Teachings of Menno Simons | 6

26. The Washing of the Saints' Feet

The third ordinance is the washing of feet of the saints which Jesus Christ has commanded His disciples (John 13:4-17), and this for two reasons:

The first is that He would have us know that He Himself must cleanse us after the inner man and that we must by Him be washed from the sin which besets us, (Heb. 12:1) from all uncleanness of the flesh and spirit,

that we may become purer from day to day, as it is written: "He that is pure, let him become purer, he who is holy, let him become more holy," etc. (Rev. 22:11).

And this [cleansing by the Lord] is needful, yea it must be if we would be saved:

Therefore Christ says to Peter:
"If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (John 13:8).
Then Peter answered:
"Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head."
To this Christ replied:
"He that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, and is clean every whit" (John 13:10).

By this He makes it clear that the feet washing wherewith Christ washes us is very necessary, and how it is signified,

inasmuch as those whom He does not wash have no part with Him and that those who have been washed by Him need no more than that their feet be washed and they are wholly clean.

For it is Christ who must wash us from our sins with His blood and He who is sprinkled and washed therewith needs no more than to have the earthly members, the evil lusts and desires of the flesh mortified and overcome and through grace he is wholly clean and no sin imputed unto him (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:1-7; Col. 3:5 , I John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; Rom. 8:13).

The second reason why Christ instituted the ordinance of feet washing is that we should humble ourselves before one another and that we hold our fellow-believers in the highest respect for the reason that they are the saints of God and the members of the body of Jesus Christ and that the Holy Ghost dwells in them. (Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3; I Pet. 5:5; Jas. 4:10; Col. 3:12,13; I Cor. 3:16).

These things Christ teaches us in these words:

"Ye call me Master and Lord and ye say well: for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.

Verily, verily, I say unto you. The servant is not greater than his lord neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:13-17).

Now if they are happy (blessed) who know and do this, how void of blessing shall those be who profess to be apostles and messengers of the Lord and do not know these things, or if they know, do not do them or teach others to do them.

27. Discipline

It is evident that a congregation or church cannot continue in the salutary doctrine and in a blameless and pious life without the proper practice of discipline.

Even as a city without a wall and gates, or a field without an enclosure or fence, or a house without walls and doors, so is also a church without the true apostolic exclusion or ban:

For it would be open to all deceiving spirits, all godless scorners and haughty despisers, all idolatrous and insolent transgressors, yes to all lewd debauchers and adulterers, as is the case with all the great sects of the world which style themselves, although improperly, churches of Christ.

In my opinion it is a leading characteristic, an honour and a means of prosperity for a true church to teach with Christian discretion the true apostolic exclusion and to observe it carefully with vigilant love according to the teaching of the holy divine Scriptures.

For so long as the pastors and teachers [in the primitive Christian church] earnestly taught and required a pious, godly life, served baptism and the Supper to the godly alone, and rightly practiced discipline according to the Scriptures, they were the church and congregation of Christ.

But as soon as they began to seek an easy, careless life, and hated the cross of Christ, they laid aside the rod, assured the people of peace, and gradually became loose in discipline, they became the church of Antichrist, Babel, and the world, as has, alas, been fully evident for many centuries.

Yea, my reader, if we had not with all earnestness maintained to the present time this means ordained of God - scriptural discipline - our people would, because of wicked ones, be a reproach to everybody,

while now, I trust they are in their weakness by the grace of God (although the wicked world will not acknowledge it) an example and a light to many.

The world knows no other excommunication but that when a great crime has been committed, the executioner bans the guilty one with the sword, gallows or fire and puts them to death for the sake of their evil doing.

It is evident that these words of Christ (Matt. 18) teach, in the first place:

if any one should err or sin against his brother through negligence, infirmity, inconsiderateness, inexperience, or ignorance, that he should not in consequence hate him, nor connive at his transgression, but out of true brotherly love admonish and reprove him, lest his brother fall into greater error and perish; but that he may by this means be brought to overcome his fault.

In the second place, these words teach us that he who has transgressed should receive the admonition of his brother in love and be again sincerely reconciled, as is also taught in Matt. 5:23, 24.

This is indeed the nature and disposition of true believers who are born from above of the holy seed of peace,

that if they trespass against a brother, they have neither peace nor tranquillity of heart until they have in true love satisfied him and are fully reconciled with him in Christ, and that without hypocrisy:

For, they are a generation of peace, children of love, who manifest their Christianity in the power, and testify by their deeds that they know God.

