Wine or grape juice?

(Actually, Tim.)

Our session has discussed changing from grape juice to wine at the Lord's Table, but decided against it. It was a lengthy and impassioned debate, but without going into the particulars, here's Matthew Henry on the subject, taken from his comments on 1Corinthians 11:

As to the visible signs; these are bread and the cup, the former of which is called bread many times over in this passage, even after what the papists call consecration. What is eaten is called bread, though it be at the same time said to be the body of the Lord, a plain argument that the apostle knew nothing of their monstrous and absurd doctrine of transubstantiation. The latter is as plainly a part of this institution as words can make it.  St. Matthew tells us, our Lord bade them all drink of it (Mt 26:27), as if he would, by this expression, lay in a caveat against the papists' depriving the laity of the cup. Bread and the cup are both made use of, because it is a holy feast. Nor is it here, or any where, made necessary, that any particular liquor should be in the cup. In one evangelist, indeed, it is plain that wine was the liquor used by our Saviour, though it was, perhaps, mingled with water, according to the Jewish custom; vide Lightfoot on Matthew 26. But this by no means renders it unlawful to have a sacrament where persons cannot come at wine. In every place of scripture in which we have an account of this part of the institution it is always expressed by a figure. The cup is put for what was in it, without once specifying what the liquor was, in the words of the institution.

Comments

Had you considered using both?

Yes, actually. That was our conclusion until it was pointed out that using both could lead to the very Sacrament of Christian unity being the means of bringing division among us, causing some to feel superior in their so-called knowledge, and others in their so-called holiness. But that's only our fellowship in our southern Indiana context.

Thanks for sharing this, Pastor Bayly. But it was clearly wine, not grape juice, used at the sacrament instituted by our Lord, right? And doesn't the regulative principle even enter into consideration here? Should it?

Forgive me for asking; I think our PCA church will soon be considering this (we now use Welch's).

Unless we are to argue that the Last Supper was not a passover meal (I know there is some disagreement about this), how can we conclude it was anything other than wine? And wouldn't red wine be further assumed as it represents Christ's blood, shed for us?

If not wine, why grape juice? Why not water?

I don't mean to sound facetious, but the little drib of Welch's and perfectly cut square of wonder bread of my Baptist heritage never seemed quite right.

Kamilla

It's not as bad as pizza and coke (I've seen that done)... at least grape juice looks like wine, but if Scripture says to drink wine, I think we should drink wine.

FWIW, an OPC elder told me that they decided against mixed because it goes against the idea of drinking from a common cup/element.

Is there any history of using non-alcoholic juice prior to this century, or is it an innovation stemming from the temperance movement (or perhaps Baptists in our midst :).

My dad grew up in the Mennonite church, where they use regular bread and grape juice. He says he used to get a kick out of asking pastors "Why did we take the yeast out of the wine and put it in the bread?"

In the Upper Room, it would have been a combination of wine and water, mixed together. Roman Catholics still follow this practice: http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=56093

The "Dictionary of Classical Antiquities" says, "Greeks and Romans alike generally drank their wine mixed with water."

But what proportion of each? And if we get our proportions wrong, is the Sacrament still efficacious? (TIC)

To those concerned, go back up and read Matthew Henry again. And remember, he was a presbyterian minister born in 1662--well before the Temperance Movement.

BTW, I told that elder that it's interesting that they use grape juice given the history of the OPC...

"In the Upper Room, it would have been a combination of wine and water, mixed together. Roman Catholics still follow this practice: http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=56093"

As do Anglicans, Episcopalians and various others.

"The "Dictionary of Classical Antiquities" says, "Greeks and Romans alike generally drank their wine mixed with water."

But what proportion of each? And if we get our proportions wrong, is the Sacrament still efficacious? (TIC)"

I hate to admit my ignorance, but what is "TIC"?

"To those concerned, go back up and read Matthew Henry again. And remember, he was a presbyterian minister born in 1662--well before the Temperance Movement."

I don't think I understand your point here, Tim. Did "liquor" mean something other in Henry's day? In some respects, I believe I agree with him that the "cup is for what was in it". In that case, then why not water? Why grape juice? However, if we are to borrow a term from my field, wouldn't "best practice" dictate we use wine (in whatever portion to water since this is never indicated)?

Kamilla

I've heard the "unity" argument before, but I don't get it. Either the element itself is not critical (and thus cannot be a cause of disunity) or it is. If it is, then clearly wine would be required.

