- Every home needed it (Exodus 12:3-4)
- It was to be a male (Exodus 12:5)
- It was to be unblemished (Exodus 12:5)
- It was to be killed (Exodus 12:6)
- Its blood was to be applied (Exodus 12:7)
- Its blood was the difference in life and death (Exodus 12:13,23)
- Its sacrifice was to be commemorated (Exodus 12:14-22,24-27)
- Its sacrifice drew reverence and worship from the obedient (Exodus 12:27)
Interestingly, Paul says, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus, as a faithful Jew, had observed the passover throughout His public ministry (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55), but He knew that the one recorded in Matthew 26 would be different. He told His disciples, “You know that after two days, the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion” (2). On that Passover, He would be sacrificed for us. Jesus of Nazareth, an unblemished (1 Peter 1:18) male (Mark 8:31; 9:31), was killed (Acts 2:23). His blood is applied (Romans 3:25; 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:22; 10:19; 12:24; 13:20; Revelation 1:5; 5:9) to the obedient (Hebrews 5:8-9) and is the difference in spiritual life and death (John 6:53-54). As we do every Sunday, this Sunday, which the world recognizes as Easter, we will commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus as part of our weekly worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Jesus was arrested on Thursday, crucified on Friday, lay buried all day Saturday, and arose on Sunday. Today, New Testament Christians commemorate this sacrifice every Sunday. The unleavened bread represents His body, and the fruit of the vine represents His blood. The God of perfect foreknowledge made these “emblems” part of the Passover feast which Israel celebrated the night they left Egypt, and it predated the first covenant (Exodus 20). The physical passover lamb sacrificed by Israel had significance to them in their generation and it was to be handed down to their descendants. But, God was drawing a picture that night that would be completed the moment His Son said “It is finished,” bowed His head, and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). We celebrate and rejoice because He died, was buried, and rose again! May we never let this sacrifice lose its significance to our past, present, and future.
This is a question that occasionally comes up and is an important matter to consider since for some this is a test of a teacher’s soundness and a matter of fellowship. As the church is global in nature, it is a matter to consider beyond the borders of our nation. Various biblical arguments are made to defend and condemn its usage.
No doubt, the practice of “social drinking”—which is a different discussion altogether—has created such sensitivity to this matter of what kind of fruit of the vine is permissible for communion. Achieving a biblical answer is vital, though, especially if the matter is framed as something that might be “scriptural” or, by implication, “unscriptural.” If Guy N. Woods is right on this very matter, “To urge the use of one, to the exclusion of the other, on alleged scriptural grounds, is to make a law where God made none. It is a grave sin so to do (1 Tim. 4:3)” (Questions And Answers: Open Forum, 1976, p. 361). Were his statement to be found true, those who malign the character of those whose position differs from their own should refrain and retract. This is not a matter of what is preferred or deemed most expedient, but is a matter of what Scripture permits.
Arguments Against Its Use:
- The Passover Meal. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during the Passover before His death (Mat. 26:26-29). Drawing from the idea that during the Passover no leaven was to be in one’s house for seven days (Exo. 12:19), it is assumed that wine would be prohibited. Even if such were to be proven true (and it cannot be), we should remember that what proves too much proves nothing at all. During the Passover, they also ate roasted meat (Exo. 12:8) and bitter herbs (Exo. 12:9). In addition, the “leaven” forbidden in the Passover was dough used in baking bread (Koehler, et al; The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, 1999, n.pag.) and the prohibition is specifically “eating” that which contained leaven (cf. Exo. 12:15; Deu. 16:4). Wayne Jackson shows that “wine was ordinarily used at the Passover and is called ‘fruit of the vine’ in Berakoth 6:1” (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/224-was-the-fruit-of-the-vine-fermented, citing Jack Lewis and John Lightfoot). The Passover Meal cannot be used as grounds for prohibiting the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper.
- 1 Timothy 5:23. It is argued that since Paul had to tell Timothy to drink wine for medicinal purposes, Timothy could not have, as a Christian who faithfully worshipped, consumed fermented fruit of the vine in partaking of the Lord’s Supper. This assumes what the text of Scripture nowhere supports. That Paul is condoning the medicinal use of alcohol, given the medical conditions of the day, is clear. But, this text is neither in the context of the Lord’s Supper nor a judgment in any way on what should be used in it. One flirts dangerously close to “twisting” the Scriptures who applies this passage to the communion (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16).
