Monday, January 23, 2012

Why We Don't Use Alcohol For The Lord's Supper

Some today are leading churches to begin using alcoholic wine instead of unfermented wine or grape juice in observance of the Lord’s Supper. I’ve personally heard of several such instances in recent days.

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

Other articles in lower right margin.


  1. This posting is very good! It often has troubled me that a church would insist on using alcoholic wine at the communion service, knowing full well that it could easliy lead some of the participants back to the life of an alcoholic.

  2. Can we do some private correspondence?

  3. Bruce,

    P.O. Box 300
    Lake Jackson, TX 77566

    David R. Brumbelow

  4. David,

    I have several booklets pro & con re fermented wine or grape juice for the Lord's Supper. One thing that each side has in common is that they both expend a lot of energy arguing that their preference for the cup is the one that is "unleavened". I see that you and Bro. Hobbs also use this angle.

    As far as I can tell, the Bible knows nothing of "unleavened drink". That is, all the biblical references to "leaven" is in reference to something that is added to bread. From a biblical standpoint how can one prove that one or the other element is "unleavened"? (In these booklets each asserts it is necessary that the drink be "unleavened", but none ever give biblical evidence that they are.) And since the Bible doesn't address this, why should we try? What are your thoughts on this matter?


  5. R. L. Vaughn,
    You ask a good question. While I may not argue this point alone is conclusive evidence for not using alcohol in the Lord’s Supper, I believe it is evidence in that direction. As stated above, since the bread is to be unleavened, why would you have other elements that are leavened?

    Interesting that you point out both sides, for and against alcohol in the Lord’s Supper, say the cup should be unleavened.

    Sometimes the pro alcohol side says fermented wine is the only one without leaven. They argue that leaven (yeast) is naturally found on the skins of grapes so the only way to exclude it is to let the new wine go through the fermenting process during which the yeast dies and, of course, the alcohol is left. Thus, they say, alcoholic wine is without leaven. Yet it obviously shows the results of the leavening process.

    This argument would then strangely lead one to let the bread go through the leavening process so the leaven can be killed. In other words, it makes nonsensical the commandment to have unleavened bread at the Passover.

    I do not argue the Bible directly says the cup should be unleavened. But I believe the biblical evidence saying the bread should be unleavened, would therefore point in this direction.
    David R. Brumbelow

  6. Thank you for the discussion of grape juice vs wine! It is rare that anyone will even discuss this issue. Thank you for also writing the book on this subject,which I found advertised in the current issue (Febrary 2012) of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, which I will buy from I am dissapointed by the prevalance of wine drinking in the churches,especially here where I live on the central coast of California in "wine country". One lady told me jokingly that I must be the only person in town that did not drink any alcoholic drinks!
    Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph.D., Andrews University Has a good article on A PREVIEW OF WINE IN THE BIBLE at least to support my minority abstinance position.
    I am not a pastor or a church leader, but I hope many pastors will order your book!

    Stan Stenstrom Paso Robles, CA

  7. Thanks, Stan. You are just the type person for whom I did the research and wrote the book. I pray it will give you some backup in wine country.

    By the way, you might want to check out Draper Valley Vineyards. They produce unfermented wine from the different wine grapes. It is safe and biblically approved. I will soon provide a link to them here, and they are mentioned in my book.

    Let those pastors and church leaders know about “Ancient Wine and the Bible.”
    David R. Brumbelow

  8. David,

    Thanks so much for your thoughts on my question. I don't agree with building a case for "unleavened drink" since the Bible doesn't address this specifically or in principle. I don't say that to start a debate with you, but just for clarity. I wanted to understand how you would approach the issue, which I find helpful and greatly appreciate.

  9. R. L. Vaughn,
    No problem. We'll just agree to disagree.
    David R. Brumbelow

  10. Great article, Brother! My family and I are missionaries to Scotland. On our deputation travels, we have run into a couple of churches that believe in using alcoholic wine in the Lord's Supper. I've heard some of them say that the fermentation process makes the wine more pure. But all of that is demonstrably false when we see the effects - especially the prolonged effects, of putting that same substance into one's body!

    Further, to use alcoholic wine, Christ would have to betray His character, and blatantly disregard the Scriptures, which condemn alcholic wine out of hand.

    Thanks again for the great article!

  11. Don Clough,
    Thanks for your comments. I agree. May God bless your ministry.
    David R. Brumbelow

  12. I appreciate your goal of helping Christians and the church as a whole. However, I do not find your arguments persuasive. The most persuasive point for your point of view to me is not causing a brother to stumble. Not that one can't drink wine but that it may be wise not to do it in front of those who have struggled with alcohol.


What do you think?