Book of Jude Part 12 (series: Lessons on Jude)
by John Lowe
12 These are spots (metaphor for men who by their conduct damage others morally, wreck them as it were) in your feasts of charity, 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;
Next Jude chooses five examples from the world of nature to picture the character and destiny of the apostates. Moffatt says that “sky, land, and sea are ransacked for illustrations of the character of these men.”
These are spots (False teachers) in your feasts of charity. They are spots in the love feasts which were held by the early Christians in connection with the Lord’s Supper. These men fear neither God nor man, and care for themselves rather than for the flock. They lure others to treat the faith with disrespect.
In your feasts of charity...Your feasts of love. The reference is probably to the Lord's Supper, called a feast or festival of love, because
1. It revealed the love of Christ to the world;
2. It was the means of strengthening the mutual love of the disciples: a festival which love originated, and where love reigned. It has been supposed by many, that the reference here is to festivals which were subsequently called Agapae, and which are now known as love-feasts-meaning a festival immediately preceding the celebration of the Lord's Supper. But there are strong objections to the supposition that there is reference here to such a festival.
The word used for "spots" by Peter is not exactly the same as that used here. Peter uses the word σπιλοι-spiloi; Jude, σπιλαδες-spilades. The word used by Jude means, a rock by or in the sea; a cliff, etc. It may either be a rock by the sea, against which vessels may be wrecked, or a hidden rock in the sea, on which they may be stranded at an unexpected moment. The idea here seems to be, not that they were spots and blemishes in their sacred feasts, but that they were like hidden rocks to the mariner. As those rocks were the cause of shipwreck, so these false teachers caused others to make shipwreck of their faith. They were as dangerous in the church as hidden rocks are in the ocean.
It appears that these persons, unholy and impure as they were, still continued to have outward fellowship with the Church! This is strange: but it is very likely that their power and influence in that place had swallowed up, or set aside, the power and authority of the true ministers of the church.
There was so much misuse of, and conflict over, the so-called love feasts that they were prohibited to be held in the Churches; and, having been abused, they fell into disuse. In later days they have been revived, in all the purity and simplicity of the primitive institution, among the Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Catholics, and most denominations, except today the name has been changed to "Potlucks." There are people that go to church when there is a potluck that you will usually not see there.
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 for each other; therefore, such celebrations were called love feasts. The love feasts were at first celebrated before the Lord's Supper; but in process of time they appear to have been celebrated after it. But they were never considered as the Lord's Supper, nor any substitute for it.
Feasts in the early Church.
(1.) There is no evidence unless it can be found in this passage, that such celebrations had the sanction of the apostles. They are nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament, or alluded to, unless it is in 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34, an instance which is mentioned only to criticize it, and to show that such appendages to the Lord's Supper were wholly unauthorized by the original institution, and were liable to gross abuse.
(2.) The supposition that they existed, and that they are referred to here in order to provide a proper explanation of this passage is not necessarily the case. The writer wants to show, among other things, is that the early church celebrates the Lord's Supper and they incorporated into the celebration a diner; a Festival of Love. The words will appropriately apply to that, and there is no reason for supposing anything else in order to meet their full significance.
(3.) There can be no doubt that such a custom existed early in the Christian church, and that it was widely celebrated, but it can readily be accounted for without supposing that it had the sanction of the apostles, or that it existed in their time.
a. Festivals prevailed among the Jews, and it would not be unnatural to introduce them into the Christian church.
b. The custom prevailed among the heathen of having a "feast upon a sacrifice," or in connexion with a sacrifice; and as the Lord'sSupper commemorated the great sacrifice for sin, it was not unnatural, in imitation of the heathen, to add a feast or festival to that ordinance, either before or after its celebration.
c. This very passage in Jude, with perhaps some others in the New Testament, (see 1 Corinthians 11: 26, Acts 2: 46, 6: 2,) might be so construed as to seem to lend credibility to the custom. For these reasons it seems clear to me that the passage before us does not refer to love-feasts; and, therefore, that they are not authorized in the New Testament.
when they feast with you, Showing that they were professors of religion. “And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;” (2 Peter 2:13).
feeding themselves without fear. Eating, not to fuel the body, but to pamper the appetite. Once in elementary school, the teacher asked the class, " Why do you eat?" She asked several students, who gave excellent reasons for why we eat. And then she looked at me and said, "Tom why do you eat?" "I blurted out, "Because it tastes good!" To this day, I can still feel the embarrassment and hear the laughter.
When Jude was written, It seems that food was abundant, and they ate like the gluttons they were; they drank wine and their minds became cloudy and dark, and their actions riotous. This was what brought the love feasts into ill repute in the Church, and was the means of their being at last completely laid aside. This abuse is never likely to take place among the Baptists, since they only use bread and grape juice, and the amount of these elements is not sufficient to provide a tenth part of a meal.
Unbelievers (non-Christians), when they observed such uninhibited actions: that is, gluttony, drunkenness and loud foul language, they were led to form a conclusion concerning the state of the Church; it must be very corrupt, to have in its communion such corrupt men, who lack a proper respect and reverence for the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Instead, they treat it like any ordinary feast, and make it an occasion for rioting and gluttony--"When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this!" (1 Cor 11:20-22; NLT).
feeding themselves—“tending themselves." What they look forward to is the pampering of themselves, not the feeding of the flock.
without fear—Sacred feasts, above all, ought to be celebrated with fear (Respect for the one being honored and for others). Feasting is not faulty in itself, but it needs to be accompanied with fear of forgetting God, as Job was in the case of his sons' feasts.