By Luther W. Martin
The “Last Supper” was the occasion of Christ’s last observance of the Jewish Passover. For the biblical record of the institution of the Passover, see Exodus 12. After the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), the Passover Supper continued to be observed privately in their homes, by Jews who rejected Christ.
At the conclusion of this Passover meal, Christ introduced to his disciples the “Lord’s Supper,” consisting only of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine (Matt. 26:26-30; Mk. 14:22-26; Lk. 22:14-22). He warned that he would not again partake of this supper “until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk. 22:18). Paul indicates the fulfillment of this prophecy by his reference to the “Lord’s table” in the assembly at Corinth (1 Cor. 10:21), and by his report of the Lord’s institution of his supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
It was the Corinthians’ abuse in observing the Lord’s Supper that prompted the Apostle Paul strictly to charge them to retain the Lord’s Supper as a spiritual observance, rather than a social activity (1 Cor. 11:20-22,33-34). Apparently the Corinthians were continuing the Jewish socio-religio activity, wherein a common meal was eaten in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper, which Paul, by inspiration, firmly condemned. Further Scripture passages indicate that isolated instances of such abuse of the Lord’s Supper occurred at places other than Corinth.
Jude Reminds Jewish Christians of Jewish History
(Verse 3). “Contend earnestly for the faith!”
(Verse 4). “Certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into licentiousness.”
(Verses 5-11). “I want to remind you, though you once knew this,” that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who were not faithful. Jude lists:
(1) The angels who left their first estate.
(2) Sodom and Gomorrah.
(3) Dreamers, who defiled the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
(a) Murder. They have gone in the way of Cain (Gen. 4:4-12). The way of bloodless sacrifice, and lacking in brotherly love.
(b) Covetousness. They have run greedily for profit in the error of Balaam, thinking of God as the servant of man’s convenience, rather than the God of man’s destiny. They were willing to seduce God’s faithful into idolatry for monetary reward.
(c) Rebellion. They have perished in the rebellion of Korah (Num. 16:1-35). See the arrogance of a self-devised faith, the doctrines and commandments of men. They fail to distinguish between the socio-politico kingdoms of men and the spiritual kingdom of God!
Jude then devotes several thoughts to be considered, in describing the utter degradation of these ungodly people, and the abuses of the Lord’s Supper (similar to that of Corinth).
(Verses 12-13). “These are spots in your love fasts.” Like black soiled spots upon a clean white surface, they made a gluttonous feast in the midst of the Lord’s Supper. These Jewish Christians were continuing the abuses of Corinth, and even including ungodly persons in their love meals. The word translated “spots,” is spilades, “sunken rocks” indicating in nautical language, dangerous reefs upon which the faithful may founder and capsize.
Five Metaphors Are Used
(1) Rocks in your love meals. They break a tooth, bringing injury, and hindrance to your eating indefinitely.
(2) Clouds without water, carried by the winds. They raise the farmer’s hopes, but bring only disappointment.
(3) Trees with withered fruit, twice dead, and up-rooted. There is an expectation of fruit, but produce only disillusionment.
(4) Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame, and leaving only dregs and scum upon the shore.
(5) Stars, wandering from their proper orbits, to outer darkness, forever.
Wm. Burkitt’s Notes – 1844
Concerning Jude 12:
“Our apostle having set forth these seducers in the foregoing verses by sundry examples, he now comes to set forth by several similitudes and resemblances. 1. He calls them spots in their love-feasts, (the infamy of their lives being a blemish and scandal to their Christian assemblies), feeding without fear either of offending God or man. 2. He calls them clouds without water, promising rain, but yielding none; making a show of knowledge, but indeed having none; and they are driven (as clouds by the wind) from one vanity to another. 3. Trees they are, but like them in autumn which have neither leaves nor fruit: nay, trees twice dead, in sin before conversion, and in respect of their apostasy, after their conversion, and so shall be plucked up by the roots. 4. They are like raging waves of the sea, turbulent and tumultuous, foaming out at their mouths the filthiness and impurity that boileth in their hearts. 5. Wandering stars, or teachers unstable, departing from the true faith delivered to them; but for these illuminated and knowing teachers is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Vol. II, p. 751).
The Apostle Peter Teaches the Gentiles on This Suhject! 2 Peter 2
(Verses 1-3). “There were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you.”
(a) “Who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.”
(1) Denying the Lord who bought them.
(2) Bringing on themselves swift destruction.
(b) “Many will follow their destructive ways.”
(c) “Thus the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
(d) “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words.”
(Verse 4). “God did not spare the angels who sinned.”
(Verse 5). “God did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah.”
(Verse 6). “God turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes.”
(Verse 7). “God delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed with the filthy conduct of the wicked.”
(Verse 9). “Then . . . the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of Judgment.”
