Monday, October 11, 2010

Bread and grape juice?

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom." (Matthew 26:26-28).
In discussing the Westminster Confession's teaching on the Lord's Supper, Robert Letham adds this footnote, which calls into question the practice of many Evangelical churches,
we note that the elements appointed by the Lord Jesus are "bread and wine" and that the right to determine these rests with him alone, and not with the temperance movement  of the nineteenth century. While Jesus changed the water into wine, the temperance movement changed wine into grape juice concentrate [or Ribena]. No one has any right to change the elements of the Lord's Supper, any more than water may be replaced in baptism by orange juice. To do this is to usurp the authority of Christ. (The Westminster Assembly: Reading its theology in historical context, P&R, 2009, p. 351, n. 76).

17 comments:

Jonathan Hunt said...

I totally agree, and I would love to change our practice, but I fear that the anti-alcohol sentiment is so stong that it could even lead people to leave the church.

Exiled Preacher said...

I know what you mean. We're still on the grape juice for now...

Andrew said...

What are your thoughts on how this might be changed in a congregation?

What should a Pastor do? What should a layman do?

rapsthenjives said...

What would you suggest for recovering alcoholics?

Most people at my church have wine, but we provide a non-alcoholic option.

Exiled Preacher said...

Andrew,

1. Pray
2. Discuss with elders/deacons
3. Preach on Lord's Supper, making reference to wine issue.
4. Discuss with elders/deacons bringing a proposal to raise the matter at church members meeting. If they are OK with that
5. Explain to members why issue is being raised - faithfulness to Scripture. Don't necessarily force the matter to a vote, simply encourage the members to think afresh about it and share their concerns with you.
6. Review discussions with elders/deacons.
7. Put using wine on the agenda for next members meeting. Allow discussion. Be prepared to make concessions for recovering alcoholics and those with tender consciences. Try and take the meeting with you, emphasising biblical principle and bing it to a vote.

That might do it. If not, don't split the church over the issue.

Jonathan said...

No one has asked the "why?" though. Why does it matter? Is their a theological significance to wine over anything else? What difference would it make in our churches, lives and attitudes?

Ben said...

In the history of Highbury Chapel, Bristol it is recorded that around the turn of the nineteenth century, separate communion services were instituted for 'temperance' worshippers. This hardly seems ideal; eventually the church was reunited at the table with the use of non-alcoholic wine for everyone. I wonder how often the same thing happened elsewhere.

I agree with Letham, but ... there are more important battles to fight ... the weaker conscience must be respected ... the alcohol content of the wine is hardly central to the meaning of the supper ... the 'bread' usually supplied often bears no discernible relationship to real bread of any kind, let alone the bread used at the Passover.

I've noticed when I've been in churches with an Independent Calvinist history, relatively insulated from the social, ecclesiastical and doctrinal changes of the years, real wine (often, port for practical reasons) was the norm, whereas in churches historically exposed to broader evangelicalism one usually finds they keep bottles of nonalcoholic communion wine in the cupboard.

Nasty stuff that is, too, tasting of sweeteners and preservatives.

aaytch said...

Worry about this issue springs from the false Roman theology that "His Body and Blood" is contained in the elements rather than in the partaking by faith. I assure you that the quality of remembrance and efficacy is determined not by a lack or presence of alcohol, but by a lack or presence of faith. Beware the Judaizers.

Kaitiaki said...

Jonathan - why does it matter? The Lord Jesus takes bread (unleavened since it was the Passover meal and no yeast was to be present) and says this is my body - do this as often as you eat it (so we replace the bread with leavened bread and expect Jesus to be happy with that?
The same argument goes with the wine - if Jesus is our Lord, why do we ignore his direct requirement? If he says wine represents his blood then grape juice does not do.
And dishonoring his wishes does matter. He dies that we might have life, the least we can do is follow his command "as often as you eat," and "... as often as you drink it."

barrydean said...

Jonathan Hunt, It is heartbreaking to think about members leaving for something like this. Our senior pastor did a series on Welch's or Wine and then our elders changed our communion service to now offer the congregation wine or grape juice. We had a few folks leave. But we have stuck to the change. It means more to me now that we are doing this act of worship the right way.

Ed Blackwood said...

Just to stir the cup a bit, I will note that the verse quoted uses "cup" and "fruit of the vine." In fact, in none of the references to the Lord's Supper is the word "wine" used.

Grant said...

Jesus used wine because that is what was there and available. That is what was used during that time and if they had been drinking, Beer, Water or Coke he would have used them.

There are many places on this planet that wine is not available so if you hold the view that communion can only be done with wine then that borders on ignorance of the reality that the way thing are in your situation is not the norm for the rest of the world.

Yes most Western Churches have the availability of wine but choose not to in order not to offend the weaker brother who may be struggling with alcohol or the freedom we have in Christ but we who are strong know that we are to accommodate him.

Michael said...

Gentlemen,
Regarding the question of 'Why does it matter?", the strongest argument for wine is of course that Jesus himself chose the symbols. And we should defer to this.

At the same time, I think there is much to be said for using wine, in normal circumstances, and bread because of their rich, biblically-rooted symbolism. Their constituent ingredients have been transformed through fermentation--a re-birth, so to speak. In replacing these signifiers, to put it simply, the signified is lost. At least that is what I think; I'm simply a layman.

Regards,
Michael in Berlin

Raving Rabbi said...

Grant - mars bars and coke for the youth? Sake and Rice for the Japanese, non-alcohol for AA, gluten free for wheat intollerant? Are you sure? I'm all in favour of being senstive to the exceptions, but we are talking about the biblical norm. This, due to mostly Victorian moral arguements has been subverted, and we need to respond.