I think a split cup can actually be much closer to Henry's point - that the element is not critical. I also believe that the strongest argument against grape juice alone is the tyranny of the weaker brother. It certainly was the case with the introduction of grape juice by Welch the Methodist, who introduced it for the most vile of pseudo-pietistic motives in direct contradiction of Scripture (i.e. that all alcohol was evil and that drinking wine was a sin that affected one's personal holiness).

Unity does not revolve (at least for me at this point) around the elements per se. That is one reason why I do not believe a common cup is necessary, much less a "pseudo" common cup.

Blessings,

I remember hearing a student asking R.C. Sproul "why not use pizza and Coke"? to which he replied (through gritted teeth): "Because our Lord did not consecrate pizza and Coke!" I guess I question whether He consecrated grape juice--although I take the question about how much water and wine.

Funny about the OPC, though; a lot of ironies here. I wonder if we are too enamored with Pietism.

Alright, its been 11 comments already on this subject and David Canfield is nowhere to be found..... Have the French stopped cooking with garlic?

In the '50s, my grandfather, a teetotaller, used to drive the 30 miles from Nowata, Okla., to the border town of Coffeyville, Kans., to buy wine for communion for Nowata's First Baptist Church. Oklahoma was still under prohibition. (Interestingly, the pastor of the church at the time was A. A. Davis, a Trail of Blood Landmarkist.)

Matthew Henry seems to be saying that any liquid would do, as long as a cup was used, because Jesus said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," not, "This wine." "Liquor" is his time is equivalent to the word "liquid" today.

Taking things to extremes, as he was wont to do, the late Rev. Gene Scott taught that you could have communion at home on your own with Pepsi and saltines if that's what you had at hand.

Tim: I bet Henry still drank wine. The wine symbolizing blood seems pretty obvious to me.

I still don't get why if the Bible uses wine, we wouldn't too, unless it was from the undue influence of 'weaker brethren' teetotalers (which, in addition to the alcoholic argument is always the argument I hear among churches, including ours, that use grace juice).

I'd be shocked if the vast majority of the historic church used anything but wine. This is one area where the Lutherans and Episcopelians have it right, imo...

>I'd be shocked if the vast majority of the historic church used anything but wine. This is one area where the Lutherans and Episcopelians have it right, imo...

Absolutely. Why evangelicals are so prone to go after novelty is beyond me.

"Novelty" has nothing to do with it. Many who use grape juice see alcoholism as being such a problem in our country that they choose to not serve it in church.

For some recovered alcoholics, grape juice is a better choice. Are there any recovered alcoholics in your congregation?

>"Novelty" has nothing to do with it. Many who use grape juice see alcoholism as being such a problem in our country that they choose to not serve it in church.

Novelty has everything to do with it. It is even of shorter duration than premillenial dispensationalism.

>For some recovered alcoholics, grape juice is a better choice. Are there any recovered alcoholics in your congregation?

I don't know but as we offer a few grape juice if someone has such a problem I don't need to know. But if people are able to conform to historic Christian use of the sacrament they are permitted to.

I guess I'm a Johnny-come-lately to this discussion. Hopefully I'm not too late to chime in. As an OPC minister, I've wrestled with this and at least tentatively came to the same conclustion that Tim and his session came to. I believe that our English word "wine" is more narrow and specific than the Hebrew word yayin or the Greek word oinos that it translates. In the Bible, the stuff that came out of the winepress was "wine," even at that very moment before it had time to ferment. It seems to me that either wine or grape juice can be used and that neither is exactly what Jesus used. On the one hand, our grape juice is pasteurized. On the other hand, our wine has sulfites added. But I think the biblical term "wine" is broad enough to cover both. We use Welch's grape juice, but when I administer the Supper I call it "wine." It if isn't, then it would be a sin to use it. By the bye, the original name for it was Welch's "Unfermented Wine for Use at the Lord's Table."

We have opted to use wine because it seems from my somewhat limited study that use grape juice is "mostly" a by-product of the temperance movement and has little to do with the scripture. However, I was surprised to read this M. Henry quote as it is the earliest I read concerning this issue at all. I guess I need to read more.

On a slight sidenote but still related to this issue, Luther said it well, "Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we prohibit and abolish women? The sun, moon, and stars have been worshipped. Shall we pluck them out of the sky."

With Pastor Wilson, I too refer to the cup as "wine."

