Question:

At ourcongregation we take communion on the first day of each week.Our preacher has decided to have small groups meet in homes and have a potluckdinner and again partake of the Lord's Supper,calling it an agape feast. This is causing a division in the church.He is using a lot of Scripture to support this. What is your view on this?

Answer:

First, a small point. A preacher's job is to teach the Gospel and to make sure truth is taught. He has no authority to decide how a congregation should operate. He can suggest ideas, just as any member can, for consideration. He is to take a stand opposing false ideas when they are being advocated. But operation of a church is by its members and its eldership. In a sense, this is a critical source of your division. You have a preacher running the congregation and some members don't like the direction in which he is running.

In this particular case they are right and the preacher is in the wrong. My guess is that he has been influenced by F. Lagard Smith's writings, such as Radical Restoration. There are others promoting this same doctrine, but Smith is probably the more noted writer. This false doctrine has been making in roads in a number of congregations. It sounds appealing on the surface because it advocates a more laid back approach to Christianity, but it violates many teachings in the New Testament.

You didn't state how your preacher is justifying this practice. Having "a lot of Scripture" isn't proof if those Scriptures are being used incorrectly.

Let's start with "love feast." The phrase only appears once in the New Testament: "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" (Jude 12). By itself there is no clue here as to what a love feast is. Thus you find false teachers flocking to such passages with all sorts of claims. But what you need to realize that the fact that there was something called a "love feast" it doesn't mean that Jude was speaking of a common meal.

The word translated as "love feasts" actually doesn't have the word "feasts" at all in the text. It is supplied by the translators. The word is agapais which is the word for "love" (agape) in the dative, plural femine form. I could not find a reason why this particular form of "love" is thought to deal with food. It does have the Greek article for "the" in front of it which indicates it is the name of something (i.e. "the love").

The only other place the particular Greek word for "feast with you" appears is "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" (II Peter 2:13). We have false teachers feasting with Christians and thus deceiving the righteous. The word for "feast with you" is a compound word suneuocheomoi. The word sun means "with" and eucheo means to feast sumptuously or to entertain. In neither Jude 12 or II Peter 2:13 is there a contextual assumption that the Lord's Supper is meant.

In the writings of early Christians I did find that they did consider agapais a reference to the Lord's Supper. "Yet you make a great ado only about the modest supper room of the Christians. Our feast explains itself by its name. The Greeks call it agape, i.e. love. [Tertullian, (c. A.D. 197), 3.47].

Let's assume for the moment that "the love" in Jude is a reference to the Lord's Supper. Does this mean it was a part of a larger meal? Advocates of combining a common meal with the Lord's Supper do so by citing that Jesus instigated his commenorative meal after the Passover feast. Since this is an example, we must then ask, are the meal and the Lord's Supper intentially joined (that is, an example we must follow) or incidentally joined (that is, it did happen originally, but it wasn't meant to be an example to follow).

Paul's writings make it clear that it was an incidental and not one we were expected to follow. "Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you" (I Corinthians 11:20-22). Paul scolds the Corinthians for treating the Lord's Supper as a common meal. Common meals are for the home. The Lord's Supper is set apart for a holy purpose and so is treated differently.

Again, early Christians understood this. "The apostle, restraining those who transgress in their conduct at entertainments, says "For everyone takes beforehand in eating his own supper. And one is hungry and other drunk."" [Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 195), 2.240). Sadly, the advocates of these combined meals are ignoring Paul. They are turning the Lord's Supper into a time of entertainment.

Notice as well, that the Lord's Supper was something unique to the gathering of Christians and that gathering was separate from the home, though we know that some early congregations met in homes. What the small group advocates are doing is trying to put the Lord's Supper into a home environment when Paul argued it was something the church did in its gathering together (its worship service).

In addition, the breaking into small groups destroys one important symbol of the Lord's Supper -- the unity of the brethren. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (I Corinthians 10:16-17).

Finally, another assumption that is being made in your particular congregation is that God requires the Lord's Supper to be taken twice on the first day of the week. Upon what passage is such a conclusion drawn? I know of none.

What you have is a person taking numerous bits and pieces and a whole lot of assumptions to arrive at something that isn't taught in the New Testament. In fact, I can find that it contradicts teachings in the New Testament. Therefore, it is a false doctrine.