Why did our church change from grape juice to wine at our celebration of the Lord’s Supper? And, why did we choose to change now, after I have been here more than 9 years? These are the main two questions I have received since orchestrating a change in our Lord’s Supper observance. So, I will answer them briefly in order.
First, we changed simply as an act of obedience. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples, He did so with bread and wine. It was wine that He and the disciples drank when they pulled the cup to their lips. So, wine was the beverage He prescribed in observance of the Supper. Wine ought to be the beverage we consume.
But what is the difference between wine and grape juice? Or, to put the question another way, isn’t grape juice simply wine without the alcohol? The answer is no. Wine and grape juice are not the same, regardless of alcohol content. In other words, non-alcoholic wine is not the same thing as grape juice. We did use non-alcoholic wine in our observance, but it was not grape juice. Indeed, the shivers and quakes from some contorted faces affirmed for me the reality asserted here that wine—even non-alcoholic wine—is not the same as grape juice. No one ever puckered up as though they had sucked on a green persimmon after drinking grape juice, but several lips were so puckered after drinking the wine. Some of our congregation had never tasted wine before, and they were shocked by its bitterness. No such shock ever followed a swallow of grape juice because the 2 substances remain quite distinct. Jesus used the one (wine) but not the other. The Bible knows of the possibility of drinking grape juice (see Genesis 40:11), but grape juice is never called wine. Jesus used wine.
Wine and grape juice are 2 distinct substances; this is why we needed to change from grape juice to wine. Jesus prescribed the one to be used but not the other. Tea and coffee are each water-based drinks. Probably 90% of these beverages is water. Yet, neither beverage is water, and neither beverage is the same as the other. Obviously, coffee is far superior to tea. The two are not the same, and neither is grape juice and wine the same. Jesus prescribed wine, not grape juice. I don’t think it matters that they both originate from the same fruit any more than it matters that coffee and tea are each made up primarily of water. They are not the same. We should use the one Jesus used.
So, the question may arise (which it did), “Why use non-alcoholic wine if Jesus used alcoholic wine?” This, I believe is a very good question. I did not directly answer this question for the congregation because I believe it is a worthwhile conversation for us to have. Should we use good wine containing alcohol? Indeed, should we use the very best wine at the Lord’s Supper, especially if we consider the forward look of the Supper to the final wedding feast (Isaiah 25:6; Revelation 19:7-9; cf. Mark 14:25; 1 Corinthians 11:26)? Questions concerning alcoholic content and wine quality are questions of “degree” related to the “wineness” of the wine. The question we answered yesterday was a question of kind (of substance). There is a distinction between grape juice and wine that is substantial. The distinction between the characteristics of the wine is not substantial. In each case, the substance is still wine. It is important, I think, to use wine. It is not as important to use a particular wine, although I certainly understand the case for using alcoholic wine such as Jesus used. We chose rather to take advantage of the technology available today which can make wine from grapes and then extract most of the alcohol back out of it. Even without the alcohol, it is still wine, as the faces in the crowd made plain.
I will answer the second question in my next blog post. Until then, you may want to hear the sermon concerning wine. It should be available some time today, by clicking here.