The essential question is whether the use of grape juice invalidates the Sacrament. On that question, our session's considered conclusion is "no." After that, we're dealing with matters of pastoral judgment and such judgments will differ according to people, place, and time.

And by the way, TIC meant tongue-in-cheek.

Pastor, if there's even a question on whether grape juice is really "wine," why use it? Why *not* just use wine and offer grape juice for the person here or there who may be a recovering alcoholic? It seems to me that this whole issue would've be silly to anyone prior to the rise of "don't drink, smoke, chew, or go out with girls who do" fundamentalism (weren't the Welch's Methodist prohibitionists?).

Why not just serve wine and be done with it?

Last comment was meant for Pastor Wilson.

In the Lutheran church where I was raised confirmed members knelt at the altar and were offered little cups. Most of them were clear and contained wind. Some had gold-colored rings at the top and had grape juice. Those were for recovering alcholics.

In my current Epicopalian church (part of the orthodox remnant in our denomination), we use pita bread or white hosts for the bread (it varies from week to week) and a common cup of wine. for the Eucharist. If someone has allergies to anything in the bread, he or she can just drink the wine. If he or she has a problem with drinking wine because of alcohol or medication issues, or whatever, he/she can just take the bread. We consider taking just one of the elements a valid sacrament for anyone who can't take both for health or other reasons.

It has worked for us, but YMMV.

--Sue

Oops! In the third line of my post I meant to say that the clear cups contained 'wine' and not 'wind'.

--Sue

Hi brother Jack's Pipe, I don't mean to dogmatize, simply to share my tentative conclusions. I've long wished for a forum for reformed pastors and elders to discuss issues like this so that iron could sharpen iron. To be frank, I can drink and serve fermented wine with a clear conscience. I think I can even make a semi-plausible case why Port is a good choice for those who do serve fermented wine at the Lord's Table. So now you know my personal preferences. But I am not to lord it over the flock, insisting on my own personal preferences. It seems to me -- at this stage in my pilgrimage -- that if the biblical term "wine" is broad enough to encompass both fermented and unfermented wine, so that one *may* use unfermented one (i.e., grape juice), then other principles should be brought to bear. Principles such as the strong should voluntarily defer to the weak, not because they are conscience bound to the weak's scruples, but because love constrains them to bend over backwards to not stumble the weak. Moreover, it seems to me that if you grant that you may use unfermented wine for the sake of recovering alcoholics, etc., then you have granted that you *may* use it. And if you may use unfermented wine for that purpose, then why may you not use it for other purposes, such as to avoid giving unnecessary offense? Should we not try to make sure that the only offense we give is the offense of the cross ? It is this type of considerations that has caused me -- at least tentatively -- to come to the same conclusions that Pastor Tim Bayly and his elders came to ... that is, for ministry in my present setting. On the other hand, I would also defend a session's right to conclude that fermented wine is the best element for their circumstances. What I resist, however, is the insistence that it is the only correct element.

Sue,

I loved your typo!

Tim,

Thanks for the TIC clarification, I should have figured that out, but the verbal mechanism isn't working very well. Last night at work I said "hysterectomy" when I meant hernia! I appreciate your distinction with regard to pastoral judgment and whether or not grape juice invalidates the sacrament. In fact, I remember a scene in a britcom where a bottle of Ribena (black currant juice) is discovered in the vestry. This was for the sake of the late priest who was tempted to dip into the sacramental wine.

I agree that unfermented juice does not invalidate the sacrament. Neither would Ribena or pomegranate juice or even water, I believe. however, I still hold to wine as what could be described as "best practice".

Regarding those who have commented about the weaker brother, I don't believe that is largely the case with regard to fermented communion wine. In my experience, it is usually a case of judgment rather than weak conscience.

Thanks Tim and others for the education!

Kamilla

First, I guessed the TIC, but what is YMMV?

One of the pastor friends listed on this blog is Doug Wilson. It seems I read him somewhere saying that it must be wine. The closest quote I came across is:

"For some years, we have been teaching you that our observance of this Supper is potent. We have been saying that the gospel is like wine, and not like grape juice. Grape juice is a fitting element for the modern and moribund church to use—an inert element for an inert sacrament in an insert church. But when God moves to stir His people up, what happens? We return to a biblical observance of this Supper which can be nothing other than a potent declaration.

But there is another issue as well. We have seen that if we were serving grape juice in our communion service, our adversaries would not care—a tame sacrament for a domesticated church."