Thirdly, if the trespassing brother receives in obedient love the brotherly admonition given him in sincerity, is humbly reconciled and ceases from his error, the transgression should be forgotten and forgiven in all sincerity.

Even as God, for Jesus' sake forgives all our sins, so must we also in Christ forgive our neighbour all his transgression which he has committed against us.

And we must not, nor can, harbour any hatred or revenge against him, even if he should never repent, as we have the example in Christ and in Stephen.

From all of which it is more than clear that these three admonitions of which Christ here speaks, first between him and you alone, secondly before witnesses, and thirdly before the church,

do not refer to all offensive, carnal sins of which the eternal sentence of death is the penalty, but to the shortcomings between brother and brother only.

Therefore take heed. If you see your brother sin, do not pass by him as one that is not concerned about his soul,

but if his fall be not unto death, help him to arise immediately, by loving admonition and brotherly instruction, before you eat, drink, sleep or do anything else, as one who ardently seeks his salvation, lest your poor erring brother be hardened in his sin, and perish.

But if he receive the admonitions of his faithful brethren, if he confess his fall, if he be sorry, promise to better his life, show works and fruits of penitence, then receive him as a returning, beloved brother, no matter how deep may have been his fall.

But let him beware, lest he mock his God, for that he is received of the brethren does not avail if he be not accepted of God.

Let him, I say, take heed, that his accepting the admonitions, his sorrow, his promise of reformation and his penitence may be upright and true before God, for He searches the hearts and reins and He knows all intents and thoughts of men. (Jer. 17:10; John 2:25; Rom. 8:27).

If indeed his accepting the admonitions, his sorrow, promise and penitence do not proceed from a true purpose of heart and an earnest, burning desire,

but are only lukewarm and dissembling, spiritless, hypocritical, from the motive that he does not desire to be publicly excluded from the communion of the brethren,

he is yet excluded of Christ and is a hypocrite in the sight of God; nor will God at any time look upon him as being anything else.

For God, the righteous judge, does not judge according to the outward appearance, but solely according to the hidden intentions of the heart.

Say, beloved, inasmuch as the matter stands thus before God, of what avail is it to have the mere name of a Christian brother, if he have not the inward evangelical faith, love and unblameable life of a true brother of Jesus Christ?

Or of what avail is it to partake of the holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ with the brethren, if we have not the true fruits which are symbolized by this supper, showing forth the death of Christ, the love of the brethren and the peaceable unity of the faith in Jesus Christ?

So it is also of no avail to be in the fellowship of the brethren outwardly, if we are not inwardly in the communion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, brethren, no one is cut off by us, or excluded from the fellowship of the brethren but those who have already excluded and separated themselves, either by false doctrine, or by a blameable life, from Christ and His communion.

For we do not desire to exclude anyone but to receive them; not to cut off but to restore, not to reject but to win them back; not to afflict but to comfort, not to condemn but to save them, etc.

My brethren, this is the true reason why and to what end this cutting off or exclusion is so earnestly taught and commanded in the Scriptures, by Christ Jesus and His holy apostles,

first, for the sake of false doctrine, secondly, sinful, carnal life, further that the disciplined are to be admonished (those who are willing to accept admonition).

28. Qualification of Ministers

The true teachers, shepherds and labourers in His vineyard seek nothing but the eternal honour, glory and praise of God

and the true conversion, regeneration and salvation of those whose brotherly care is entrusted and commanded to them of God and His church.

Yea, He sends such as are unblameable both in doctrine and life, who are led by the Holy Spirit, who sincerely grieve and weep with Christ over those who do not realize the gracious time of their visitation;

who rejoice with all the angels of God over the conversion of sinners; who long for the salvation of all mankind as a hungry person hungers for bread;

 who so faithfully accept the word and truth of the Lord that they teach or practice not a word otherwise than Jesus Christ Himself has taught, practiced and commanded, the pure unadulterated Biblical word in the true sense and meaning of Christ and His apostles.

Firstly, we desire, according to the Word of God, that no bishop, pastor or teacher should in the church of the Lord be permitted to teach and administer the ordinances

except those who are found in the true doctrine, ordinances and life of our Lord Jesus Christ and are unblameable in all things (I Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6; Lev. 21:7; Ezek. 44:21).

For the Word of the Lord is truth (John 17:17), it is spirit and life (John 6:63), therefore it cannot be administered by the carnally minded, not by children of eternal death, nor the untrue,

but by the truthful, by the spiritually minded, by those who rightly confess Jesus Christ and who are assured of eternal life in their own hearts and who in Christ Jesus live unblameable before God, that they may say with Paul,

"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1).

