A few common objections are commonly advanced against the use of real wine in the Lord’s Supper. We answer some of those here.
OBJECTION 1: “The words Jesus used, namely, ‘the fruit of the vine,’ are a generic term. Therefore, we are free to use either wine or unfermented grape juice, because both wine and grape juice are ‘the fruit of the vine.'”
ANSWER: The assertion that “the fruit of the vine” is a generic term is not supported by any evidence or proof. Those who say that “the fruit of the vine” is a generic term should be required to show us one unambiguous example in which “the fruit of the vine” denotes something other than wine, the fermented juice of grapes. In the meantime, we must follow the evidence wherever it leads us; that evidence compels us to conclude that “the fruit of the vine” can only mean one, specific thing. Jesus was very clear and specific when He gave us His instructions for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “Do this,” not “Do something new, if ye so choose.” He said, “This fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29), not “Whatever alleged ‘fruit of the vine’ you choose.” Sadly, the biblical term “the fruit of the vine”–and thus the word of God–is being distorted and perverted, instead of being merely received with meekness and a child-like faith. (A fuller answer to the above objection can be found on another page of this web site.)
OBJECTION 2: “Just as the kind of bread used in the Lord’s Supper is a matter of indifference, so should the kind of liquid used in the cup be a matter of indifference.”
ANSWER: First, arguments from analogy are often weak. We would not approve of the argument that says, “Tobacco is legal, so marijuana should also be legal.” Second, what if we deny the premise of the argument? Some authorities say the bread in the Lord’s Supper should be leavened; others say it should be unleavened. It may well be that the kind of bread we should use is not a matter of indifference. True, it has often been treated as a matter of indifference in the churches, but that is hardly a reason we should continue to do so, either now or in the future. Third, the term used in the biblical instructions about the type of bread used in the Lord’s Supper is simply bread (Greek: artos), which is not specific, but the terms used for the contents of the cup are specific; therefore, the two cases are not analogous. The analogy fails. Fourth, experience shows us that the effort to discuss the bread in the Lord’s Supper, while simultaneously discussing the cup, fosters confusion, and is likely to continue to do so; therefore, these matters should be considered separately.
OBJECTION 3: “I took a vow to abstain from all distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Therefore, I cannot administer or partake of the Lord’s Supper, if it uses wine, in good conscience.”
ANSWER: First, some people have suggested that the vow to abstain from alcoholic consumption in general does not prevent the person who takes the vow from administering or partaking of wine in the Lord’s Supper. Such people have suggested that the vow was not intended to apply, and does not apply, to wine in the Lord’s Supper. The RPCNA Synod of 1857 declared “Resolved, 3. That nothing in this preamble and resolutions is to be construed as designed to apply to the use of wine in the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper, or of alcoholic stimulants used for medicinal purposes.” Second, no vow can bind our religious practice or our conscience, if the vow is unbiblical. A vow that results in our refusal to administer or partake of the Lord’s Supper according to Christ’s appointment is unbiblical, and sinful. As the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXII teaches us, “An oath…cannot oblige to sin.” “No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded…” Any vow that hinders our duty to either administer or partake of the Lord’s Supper as Christ appointed it is a sinful vow. And as the example of Jephthah in Judges 11 teaches us, we ought to break whatever vow we have made, if keeping our vow would cause us to sin.
OBJECTION 4: “My conscience does not permit me to drink wine for any purpose, so I cannot partake of the Lord’s Supper, if it uses wine.”
ANSWER: We must realize that our consciences are not infallible. They can be weak or mistaken. In such cases, we ought to instruct our consciences with the Bible so that they become stronger. A fully informed conscience will receive the cup of the Lord with reverence and rejoicing, not fear. Our Lord Jesus commanded us, “Drink ye all of it,” and we must cheerfully obey Him.
OBJECTION 5: “I retain Christian liberty to drink or not drink wine, so I will choose to not partake of the Lord’s Supper whenever it uses wine.”
ANSWER: Christian liberty is the right of every believer, and it must be defended and maintained at all times and in all places. However, every Christian must submit to the Lord Jesus, to whom all authority has been given, and who is always the Lord of every Christian’s conscience. The doctrine of Christian liberty, or liberty of conscience, sets us free “from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship” (Westminster Confession of Faith, XX, ii); however, it does not liberate us from the law of God, including our duty to worship God according to His word, and His word teaches us that the communion cup must contain wine. “The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word…the administration and receiving of the sacraments…” (Westminster Larger Catechism 108). Our Lord Jesus commanded us to “Drink ye all” from the communion cup, and from this command we have never been set free.
OBJECTION 6: “We will avoid offense to everyone, by offering a ‘split cup’ or a ‘split tray’ to all the members of our churches. Some partakers will receive wine, while partakers of a different opinion will receive grape juice.”
