My conclusion from my last blog is that drinking any alcoholic beverage is not a sin, Jesus didn’t sin when He drank and the only thing that makes drinking a sin is not in the alcohol itself but in the use or abuse of the substance.
So back to my original question about the substitution of grape juice for wine in communion. If Jesus, his disciples, the Jews and Christians of Jesus day and the early church used fermented wine in communion why do most fundamental churches use grape juice these days?
The answer to that question is simply the fact that the American fundamental church movement went along with the temperance movement of the late 1800s. There were problems with drunkenness among certain groups which led to poverty and other social problems. The church dealt with the issue the same way they always deal with issues of abuse, they make rules. Instead of teaching responsibility for ones actions, they took the easy road of saying its better to just abstain and then you won’t have to worry about becoming an alcoholic. In their legalistic manner they turned drinking into a sin. During this same time of the temperance movement and then into prohibition the Welch family learned how to pasteurize their concord grapes and the Welch Grape juice company was born.
Thomas Welch was a Methodist minister opposed to Christians drinking alcohol, which motivated his research into ways of preserving fermented grape juice. He was searching for a way to store nonalcoholic grape juice for use in the communion celebration, since until his invention, most churches had little choice but to use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper observance.
(http://www.versebyverseministry.org/bible-answers/may_a_christian_drink_alcohol) (This is a cite to one article on this topic, but this is well documented through the church records of the Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal movement.)
Jesus instituted communion at the last passover meal he ate with his followers. He took the cup of wine, the cup of Redemption, and said this is the new covenant in my blood:
“And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26: 27 – 28
When Paul taught us about the observance of communion he said: “In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” I Corinthians 11: 24 – 26
Church leaders, I have discussed this with, even know that wine is the proper sacrament but still don’t serve it because they say they don’t want to be the cause of someone falling off the wagon because they had a sip of wine at church on Sunday. The whole subject of alcoholism its causes and triggers is for someone else to blog, but I am so simple in my thought process that I believe if the Lord in his infinite wisdom said for everyone to take a drink of it then He probably knew what he was doing and had that issue in mind and under control.
Jesus used the fermented wine that was being served at the Passover meal as a symbol of his blood and the New Covenant He was making. We know it was fermented wine because that is what they used for passover. He didn’t stop and say, “oh wait, there might be a recovering alcoholic here so go get some juice.” No. He told everyone to take a drink. He didn’t say “oh wait lets get some juice for the kids,” no again, he told everyone to take a drink.
Wine is the perfect symbol of Jesus blood because it is complete in and of itself. It is the symbol He chose to represent the work He was about to accomplish.
Fr. Robert Capon, author of The Supper of the Lamb urges us simply to look at a grape. “Yeast on the outside, and sugar on the inside is a divine idea, He maintains. All we need to do is crush a grape and it goes its God-given course.”
There is nothing more that needs to be added to Jesus blood to bring about the redemption and salvation of all. When Jesus body was broken and his blood shed there was nothing that needed to be added to that blood. Even as the grape is complete and when crushed the wine flows. Stopping that fermentation process to get grape juice to drink at communion is a violation of what Jesus was trying to represent to us by using wine in the first place. It is just one more item on a list of items that the church has decided to add to the simplicity of the plan. Somehow the modern church thinks it has more wisdom than Jesus did.
Communion has become so much more meaningful for me when I have taken the step to celebrate it with the symbols Jesus used when He instituted it. In fact I don’t even feel like I’m taking communion unless I am served the emblems Jesus gave us. Wine and unleavened bread otherwise its just a snack.
Grace and Peace