Wine or grape juice? Yes!

I was thrilled when I visited my oldest daughter’s church at Christmas.  It is a non-denominational church that seemed to do everything “just right.”  Passionate music with meaningful lyrics, Gospel-centered preaching that went verse-by-verse through a passage in Micah, a proper focus on giving, an emphasis on church planting, and more.

They even had a clever solution for communion.  When I went to receive it a guy was holding two cups.  I immediately realized that one was grape juice and one was wine.  I didn’t have a preference so I didn’t bother to look for the labels ( I think I got wine).

Either way, I thought it was a terrific approach to something that can divide people unnecessarily.  I’m in the debate-don’t-divide camp regarding non-essential issues so I love seeing solutions like this.

Ecumenical / non-denominational efforts sometimes get wimpy or even heretical with their theology.  Instead of uniting on the essentials they ignore everything even remotely controversial and end up with the sort of un-biblical or even anti-biblical theology you’ll find at the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, Sojourners and the like.

I’m very encouraged that there are churches like this out there.  I hope they grow and expand across the country.  It was definitely an answered prayer for my daughter to land in such a theologically sound and well-run church.

Trivia fact: You can read about how grape juice became a popular choice for communion here.  Short version: A Methodist named Welch (yep, as in Welch’s) sought an alternative to wine.

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0 thoughts on “Wine or grape juice? Yes!”

  1. Ahhh! Political correctness in worship! 😉

    (That was more of a joke than not.)

    But seriously, I’d be interested in your thoughts regarding I Cor. 11:18-29. Paul dealt with this very issue. It seems to me that it was pretty important what the Lord’ Supper consists of. For instance, it was at Passover, therefore it was unleavened bread. Will regular old bread with yeast suffice? That is also how we know it wasn’t wine (wine requires yeast in fermentation), but “fruit of the vine” IE, grape juice.

    Many have the opinion that it doesn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t, but why not be safe than sorry. Use unleaven bread and grape juice and you know for a fact that is acceptable. (Verse 29 is especially troubling in light of all of this.)

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    1. If it’s only a symbolic activity, what does it matter what substance is used?

      I’m not sure I understand the point you’re advancing, as you seem to be contradicting yourself. I’m probably misunderstanding you.

      Alcoholic wine has always been a component of Passover. Consider that, after drinking large amounts of wine, Jesus’ companions could not manage to stay awake in the garden.

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      1. I don’t know where you get that? No where in scripture does it suggest that the apostles with Jesus in the garden were “passed out” from drinking. They’d just eaten the passover, and it was a late hour. Therefore they had trouble staying awake. LCB, you are reading something into that isn’t there.

        For passover, Jews were instructed to scrub the walls and floors to remove any traces of yeast. The “wine” they drank had to be non-alcoholic because yeast is required in fermentation.

        So again, I believe the safest way to take communion is to use grape juice and unleavened bread. I don’t see where I contradicted myself in that assessment.

        Also, Paul in I Cor. 11 is specifically dealing with the brethren making the Lord’s Supper into something it wasn’t supposed to be. In this case they had made it a common meal.

        I believe that the best policy is to use the symbols Christ did in the institution of his own memorial. After all, Christ is the authority.

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      2. Grapes are harvested in the fall, passover is in the spring.

        Where, exactly, are they getting this non-alcoholic grape juice from? The grape juice would have naturally fermented by the fall, even if they had not turned it into wine.

        There’s a reason it took Welch’s special process to create grape juice, because non-alcoholic grape juice can’t be produced without it.

        The no-yeast rule was applied to the kitchen and the food products, but wine was always considered acceptable for consumption. Matza bread was made with just water and flour, nothing else.

        Further, they did not know what yeast was, as yeast wasn’t discovered until the 1700s. Levened bread was created by making dough and then letting it sit for a while, and the process could be made to go faster if you took a bit of older dough and added it to your newer dough (unknowingly allowing the yeast to spread). The religious requirement meant getting rid of all the old dough, and making new dough/bread from just water and flower, not allowing it to leven and rise. Just like the early Talmuds explain, and just like Orthodox Jews do today.

        They had no understanding that yeast was also responsible for transforming wine.

        I don’t mean to be contrarian, but there is simply no evidence to support the non-alcoholic grape juice claim. Further, non-alcoholic grape juice would have been essentially impossible to obtain at Passover 2000 years ago, as it was several months after grapes were harvested. The grape juice would naturally have fermented in that time.

        And the bible does not say that a special miracle took place where Jesus made the ubiquitiously used wine into non-alcoholic grape juice. I prefer to stand with what Scripture actually says.

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      3. If the greek word can mean either, then you can not definitively say that no wine was involved.

        Can you help me to better understand this seeming contradiction? If it can mean either, how can you conclude which one it means?