ANSWER: Our primary goal in worship should not be to please sinful men, even if they are beloved Christian brothers and sisters; we should seek to honor Christ, the only Head of His church. As we have already demonstrated, the use of unfermented grape juice in the Lord’s Supper is a sin, because it is contrary to the institution of Christ. Whether used by many or by few, whether used by the whole congregation or only a part, makes no difference. The officers of the church cannot allow such open and notorious sin in the church, lest they bring down wrath on the church and on themselves.
OBJECTION 7: “I fear for the peace of the church, if such a drastic change to the Lord’s Supper is adopted.”
ANSWER: True, we are taught to “seek peace and pursue it” (I Peter 3:1). We are also instructed to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). On the other hand, we are commanded to “Buy the truth, and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23). Furthermore, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Godly wisdom seeks purity first, then peace. A truly biblical peace can only be based on biblical truth. Compromise results in a counterfeit peace, like the false prophets who preached “’peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:4). Peace is important, but truth is even more important.
OBJECTION 8: “I fear that the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper may increase drunkenness in our churches, and this should be avoided at all costs.”
ANSWER: We must agree that drunkenness is a sin, and a moral evil. However, the solution to the problem of sin has always been, and always will be, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. No commandment of men, however well-intentioned, can solve the problem of sin. “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23).
OBJECTION 9: “I am afraid that even the small amount of wine in the Lord’s Supper will cause me to become a drunkard.”
ANSWER: The sin of drunkenness cannot be caused by the small amounts of wine in the Lord’s Supper, any more than gluttony can be caused by the bread. Drunkenness is the work of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:20-21), not the sacrament, for the sacrament is a holy gift from God. We ought not to blame the right and biblical administration of the holy sacrament for what are our own failures. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:13-15).
OBJECTION 10: “The use of wine in the Lord’s Supper will present many pastoral problems. Because we have used grape juice in the Lord’s Supper for many years, tender Christians will not understand such a dramatic change as this. Such problems are beyond the ability of the leaders of our church.”
ANSWER: Regrettably, the use of real wine in the Lord’s Supper may be the occasion of many problems. However, we should remember the important distinction between a cause and an occasion. The Lord’s Supper, when administered according to Christ’s appointment, can never be the cause for sin. However, many people may find it to be the occasion for sin. To illustrate: the preaching of the doctrines of grace can be an occasion for much opposition and resistance, but the opposition and resistance are caused by the sinful heart of man, not by the doctrines of grace. Sometimes, offense is taken, even when no offense is given. And so it is in the Lord’s Supper. The giving and the receiving of the cup of the Lord gives no one a cause, or a reason, to sin. It must be admitted that many beloved people of God do not understand the teaching of God’s word on the subject of wine in general, nor wine in the Lord’s Supper. Some will act or speak out of such weaknesses. Yet, the solution is not to abandon biblical principles, but rather to return to those principles, with pastoral sensitivity, prayers for reform, and the faithful preaching of God’s word. Under no circumstances should the weaknesses of mere men become the rule of our faith or practice, for Christ is the only King of the Church, and the Bible is our only guide. Our responsibility is to remain faithful to God and to trust in Him for all things, including the results of whatever follows our efforts to reform His sacrament.
OBJECTION 11: “I am not willing to consider the contents of the communion cup. I am content to let the Synod (or the elders) decide this matter.”
ANSWER: First, we should remember that even the Synod (or the elders) are not infallible. They can err. As the Westminster Confession of Faith reminds us, “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.” Second, the Bible teaches us to “test the spirits” (I John 4:1) and to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). Like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, we should examine the Holy Scriptures, in order to determine if what we are told is the truth of God. These are not duties which can be delegated to others; they are ours. Third, it is especially important that we examine all of our worship practices in the light of God’s word, because “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23) and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Unless all of our worship practices are rooted in the word of God, we cannot have the faith that we need to offer them to God with a clear conscience; that is sin.
OBJECTION 12: “I prefer to use wine in the Lord’s Supper; and, in an ideal world, I would use it.”
ANSWER: In the worship of God, all our practices must be founded on the word of God. Our preferences can never be the rule of our faith and practice, and they can never be a valid reason for using wine. Our preferences have no place, and have no value. If a worship practice, such as the use of wine, is not founded on the word of God, but only on our preferences, we have no legitimate reason to favor it. Such objections as the one stated above appear to be a middle ground between obedience to the word of God, and disobedience; as if people who would prefer wine, and would use it if only they could, are more obedient than those who flatly reject it. For them, it is enough to know the truth, while hoping for an expedient time in which to act. However, James 4:17 says, “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Moreover, those who wait for “an ideal world” or “a perfect world” before speaking and acting wait for something that will never be, before our Lord Jesus returns; we must all speak and act according to the light that we have now, for night is coming, “when no one can work” (John 9:4).
OBJECTION 13: “Children under 18 years old sometimes partake of the communion cup, but federal and state law prohibit the distribution of wine to minors.”
ANSWER: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution permits the free exercise of our religion, and so wine in the sacrament is an exception to the general prohibition.