Why Wine in Communion
The session of Michiana Covenant Church holds that the use of wine in communion, having been instituted by Christ, is fitting and proper. The use of grape juice, while not sinful, deviates from Biblical practice. In support of our position, we offer the following:
Wine, properly used, is a blessing from God
God provides “wine which makes man’s heart glad” just as He gives “food which sustains man’s heart” (Ps 104:14, 15). God promises His obedient people that He will bless them with an abundance of wine (Deut 7:13, 11:14; Prov 3:10). Misused, wine becomes a curse (Prov 23:29-35). The Bible uniformly condemns drunkenness (1 Cor 5:11, 6:10; Eph 5:18; Gal 5:21).
Wine, as referenced in the Bible, contained alcohol
The Bible draws no distinction between wine and grape juice or between fermented and unfermented wine. The same wine (Hebrew yayin) that made Noah (Gen 9:21), Lot (Gen 19:32-35), Nabal (1 Sam 25:37), Ahasuerus (Est 1:7, 10), and others (Isa 28:1, 7; Jer 23:9) drunk, was given to Abraham by Melchizedek (Gen 14:18), kept in the storehouses of the kings of Israel (1 Chr 27:27; 2 Chr 11:11; Neh 5:18) and permitted to all God’s people (Deut 14:26).
Jesus used wine at the Last Supper
The Last Supper was instituted with wine, not grape juice. Unfermented grape juice would have been unavailable in ancient Palestine in the spring of the year, many months after the grape harvest. Lacking refrigeration or pasteurization, the juice would have quickly fermented. Jesus spoke of “the cup” as filled with “the fruit of the vine” (Matt 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18), which designated wine partaken at the Passover and on the evening of the Sabbath. There is no indication in the Bible that our Lord performed a miracle and created fresh grape juice for the first Supper. It is plain that the apostles taught the use of wine in communion to the church from the fact that some became drunk at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:21).
The significance of wine in the Supper
Wine, much more so than grape juice, symbolizes the blood of Christ, which was shed for our sins. It is the glorified body and blood of Christ that brings us the blessing of the eschaton. Wine’s resemblance to Christ’s blood is found not simply in its color, but most importantly in its power to gladden man’s heart.
That is why wine’s alcoholic content, the result of transformation by fermentation, is significant. The “alcoholic glorification” of the grape juice has theological and eschatological significance. In the same way that meager grape juice gives way to the wine of blessing, the old gives way to the new and better covenant. Grape juice is dead, but wine has passed from death to life through fermentation.
Pasteurization, the manmade process by which grape juice is manufactured, interrupts the God-ordained process of fermentation by killing the agent of that transformation. There is a connection between the modern unnatural manufacture of grape juice and the modern extra-biblical hermeneutic that requires it for communion, both of which are 19th century innovations. By stunting the development of grape juice into wine, we truncate the biblically ascribed meaning of this cup of blessing.
Therefore, the session has determined to return to the practice of using wine in the Lord’s Supper. Nonetheless, for the sake of those with tender consciences, the session will also retain the use of grape juice for the present.