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      4. Not sure I said for certain which one it meant. However, I believe that Christ never would have created alcoholic beverage for casual consumption. So I lean toward it being grape juice.

        Back to the main point, there were ways they could preserve juice back then.

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      5. As a whole I find the arguments advanced in that article incredibly unpersuasive, to the point of straining credulity. I feel strongly that the linguistic arguments are lacking, and would certainly not stand up to any peer review process. He is making the error of presuming in advane his conclusions (in order to be in sync with the 7th Day Adventist cult writings of Ellen G. White)

        I respect your opinion, but what you seem to be doing is making the same error as the author you’ve cited, namely, deciding firstly what your belief is and then finding that belief in Scripture. Which seems rather backwards to me.

        From the practical standpoint, to make some sort of bizarre and difficult-to-believe grape juice argument makes a variety of verses, like those found in 1 Tim, or Psalm 104 almost impossible to make sense of. Much less one of Jesus’ rather famous parables about wine and wineskin (old wine skins bust from the fermentation process, while new wineskins are stretchable).

        In all other places that Jesus implements a significant new standard that is a deperature from cultural practice or Jewish law he is quite clear about the matter. Placing a prohibition on alcohol consumption, an absolutely universal practice in the ancient world, in such a subtle way seems rather inconsistant to me.

        This requires adopting a Jehova’s Witness or Mormon approach to Christianity/Scripture, that all the apostles and apostolic practices that were handed on to the earliest generations, all the interpertations by the early and Patristic fathers both East and West, all the medieval theologians, all the reformers (Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and later Wesley)… absolutely everyone got such an important and core teaching wrong from the very first days of Christianity… until a group of Americans discovered the real truth at some point in the mid-to-late 1800s.

        If for whatever reason a Protestant/Evangelical church wishes to use grape juice, more power to them I suppose. Temperance is a virtue, and one that I and many others would do well to practice better and more frequently.

        But to assert the grape juice argument as a religious doctrine seems to be erroneous. The only way I can perceive that such an argument could be sustained would be by making an appeal to some extra-scriptural authority, a teaching authority that can definitively interpert scripture. And, at the risk of repeating myself, that’s exactly what the J.Ws and Mormons do in order to make their systems work.

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      6. I must say, not so very long ago, a wise guy at who visits my blog made a comment to me regarding this wine vs juice issue. If I recall, he was trying to goad me into admitting my perspective about which is appropriate or Biblical. To his mind, and it’s not a very sound mind, I would be in the wrong to suggest that juice is appropriate. Yet, my Bible speaks of Jesus swearing off “fruit of the vine” until a far later date. Well, to me that suggests EITHER wine or juice as either comes from the same source, the vine.

        Just sayin’…

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      7. Please.

        This is especially ridiculous: “I respect your opinion, but what you seem to be doing is making the same error as the author you’ve cited, namely, deciding firstly what your belief is and then finding that belief in Scripture. Which seems rather backwards to me.”

        You don’t know me, yet you presume to know what I base my beliefs on. The truth is that I spent a larger portion of my life advancing the position that “wine is fine”. After thorough study of the subject I have reversed my position on that. (This is what makes your accusation, after just a few blog comments on the subject, ridiculous.) To me it boiled down to a simple logical equation:

        1) Grape juice is okay. No one would argue, that you are wrong for using it. Those that do have an even more narrow reading of scripture than you are accusing me of having.

        2) Wine MAY be okay, or may not. No one ever really knows this from scripture.

        Based on those two true statements, I have come to the believe that I’d rather be safe and use grape juice than wine. In fact, in the same matter I have decided to remove all recreational alcoholic consumption from my life. I prefer to keep it where I know it has been authorized in I Timothy 5:23, which is for medicinal purposes.

        Now ask yourself a question, are trying to scripturally justify your established activities? Because I suspect that the quote above is more applicable to you than it is to me.

        In closing, and you may have the last word, I see I am not going to convince you otherwise. Your mind is made up. That is fine. As I said, I have thoroughly studied this issue, gone back and forth on it, and actually agreed with your position for 25+ of my 40 years.

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      8. If the bread in question must be unlevened in nature, then it would certainly be appropriate to consider that the drink in question must be alcoholic in nature. It would seem to be an essential matter of faith to nail this down, since Jesus gave an explicit command about “do this in memory of me.” If there is a moral prohibition against alcohol, and folks are going around ritually smashing that prohibition collectively as a so-called act of worship, that’s a pretty big deal. If they have been doing it for 1800 years until Welch figured out his delicious grape juice producing process, it’s an even bigger deal, as it would appear the Lord placed a nearly-impossible burden upon all to follow.

        Of course, if what is taking place is merely symbolic, then the substances really wouldn’t seem to matter at all. Pizza and beer could just as easily be used.