A PCA church in our area has the interesting practice of putting white grape juice in the center rings and red wine in the outer rings and asks the congregation to hold the elements until all can take together.

While an RCA church in our area puts red grape juice in all the inner rings and red wine mixed with half water in the outer ring, and each comes to a kneeler and takes on their own.

Is it really just a matter of whatever floats your boat? And where is the unity most symbolized? One cup? Multiple small cups all taken together? All one kind of liquid? All in the same room?

This thread belongs in the book of 1 Corinthians.

Just make sure its Merlot and NOT White Zinfandel.

YMMV = your mileage may vary.

--Sue

I like the potency (wine) vs. impotency (grape juice) point, I had never considered that aspect but I think it may have some validity. As for those making a "that's how it was originally instituted so that's how we should do it" argument, beware. Do you think that immersion is the only correct form of baptism? ... you do? Do you believe that you must get immersed in a river (a PCB-free river and definitely not the salt water of an ocean)? That was the instituted method. It was obviously never the intention that persons should be baptized in hot-tubs let alone --- sprinkled!

Using the traditional words of institution (the words of Christ) we can partake of the "cup". We never even have to refer to it as wine and then explain how we can use that word for something that is not wine.

Pastor,

Fair enough. I'm no fan of red wine myself; I prefer grape juice to it (and beer to either). But I still think wine is the correct element to use, and I don't think the weaker brethren argument holds when dealing with the elements. We don't offer an alternative to bread for those allergic to wheat. The whole move to grape juice was due to prohibitionists like the Welch's, was it not?

In a recent debate with a Baptistic brother, I've noticed something strange. The Baptist argument for immersion only is drawn from the idea that we must only use the forms of baptism explicitly mentioned in scripture... While there are problems with their interpretation (that immersion is that kind mentioned), it seems problematic that when faced with using real wine, they recognize that we have freedom to use grape juice. Are we free to use grape juice but not free to pour or sprinkle in baptism?

It appears that my question has been somewhat addressed above. Sorry for the redundancy.

> Many who use grape juice see alcoholism as being such a problem in our country that they choose to not serve it in church.

If this "weaker brother"-thing carries such weight, I'd sure like to see this rationale used with immodesty being such a problem in our country that we choose not to serve it in church. Actually, Christians are forbidden from serving it in public at all, if I understand correctly. Wonder what Matthew Henry would say...?

> Should we not try to make sure that the only offense we give is the offense of the cross?

Would be nice in more areas than a little sip of juice versus wine. Other offenses are rather are blatant, continuous, and even predictable -- yet ignored.

> We don't offer an alternative to bread for those allergic to wheat.

Excellent point, and I know someone like that in our church.

Our PCA church went from monthly to weekly communion, but unfortunately didn't do any updating of the grape juice-wine issue. I'm for giving people the option, as has been mentioned in the different rings of the trays. I like the potency idea. Another issue is the bitter-sweet wine matching the Lord's passion more closely.

> And where is the unity most symbolized? One cup? Multiple small cups all taken together?

If we are so interested in unity of practice, as has been mentioned a time or two, what happened to the headcovering? That's in the same chapter of Paul's letter as his instructions on communion. The Bible does NOT say it is a *dishonor* to use grape juice, but it does say it is a *dishonor* for a woman to be uncovered and a man to be covered. We strain a stray gnat in our wine while swallowing herds of camels in our grape juice.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul talks about some eating beforehand and coming to the Lord's Table drunk:

[20-22a] "Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?"

That would leave me to believe it wasn't Welch's people were drinking.

--Michael

I keep driving us back to the question whether the use of non-fermented fruit of the wine invalidates the Sacrament. And to date, it appears to me almost no one is prepared to say it does. Rather, we are arguing over what is best given different circumstances. We talk best/second best, potency/impotency, stronger/weaker brothers, and so on.

But it's precisely here that we presbyterians ought to remember that, absent an ecclesiastical law, the session is the court of original jurisdiction. Consequently, it's the session that must pray, study, and argue towards wisdom in leading the household it governs.

For myself, apart from pastoral matters concerning what elements to use for the Lord's Supper, I think it's good to remember what the Didache says concerning the waters of Baptism: "Now about baptism, baptize this way: after first uttering all of these things, baptize 'into the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy Spirit' in running water. But if you do not have running water, baptize in other water. Now if you are not able to do so in cold water, do it in warm water. Now if you don't have either, pour water three times on the head, 'into the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the holy Spirit.'"

