“Jesus saith to him, ‘He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all’” (John 13:10).
In typical fashion, John presents us with a bold statement followed by an apparent contradiction, just as he did earlier in saying, “No man receives his testimony,” and in adding, “He that has received his testimony…” (John 3:32-33). Here, in one sentence, we have Jesus telling Peter that his feet need washing, though he is clean every whit. How can that be? What is Jesus saying to Peter? To us?
To understand the significance of this foot-washing scene for the confession question, we need to back up a bit and catch the literary context. John frames the scene with repeated reminders that Jesus is going to the Father via the Cross. His hour has come. With that in mind, we should see this foot-washing as a picture of soul-washing. Jesus serves here in the Upper Room as He will soon serve later on the Outer Hill–voluntarily bearing our guilt as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). It is a beautiful picture and one that the disciples did not yet understand (John 13:7).
In coming to Peter, Jesus is at first rejected as the Servant:
“Lord, do You wash my feet?…You shall never wash my feet” (John 13:6, 8).
In response, Jesus tells Peter:
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).
Like Newton’s third law, Peter then reacts with the opposite extreme:
“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9).
Let us pause right here, Christian, to catch the analogy. The dirt on our feet represents the daily sin that every Christian accumulates in walking through life. The washing of our feet represents the blood of Jesus consistently cleansing us from all sin and from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7, 9). In Jesus’ day, the feet were washed before the meal was served; therefore, this consistent spiritual cleansing is a condition of daily fellowship with Jesus at the table–of close interaction with Him as friend-to-Friend (cf. Revelation 3:20).
In contrast to having our feet washed, having our body washed represents a change of status. (We call this change “salvation”.) Before God, each person is either clean or unclean. In Jewish law, the ritually unclean were kept outside the camp, as symbolized by the lepers who cried out, “Unclean, unclean!” In spiritual terms, the unclean are unjustified sinners, who are cast into the outer darkness of hell (cf. Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:14-15). To enter heaven, we all must first be cleansed. We must be “washed,…sanctified,…[and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Symbolically, this permanent change of status is represented by baptism—and act administered once for a believer, and never repeated (cf. Hebrews 10:22). We are clean forever.
Paradoxically, Jesus was telling Peter that a clean person can have dirty feet (John 13:10; cf. 15:3). This statement applies to all of us Christians. One mark of a Christian is that we still sin and still need the continual Priesthood of Christ (1 John 1:10 – 2:2). Like Peter, we too are clean in status before God; but due to daily sin, we have dirty feet. Therefore, in order to have a good meal with Jesus–to fellowship closely and as friend-to-Friend–we need to have our feet washed regularly, to have the blood of our Priest cleanse us from all sin and from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7, 9). As seen in our last post, our confession does not cause this priestly action in a one-to-one fashion, but regular confession is complementary to continual cleansing. We regularly confess, and He continually cleanses. Blessed salvation! Blessed Savior! God be praised!
Note: This entry has been considerably reworked and shortened, but not changed in a significant way from the way it was originally posted on February 18, 2010.
2 thoughts on “Does a Christian Need to Ask God for Forgiveness After Sinning? (Part Three)”
Hello, God bless you.
I am very interested in this subject and have been studying it for some time. I was curious how you would handle Matthew 6:12 where the lord says, “And forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.” I look forward to your thoughts.
Please forgive me for delaying my response to your recent comment on our church’s website. Thank you for your interest.
Regarding Matthew 6:12, I do believe that one of the blogs in that four-part series on the Christian and asking forgiveness does address this verse. The subject is intriguing and I would like to open it more myself in the coming days, and write something more substantial. However, at the present time (and off the top of my head), I would say this:
1. That prayer does pertain to the Christian, since Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and then instructed them to teach new disciples to observe all that He commanded them (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, it is relevant to the Christian, though more substance may be added to that prayer, given our knowledge now of the cross.
2. The Lord’s prayer is divided into two sections, which are quite clear in the Greek: three prayers pertaining to God (His name, His kingdom, and His will), and four prayers pertaining to us (our daily bread, our debts, our temptations, and the evil one), which I often summarize in my own prayer life as provision, forgiveness, protection, and deliverance. To me, these last four are the substance of my daily needs. To me, forgiveness of sins is a daily need, and I can ask to receive it and expect to receive it now in full due to the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:14). My person is justified completely and forever through faith in Christ; then, having established this relationship with the living Priest by means of covenant, I have His intercession for me constantly–and in asking Him to forgive all my sins, I am only asking Him to do what He is already committed to do and in fact is doing for me daily. God be praised!
Now–that is off the top of my head and I am not entirely certain that every way of phrasing things here is correct. So many things pertaining to the intercession of Jesus Christ interest me.
Grace to you as you continue to seek the mind of Christ in His word by His Spirit!
In His ministry and for His glory,
Pastor, Open Door Bible Church, Hudson, Michigan