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

The nature and saving mission of Jesus Christ

The nature and saving mission of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God[1], is eternal in His nature yet earthly in His incarnation[2]. In the Father’s perfect timing, He honored His covenant with mankind and His prophetic promises in the Old Testament of salvation by sending His Son, Jesus, into the world He created[3] to redeem, reconcile, restore, and rescue mankind from the sin that separated them from the Father. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, Mary[4], with his nature being both completely God and completely human. You could say that Jesus is humanity as God intended it to be.[5] He was anointed as the Messiah and affirmed and empowered by the Holy Spirit at His baptism[6]. He introduced God’s kingdom reign on earth[7], overpowering the reign of Satan by resisting temptation[8] while preaching the good news of salvation, healing the sick, mending the broken hearted, casting out demons and raising the dead, just as Isaiah had foretold hundreds of years before.[9] By gathering and pouring His life into His disciples, He established a Bride and a Church to be the instrument of His kingdom.[10]

After dying for the sins of the world on the cross, Jesus was raised from the dead after three days, fulfilling the covenant of blessing given to Abraham.[11] In His sinless, perfect life Jesus met the demands of the law and in His atoning death He bore God’s wrath and judgment for the sins that separated us from God because of His holy nature.[12] Sin could not defeat the Son of Man. After His glorious resurrection from the dead, He ascended into heaven and began His present rule at the right hand of the Father. He is the eternal Messiah‐King, advancing God’s reign throughout every tribe, tongue, and nation until the day of His return when every knee shall bow and every man confess that He is Lord.[13]

[1] John 1:1-5

[2] John 1:14

[3] Colossians 1:15-23

[4] The Gospel of Luke 2, Galatians 4:4

[5] For a thorough explanation of this concept see Part 5 Chapter 1 of Russell R. Byrum’s, Christian Theology, Gospel Trumpet Company 1925

[6] Matthew 3:13-16

[7] Mark 1:15

[8] Mark 1:12-13

[9] Isaiah 61,

[10]See Chapter 5 “Christ and the Atonement” of F.G. Smith’s , What the Bible Teaches, Warner Press 1945

[11] Romans 4

[12] 1 Peter 1:18-19

[13] Philippians 2:8-11

The essential nature and revealing activity of God

Simply put: God[1] wants to be known

The God of the universe is all knowing, all loving, always present, and longs to be at the center of all He has created. He is not hiding nor is He in solitary confinement. God’s nature is very public. His works are always on display[2]. The natural landscapes and atmosphere of the created world point to a God who enjoys His work and sees it as good[3]. God’s work is good because He is supremely good[4]. In His goodness, He made the crown of creation – mankind, who could enjoy all that God is and all that God has made[5]. The fingerprints of God are all over us, made in His image and likeness. However, God is the initiator of our knowledge of God. We did not stumble upon or seek out a relationship with God[6]. It was because of God’s great love that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us[7]. God was the catalyst of creation and the conductor of man’s community with God. All that we know of reality points to His glorious nature, ability, and intelligent design.

As God reveals Himself fully, we discover that His very nature is relational. He exists in Triune form. Three very distinct persons yet in complete harmony form one God. A theologian once said, “Deny the doctrine of the Trinity and you’ll lose your salvation; try to comprehend it, and you’ll lose your mind.[8]” This glorious mystery is composed of God the Father, God the Son whose name is Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit each bonded together in love for each other and for us. Each person is essential to our faith and vital to our understanding of God as the triune relational creator of life[9].

[1] . By the term “God” we mean the perfect, intelligent, conscious, moral Being existing from eternity, the Cause of all created things. – F.G. Smith, What the Bible Teaches, Warner Press 1945

[2] Psalm 19:1

[3] A common phrase in the creation account from Genesis Chapter 1, The Holy Bible

[4] Psalms 107:1

[5] Genesis 1:26-31

[6] Romans 3:11

[7] Romans 5:8

[8] Stanley J. Grenz, Created For Community, Baker Books 1996

[9] See Chapter 8 “The Trinitarian God” of Gilbert Stafford’s Theology for Disciples, Warner Press 1996