Michael may be a layman but he's making crucial points.

It seems that the authority of scripture and the supremacy of Christ in the Church are connected to this.

artemio burns said...

Regarding the Lord’s Supper, all three gospels agree that Jesus and the disciples were celebrating the Passover meal but Paul does not mention it. This is acceptable since the issue for Paul was conduct in the assembly and there was no need to go into why Jesus and the disciples were gathered to eat.

As to what actually happened at the meal, Matthew and Mark record that Jesus broke the bread while they were eating which would indicate that the meal was in progress. At some point after that Jesus passed the cup around. We can conclude that this was toward the end of the meal because after that they sung a hymn and departed for the garden. Neither makes any mention of doing any of it in remembrance. Was this because of an error on their part or was it because it Jesus never said it?

In Luke’s account Jesus passes the cup first with no mention of doing it in remembrance (22:18). Afterwards He breaks the bread during the meal, passes it around, and tells then to do it in his remembrance (22:19). Then after the meal is over he passes the cup again (22:20) but no mention of passing the cup in His remembrance. Are we to conclude then that we are only required to break bread but not pass the cup in Jesus’ remembrance?

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he tells us that Jesus broke the bread and passed it around with instruction do this in His remembrance (1 Cor 11:23-24). Then, after the meal Jesus passes the cup around, repeats the do this in remembrance of me and also includes, “as often as you drink it”. Evidently this is the account that the ordinance is based on.

So we have four accounts of the same incident. Matthew and Mark do not mention anything about the ordinance although Matthew is an eye-witness. Both Luke and Paul mention the ordinance but the details are different.

In conclusion, A) We have an ordinance that is based on only one of four accounts but not on either of the two accounts that actually match up. B) We do not observe it within the context of the actual event which is the annual Passover meal. C) We use token representations of the actual elements that Jesus used. D) For the most part we have reduced it to an add-on at the end of a specified service.

So why are we debating whether we should use real wine or not when the entire “observance” does not in any way resemble the actual event?

NOTE: I am not trying to make a case against the ordinance just giving food for thought. In my church we observe the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of every month using grape juice and store bought wafers. This is currently acceptable to everyone.

Respectfully,
Artemio

artemio burns said...

Regarding the Lord’s Supper, all three gospels agree that Jesus and the disciples were celebrating the Passover meal but Paul does not mention it. This is acceptable since the issue for Paul was conduct in the assembly and there was no need to go into why Jesus and the disciples were gathered to eat.

As to what actually happened at the meal, Matthew and Mark record that Jesus broke the bread while they were eating which would indicate that the meal was in progress. At some point after that Jesus passed the cup around. We can conclude that this was toward the end of the meal because after that they sung a hymn and departed for the garden. Neither makes any mention of doing anything in remembrance. Was this because of an error on their part or was it because Jesus never said it?

In Luke’s account Jesus passes the cup first with no mention of doing it in remembrance (22:18). Afterwards He breaks the bread during the meal, passes it around, and tells then to do it in his remembrance (22:19). Then after the meal is over he passes the cup again (22:20) but no mention of passing the cup in His remembrance. Are we to conclude that we are only required to break bread but not pass the cup in Jesus’ remembrance?

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he tells us that Jesus broke the bread and passed it around with instruction do this in His remembrance (1 Cor 11:23-24). Then, after the meal Jesus passes the cup around, repeats the do this in remembrance of me and also includes, “as often as you drink it”. Evidently this is the account that the ordinance is based on.

So we have four accounts of the same incident. Matthew and Mark do not mention anything about ordinance although Matthew is an eye-witness. Both Luke and Paul mention the ordinance but the details are different.

In conclusion, A) We have an ordinance that is based on only one of four accounts but not on either of the two accounts that actually match up. B) We do not observe it within the context of the actual event which is the annual Passover meal. C) We use token representations of the actual elements that Jesus used. D) For the most part we have reduced it to an add-on at the end of a specified service.

So why are we debating whether we should use real wine or not when the entire “observance” does not in any way resemble the actual event?

NOTE: I am not trying to make a case against the ordinance just giving food for thought. In my church we observe the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of every month using grape juice and store bought wafers. This is currently acceptable to everyone.

Respectfully,
Artemio

MADHOBBY said...

Jesus like John the Baptist wasn't fussy about life's comforts and luxury's. But He made allot of fuss about Prayer in the Temple against the Traders and against the the Sell of sex in favour of non adultery and marriage. As I expect John the Baptist did. The wine of the Marriage Miracle and the ritual of the couples fathers and the marrying of the blood of two families shows the Bloods relevance a little bit. Jesus said His food was the work for His Father and like wise our food from Him should be unleavened by the Levites. Jesus by Prayer the nights before learned of His work of the coming day. Jesus was called the Word and Concentrated non alcoholic juice was used as a writing ink on bread like rice paper that was not leavened to write messages amongst the homeless refugees of Jewish and Christian exiles often having to hide their knowledge of the taste of Hope until the right time. The unleavened Indian Chi-pate (Flour and water and salt fried then folded into an ice cream cone shape or can be shaped like Ginger Bread men or have holes for putting on string like beads for portability) bread is a good vessel like a baguette for foods generally without washing up at Banquettes and their Banners. The wines even without alcohol is now found to have anti disease things in it. See also "food and drink indeed" near John 6.66 So many safe creative Blessings in the taste of Hope isn't there? graysgrace@googlemail.com