Four Ordinances

Four Ordinances


According to Webster’s 1828, an “ordinance” is “A rule established by authority; a permanent rule of action.” 

There are many rules, or laws, of God for the ekklesia. Remember, Jesus has been set over ekklesia as their head and direct leader. I want to provide comments on what I think are very specific commands or examples Christ gave his apostles that we can find observed in the New Testament. Unfortunately, not all ekklesias are practicing these ordinances. For the most part, these ordinances are common and they serve incredibly important roles in the lives of believers—each one pictures and aspect of who Christ is and who we are to be. These need to be better observed.


This ordinance is performed in the name of the "Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,"[1] or in the name of Jesus Christ.[2] Really, this simply means that the rite is performed by the authority of the one who granted it. In this case either the Father or his son in the power of God's spirit. This is demonstrated throughout Acts. To be honest, there's no reference made to what name John or Jesus' disciples baptized in.[*] There's no reason to suppose anything special has to be said at all. 

Baptism means to dip or immerse. It doesn't mean to sprinkle or pour. Only born-again, consenting people can be baptized.[3] Baptism is important because it's a picture of the the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism doesn't redeem a sinner, but it depicts how a sinner has been redeemed.[4]  


Many oppose this ordinance on the grounds that it makes them feel uncomfortable. These critics are no different than Peter who said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet."[5] However, Peter was rebuked by the Lord. These people claim the passage where this command is given is merely figurative and not binding. But the text is painfully obvious: Jesus Christ commands and expects his followers to wash one another’s feet, saying, “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.”[6]

This ordinance is important for a number of reasons:
  • Jesus Christ commanded us to perform this task, and we're to obey him
  • It reminds us of Christ’s humility and tests our faithfulness, humility, and love for the brethren
  • It's another picture of washing, in this case, sanctification. Jesus said, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all."[7] Jesus was demonstrating the fact that truly born again people are totally cleansed in the spirit, but will, from time to time, need to “wash” again their feet (or flesh). In other words, though a person is born again, he or she still sins and will need to confess and forsake their sin to maintain fellowship with him.[8] This obviously couldn't be true for Judas because he wasn't born again. Nevertheless, Judas was present and partook.  
Another significant detail is that Feetwashing was observed after the Passover and just before Christ instituted the his Supper (Communion). This sets the order in which these things are to be done. Whenever the Lord’s Table is going to be observed by the brethren, Feetwashing would, ideally, take place prior. Note: some groups split the men and women when they do this.

Lord's Supper

Also known as “Communion” and sometimes "Passover," this ordinance, like feetwashing, is restricted to members of local, visible churches.[9] This is referred to as "close/ closed communion." Only those of like faith and practice are able to participate. This event is enjoyed by those who havn't been banned from the table due to gross sin. Some believe Judas was excused just prior to the introduction of the Lord's Supper, after the feetwashing. If this is the case, then this sets a standard of purity in the observance of the ordinance. Members of an ekklesia known to be an apostate or in unrepentant, wicked sin should be banned from the table.

Actual wine and unleavened bread are symbols of Christ’s pure blood and body, which was shed and broken. Juice may be a wise substitute to accommodate brothers or sisters who struggle with alcohol use. Use discernment and show grace. Lastly, you'll note that it's to be observed in the evening, just as it was when Christ instituted it.[10] Note: some groups split the men and women when they do this.

Holy Kiss[**]

There are groups who would add the "holy kiss" to this list, and for good reason. Though we find no command by Jesus to do such, we know that this was a common way of greeting people, and still is in many areas around the world. Jesus was betrayed with a kiss, and we see exhortations in some epistles to do this. So we have a good reason to believe this was done.[11] Note: some groups split the men and women when they do this. (They don't allow men and women to greet one another.) However, Jesus himself welcomed a kiss from a woman.[12] We must be careful not to go beyond what we see practiced by the Lord Jesus and invent needless traditions of man.

The significance of this ordinance may be these following reasons:
  • It's welcomed and performed by Jesus and the disciples
  • It represents and expresses charity and unity among the brethren
  • It was never repealed except by those who're disinterested in New Testament practice
I can't find any reason not to perform this ordinance. However, I wouldn't expect an uninformed person to welcome one, either. It's important to understand this isn't a sensual performance. It's simply a peck on a cheek.

When followed, these are blessings to you and those you share fellowship with. May the Lord help you to not only hear but do these things.


[1] Matthew 16:18,19; 28:19,20; Mark 16:15. Assuming Jesus commanded such. Biblical Unitarians aren't in agreement on whether or not the "formula" is a forgery or not. It's no matter. We see the apostles baptizing in Jesus' name only in Acts, and we're uncertain what name John and Jesus' disciples baptized in when we read the Gospels.[*] John 3:22-27

[2] Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5

[3]  Matthew 3:13-17; Acts 8:36-39

[4] Acts 2:41,42; 1 Peter 3:21

[5]  John 13:8, KJV

[6] John 13:14,15, KJV

[7] John 13:10, KJV

[8] 1 John 1:8-10, KJV

[9] Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-30; John 13-17. This conclusion is determined by the fact that only Jesus' closest disciples were welcomed and present. Anyone who is a member of a local, visible ekklesia is welcome. Nobody outside of the fellowship was present or invited (i.e., the multitudes).

[10] Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17

[11] 1 Peter 5:14

[12] Luke 7:45

[**] There are at least 10 uses of the word "kiss" in the New Testament. The Greek, as found in Strong's is "philēma (fil'-ay-mah), From G5368; a kiss: - kiss." In other words, it means kiss, not "hug," "handshake," "high-five," "chest bump," or a friendly "nod."