July 6, 2018
I received this email from the former Deacon in my church:
What is happening with our Communion cup? Someone asked today, What did we drink? I also wonder. I have talked to at least 5 people at DHBC (not counting you) about Communion, and they all know that Jesus used wine, and think we ought to do the same. NONE can explain why we don’t. You haven’t either. As one person said, Why don’t we use the good stuff like the Roman Catholics? My question is, Why are the Roman Catholics more Biblical on the cup than we? Why is our cup a mystery drink? What is your objection to being Biblical? One person thought alcoholism might be the reason. My response is, why should an alcoholic compel Christ’s Church to be unbiblical? Is alcoholism a sin more powerful than the grace of Christ? Some churches put both (unmistakable) grape juice and wine in the tray, one on the inside, the other on the outer. Jesus did not do this. But at least that allows some believers to worship Biblically. At DHBC none of us can. Please apply God’s Word to this continuing problem.
WoW! Interesting points. But let’s first look at the history of this debate.
For 1,869 years, the church used only wine. The concept of using grape juice was born out of the temperance movement in the United States in the 1800’s. It wasn’t until the year 1869, that Thomas Welch (yes that guy) who was adamantly opposed to the buying, selling, or use of intoxicating beverages. He discovered that Louis Pasteur’s method of pasteurization (it wasn’t until the 1880’s that pasteurization came into practice) prevented the natural fermentation of grapes.
Welch peddled his idea to churches in the area, who were quick to adopt this means of celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
We know from history, and the Bible itself, that Jesus did NOT turn the water into grape juice! (See John 2 for details). The biblical and historical precedence of using wine for communion was established at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30).
II. What does Scripture say:
Biblically, we can’t make an argument for grape juice. It’s conversion into wine is a natural by-product of squeezing grapes. Mark 2:22 and Matthew 9:17 reminds us that no one puts new (unfermented) wine into old wineskins. The process of fermentation produces carbon dioxide gas, which causes expansion, and bursting. You really could not stop the conversion of grapes into wine. Until 1869. Which historically, is recent.
III. The controversy
The controversy then becomes one of conscience. Shakespeare reminds us in Hamlet: “…thus conscience doth make cowards of us all.” How perfectly candid, did Shakespeare understood the human condition.
So do we upset the order of things (traditions of man) to bring us back in harmony with the Word of God?
Yes…but. And this is my opinion. The Bible is replete with scriptures on causing others to stumble.
Romans 14 :13-23 is a strong warning against stumbling a brother. Here is the text:
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (ESV)
Strong warning from Scripture. Do we serve wine, which is the Biblical order, or do we serve grape juice because of someone’s conscience?
Ay there’s the rub. Two diametrically opposed thoughts. The quandary is completed.
I offer this solution. For those of us who are able, wine. For those because of conscience sake, grape juice. Yes I know that grape juice is a MAP. (Methodist Approved Product).
Would this cause further dissension? I am one guy. What say you?
For further consideration: Wine or Welch’s