What is a "love feast?"


What is an Agape Love Feast? Is it where food was served?


The phrase "love feast" only appears once in the Scriptures. "Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 11-13). The point is that sinners are making a blot on the righteous' love feasts. They are joining the righteous at the time of these feasts, but they are not truly a part of them.

Peter makes a similar statement. "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 those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (II Peter 2:12-17).

A feast is obviously a time when food is served, but it would be a mistake to instantly jump to the conclusion that we are talking about common meals. What is being emphasized is that there are evil people closely associating with the righteous while leading a life of sin and leading others into sin. Such was the warning of Jesus in the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. It also appears in the parable of the dragnet in Matthew 13:47-50. In the church, God's Kingdom, many will be brought in. The aim is to bring in the good, but get as many righteous as possible, it means that some wicked will come into the kingdom as well. In the end, at the Judgment Day, the righteous will be separated from the wicked. But until that time, we cannot assume that everyone in the church is a good person.

It is possible that Jude and Peter were using "feasts" in a figurative way to discuss the fellowship of Christians. But we also know that Paul, in speaking about sin in the Corinthian church stated, "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (I Corinthians 5:6-8). The feast alluded to here is the Lord's Supper. It is a memorial meal that had two elements: fruit of the vine and unleavened bread. Paul is discussing the need to try and keep the purity of the church and its worship as best we can by removing those involved in sin from the church.

Given the similarity of points between Jude, Peter, and Paul, the best possibility is that they are all referring to the Lord's Supper as a feast. For a Christian, the idea of calling the memorial supper of Christ's death a "love feast" is obvious. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).

If a person wishes to claim that a "love feast" is the gathering of Christians for common meals, they need to show both such usage in the New Testament and to show how such meals illustrate the problem of sin within the church which is the core point in Jude, Peter, and Paul's teachings.