        I’m glad to discuss “form and matter” with you, but at that point you’re really closing in on Catholic language and Catholic Eucharistic theology.

        As to the overall approach, I’m sorry but I just don’t find Mormon and Jehova’s Witness beliefs very compelling, that there was a great apostasy for 1800+ years until that particular group came along and finally got it right with the help of their extra sources of revelation.

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      9. I should have used slightly more care in selecting my words. When I said “cult writings” I didn’t mean that in the ‘bad’ sense of the word, I meant it in the older sense of the word: a set/system of religious beliefs, as her writings are essential to 7th Day Adventist belief.

        The term was not meant negatively. Whoops.

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      10. The wine at Passover was typically diluted with water, since there were four cups given during the celebration. That still would have made staying awake a problem. But it wasn’t a huge amount of wine. Regardless, the wine wasn’t the reason they kept falling asleep, but the weakness of the flesh, which drove Christ to the Cross, thank goodness.

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    1. Hi Barb,

      Very thorough and well written paper on Enric’s part! I see his points and have heard sermons by John MacArthur and James MacDonald that made similar points. I avoid alcohol almost completely myself, but I still come down on the side of not pressuring people to abstain. I figure that the Bible has plenty of clear “don’ts” already and I don’t want to add one where none exists. But I think that we’d all be better off if people drank less or not at all.

      Thanks for sharing that!

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    2. Great paper! I think your son is a very wise man.

      One further point on alcohol, drinking destroys our influence. We are to be a city set on a hill. To let our lights so shine. To be different from the world. Not sure how we could do that while imbibing…..

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  2. The Anglican church I’ve recently started attending does something similar: pastor offers the broken bread and, standing on one side is a person holding a chalice of wine while on the other is another with servings of grape juice.

    The Presbyterian in me points me towards the grape juice (more out of habit, admittedly, than any thoughtfully informed choice).

    In their traditional service, you specifically need to request the grape juice if that’s your preference.

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    1. I’m not very familiar with the whole movement towards using only grape juice, or the religious arguments against all alcohol consumption? Can anyone link to some solid sites on that topic?

      I’m know that Luther and Calvin both supported/encouraged alcohol consumption, as did John Wesley, so I’ve never really understood the whole notion.

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    1. … that is perhaps the sub-conscious reason why I opt for the individual grape juice cups rather than the communal chalice. The latter as a practice just sounds a little nasty from a hygiene perspective.

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  3. We’ve been using both since before I was a member at my church. Our normal procedure is to have the bread and wine distributed to the congregants in their pews, though we will do intinction now and then where two chalices will be offered. I prefer the wine myself because I like wine. Rather than any discussion about whether to have wine or juice, the discussion is usually over what kind of wine is used. Imagine that. I’ve always thought it would be good fun to use a chablis, just to throw them off. Even champagne is wine. It would cause a ruckus to be sure, but again, it is a symolic gesture in any case. Funny what gets peoples’ motors going.

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  4. Hi Neil,
    Great post and a subject that is very dear to my heart since it involved worship.

    Here are some points concerning communion that Reform Presbyterians have held to since the days of the Reformation (not necessarily given in order of importance.)

    1. Communion is more than just a memorial, since we are eating His flesh and drinking His blood SPIRITUALLY by faith. This is a mystery, but helps explain what HE meant in John 6 with the commands that we would eat his flesh and drink his blood if we were His disciples.

    2. Communion is a sacrament meant only for believers. While the preaching of God’s word goes to all, communion goes to those who have confessed to being believers.

    3. Communion should be served often (I prefer weekly), because it is an element of worship given to us by the Lord. This element, like all elements of worship (preaching, prayer, singing, baptism) is meant to feed us by faith, spiritually. This is one of the many reasons I believe the church is so weak. We don’t feed our people in ALL the elements on a regular basis.

    4. It is a sign given to us, by Him, to point to the greater reality of the gospel. He has only given us 2 visible signs in worship, communion and baptism, the rest is by hearing the preached word.

    With those views in mind, I hope we all hunger to take what He has given us. Next time you take communion, rejoice even more in the blessing it is to His body.

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    1. On point 3: Act 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread

      Again, the safest thing based on the example of the 1st century church, is to offer communion every week on the first day of the week (Sunday).

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      1. I completely agree! But alas… somehow the idea has sprung up that if we have weekly communion, it will lose it’s specialness. This is always put forth by those who have not experienced it and want to base their beliefs… on their stinking feelings instead of God’s word.

        I like to add: “OK, if making something rare, makes it more special, let’s only sing once a quarter!” 🙂

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      1. The modern version of of stained glass windows for teaching the Faithful…?

        I don’t know if this is tragic of wonderful.

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