Bible Authority, Foot Washing, the Holy Kiss, and Head Coverings? Does Bible authority matter or is man free to do as he sees fit in the Christian religion? Most have come to the conclusion today that it does not matter. The result is that there are more unheard of things going on in Christian worship today than ever before. You name it and it is being done somewhere. Every type of special service the mind can imagine (and many that you cannot) is being held. The idea is that anything we do in worship with the intent of being pleasing to God, to glorify God, is acceptable to him. It has always been terribly difficult for me to see how one gives glory to God by adding to his word and doing things he has not commanded as acts of worship – a kind of make up your own worship as you go. Everyone who has ever read the Old Testament knows God had what he wanted in worship and service listed down to the minutest degree and I say that respectfully and do not mean those things were of no importance. They obviously were for God made them so. One was expected to be exceedingly careful and detailed in his worship to God. When Nadab and Abihu “offered profane fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them” (Lev. 10:1 NKJV) “fire went out from the Lord and devoured them.” (Lev. 10:2 NKJV) God said, “By those who come near me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.” (Lev. 10:3 NKJV) Thus doing the thing God had not commanded in what was supposed to be an act of worship resulted in death and doing the thing not commanded was also considered to be a failure to glorify God. How people today have come to accept the idea that they can glorify God by doing in worship things God has not commanded I do not know. I do know of one man I was reading after who says of the God of the Old Testament that he was a “critical God.” Those are his exact words. He will get to tell God that face to face in the last day and I am glad I was not the one who charged him as such. It is said that was then and this is now, now under a new covenant, but the Bible says of the Old Testament that, “whatever things were written before were written for our learning.” (Rom. 15:4 NKJV) In talking about what happened to the children of Israel as they came out of Egypt and wandered in the wilderness being disobedient the Bible says, “now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition … therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:11-12 NKJV) Do we listen or are we fearless? Is there respect for the word of God or disrespect? God is to be worshipped “in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalms 29:2 NKJV) I am not sure I know how to be holy while exalting my own ideas about what to bring into worship and placing them on the same level with God’s commands. There is in the New Testament one verse that settles this question about whether or not we need Bible authority in the Christian faith and practice and worship once for all to those who are willing to listen. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17 NKJV)
What does it mean to do a thing “in the name of the Lord Jesus?” There is a passage in the Old Testament that tells us. In 1 Chron. 21:18-19 the Bible reads as follows: “Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. So David went up at the word of Gad, which he had spoken in the name of the Lord.” (NKJV) To do a thing in the name of the Lord, whether in word (in the case of Gad) or deed, is to do what God has told you to do. No more, no less. You cannot do a thing in the name of the Lord about which the Lord has said nothing. Why not just be truthful and say you are doing it in your own name? Many dispute this – that is the idea we must have authority for religious acts in Christianity. In light of Col. 3:17 I do not know how they are able to take that position and still claim allegiance to the Bible. However, I know of one who takes the position that we do not need Bible authority who says that if we do need it then we sin when we do not practice things like foot washing, the holy kiss, women having their head covered in worship, etc. You get the idea. He will bind anything and everything as practiced in the first century, another time, another culture, on Christians today or charge them with inconsistency if they say we must follow the Bible (the thing he feels free to depart from). If the man is correct and we are inconsistent it is hard to see how it helps his position. All we would have is two parties involved in sin rather than one – the party that innovates and acts on its own without authority and the party that fails to live up to all its duties and responsibilities. It would still not prove we do not need Bible authority. We might look briefly at these things of which he spoke. You can read about the history of foot washing in the Bible beginning with Gen. 18:3-5, Gen. 19:2, Gen. 24:32, Gen. 43:24, 1 Sam. 25:41 and so on. It is clearly seen by any who read that this was an age old act performed due to the nature of the times people lived in – travel on dirt roads and in sandals (the only shoes that existed among common people). People’s feet were dirty continually due to the conditions under which they lived and it was considered an act of kindness and service to make provision for this. In Jesus’ day it was considered an act of service and humility to do this for another. See the account of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:38, 44), Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet in John 13:2-17, and that of widows providing this service to the saints in 1 Tim. 5:9-10. When Peter desired that the Lord also wash his hands and head the Lord responded, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (John 13:9-19 NKJV) This clearly shows the purpose of such foot washings. Do we need our feet washed today? I hope not. For what reason should we wash a person’s feet today? It was never an act of worship but the objector who wants us to practice this wants to make it so, and if I misunderstand him in that it is only in where he wants the foot washing practiced, and says we will be inconsistent if we do not practice it. Jesus teaching in John 13 is not that foot washing was to be made a continual practice for Christians to follow down through the ages but that one should be willing to humble himself and serve others.
