It is often presented as more biblical to use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper. A careful study of ancient wine and the Bible, however, along with medical evidence and common sense, may show Baptists have actually been more biblical than some assert.
Following are a few reasons why the big majority of Baptists do not use alcoholic wine in the ordinance (not sacrament) of the Lord’s Supper:
1. Even though the word wine referred to both fermented and unfermented wine in Bible times, the word wine is never used in Scripture referring to the Lord’s Supper. Instead, “cup,” or “fruit of the vine.” The best representative of fruit of the vine would be the juice immediately pressed; rather than that processed and made alcoholic. Scripture certainly never says to use alcohol for the Lord’s Supper.
2. Alcohol is a poison that immediately impairs judgment, kills brain cells, and makes men do what they would never do in their right minds. It is made by the process of rotting good, fresh, sweet unfermented wine. Why use that to represent the precious, pure, redeeming blood of Jesus?
3. Why use a drug to represent the blood of Jesus?
4. Why teach saved children to drink that which is a recreational drug? Why lead anyone by example to drink? Why use a church ordinance to lead someone astray? Alcohol has led multitudes astray.
5. Unfermented wine or grape juice in no way diminishes from the symbolism and biblical teaching of the Lord’s Supper. There are no harmful side effects of unfermented wine.
6. Jesus said when He would drink again with the disciples, it would be new wine (Matthew 26:29).
7. The bread of Passover and the Lord’s Supper is to be unleavened. It naturally follows that the cup should also be without leaven or ferment.
8. There are a multitude of good reasons not to drink; there are no good reasons to drink beverage alcohol.
9. The ancients had available throughout the year, and knew multiple ways to preserve, unfermented wine. Certain kinds of good keeping grapes were kept throughout the year and pressed for fresh, sweet wine (Genesis 40:11). Ancient accounts tell of churches pressing grapes directly into the cup for the Lord’s Supper. Early churches also made unfermented wine from raisins. Jews also used these processes. Unfermented wine was common, and commonly preserved in Bible times.
The oft heard dogmatic pronouncements, “Jesus and the disciples had to use fermented wine for Passover since it was six months after the grape harvest,” and, “It was impossible to prevent fermentation until the discovery of pasteurization in the 1800s,” are absolutely, demonstrably false.
10. Priests were forbidden to drink wine during worship (Leviticus 10:8-10; Ezekiel 44:21). Why should a pastor drink alcoholic wine during his pastoral duties?
11. Using new wine or grape juice will in no way cause a struggling alcoholic, or anyone else, to stumble.
12. For those who insist the Corinthians used alcoholic wine for the Lord’s Supper: (1) It never says they did. (2) “Drunk” is contrasted with not having enough to eat, and the passage is only speaking of eating, not wine. (3) The word “drunk” can obviously mean intoxicated, but it can also simply mean filled or satiated. (4) Even if the Corinthians were using alcoholic wine for the Lord’s Supper, Paul is not complimenting them but reproving them. (5) Should we use what may be the most immature church in the New Testament as our example in this regard?
Former SBC President Herschel H. Hobbs said it well,
“The elements used in this Supper were unleavened bread and ‘the fruit of the vine.’ The word ‘wine’ is not used. Some interpret ‘fruit of the vine’ as wine. However, as the bread was unleavened, free of bacteria, was the cup also not grape juice? Wine is the product of the juice plus fermentation caused by bacteria. Since both elements represented the pure body and blood of Jesus, there is reason to ponder. The writer sees ‘fruit of the vine’ as pure grape juice untainted by fermentation.”
-Brumbelow is a pastor and author of “The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow” and “Ancient Wine and the Bible.” (This article was previously published at SBC Voices.)
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 23, AD 2012.
Much more information on this subject in the book, Ancient Wine and the Bible: The Case for Abstinence.
Ancient Wine and the Bible - the book
Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times
2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America