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Pastor Afolabi Oladele 14 January 2018


For the origin of the Love Feast, we need to look no further than the Last Supper (Matthew 26:2-30; John 13:1-30).

So the very first Eucharist was instituted in the context of a meal. A meal constituted to be the normal setting in which Christians meet together for fellowship and worship as Acts 2:46 tells us. The expression, breaking bread, no doubt included the celebration of the Eucharist. However, the phrase, “they ate their food with gladness”; would also indicate that this was more than communion – it was also a meal.

Nowhere is this practice more clearly confirmed than in the communion passage of 1 Corinthians 11:20-34. Paul begins that passage by saying, “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.” Now, this is obviously talking about more than just the Eucharist. Nobody gets drunk from the small amount of wine taken in communion, nor is it credible that various persons would receive communion before others because they were hungry. No, Paul is obviously describing a meal – the Love Feast – that preceded the actual Eucharist.

Yet, that the Eucharist was celebrated at the end of the Love Feast (or, as part of it) is quite clear from verses 23-30 of that passage. In those verses, Paul expressly mentions Jesus taking bread and saying, “take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you” (1 Cor. 11:24).

Another place in Scripture that describes eating as an integral part of a New Testament worship service is Acts 20:11, “when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed,” So Paul didn’t just preach; He also ate?

And then, of course, there is the well-known reference in Jude, where Jude refers to those who are “spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves” (Jude 12). Here Jude uses the Greek word Agape to refer to what is commonly known today as the Love Feast.

Almost all scholars are agreed that the New Testament worship consisted of the Love Feast, followed by preaching and the Eucharist.

In the opinion of the great majority of scholars, the Agape was a meal which had several purposes taking into context all the events that occurred on that day. What were these purposes or intent that the early church understood? Let’s take John 13 and unravel the lessons.

(v4-16) Was Judas amongst those whose feet He washed? Even when Jesus knew he would betray Him? You will then understand why Peter the key commentator on that occasion later wrote in 1 Pet 3:9; 1 Pet 4:12-13,16-17,19. Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

This was similarly repeated by Apostle Paul in Romans 12:17-21. This is first a call to commit to breaking the evil cycle.

A most sobering lesson for anyone of us who refuses to do this is the lesson from Obadiah 1: 10-14. Obadiah 10 had named the Edomites’ great sin: violence against your brother Jacob.
These were twin brothers! The four subsequent verses illustrate the Edomite’s violence toward Israel, providing an expanded description toward Israel, providing an expanded description of their transgression. The prophet’s first example (in verse 11), the only one requiring explanation, is that they “stood on the other side.” This Hebraism indicates they “stood aloof,” a description of their haughtiness. God is emphasizing their attitude here. Literally, the phrase reads, “stood in front of them,” A roundabout way of saying that the Edomites considered themselves too good to stand with them. In other words, because of their pride, they stood off to the side or in front of them, effectively separating themselves from their brother.

Their action reflected their hearts, saying, in effect, “do not confuse us with them!” it indicates an attitude of great superiority, of haughty pride and separation. Thus, instead of standing with Israel in her defence, they stood aside and let the enemy do what it would. Edom did not behave as a brother nation should have. Even had the Edomites not been directly engage in the hostilities against Israel, this act alone reveals that their loyalties were solidly with Israel’s enemy.

The New King James Version poorly translates verses 12-14, rendering them in the past tense, when the Hebrew text relates this story in the future tense. The difference in tense transforms a castigating historical narrative into a more appropriate and stern warning against future activity.

But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune, do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin, do not boast in the day of distress. Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity, do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the days of distress (English Standard Version).

Washing of feet real lesson is declared by the Lord Himself in vs 14-15 – humility that motivates and drives me to serve my brother and sister; the greater serving the lesser even though the power of the blessing flows from the greater to the lesser, and as Paul finally nails it in Ephesians 6:15 -your armour is incomplete without feet being shod. And how can you stand without clean healthy feet?
From the word used in Jude 12 we see the replay of what the Lord confronted Peter with in John 21:15-17 – love must be from will not from emotion! That’s what agape is; and thirdly as we go to Acts 2:42-47, we see the added dimension of collective living that this present world has replaced with destructive competition even in the house of God.

Thus, in addition to satisfying hunger and thirst, complying with these give expression to the sense of Christian brotherhood. At the end of this feast, bread and wine were taken according to the Lord’s command, and after thanksgiving to God were eaten and drunk in:

Remembrance of Christ, and
As a special means of communion with the Lord Himself and through Him with one another

What happened to the Love Feast?
If the love feast was such an integral part of apostolic worship, why is it not still around today? The answer is that the apostolic pattern was eventually altered. Even though Jesus and His Apostles handed down the model of having a common meal before the Eucharist , some churches began changing this after the Apostles died. During the second and third centuries, the agape was eventually separated from the Eucharist. Churches began celebrating the Eucharist in the morning and hosting the Love Feast in the evening.

The encyclopedia of early Christianity offers this observation: “Eventually, abuses, coupled with imperial rescripts forbidding the meal of secret societies, brought about the separation of the fraternal meal (agape) and Eucharist, but not everywhere and not at once.”

In the time of Clement he recorded that “there is general agreement that from the mid-third century, agape and Eucharist go their separate ways. Nevertheless, even though the agape and communion went their separate ways, the church continued to practice both of them until sometime after the time of Constantine. Perhaps the Love Feast would have continued on down to our times if the original apostolic pattern (holding the Love Feast and the Eucharist together) had not been broken. The international standard Bible encyclopedia makes this observation on the separation of the agape and Eucharist, and the eventual extinguishment of the Agape.

In the Didache (CA A.D. 100) there is no sign as yet of any separation. The direction that the second Eucharist prayer should be offered “after being filled” appears to imply that a regular meal had immediately preceded the observance of the sacrament. In the Ignatian Epistles (CA A.D. 110), the Lord’s Supper and the Agape are still found in combination.

When we come to Justin Martyr (CA A.D. 150), we find that in his account of church worship he does not mention the agape at all, but speaks of the Eucharist as following a service which consisted of the reading of scripture, prayers and exhortation.

Tertullian (CA A.D. 200) testifies to the continued existence of the agape, but shows clearly that in the church of the west, the Eucharist was no longer associated with it. In the East, the connection appears to have been longer maintained, but by and by the severance became universal; and though the Agape continued for a long time to maintain itself as a social function of the church, it gradually passed out of existence (Vol. 1, p. 66)

I have gone to this extent to let it be known that the bringing back of Love Feast in this assembly is not as social function, rather a demand for a commitment by each and every one of us to live as God demands of us to do – John 13:15. The use of the word “if’ suggests except we “determinedly decide” to, it won’t happen! If we do not, we risk not reaching the high calling that Ephesians 4:15-16 speaks of.

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