Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 12 (1897)


Ms 43, 1897



May 21, 1897

Portions of this manuscript are published in 5BC 1138-1139; 2MR 59-60; 6MR 23-24; 17MR 24.

The ordinance of feet washing is an ordinance of service. This is the lesson the Lord would have all learn and practice. When this ordinance is rightly celebrated, the children of God are brought into holy relationship with each other, to help and bless each other. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 1

That His people might not be misled by the selfishness which dwells in the natural heart, and which strengthens by self-serving, Christ Himself set us an example of humility. He would not leave this great subject in man’s charge. Of so much consequence did He regard it that He Himself, One equal with God, washed the feet of His disciples. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 2

“Ye call me Master and Lord,” He said, “and ye say well; for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord, neither is he that is sent greater than him that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” [John 13:13-17.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 3

This ceremony means much to us. God would have us take in the whole scene, not only the single act of outward cleansing. This lesson does not merely refer to the one act. It is to reveal the great truth that Christ is an example of what we through His grace are to be in our intercourse with each other. It shows that the entire life should be one of humble, faithful ministry. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 4

In His life and lessons Christ has given a perfect exemplification of the unselfish ministry which has its origin in God. God does not live for Himself. By creating the world, and by upholding all things, He is constantly ministering for others. But Satan misrepresented God to the world, as he did to Adam and Eve. Selfishness has its origin in Satan, and just as far as it is indulged, so far are Satan’s attributes cherished. But Satan charged God with his own attributes, and belief in his principles was becoming more and more widespread. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 5

By the Son of God these principles must be demonstrated as false and God’s character shown to be one of love. By Him the Father must be represented. God committed His ideal to His Son. He sent Christ into the world, invested with divinity, yet bearing humanity. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 6

And with clearness and power did Christ set forth the attributes of God. He is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” even “the image of the invisible God.” [Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15.] Yet He humbled Himself, taking the form of a servant. Our Redeemer is a perfect revelation of the Godhead; and it is of importance that as His disciples, we understand through Him God’s relation to us. He is the world’s great Teacher. And what we know of God through Him is the measure of our acquaintance with a practical knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 7

Christ stooped to take man’s nature that He might reveal God’s sentiments toward the fallen race. Divinity and humanity combined were brought within the reach of all, that fallen man might reveal the image of God. Christ assumed our nature to counterwork Satan’s false principles. He came to give by His ministry an expression of the mind of God. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 8

“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that hath sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” “As he spake these words, many of the Jews believed on him.” [John 8:28-32.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 9

The ordinance of feet washing was to be observed by the disciples that they might ever keep in mind the lessons of humility and ministry that Christ had given them. Not long before this, John and James had come to Christ with the request, “Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would you that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.” [Mark 10:35-37.] The other disciples were very much displeased by this request. Jesus called them all to him, and explained to them, “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so it shall not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” [Verses 42-45.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 10

These words should be studied, appreciated, and obeyed. The spirit of selfishness that led the disciples to ask for the first place would, if cherished, have resulted in a course of self-serving, and they would have been eternally lost. The sentiments of many who claim to be sons and daughters of God need to be greatly changed. The Son of God was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. His example should be followed by all who name His name. “We are laborers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” [1 Corinthians 3:9.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 11

Those who for Christ’s sake minister to the hungry, and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, because they see in every being a soul for whom the Saviour died, those who do not exalt themselves over their fellow beings, but minister to their necessities, are doing the work Christ came into the world to do. For them a reward is prepared by the Father. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 12

Christ’s ministry was performed under the law of service, and He says to us, “Without me ye can do nothing.” [John 15:5.] After His ascension, He appeared to His disciples, who had returned to their fishing, standing on the shore. So wearied and discouraged were they that at first they did not recognize His voice. He asked them if they had taken anything, and the mournful reply came back, “We have toiled all night, and have taken nothing.” [John 21:5, 6; Luke 5:5.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 13

In clear, calm tones, Christ’s words sounded over the water, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.” [John 21:6.] They hastened to do His bidding, yet saying at the same time “We have toiled all night without success; it is not likely that we shall be successful now.” But the success that follows obedience crowned their efforts. They were not able to draw in the net, so full was it with fish. Immediately they forgot the fruitless labor of the night. They saw Jesus as a risen Saviour, and believed in Him. From this miracle they learned the lesson all need to learn—that without the co-operation of Christ all work will be hard and profitless. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 14

