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Friday, January 16, 2009

Three New Covenant Dramas

After Mrs. Williams’ example had caused me to seriously consider that God may well have given us three “dramas” to symbolize three important truths relative to our relationship with Him, my attention was drawn to Israel just prior to the giving of the Old Covenant at Mt. Sinai. God had given them 3 physical practices which would distinguish them from all other peoples on earth. They were to be distinguished by:
(1) Circumcision of all their male children on the 8th day after birth. (This was a once for all action done shortly after birth.)
(2) Observance of the Passover,a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt. (This was a meal that was eaten annually as a memorial of deliverance.)
(3) The 7th day sabbath was to be observed by them forever. (This was a continual practice to remind them of their unique relationship to their God.)

In a similar way, I began to wonder if the three “dramas" we have been considering have been designed by God to distinguish God’s New Covenant people, the ekklesia, from all other peoples on earth.
(1) Baptism is a one time event to be done immediately after new birth.
(2) The Lord’s Supper is the eating of a meal in memory of the One who delivered us from sin and this is to be done as often as we eat bread and drink the cup.
(3) Acknowledgment of headship by what we do with our heads while praying and prophesying is a continual testimony to the fact of our submission to God’s established order of headship.

Notice that these three dramas have a number of similarities:
(1) Each has two components which are meaningless if they stand alone and thus each requires two actions of obedience:
- Baptism is what is done with the dead and the living (burial by immersion and raising
by emergence).
- The Lord’s Supper is what is done with the bread and the cup. (eating and drinking).
-The acknowledgment of headship is what is done with the head and the hair. (covering
or uncovering the head while praying or prophesying and keeping men’s hair from getting long and allowing women’s hair to grow long.)

(2) Each dramatizes two aspects of the believer’s relationship to Christ:
-The first is the acknowledgment of relationship, i.e. our union with Christ in death and
resurrection. Rom.6:3-11
-The second is the enjoyment of fellowship, i.e. our communion in the body and blood
of Christ. I Cor.10:16-22
-The third is the acknowledgment of headship, i.e. our submission for the honour and
glory of Christ. I Cor.11:3-15

(3)Each drama has a primary audience for whom it is intended:
-The intended audience of a believer’s baptism is God. “Baptism…the answer of a good
conscience towards God.” I Pet.3:21 Some baptisms had no human audience but all were seen of God. Acts 8:38; 16:25-33
-The intended audience of the Lord’s Supper is people. “Ye do shew the Lord’s death until He
come” I Cor.11:26. “Shew” is the word “proclaim” which is always used in scripture of addresses to people.
-The intended audience of what believers do with their heads and their hair is the angels.

“…because of the angels.” I Cor.11:10. Angels cannot read our minds but do observe our actions and our speech.

(4)The “players” in each of these dramas are to be a particular kind of people:
-Those who are baptized are to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, i.e. they that gladly
receive His Word. Matt.28:19 and Acts 2:41
-Those who remember the Lord Jesus in breaking of bread are saints who call on the
name of the Lord. I Cor.1:2
-Those who to acknowledge God’s order of headship are also saints who call on the name
of the Lord. I Cor.1:2

(5)Each of these dramas are to be "played out" at particular times:
-Folks are not to be baptized as unbelievers but only after they have been baptized in
the Spirit into the Body of Christ. Rom.6:3; I Cor.12:13
-Believers are to remember the Lord as often as they eat the bread and drink the cup.
I Cor.11:24-26. The scriptural pattern for doing this is daily. Acts 2:42,46 Just as steadfast
continuance in the apostles' doctrine and in prayer means daily attention to those practices, so too steadfast continuance in fellowship in breaking of bread also means that this will be a daily priority.
-Believing men and women are to uncover/cover their heads whenever they,
themselves, pray or prophesy; and believing men are to keep their hair from growing long and believing women are to allow their hair to grow long continuously. I Cor.11:4-15

(6) "Players” in each of these dramas have a common reason for doing so:
-Baptism is commanded by the Lord Jesus. Matt.28:19
-Breaking bread in remembrance of the Lord Jesus is also commanded by Him.
Luke 22:19
-The written instructions relative to what men and women are to do with their heads and
their hair, I Cor.11:1-16 are also the commandments of the Lord. I Cor.14:37

I have often thanked the Lord for Mrs. Mabel Williams, her quiet and godly example, and how He used her to challenge my thinking and cause me to consider these matters much more fully after I observed her obedience to Him in the privacy of her own home!


