By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Would Jude 12 provide authority for fellowship meals in fellowship halls, since these love-feasts were approved activities for Christian fellowship?
Reply: Jude 12, the verse referred to in the question reads as follows: “These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you. . . . ” This, the first part of the verse, is our concern, love-feasts.
What we know of love-feasts is provided by historians. The Scriptures only mention them, but they do not explain them. From men who have written about the love-feasts (agapais), we are told that they consisted of the sharing of good by the wealthier with the poorer as a means of charity.
Some hold to the view that it was a love-feast which preceded the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 1:17-22) and that it had divine approval. There is no evidence, however, that the feast in the Corinthian passage is identified as the love-feast mentioned in Jude 12. It is in order to note that Paul asked the Corinthian brethren, “What, have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you?” (1 Cor. 11:22) This question is significant to our study. It is obvious that this meal (whatever it was) was to be eaten in their houses, not where the Lord’s Supper was to be observed. It was customary in heathen festivals for each one to bring his own food. Some of these Corinthians had been pagans and it is possible that they were engaged in some kind of heathen feast. Some contend that the Corinthians had made a common meal out of the Lord’s Supper and thus had corrupted it. In either case, a common meal was not to be a part of the Lord’s Supper, nor was it in any way to be connected with it. We do know that whether they ate a meal before the Lord’s Supper, or whether they had made a common meal out of the Lord’s Supper, it made it impossible for them to eat the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). In contrast to the meal they had eaten (in which one was hungry and another was drunk), the Lord’s Supper is to be shared jointly by all Christians.
That Christians shared in common meals at home, we do not deny (Acts 2:46), but there is no scriptural proof that they were church sponsored. The only meal which is to be provided by the church for Christians is the Lord’s Supper. It is joint participation, fellowship (Gr. koinonia), as Christians assemble together to commemorate their Lord’s death and proclaim His future coming (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
From what we learn about love-feasts in secular history, they were provided by individuals and were for charitable reasons. The rich provided for the poor. These feasts, as mentioned in Jude 12, do not in any way justify church-sponsored socials or fellowship halls for feasting. Such practices are contrary to the primary work of the church, which is to preach the gospel (1 Tim. 3:14,15). We must always be careful to distinguish what the Scriptures authorize the church to do from what they authorize individuals to do.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 18, p. 549
September 19, 1985