Far from being enamored with all things church-fatherly, this particular counsel seems biblical in its evenhandedness-leading-to-unity.

> [Mark Priestap:] In a recent debate with a Baptistic brother, I've noticed something strange... Are we free to use grape juice but not free to pour or sprinkle in baptism?

Excellent observation, Mark. They can be real sticklers for what they see as the only biblical mode in the gray area of baptism. But when it comes to wine, the better --only?-- course of action is to water Scripture down and use juice, and doing so does not negate the sacrament.

Using the grape juice reasoning, shouldn't the Baptists be concerned for the weaker brother with aquaphobia? Won't requiring immersion be a stumbling block to people who have had a traumatic water experience, or who have never gone swimming or had water over their head?

--Michael

~~~

"Aquaphobia is a kind of specific phobia, an abnormal and persistent fear of water. It involves a level of fear that is beyond control or that may interfere with daily life. Specifically, people suffering from aquaphobia may experience anxiety even though they realize the water in an ocean, a river, a lake, a creek or even a bathtub may pose no imminent threat. They may avoid such activities as boating and swimming, or they may avoid swimming in the deep ocean despite having mastered basic swimming skills. At home, they may even be afraid to take baths or showers." [Wikipedia]

~~~

I can't say that the non-use of wine invalidates the sacrament; my church uses grape juice. But wine imo is the proper element to use. I see it as another example of conforming to the world & the culture (except this time it's the Christian ghetto instead of secular humanism, as in the case of egalitarianism and birth control). I'm not going to become Episcopal or Lutheran over the issue, but they're right.

As for modes of baptism, there is no clarity in Scripture, which is why the WCF specifically allows all three.

If you are interested in the historical background (and some of the historical debate), my dissertation on Old School Presbyterianism has a chapter on the subject, including some of the very first discussions of whether "raisin water" could be substituted for wine (this was before the days of Mr. Welch!)

http://www.peterwallace.org/dissertation/4conscience.htm

And as for the claim that Matthew Henry meant simply "liquid," I should point out that the term "liquor" usually meant a fermented or distilled liquid--and since there was no way in Matthew Henry's day to prevent grape juice from becoming wine, it would be historically inaccurate to portray him as sympathetic to the "grape juice" argument.

For a brief argument for the use of wine in communion, see:

http://www.michianacovenant.org/worship.html

Part IV is titled "The Use of Wine in Communion"

I would suggest that the use of grape juice does not invalidate the sacrament any more than the Roman Catholic addition of oil invalidates their baptism.

Blessings,

Peter Wallace (pastor, Michiana Covenant PCA)

Thanks, Peter; good background.

Interesting article. Years ago, I heard the Lutheran, Rod Rosenblatt, say that on Sunday morning, the smell of wine is the smell of the forgiveness of sin. He was not making a theological point there, but grape juice has always seemed to me as lacking significance. It's like going out with an old friend and sharing an O'Douls. Who does that?

The wine is not sickeningly sweet like grape juice, but more bitter, with a punch, weight, and a kick to it. Thus it was interesting to read: "Wine’s resemblance to Christ’s blood is found not simply in its color, but most importantly in its power to gladden man’s heart." And this: "In the same way that meager grape juice gives way to the wine of blessing, the old gives way to the new and better covenant. Grape juice is dead, but wine has passed from death to life through fermentation."

I still don't understand: if the Scripture says to use wine, and they use fermented wine, then let's do the obvious and use (fermented) wine, just like the church always has. Just say no to innovations.

Ok, I'm done 'whining' about this one.

[Michael]: "Using the grape juice reasoning, shouldn't the Baptists be concerned for the weaker brother with aquaphobia? Won't requiring immersion be a stumbling block to people who have had a traumatic water experience, or who have never gone swimming or had water over their head?"

Yes, I too was thinking along these lines... a more common problem might be someone in a wheelchair or hospital bed, or perhaps has a common mental condition like Autism (which might cause aquaphobia).

What if lifting someone into water would injure them physically (someone lying on a hospital bed)? It seems to me that if we are strictly Baptistic in our application of sacraments we begin to treat the sacrament as if man were made for IT instead of the sacrament made for man. Jesus' treatment of the Sabbath in that regard should teach us to be pastoral in our approach to applying the sacraments in my opinion.

I'm in agreement that wine and water immersion paint a better picture, but it is more effective in accomplishing its intended purpose? I don't think so.

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