Ordinances of Baptism, Communion, and Foot Washing

Ordinances are worship and faith disciplines which have specifically been ordained by Jesus in His instructions to His followers. The ordinances are rich experiences for believers, and that they are symbolic of something that is happening within the believer as a direct act of God’s Spirit. The symbolic act is a witness to an inner reality. These symbols affirm and remind us of what God has done in Christ.[1]

Baptism, by immersion, is a first step for the new believer. The term “baptism” comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” which means “to immerse.” Immersion of believers is the only form of baptism that is indicated in the New Testament. Through baptism, which symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the new believer witnesses to the world that there is a new spiritual dimension in his or her life.[2] Baptism is also a witness to the Church that the new believer is a part of its fellowship and work, and to family and friends that he or she is now an active participant in the Christian community.[3]

The Lord’s Supper, often called Communion, is an affirmation of oneness in Christ. In sacramental congregations it is often called the Eucharist, a reference to the thanks offered over the bread and the cup.[4] We are instructed to frequently share the elements of the Lord’s Supper.[5] The bread and the cup are symbolic of the grace experienced in the life of the believer.[6]  In most Church of God congregations, grape juice and unleavened communion bread are used in this observance.

Foot Washing is an ordinance commonly practiced by the Church of God and modeled by Christ at the Last Supper.[7] It is an act symbolizing the servant ministry of all Christians to each other and to the world. Men assemble in one room and women in another, and even children are encouraged to participate. Persons wash each other’s feet, sing hymns, and give personal testimonies of God’s blessing on their lives. Participation is not considered a “test of faith.” Rather, it is a spiritual experience which Christians are encouraged to observe and join. While a physical act, washing the feet of a fellow believer is a remarkable spiritual blessing, echoing the words of Jesus Himself: “If you know these things, blessed [or happy] are you if you do them.”[8]

[1] Pastor Chris Keeton from Westwood Church of God in Ashland, Kentucky was a major source of my content. He has a very helpful “FAQ” section at his church’s website – http://westwoodchurchofgod.org/faq

[2] Mark 1:1-11; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38

[3] Acts 2:42-47

[4] 1 Corinthians 10:16

[5] 1 Corinthians 11:20

[6] 1 Corinthians 10:16

[7]  John 13:1-17

[8] John 13:17


Gifts of the Holy Spirit

All gifts of the Holy Spirit have the same source and all are equally valid.[1] No one is to be exalted about the others, since all are useful in the Church. Whatever God does in and through us, he does for the good of His Bride, the Church.[2] There is a variety of needs in a variety of places; therefore a variety of gifts that have been given as God has chosen to give them.[3] Some gifts easily unify Christians (such as helps, giving, and encouragement) while others can cause tension (such as prophecy, healing[4], and tongues[5]) if not received with maturity. The Church of God Reformation Movement believes that every gift mentioned in Scripture is still active and necessary for work in God’s Kingdom. We are not cessationist or dispensational in our view of the Holy Spirit’s work among the Body of Christ.

There are five lists of gifts of the Spirit in the New Testament.[6] These lists give us a total of twenty identifiable gifts that God has given us to advance his Kingdom.[7] However, we must be careful to remember that the indwelling Holy Spirit, himself is the greatest gift. Otherwise our focus shifts to the gift rather than the glorious Giver of good gifts. We must also be careful not to think these lists are complete. Of the five NT lists, no two are alike and one is left to wonder how many more Paul would have listed if he had written about them in one more place. One gets the impression that the Holy Spirit simply qualifies and empowers each person to do the task at hand, where it might be. The Holy Spirit can do in and through us just what is needed, even if it is something which has never been done before.[8]

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:12,27

[2] 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

[3] 1 Peter 4:10-11

[4] Divine healing is something that all believers can and should pray for. However, that does not mean they have the gift of healing.

[5] We do not place an emphasis on speaking in tongues as the “primary” sign of a Spirit-filled life or endorse the freedom for persons to speak in tongues at their own discretion in public worship.

[6] Romans 12:4-6, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 12:28-30, Ephesians 4:11-12

[7] The total number depends on whether we count them in the original Greek, where we find 20, or in one of the common English versions, which may give more or less.

[8] This thought is expanded brilliantly in Kenneth E. Jones’ Theology of Holiness and Love, Reformation Publishers 1989.

The Holy Spirit’s Cleansing and Gifting Work in a Believer’s Life

The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Holy Trinity. He is fully God and He has always existed with God[1]. He is revealed in Scripture in various ways and called a multitude of names throughout the Old and New Testament. He was present in Creation. [2] During the exodus from Egypt[3], the time of the first kings, and most notably during the ministry of the prophets, the Holy Spirit is active. It is in the baptism of Jesus that we see Him descend as a dove[4]. On Pentecost, He came as fire.[5]

The Holy Spirit is the promised gift of our heavenly Father to those who are followers of Jesus, His Son.[6] He is God’s Spirit and invites people to join God in relationship.[7] He is the agent of making our heart’s new and perfect.[8] The indwelling Holy Spirit is proof of our adoption into God’s family.[9] He fills our life and baptizes us into the abundant life of Jesus Christ.[10] He is the Spirit of truth that guides mankind to all truth. He does not speak on His own authority, but only speaks what He hears from the Father. He prepares and declares to us the things that we don’t understand about our own future. He is our advocate[11], God on our behalf. [12] He convicts us of things that do not please God so that we might continue to live in a manner that does please God.[13] The Holy Spirit also gives gifts to every believer to equip them for work in the ever-advancing Kingdom of God.[14]

[1] Genesis 1:2

[2] Genesis 1:26

[3] The book of Exodus

[4] Matthew 3:13-16

[5] Acts 2

[6] Luke 24:49

[7] Kenneth E. Jones, Theology of Holiness and Love, Reformation Publishers 1989

[8] John 3:3-5

[9] 1 John 4:13

[10] Ephesians 5:18, Acts 1:8

[11] Romans 8:26

[12] John 15:26-16:12

[13] 1 Thessalonians 5:19

[14] 1 Corinthians 12:3-11