I’m grateful for the fact that our church has been discussing recently the possibility of having wine during the Lord’s Supper. As most of you know, Pastor Bill preached a sermon about the topic on September 30th and one of the applications in that sermon was the proposal our elders have made to serve both wine and grape juice during communion. Of course, we won’t implement that decision until we have thoroughly talked about this change with the congregation. While this is a serious issue it is not urgent, and so you can be assured that no changes will be made immediately.
I’m also grateful for the nature of the discussion we have been having. Several people have contacted their elders and shared their thoughts with them about the biblical principles behind the decisions we make. We are grateful that many people desire to be faithful to God and his word as we love each other. For those of you who have expressed your opinions and questions in writing an email or directly with an elder, thank you! Here’s a non-exhaustive summary of some of your questions:
Does having two options for what we drink create a picture of disunity?
What is the occasion for this change? Why now?
Is not the creation of discomfort in a brother causing them to stumble? Isn’t this flaunting a Christian liberty in the presence of a weaker brother?
Isn’t any fruit of the vine a sufficient picture of what God is teaching us? Why is the presence of alcohol in wine important?
Wasn’t the wine in the Bible different than our wine today?
Doesn’t the presence of alcohol introduce a slippery slope, making provision for what might become a problem later? Where do we draw the line?
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to address all of your concerns in this short note. For now, I just have one thing for us to think about. In subsequent correspondence with you all, we’ll address more of these questions, Lord willing.
Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:9 “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
I encourage you to read these verses in the greater context of the whole letter to the Galatians, which challenges us to walk in the Spirit and not to walk by the righteousness that comes from works of the law.
There are really only three options when it comes to the inclusion of wine in the Lord’s Supper: serve wine only, serve grape juice only, or serve them both. In each of these positions, Christians can in good conscience base their decisions on biblically derived principles by which they seek to faithfully worship God and love one another. This most fundamentally is a matter of freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, we are rarely purely motivated and are often unaware of the culturally derived motivations for our actions.
One of the main reasons that the elders have decided that it is necessary for us to engage in this conversation is because we are convinced that serving both wine and grape juice is a move toward greater unity in the body. And the reason for that is that the most divisive of these three options is the position which seeks to only serve grape juice. Now, there are more reasons than this for wanting to serve wine in communion, but this one point against only serving grape juice is worthy of our consideration now. The historical origins of grape juice are found in a departure from Sola Scripture with the legalism of prohibition. Again, it is not necessarily wrong for any one Christian to have the conviction that they should abstain from alcohol, but it is wrong that we would force others to not have alcohol too. The Bible does forbid drunkenness, but it certainly allows for the use of substances that could produce drunkenness. We must be warned against intoxication, but the intoxication that we are truly warned against in scripture is not of a substance but of the teaching of the Pharisees. And what are the Pharisees most known for but the adding of rules upon rules where scripture gives freedom. We are on very dangerous grounds when we call something a curse which God has called a blessing.
Like I said before, this is simply an argument against using grape juice only, the more convincing arguments are the ones for the use of wine as an expression of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. We desire to promote the gospel, not a new law. We are richly blessed in Jesus Christ, and it is important that we express our joy over the freedom that we have in Christ.
United together with you in Christ,