- Causing A Brother To Stumble. This is a legitimate concern and should factor into our judgment regarding the Lord’s Supper. The church has recovering alcoholics and others who struggle with a sin problem regarding alcohol. A newer convert or one whose conscience is sensitive in this matter should be respected. Romans 14 is devoted to discussing such a matter as this. However, having scruples about a matter does not give one the authority to make his or her scruples law. Choosing to impose fermented wine just because one can, ignoring the impact this has on a brother’s conscience, falls into the category of causing a brother’s stumbling. However, difficulty in obtaining grape juice in many parts of the world at times makes necessary using alcoholic fruit of the vine. In this case, the Lord’s command takes precedence over a brother’s conscience. The church is commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-29), with the approved example of Acts 20:7 teaching us that such is to be done every first day of the week.
This article is not intended as advocacy to implement the use of alcoholic fruit of the vine in our communion services here in the states or developed nations where there is ready access to non-alcoholic fruit of the vine. The bigger question is permissibility in situations where such is unavoidable or even where the autonomous judgment of the local church allows its usage. By extension, is it right to label a congregation liberal or sinful who chooses to use it in the Lord’s Supper? At its heart, this is not a matter of what we might think is wiser, more expedient, or more comfortable. The question is whether a congregation has the biblical right to do so. In many of the world’s more remote and rural areas, the ability to get non-alcoholic fruit of the vine is a real problem. For them, this is a real, practical concern. Short of compelling information which I have, as yet, not seen, it seems clear that it is scriptural to use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper.
NOTE: One of our brand new Christians (Jeff Wiant) has an extensive music background. He has written a song, “Live Like Jesus,” that we will be learning at Bear Valley very soon (Kathy Petrillo is doing the musical note composition for his melody now). I’m very excited for you to learn it! While the following will probably be adjusted by Jeff with his considerable knowledge of meter and music, here is the poem that will at some point become a hymn.
When Moses and the Israelites were crying and enslaved
God shared His plan to free them and help them to be saved
The plan spelled the difference, and none of them were lost
But the way of their deliverance must come at a great cost.
The price was a little animal, flawless and innocent and young
He lived with them for four days before his blood was hung
Across the door. And through that step the obedient were spared
The lamb that saved their lives showed them that God cared.
They loved the lamb, The gift of the Great I Am,
They killed the lamb, And their faith passed the exam
No other way would have saved them on that night
The cherished sacrificial lamb led them to the light.
Each year the lambs were slaughtered to take care of their sin
Thousands upon thousands, a river of blood again and again
But God had a better solution, though more costly than them all
His Son, a Lamb without defect, who would save us from our fall
He came and lived among us before His blood was shed
The people, filled with anger, hung Him until He was dead
And by the gift of His perfect life, God gave us a door of hope
If we will follow His great plan, we have the way to cope.
Do you love the lamb, The gift of the Great I Am,
Do you see His love, the love of that Precious Lamb,
No other way can save us from sin’s dark night,
Obey the lamb to walk in the Son’s pure light.
I recently read a fascinating article by John H. Armstrong in the September, 2014, issue of “Christianity Today.” Armstrong starts out reminiscing on early childhood worship experiences in the denomination he attended. He writes that his church celebrated the Lord’s Supper “four times a year. I remember asking why we celebrated it so infrequently. The answer I got never satisfied, and it still doesn’t: ‘If we do this very often, it will lose its meaning'” (51). He goes on to say, “As I grew older, I discovered some churches took the meal weekly. I was then even more dissatisfied with the answer I had received” (ibid.). He goes on to write a mostly historical examination of the Lord’s Supper, looking at the debates and developments of church history. At the end, he summarizes by saying, “…[younger Christians] desire to receive the meal more often. And some of them—as I did when I was younger—have started attending congregations that take Communion ever week” (53). The reasons given are that each observance gives us the opportunity to focus on Jesus’ crucifixion, expresses the unity of the body, and reflects our personal identity in Christ (ibid.). In other words, it offers commemoration, examination, and expectation. We need that on an ongoing basis, and the Lord knew we would. That is why He pointed ahead to a certain frequency when He established it, saying He would do it again when He established His Kingdom (Mark 14:25). Paul says it was to be done with a certain frequency (1 Cor. 11:25—”as often as”). Thankfully, Luke shows us how frequently it was taken (Acts 20:7—”on the first day of the week”). It is good to understand that the Bible establishes the frequency of our observation of the Lord’s Supper, but it is also important to know why we take it each week. We look up, look back, look within, look around, and look ahead. Our all-wise God knew we would need this every time we assembled with our spiritual family. Though so many have lost sight of its frequency, may we never lose sight of its significance!