Notice the Similarity Between Jude and 2 Peter 2
(Verses 12-14). “But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as . . .”
(a) “Those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.”
(b) “Spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you.”
(c) “Having eyes full of adultery, that cannot cease from sin.”
(d) “Beguiling unstable souls.”
(e) “They have a heart trained in covetous practices.
(f) “(They) are accursed children.”
(Verses 15-16). “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray.”
(a) “Following the way of Balaam . . . of unrighteousness . . . and was rebuked for his iniquity.”
(Verse 17). “These are. . “
(a) “Wells without water.”
(b) “Clouds carried by a tempest, to whom the gloom of darkness is reserved forever.”
(Verse 18). “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness,. . . “
(a) “They allure through the lusts of the flesh.”
(b) “Through licentiousness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.”
(c) “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption.”
(Verse 20-22). “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
“For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
“But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.'”
Letter of Pliny to the Roman Emperor Trajan (107 A.D.)
And this was the account which they gave me of the nature of the religion they once had professed, whether it deserves the name of a crime or error; namely, that they were accustomed on a stated day to assemble before sunrise, and to join together in singing hymns to Christ as to a deity; binding themselves as with a solemn oath not to commit any kind of wickedness; to be guilty neither of theft, robbery, nor adultery; never to break Wpromise, or to keep back a deposit when called upon. Their worship being concluded, it was their custom to separate, and meet together again for a repast, promiscuous indeed, and without any distinction of rank or sex, but perfectly harmless; and even from this they desisted, since the publication of my edict, in which, agreeably to your orders, I forbade any societies of that sort” (History of the Christian Church, by Win. Jones, 1831, p. 119).
The service of the Christians at which the Lord’s Supper was taken, was typically before sunrise on the first day of the week. In Bithynia, where Pliny was governor, this purely religious service was not illegal. But in some parts of the Roman Empire when the Christians met again, for a common meal, this was an illegal meeting, and was prohibited by Trajan, and enforced by Pliny.
At this time in the Roman Empire, Emperor Traj an was fearful of any gathering, which could indeed lead to mob action! For example, Trajan refused permission for a group of one hundred and fifty firemen in the city of Nicomedia, to form a body or organization. Similarly, it was forbidden that “poor people” join together for a common meal at common expense. All such unions were dangerous, and from the Emperor’s viewpoint, might assume a political character (The Church in the Roman Empire, Before A.D. 170, by W.M. Ramsay, 1893, pp. 206,214-215,219,358).
Tertullian on the “Feast of Charity” (155-222 A.D.)
“Its object is evident from its name, which signifies love. In these feasts, therefore, we testify our love towards our poorer brethren, by relieving their wants. We commence the entertainment by offering up a prayer to God; and after eating and drinking in moderation, we wash our hands, and lights being introduced, each individual is invited to address God in a psalm, either taken from the Scriptures or the produce of his own meditations. The feast concludes, as it began, with prayer” (The Ecclesiastical History of the Second and Third Centuries, From the Writings of Tertullian, London, pp. 211-212).
If Tertullian is to be believed, the grossest abuses were introduced into the “love feasts,” even in his time. In his tract entitled de Jejunis, he charges the orthodox with the very same licentious practices in their feasts of charity which the pagans were in the habit of imputing, to the entire body of Christians.
The beginning of the Lord’s church in Jerusalem (Acts 2), produced a situation wherein many of the converts, from every nation under heaven, were temporary residents of Jerusalem, not wishing to leave their new-found relationship, to return to their homes where no assembly of the faithful yet existed.
Thus was necessitated the immediate sharing of their possessions by the Jerusalem residents, with their new brethren stranded in that city. The early chapters of Acts of the Apostles tell of the charity and generosity of the Jerusalem Christians. This situation also required as both a convenience and “togetherness,” the taking of many meals in common; the selling of properties, and meeting of needs (Acts 2:44; 4:32; 6:1-7).
This “fraternal communism” was not authorization for the Lord’s people to become a “Communistic State,” any more than it authorized a system of “Ecclesiastical Cafeterias” for feeding great numbers, In Jerusalem, the brethren ate common meals together, as well as partaking of the Supper of the Lord, at the proper time. This also occurred at Troas (Acts 20:6-11). It got out-of-hand when such a practice occurred at Corinth, and Paul condemned the abuses.
It also appears that Jude saw fit to deal with the same problem (v. 12). This is the only passage where the word agape is used, and translated “feast of charity,” “love feast,” or “love meal,” depending upon the translator. Peter deals with the same abuse (2 Pet. 2:13), but does not use agape for love or charity.
The only occasion for using the term “love feast” in Scripture, is when it was an abuse, described by Jude, alluded to by Peter, and previously condemned at Corinth by Paul.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 12, pp. 368-370
June 21, 1990