Summary: Wine should be served for communion.
Six weeks ago I concluded The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I called Challenges Christians Face.
Today, I would like to pick up on one issue regarding the use of grape juice or wine in communion.
Paul addressed the issue of communion in chapter 11. He rebuked the Corinthians because the Lord’s Supper had degenerated into a self-centered disregard for others. The rich Christians did not wait for the poor Christians to arrive so that they could all eat together. They went ahead and ate and drank to the point of becoming drunk. When the poor Christians arrived there was nothing left for them to eat, and they went hungry. So, Paul rebuked the Christians in Corinth for their dreadful behavior at the Lord’s Supper, and then told them how the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated.
Let us read about it in 1 Corinthians 11:20-26:
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
In recent years an increasing number of churches—including PCA churches—have started serving wine instead of grape juice for communion. This practice raises the question: should grape juice or wine be served for communion?
My thesis today simple: wine should be served for communion.
I. The Use of Wine in Scripture
First, let’s look at the use of wine in Scripture.
The Bible teaches that wine is a good gift to man from God. Speaking to God, the Psalmist says in Psalm 104:14-15, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”
God himself commands that wine be brought to him as an offering. For example, Exodus 29:38-40 says, “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering” (cf. Leviticus 23:13; Numbers 15:5, 7, 10; 28:7). God always commands that the best be offered to him as a sacrifice. Nothing unclean or unholy may ever be sacrificed to God. Yet God commands that he be offered wine as a sacrifice. It is impossible, therefore, that wine is inherently evil, unclean, or unholy.
There are a many other verses in the Bible that state that wine is a blessing from God (such as Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 7:12-13; 11:13-14; 14:22-26; Judges 9:13; and Amos 9:13-14). Wine is one of God’s gracious blessings to his faithful covenant people.
Jesus drank wine. Speaking to the crowds concerning John the Baptist, Jesus said in Luke 7:33-34, “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man [i.e., Jesus] has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’’ In this passage, Jesus draws a parallel between himself and John the Baptist. John was condemned for not eating bread and not drinking wine. Jesus was condemned for the exact opposite: eating bread and drinking wine. In fact, Jesus was even accused of being a drunkard because he drank wine.
The very first miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, recorded in John 2:1-11. The wine ran out, and Mary, Jesus’ mother, went to him and told him about it. Jesus turned about 120 gallons of water into wine. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, he called the bridegroom and said to him in John 2:10, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Clearly, everything that Jesus does is good—even producing good wine.