Finally, allow me to say that there are issues to consider concerning the Lord’s Supper and the use of wine. First, there is the issue of liberty. Liberty comes from Christ (Galatians 5:1; John 8:31-32). However, the Apostle Paul instructs us concerning our liberty that it is not an excuse for leading a weaker Christian astray. We may not take our freedom and with it cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble.
Since prohibition, evangelical Christians in America have been strongly influenced by the teetotalism position, and Christianity (at least in part) has been defined by a strict morality relating to drinking alcohol. (As the saying goes in Arkansas, “We don’t drink; we don’t chew, and we won’t date the girls who do”). Many (most?) Christians think it is a sin to drink alcohol.
Because of this moral code, some Christians believe that drinking a single sip of wine is itself a sin. This, of course, cannot be so because our Lord drank wine. And Paul commanded Timothy to drink wine for his stomach (1 Timothy 5:23). Probably, this was the diluted wine mentioned earlier, but, again, it was still alcoholic wine. In fact, the alcohol is the implied reason Timothy should drink the wine. The alcohol might kill bacteria in the water which could have been causing Timothy’s stomach trouble. So, it would be the case that alcohol has a positive effect in some instances (and without drunkenness).
We understand from this that drinking a glass of wine is not itself a sin. Yet, we ought to be considerate of others who have come out of alcoholism or lifestyles in which alcohol has had devastating effects. They rightly sense the danger, and we must not be cavalier in our exercise of our “rights” as Christians. We may be free to drink a glass of wine, and yet we may be better served to abstain from drinking. If we are truly concerned for Christian liberty, then we must recognize that we have the right to drink a glass of wine—and the freedom to decline it. Like Paul, we can “try to please everyone in everything [we] do, not seeking [our] own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33).
Second, many will assert that drinking wine at the Lord’s Supper is wrong because it hinders the recovery of former alcoholics. According to AA, the alcoholic will always be subject to the temptation of alcohol and always in danger of entrapment if he takes even the first sip. What a tragedy if that first sip were offered at a worship service.
This issue is tricky. On the one hand, the danger is real. Alcohol is a temptation to sin for some people. Some are deeply scarred by their former drunkenness. Yet, on the other hand, we must trust the wisdom of the Lord. He is the one who instituted this practice, and, as I said earlier, He is the one who knows best the awfulness of sin, including the sin of drunkenness.
The key which I believe will unlock this dilemma is found in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 6, Paul acknowledges that drunkenness is a defining sin which will keep a person from the kingdom of God. Drunkards will not inherit the kingdom. Yet, Paul then asserts a most wonderful proposition. The alcoholic can be washed, cleansed, sanctified, and justified by God Himself through the washing with the water of the Word (1 Corinthians 6:11). Paul seems to say that once you are born again by the Spirit and the Word, you are no longer an alcoholic. You are no longer a drunkard. You are no longer barred from the Kingdom. You are, in fact, a saint. You are set apart for holiness. You are justified in the sight of God. You are born again as a new—non-alcoholic—creature.
The Christian who was saved out of alcoholism is NOT an alcoholic any more. He is a new creature in Christ Jesus. This manner of thinking is contrary to some postmodern psychology, but it is in concert with God. God changes us from the inside out. We are born again. And, because we are born again, we are no longer slaves to the sins which once held us captive.
Far from serving as an entrapment to further sin, drinking wine at the Lord’s Supper is a spectacular way to picture the complete redemption of the saint who once had fallen to drunkenness. So, former alcoholic, drink the wine of redemption. Remember the manner in which you had once become a slave to the sin of drunkenness, and now eat the bread of forgiveness and drink the wine of release. Proclaim the Lord’s death as you drink the cup. It was His death which took away your captivity to the sin of drunkenness. It was His death which set you free to become a child of God. And children of God are not drunkards any more. Celebrate this glorious reality by sipping a cup of wine at the Lord’s table. Drink wine in the manner the Lord intended it instead of in the way the Devil perverted it.
I understand in all of this there must be caution and wisdom and care taken. Honestly, this was a factor in our decision to use non-alcoholic wine. Though non-alcoholic wine does have trace amounts of alcohol in it, it does not have enough alcohol to affect any kind of “buzz.” Non-alcoholic wine, for instance, would be—at most—1 proof (.05% alcohol by content). The important thing is not the content of the alcohol but the substance itself. It is wine. Just as the Lord instituted for His followers to drink.
Good post brother. This is perhaps one of the most wrongly taught subjects in our walk of faith. And most certainly one that not only draws great emotion, but is also completely ill-applied. The church does not consistently apply the ‘stumbling’ concept and anachronistically interprets those passages to boot. Almost never is gluttony, for example ever shown any concern like alcohol. Not only has the prohibition movement (as you rightly mentioned) become the hermeneutic of choice but also gnosticism.
After studying this for a few years, we changed our communion wine to include the use of real wine. 1 Corinthians 11, for example, shows us clearly an alcoholic wine being used that got many drunk when they abused it at the Lord’s table. Paul’s conclusion was not to switch wines. Instead, he rebuked them for their lack of self-control and approaching the communion gathering in an unworthy manner.
We have retained some non-alcoholic cups for those who are still not convinced. We see this as being gracious to our weaker brothers and sisters. However, we must never forget that the traditional approach of leaving the weaker brethren IN their weakness is sinful. We are to teach and encourage them beyond the elemental principles. Psychology and AA thinking have absolutely reeked great havoc on the church and its practices.
May we regain both charity and truth in all that we do.