But, is it even true that Christians do not practice foot washing today? No. Many Christian women who work in hospitals and nursing homes do the very thing that Jesus said to do. Where the circumstances are such that foot washing is needed it still ought to be practiced today and is. The brother is in error. One wonders if our brother thinks there would have been foot washing practiced had Judaism and Christianity originated in a northern climate rather than the hot and dusty Middle East? Just as one can trace the history of foot washing in the Bible he can trace the history of the kiss. When he does he will find much the same as he did with the foot washing – a custom of the times that went way back into ancient history in that part of the world. See 2 Sam. 15:5, 2 Sam. 20:9 (though an act of treachery in this case it nevertheless shows it was the traditional custom of the time), and also Matt. 7:44-45. In the last passage Jesus is speaking to one called Simon and says, “I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet … you gave me no kiss.” (Matt. 7:44-45 NKJV) The kiss served the purpose of being a greeting (1 Cor. 16:20), was to be holy (2 Cor. 13:12), and to be of love (1 Peter 5:14). Thus Jesus said of Simon, the one just mentioned, who had failed to provide water for the feet and failed to give the kiss, “the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NKJV) Another culture another time but it is said I am inconsistent if I do not adopt an ancient cultural tradition rather than give a warm modern day hand shake and maybe a hug. It is clear for any who want to see what Paul was commanding when he said to greet one another with a holy kiss. The kiss was already an ancient traditional greeting. Paul was only commanding that it be a “holy” kiss in greeting while Peter says it must be of love (of sincerity). I think I know what the brother will find if he tries to go around and give all the Christian sisters a holy kiss this coming Sunday or if he runs onto one or another of them at Wal-Mart and tries it. I even fear for his physical safety a little if he tries it on any of the men. As common as hugging has become in our culture today (I am old enough to remember when it was not that way) I have heard Christian sisters say they are uncomfortable with some of the hugs they receive at services. What would they say about being kissed? We meet the requirements of the holy kiss when we greet one another sincerely and warmly in the manner our culture is accustomed to. The brother who charges inconsistency really understands all of this but when you are trying to find an excuse you are liable to grasp at anything the mind can imagine. In the piece I read the critic who denies need for Bible authority brings up 2 Tim. 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3 and says we violate that. To refresh the reader’s memory I will quote 2 Tim. 2:9, “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” (NKJV) 2 Peter 3:3 reads, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel.” (NKJV) He charges the sisters with being inconsistent by the way they dress. I find his charge strange because I know where he lives and the people there are not wealthy enough to violate Paul and Peter’s dress code nor are they where I live. That it can be done I readily agree and I suspect it is done in a lot of places including religious services around Easter but that is a personal problem (sin) and not a matter of
inconsistency in the position conservatives have taken that one must follow the Bible as authority in their life. There will always be personal sin. But, I really think he wants to condemn all braided hair or arranging of the hair, all pearls, or gold. In other words unless you let your hair go wild as he sees it you have abandoned this passage, you do not believe it, and thus you are no better than he is in that you too just do what you want to do in religion and thus he has justified himself. He wants us all in the same boat he is in (I think it may have a leak). If you wear a gold wedding ring you have sinned in that you violated the specifics of this passage. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that this passage teaches that women dress modestly and do not go out dressed in such a way as to try and awe those who see her or draw attention to herself because of her fine dress and jewelry. Likewise with the hair and I have seen some fancy hair dos in my time. And, yes, some women do violate these two scriptures but he knows what they teach as well as you and I do but he seeks an opening to make a charge – one he cannot prove. We all who are honest know what the passages in question are teaching. Finally, he is concerned about inconsistency with regards to 1 Cor. 11 and the women having their heads covered. Men have argued over this passage for ages. Some take one side, some another. Some see it as a custom of the times (which it surely was) and thus put it into the same category as foot washing and the kiss. Others see it as a teaching to be bound for all time. On a personal basis, because of verse 10 and my failure to understand it, I am hesitant to take a stand. I have never known for sure what the phrase “because of the angels” means. Yes, I have read a lot but nothing that yet has totally satisfied me. I lean toward the position that the head covering is required, in part because of verse 10, but bind that on no one. Every woman will have to make up her own mind. But, here is a point I want to make. The idea that we cannot know everything does not mean we can know nothing. We all know some math but how many of us are Ph.D.’s? Because I do not have a Ph.D. in math does not mean I know nothing at all about it. Because I do not know everything about the Bible and what it teaches does not mean I can know nothing. If some depart from the critic’s interpretation of a passage, whether he be right or wrong, if some misunderstand a passage and thus end up with a wrong practice, does not mean they are being inconsistent? If there is any individual that says he understands every passage in the Bible all I can say is that he is a far better man than I am or ever will be. Is a man inconsistent because he will not try and take up serpents for the Bible says believers would do that according to Mark 16:17-18? “And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will … take up serpents.” (NKJV) Does my brother want a rattlesnake or perhaps a copperhead? No, I do not believe a man is inconsistent because there are some things he does not practice today that was practiced in the first century. Not everything found there was meant to endure until judgment day. I made the case early in this article that we must have Bible authority for all we do in the Christian religion and worship. We must believe and we must obey to the best of our ability. There is a throne of grace which we are invited to come to boldly (Heb. 4:16) and a God who is willing to forgive and who
desires that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) and who “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV) The critic’s desire is that we find his God, the God who allows him to innovate and do as he pleases and add to the word of God. He says he needs no Bible authority the idea being that his own authority will do just as well. I am not going down the path he is taking and the one down which he is leading others. I may not do everything that was done in the first century by Christians that lived then in that time and culture but what I do I will have Bible authority for to the best of my ability. He says he will do things without Bible authority. But, I need it and he does not. That is where the fork in the road comes. End of the story (until judgment day).