Baptism, Lord's Supper, Foot Washing
/ Ewald Frank
The Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are biblical ordinances that are being practised in most of the Christian churches, although the administration of them is being done in different ways. But the original way of the first church was lost in the course of the church history. For years the church historians and reformers were debating and fighting over it, using the same Word. But they were not able to reach an agreement, and the differences remained. They are not in conformity with the practices of the early church to which we have to return.
Of the first Christians we read, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine ...” (Acts 2:42). They recognised that the apostles were called by the Lord and had access to the mysteries pertaining to the Kingdom of God. After His resurrection the Lord remained with His disciples “until the day in which he was taken up, after he, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen; to whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:2-3). We are glad to know that He spoke about all the things pertaining to His Kingdom. He was the One who gave the commission. On the day of Pentecost He sent His Spirit upon them and revealed precisely what should be done and how it should be carried out according to the perfect Will of God .
Paul was not with them from the very beginning. He first had his “theological study”, but after his conversion he preached the same gospel and the same doctrines as the other apostles did. By direct revelation he made the journey to Jerusalem fourteen years later to compare with the other apostles to see, whether what he preached was in agreement with them. Otherwise, he feared that he should have run in vain (Gal. 2:1-2).
The Book of Acts and the epistles testify the perfect harmony in the teachings, as well as with the four gospels and the Old Testament. Therefore, everything that is left to us by the apostles is pure doctrine and practice. We don’t deal here with the opinion of Peter or Paul, but with the direct revealed Word and Plan of God. Even today that is the only valuable measuring rod whereby everything should be proved.
Once the Lord asked His disciples “Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore, every scribe who is instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a man that is an householder, who bringeth forth out of treasure things new and old” (Mt. 13:51-52). At all times the Lord was using men whom He had called for specific purposes in His kingdom. They didn’t present theological knowledge, as they were instructed in the heavenly school. They spoke according to the heavenly wisdom which was hid to the wise of this world. His messengers have always received both, His Word and His Spirit. So they had the clarity and the revelation of His Will and knew the correct application thereof. An unfailing sign for this is that their preaching and practice are in complete agreement with all the Holy Scriptures. Our Lord and the apostles had only the Old Testament at their disposal at that time. Repeatedly, they made references to it. In the New Testament, we find 845 quotations from the Old Testament.
Preachers of the gospel today carry a great responsibility before God. Everyone who ministers in the Kingdom of God should have the courage to compare with Paul and the other apostles whatever he teaches and practises. If it does not agree with the original proclamation and practice, then there is something wrong somewhere. If Paul found it necessary to compare his teachings with the doctrines of the apostles to make sure that he was not ministering in vain, how can anyone of us then neglect to do this? Of everything which originally comes from God we find imitations and forgery that will not compare with the original.
In the message to the church of Ephesus we read, “... and thou hast tried them who say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2). This judgement was possible, because the listeners were comparing what was preached to them with the original apostolic teaching. Those Bible believing Christians noticed that these gentlemen were only claiming to be apostles, but were actually liars, because they preached not the pure divine message as the early apostles did.
In the first church, there was no uncertainty about the Water Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the rest of the teachings. The Lord had given clear advice of how those things should be administered. Therefore, He could say about those whom He would send, “He that heareth you, heareth me” (Lk. 10:16). We need to show forth how Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are being described in the Holy Scriptures. With the Lord’s Supper, the Foot Washing is also connected which we also shall briefly see in the light of God’s Word.