"Love Feasts"

Vestal Chaffin
Chicago, Illinois

Some time ago a question was put in our "Question Box" requesting that I make some comments on 2 Peter 2: 13, and Jude 12. Since there seems to be a general interest in the meaning of these passages, these comments are now submitted for publication in Truth Magazine.

The verses referred to read: "And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you" (2 Pet. 2:13). "These are spots (hidden rocks) in your feasts of charity, (love-feasts) when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots" (Jude). In quoting Jude 12, I inserted in parenthesis the words used in the American Standard Version, to help us get a better picture of what is said.

We notice in Jude 12, the expression, "feasts of charity," or "love-feasts," is used by the writer. There was some kind of a "feast" in which the early Christians engaged, in some way, and at some time, that is referred to as "feasts of charity," or "love-feasts." All that the Bible says about these "feasts" is in Jude 12, and possibly alluded to in 2 Peter 2:13. Some have thought that refers to a spiritual feast, of spiritual teaching. But many of the early writers concerning early Christianity, mention "feasts" that they refer to as the "agape," "love-feasts,' or "feasts of charity."

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, quotes Tertullian, who lived from about 150 to 240 A. D., as saying, "Our supper bears a name which tells exactly what it is; it is called by the word which in Greek means 'affection'. " From this same source we learn that "The Agape served for the refreshment of the poorer brethren, as well as for the general edification . . . They were held at the time of the principal meal, and frequently were prolonged until dark."" From the indications of the Syriac Didascalia and the Egyptian liturgical books as well as the canons of the Councils of Gangra and Laodicea it may be inferred that the giving of these feasts and the inviting to them of widows and the poor was, in the East, one of the forms usually taken by the benevolence of the wealthier members of the Church." (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 1, pp. 80, 81).

Adam Clark says concerning these feasts, "Among the ancients, the richer members of the Church made an occasional general feast, at which all the members attended, and the poor and the rich ate together. The fatherless, the widows, and the strangers were invited to these feasts, and their eating together was a proof of their love to each other; whence such entertainments were called love feasts." (Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 954).

From quite a number of sources of information that we have consulted, it seems to be the consensus of opinion that these "feasts" were conducted as a social affair. Many times the richer members for the benefit of poorer members, and probably to promote love among the Disciples of Christ gave them.

Some of our brethren have for the past few years referred to these passages to try to justify the church going into the "entertainment" business, or the entertaining of members and others at the expense of the church. There is nothing in these verses or any other verses to suggest that these "feasts" were put on by the church, or sponsored by the church. There is not a passage of scripture in the Bible that even begins to justify the church furnishing "entertainment" as such, for anybody, at any time, under any circumstance. If there is, let those who advocate and practice such things produce the passage. It is not the mission of the Lord's church to engage in social activities. Let some one affirm that it is, and I will gladly deny it, either in a public or private discussion.

A man is hard pressed when he resorts to Acts 20:7, to prove (?) that the church conducted "love-feasts." This passage could not refer to anything other than the regular meeting of the saints to eat the Lord's Supper. When our Lord instituted the Supper, "He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it..." (Luke 22: 19). Nowhere in connection with its institution is it called the "Lord's Supper." But it is said that He took bread and brake it. In Acts 2:42 the Lord's Supper is referred to as "breaking of bread," as does Acts 20:7, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread." Here the specific day is mentioned, on which they assembled to "break bread." When the expression "breaking bread" refers to eating a common meal, the day is never specified, (cf Acts 2: 46) for they ate a common meal any or every day of the week.

Explanation of Jude 12

What is the significance of verse 12 in this short book? Let us notice the context. Jude exhorts "Them that are sanctified by God the Father," to "Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." V. 1-3. The reason given for this exhortation is, that "There are certain men crept in" among them. He describes these men as "Ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." V. 4. He then proceeded to warn them how that the Israelites were once saved from Egypt, but later were destroyed because of unbelief. Then he warned them by calling their attention to how God dealt with the angels who left their own habitation; and what befell the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their wickedness, v. 5-7. He further describes those men who had crept in as, "filthy dreamers," and said that they "corrupt themselves" in what they know naturally. V. 8,10. "Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." v. 11.

It seems that these persons, ungodly, unholy, impure and wicked as they were, continued to be fellowshipped by the faithful. Christians were forbidden to even eat with one who claimed to wear the name of Christ, yet who was "ungodly," engaging in "lasciviousness," and who "corrupt themselves," in such vice (1 Cor. 5:9-11). To eat a common meal with a man and include him in your social circle is to acknowledge him as a worthy equal. This, Christians cannot do! Is it any wonder then, that Jude says, "These are spots (hidden rocks) in your feasts of charity?" Truly, these are "hidden rocks" upon which the whole church of God can be wrecked. Such men must be marked, that the world may see our abhorrence of sin, and know that the church of God does not tolerate iniquity in its members.

Men, who pervert the Scriptures to try to justify church entertainment, church kitchens, church socials, and such like, are in the same class as those who are described by Jude as being "Spots in your feasts of charity." He warned that even Enoch prophesied of the terrible judgment that will come upon such people. v. 14-15.

Brethren, "keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

Truth Magazine, VIII: 1, pp. 20-21 October 1963