Chris said...

Bruce, Very interesting and thoughtful posting. Would you consider another physical practice to add to your list? I'm thinking of Jesus' washing of the disciples's feet and saying that they would be blessed when they did the same. The corresponding OC physical practice might be the "washings" required by the Law.

-Chris Scarborough
(author of "The New Covenant and the Law of Christ." available at Amazon.

Bruce Woodford said...

Hi Chris, Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. The Lord Je3sus washed His disciples' feet and thereby demonstrated then pattern of New Covenant leadership (service from beneath in contrast to that of Gentile kings who love to "lord it over" others)! However, I would be reticent to include foot washing as a "New Covenant drama" as the Lord Jesus never actually commanded it, the apostles never taught it and we see no example of it in New Covenant ekklesias. But I am willing to learn! Can you share more of your own thoughts in this regard?

P.S. Challenge my thinking some more!

Chris said...

Bruce, Thanks for your interesting reply. Your comment, "no example of it in New Covenant ekklesias" seems a rather broad statement. It seems to me that there are solid examples in the early church teachings and practice. So, I'm curious as to where you have researched this topic to come up with this conclusion?


PS Would you like to have a complimentary copy of my book, "The New Covenant and the Law of Christ"?

My blog:

Bruce Woodford said...

Hi Chris,

I love a challenge and want to learn (and there are many things I haven't learned yet!)

My simple word study of "foot" and "feet" in the New Covenant scriptures (the scriptures written after the New Covenant was established) revealed not one recorded event of foot washing, nor any teaching on the subject.

I Tim.5:10 is the only mention of it which I found. It indicates that having "washed the saints' feet" was an indication that a widow was qualified for assistance by the ekklesia.

But as I said, I am willing to learn. So Chris, what other examples of early New Covenant ekklesia teaching and practice did you have in mind relative to foot washing?

Look forward to learning more!

Your brother in Christ, Bruce

Chris said...

Bruce, I have pasted the particular paragraph I had in mind below. The link is below the paragraph. I'm not a scholar or a seminary or Bible college man, but for what they're worth, here are some thoughts:

I guess my thinking is like this- the writings of the early church fathers can constitute a pretty reliable record of many historical details of the early church. I'm also thinking that that we are not limited to Scriptures for evidence of how the church functioned. (Maybe that's the difference between our views?)

Anyway, the paragraph from the online Mennonite encylop below clearly indicates that Tertullian, Ambrose, and Augustine were aware that the practice was done somewhere, even if it wasn't universally practiced in the early church. In my mind this constitutes enough historicla evidence to call into question your statement to the effect that there is no evidence that the early church ever washed feet (if I understood your statement).

In addition, if Jesus had told the discipiles to merely serve one another after washing their feet, it might mean one thing. But he didn't say "serve one another humbly," he said "wash each other's feet" (I'm parphrasing).

I have never been part of a church that practices this, but I know of churches that do. I have heard moving testimonies of men who have participated, as to the spiritual meaning and impact that they experience in this practice.

Of course I can't clam certainty as to the correctness of my understanding, but I feel it's reasonable.

In Jesus,


Tertullian (145-220) of North Africa in his De Corona is the first Church Father to indicate that feetwashing was practiced in his time, but he gives no clue as to by whom or how. Ambrose of Milan (340-97) states that it was not the practice of the Roman Church, but endorses it as a symbol of sanctification. Augustine mentions it as being rejected by some. Knight (p. 816) says flatly that feetwashing always remained "a purely local peculiarity, introduced at an early date into some parts of the Catholic Church, but never universal." Among the monks in particular, the hospitality custom of feetwashing was widely practiced, and often in the name of Christ, but not as a universal ordinance of the church. For the monks the observance was often intended to express humility. St. Benedict's Rule (A.D. 529) for the Benedictine Order prescribed hospitality feetwashing in addition to a communal feetwashing for humility.

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