for the service. I am afraid we are often like Peter; we Will not allow the Lord to wash our feet. We give Him no opportunity of doing so. Do we not often read the Word and pray without turning to the Lord for His present and personal ministry of love?

Christ loves His own which are in the world, and He washes their feet. If we have part with Him we shall love His own, and we shall wash their feet. Those who taste the joys of that circle of divine affections cannot help longing that others should have their feet cleansed from the dust of the world that they might enjoy their true portion according to the thoughts of divine love. It is as our own feet are washed that we become instrumental in washing the feet of our brethren. If my feet are not washed my heart is more or less under the power and influence of things here, and if I speak of these things I put a little more dust on my brother's feet. But if my feet have been washed the love of Christ and of the Father are known in my heart - I am in the circle of divine affections - and I naturally speak of the things that are in that circle. If I am enabled to bring these things before my brother's heart. I wash his feet. It is not by telling him of his faults that I wash his feet If he has sinned, or been overtaken in a fault, I must go to other scriptures to know how to treat him. This chapter does not suppose any actual sin or fault, though I am convinced that if our feet are not washed we are in the greatest danger of falling into sin; if the dust accumulates on our feet it will undoubtedly result in sin. We must know the thoughts of divine love to understand this precious service of Christ, and I shall be thankful if the Lord uses His word tonight to lead us a little more into those thoughts.

C. A. Coates.