29. Support of the Ministry

At all places where they established churches, the apostles ordained bishops and teachers who were unblameable in doctrine and life, and have never mentioned a stipulated annual salary, benefices or rents.

For they were men of God, servants of Christ, full of the love of God and their dear brethren, and through love, through an inward constraint

they laboured, taught, sought, pastured and watched, not only for one, two, or three hours a week in the synagogue, but at all times and in all places, in synagogues, streets, houses, mountains and fields.

And as they had received the knowledge of the kingdom of God, the truth, love, and Spirit of God, without price, so they were again ready to dispense it according to their ability to their needy brethren without price.

And as for the temporal necessaries of life, the church was sufficiently constrained through love and the Spirit and Word of God to give to such faithful servants of Christ and watchers over their souls all the necessaries of life, to assist them and provide for them that which they could not obtain themselves.

Say, kind reader, did you ever read in the Scriptures of any prophets, apostles, and shepherds who said to any cities, districts or villages:

if you will care for our necessaries of life, or if you will give us a certain amount of money, or revenue, we will teach you the Word of the Lord?

O no, reader, no. It never was and never will be the way of the holy prophets, apostles or servants of Christ. Of this we are sure.

30. The Social Message of the Church

In the fourth place some of them charge and assert that we have our property in common.

We reply that this charge is false and altogether without foundation. We do not teach nor practice the doctrine of having all property in common.

But we teach and maintain by the word of the Lord that all true believers are members of one body, are baptized by one Spirit into one body (I Cor. 10:18) and have one Lord and one God (Eph. 4:5, 6).

Inasmuch as they are thus one, therefore it is Christian and reasonable that they truly love one another and that the one member be solicitous for the welfare of the other, for both the Scriptures and nature teach it.

All Scripture urges charity and love, and it is the one sign by which a true Christian may be known, as the Lord says:

"By this shall all men know that ye art my disciples (that is, that ye are Christians) if ye have love one to another." John 13:35.

Beloved reader, it has not been heard of that an intelligent person clothes and cares for one part of his body and leaves the rest destitute and naked:

Oh, no, it is but natural to care for all the members. Thus it must be with those who are the Lord's church or body:

All who are born of God, are partakers of the Spirit of the Lord and are called into one body of love, according to the Scriptures, are ready by such love to serve their neighbours,

not only with money and goods, but also, according to the example of their Lord and Head, Jesus Christ, in an evangelical manner, with life and blood.

They exercise charity and love as much as they have ability; they suffer no one to be a beggar among them:

they distribute to the necessity of the saints, receive the miserable, take the stranger into their houses, console the afflicted, assist the needy, cloth the naked, feed the hungry, do not turn their face from the poor, and do not despise their own suffering members - their own flesh. Isa. 58:7, 8.

To repeat:

This love, charity and community we teach and practice, and have for seventeen years taught and practiced in such manner

that although we have to a great extent been robbed of our property and are yet robbed, and many a pious God-fearing father and mother has been put to death by the fire, water, or the sword, and we have no secure place of abode, as is manifest, and besides there are dangerous times,

yet, thanks be to God, none of the pious, nor any of their children who have been committed to us, have been found to beg.

Is it not an annoying, unbearable hypocrisy that they boast of following the word of God, and of being the true Christian church, and never realize that they have entirely lost the evidence of true Christianity:

For although they have plenty of everything and many of their own people fare sumptuously and live in voluptuousness, in superfluous expense,

going about in silk and velvet, gold and silver and all kinds of pomp and pride and furnish their houses with all manner of costly ornaments, and have their coffers well filled,

yet they suffer many of their poor afflicted members, although they are their fellow believers, have received one baptism and partaken of the same bread with them, to go begging,

some of them suffering from the bitterest want, hunger and need, and so many of their aged, sick, lame, blind members are compelled to beg their bread at their doors.

O, ministers, ministers, where is the power of the gospel which you preach?
Where is the signification of the Supper which you administer?
Where is the fruit of the Spirit you have received?

And the righteousness of your faith which you can paint and present so beautifully before the poor ignorant people? Is it not all hypocrisy that you preach and would pretend and maintain?

Are you not ashamed of your easy going gospel and worthless preaching and fruitless breaking-of-bread,

you who in so many years have not gathered sufficient strength from your gospel, teaching and sacraments that you have been able to preach your suffering, miserable members from the streets,

notwithstanding the Scripture plainly teaches and says:

"Whoso has this world's good and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?"

Also Moses: "There shall be no beggars among you." I John 3:17; Deut. 15:8.