If we would work as Christ worked, we must have the mind of Christ. He cannot co-operate with those whose lives reveal variance, strife, and bitterness. Those who cherish these attributes are not susceptible to the influence of the Holy Spirit. The divine Comforter strives with them, but they close the door of their hearts to its gracious pleadings, desiring to be left alone in their foolish, selfish perversity. They find a satisfaction, a kind of rest without pardon, without wearing Christ’s yoke and learning His meekness and lowliness. But let adversity come, and they find that they are leaning on a broken reed. These mistakes and delusions are to be corrected. A most solemn work, full of responsibility and accountability, is to be done. There is no peace to the wicked. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 15

Difference and dissension will be seen among those who are not chosen by the Lord, but let it not spring up and bear fruit among those who profess to be representing Christ. There is no work more sacred for Christians than to maintain peace among themselves. Then they present to the world the unity that Christ prayed might exist, and bear witness that God sent Christ into the world to redeem the world. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 16

There is an object before all Christians. They are to do the work Christ did while here on earth. “Wist ye not,” He said, “that I must be about my Father’s business?” [Luke 2:49.] I came to show what the Lord requires of all who would win eternal life. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 17

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are to have an abiding sense that we are in the service of the Lord. The world is full of those who need to be ministered unto—the weak, the helpless, the ignorant. Christ’s followers should cherish no selfish motives, no feeling of self-exaltation. He who shows that he desires the highest place, irrespective of those around him, who thinks that he must be specially favored, is far from grasping the meaning of Christ’s words, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” [Matthew 20:28.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 18

On special occasions, some indulge sentimental feelings, which lead to impulsive movements. They may think that they are working for Christ, but they are not. Their zeal soon goes, and then Christ’s service is neglected. Such neither comprehend nor act out the words, “We are laborers together with God.” [1 Corinthians 3:9.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 19

The principles of God’s law are to be imprinted on our hearts, and carried into every phase of life. Our children should be taught obedience to God’s commandments. When this law is graven on our hearts, we shall indeed minister to others for Christ’s sake. But there are many who do not live out Christ’s merciful, unselfish life. Some who think themselves excellent Christians do not understand what constitutes service for God. They plan and study to please themselves. They act only in reference to self. Time is of value to them only as they can gather for themselves. In all business transactions this is their object. Not for others but for themselves do they minister. God created them to live in a world where unselfish service must be performed. He designed them to help their fellow men in every possible way. But in the place of doing this, they grasp everything for themselves. The important personage “I” is so large, that they cannot see anything else. They are not in touch with humanity. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 20

Those who thus live for self are like the fig tree, which made every pretension, but was fruitless. When Christ came to it, seeking fruit because He was hungry, no fruit rewarded His search. A withering curse was pronounced on this tree. “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever,” Christ said, and presently the fig tree withered away. [Matthew 21:19.] 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 21

This fruitless tree symbolizes the condition of the Jewish nation at that time. Every opportunity and privilege was granted them. Christ came to show them the way to life. But they were determined to walk in their own selfish way, and the Lord gave them up as joined to their idols. He left them to perish in the destruction of Jerusalem. Had they kept the law of God, they would have done the same unselfish work Christ did, and would have fulfilled God’s purpose for them. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 22

The fruitless fig tree is a warning to every nation, every family, every individual. The Jewish people brought ruin on themselves by refusing to minister to others. Love for God and for their fellow men was eclipsed by pride and self-sufficiency. Christ came to counteract this influence. He lived the law of God by ministering to those around Him. By the illustration drawn from the fig tree He sought to give His disciples a lesson they would never forget. No one can live the law of God without ministering to others. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 23

The ordinance of feet washing most forcibly illustrates the necessity of true humility. While the disciples were contending for the highest place in the promised kingdom, Christ girded Himself, and performed the office of a servant by washing the feet of those who called Him Lord. He, the pure, spotless Lamb of God, was presenting Himself as a sin-offering; and as He now ate the Passover with His disciples, He put an end to the sacrifices which for four thousand years had been offered. In the place of the national festival which the Jewish people had observed, He instituted a memorial service, in the ceremony of feet washing, and the sacramental supper, to be observed by His followers through all time and in every country. These should ever repeat Christ’s act, that all may see that true service called for unselfish ministry. 12LtMs, Ms 43, 1897, par. 24