Dear Cross Creek,
Starting this Sunday we will be adding wine to our Lord's Supper services alongside the grape juice that we normally serve. The wine will be red and the grape juice will be white. In order to make the difference clear, we will include a note in the bulletin along with a verbal explanation.
This is new for Cross Creek, and you may have questions. It's important that our views on anything, including a topic like this, are informed more by Scripture than by our culture or personal experiences. What does the Bible have to say about wine?
Even though Scripture condemns drunkenness (e.g. Prov 20:1; 23:29-35; 31:4-5; Deut 21:18-21; Luke 21:34; Rom 13:13; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Eph.5:18), it teaches that wine is a good gift from God (Psa 104:14-15). In the Old Testament, God commanded that wine be brought to him as an offering (Exo 29:38-40). Wine "gladdens the heart" (Ps 104:15; Eccl 10:19) and can even be used for health reasons (1 Tim 5:23). Wine is a blessing for the righteous (Prov 3:9-10).
Jesus drank wine (Luke 7:33-34). The very first miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). Wine will be served to the elect at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Isa 25:6-9).
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:27-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26) during the Passover meal. Jesus identified the contents of the cup as “the fruit of the vine," an expression used to refer to wine. In short, wine is a symbol of the blessings that come from a right relationship with God (Isa 25:6; 27:2) and even of the new life we have in Christ (Isa 55:1; Matt 9:17).
Wine was used in the Lord's Supper universally by the entire church for the first 1,800 years of her existence. During the Reformation, the use of wine was taught by Martin Luther and John Calvin, and affirmed in the great Reformed confessions, including the Westminster Confession of Faith. Wine is also prescribed in our denomination's Book of Church Order. Grape juice wasn't used until dentist (and Prohibitionist) Thomas Welch invented non-fermented juice from grapes and persuaded some churches to adopt his grape juice for communion services starting in the 1870's.
What about kids, those who struggle with alcohol, etc.? It's up to each person and family to decide whether wine in the Lord's Supper is the right choice for them. That's why we are happy to continue offering grape juice in addition to wine. Again, the wine will be red and the juice white.
Here are some further resources if you are interested in learning more about the biblical and historical background of wine in the church, as well as more responses to common questions.
- "Wine or Grape Juice: Theological and Pastoral Reflections on the Fruit of the Vine in Communion" by Rev. John Mahaffy
- "Wine in the Lord's Supper" – Reformed Books Online
- "Lord’s Supper #2: Wine #1" by Dr. Robert Rayburn
- "Why We Serve Wine in the Lord’s Supper" by Rev. Jack Lash
- "Why Wine?" by Rev. Steve Simmons
- "Why We Use Real Wine in the Lord’s Supper" by Rev. Brian Abshire
Grace and peace,