Wine In The Lord's Supper
James A. Gunn
Copyright © 2004 James A. Gunn
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What is the question?

Why don’t we use wine in the Lord’s Supper instead of grape juice?
The same question involves the use of unleavened bread.

Obviously your elders do not object to the use of wine and unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper or the question would have been immediately rejected based on a clear statement from the Scripture.

What will be our guide as to the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper?

The only rule for faith and practice is the Bible. We are committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Scripture.

Why is there a question then?

For many years the position of most [all?] Southern Baptist churches on the use and sale of alcoholic beverages is one of total abstinence.

The Church Covenant of VPBC, which has long been ignored states:

We also engage to maintain family and secret devotions; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, back-biting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Saviour.

This raises the question: Is a thimble-full of wine a “beverage”?

Was it wine when the Lord instituted the Supper?

“We have no evidence as to whether the wine used by Christ was pure, mixed with water, fermented, or unfermented; although general practice, as well as other facts, would lead to the conclusion that it was fermented.”
(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

Arguments that the “wine” was diluted with water or that it was not fermented juice simply do not hold up.

If the early church did not use wine what does Paul mean in 1 Cor 11:21?
Paul warns about getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper. Cf 1 Cor 11:29-33

When Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana He was clearly expecting the wedding guests to use the wine as a beverage?

Jesus Himself drank wine.

Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34-35

19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."  

The legalists of our day will accuse you of the same thing.

The Lord used wine as the symbol of His blood. The early church used wine and Paul had to admonish the church at Corinth for their abuse of wine.

What is a “Matter of conscience”?

Romans 14 is the guide to “Matters of Conscience”

Romans 14:19-22

19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.
21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 

The use of wine may be a “Matter of Conscience” when it comes to taking wine as a beverage. However, what the Lord command cannot be a “Matter of Conscience”.

What we are really talking about is a “tradition” among Southern Baptists.

Is it fair to make an application of another example where men imposed their tradition over the Word of God?

Matthew 15:3-7

3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 
4 For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'  
5 But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" —  
6 then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

Therefore a person may have scruples about the use of wine or any alcoholic beverage and be perfectly within their rights as a brother or sister in Christ. And other Christians must not despise him or her. In the same way the Christian who has scruples about wine or any other matter of conscience must not judge the brother or sister whose conscience is not so constrained. A careful study of Romans 14 will show that this is the rule for all believers.

Therefore to repeat the above: The use of wine may be a “Matter of Conscience” when it comes to taking wine as a beverage. However, what the Lord commands cannot be a “Matter of Conscience”.

What are some of the pragmatic issues?

Will this particular use of wine, i.e., in the Lord’s Supper, encourage anyone to take up the use of wine or other intoxicating beverages? There are ample warnings about drunkenness? 1 Cor 5:11; 6:9-11

Will not our sister Southern Baptist churches take offense?
Probably, but they will have to answer to the Lord for their practice just as we must.

What about believers who are under the legal age for alcoholic beverages?
The amount of alcohol consumed is not nearly as much is in a dose of some cough medicines.

What are some other considerations?

Someone wisely pointed out that in our concern for not offending those who have scruples about the use of any wine for any reason, have we ignored the fact that some may be offended because we do not follow the Lord’s command?

Would the Lord command us to do anything that is inherently harmful?

Why do we as Baptists insist on following the Scripture when it comes to baptism [believers only by immersion] and then compromise on the Lord’s Supper?

For those who cannot be convinced that the use of wine is proper, we would have non-alcoholic grape juice available in each tray for anyone who is opposed to using wine.

Please give these comments your careful and prayerful consideration. There will be further discussions before this matter is put before the church.

June 21, 2004
Jim Gunn

On August 24, 2004 after several studies on this issue the Church voted to use wine in the Lord’s Supper. To accommodate anyone who has scruples about using wine we will offer both wine and juice when the Lord’s Supper is served.