Give it some thought—Why do we use wine at the Lord’s Table?
Why Wine? This really is not a hard question to answer. The reason we use wine in the Lord’s Supper is that it is what our Lord used and what he told us to use. While grape juice is also a fruit of the vine it does not carry with it the bitterness of taste or the capacity to make the heart glad as wine does, so something of the symbolism is lost with juice. The Lord’s supper is to be a meal of bread and wine.
Why then do we at Fifth Street PCA serve a split-tray (wine and grape juice)? This is a little more complicated of an answer. At the heart of the answer there are two things. First, there is the matter of conscience and other concerns for some of our members. Second, there is a learning curve that we hope this little explanation will aid. As to the matter of conscience and other practical concerns below you will find some brief responses:
1. What about those who have had a problem with alcohol in the past and fear that wine may throw them back into abuse of alcohol. First, have you ever hear of this happening to anyone? I have not in over 35 years of ministry heard of anyone that was tempted back to the life of a drunkard by communion wine. This argument does not. It seems to be an argument intended to scare someone rather than convince them. Second, if this is something that God has given are we willing to say that the use of wine in this means of grace is somehow going to be the cause of temptation? God, who knew all our troubles and all our trials before we were born, would not call us to the use of wine at His Table if it was going to be a stumbling block. But some might ask, would it be better to “play it safe”? But the only safe place on this earth is found in obedience to that which the Lord has called us. The safe place in this discussion is obedience.
2. What about our children? Should we let children drink wine at the Lord’s Table? The answer again first needs to go back to what the Lord gave us to use. If the table is to be wine and bread it is to be wine and bread for all those who have been admitted to the table. There are not two tables and it is important to our children that we do the meal as given. Also, the table for our children remains an occasion to teach. Again to the question of introducing the child to wine and perhaps that leading to abuse in the future I respond that that is nonsense. If God has given wine for His table we best not accuse that gift of being an occasion for sin.
3. What about my medication? What if the medication I am taking says that I should not drink while taking this medication? While I am pretty convinced that most, if not all, of these warnings are warnings about drinking alcohol as a beverage, a thimble of wine is not likely going to do any harm. But yes, speak to your doctor and be sure. If it really is a problem then use the juice with a clear conscience but it is something that should be resolved.
4. And what about those who believe that all alcohol use is sinful and do not wish to use wine for fear that they would, in so doing, sin against God. To these we would say that we applaud your concern about not doing anything that would violate your conscience. But again we must ask where this objection has risen from. While it may to some seem to be the safer rout to swear off all use of wine, it is not safe to add rules that God has not given. Yes, there is much abuse with alcohol but there is also great abuse with sex, food, wealth, and just about every gift God has given. The answer to abuse is not abstinence but proper use. If Christ called us to a table of bread and wine then that is the table we ought to go to and preferences and conscience ought to be instructed by the Bible. If you struggle with this than certainly make use of the juice while you work through what the Bible teaches but remember it is not safe to allow your conscience to go untaught by God’s Word. Study, pray, think, and feel free to speak with one of the elders or the pastor. It is important enough to work through because it is a matter of doing or not doing what we are called to concerning the Lord’s Table.
So why are we still serving a split tray? While these things previously stated are important we do recognize that we have an uphill swim in our context and that it may take a while before we get to the place where we can make the change. However, if you have in the past only taken juice you are encouraged to consider these things and you are invited to discuss the matter with Pastor Simmons or any of our Elders. Our hope is that the trays would return with the juice untouched for no other reason than that the Table was given to us by our Lord and there could be no better argument for this matter than that Jesus has invited us to take bread and wine as a means of grace.
Give it some thought. We can talk later.