Let me start this post by putting it out there–I believe that wine should be used by the Church when it comes together to commune in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. I know that there are Christians who do not hold to this (most likely, many reading this). But when the word wine is used in scripture related to the Lord’s Supper, I have not come across a good, exegetical argument for the use of grape juice as the element of the cup.
I recently was involved in a conversation where the concern was brought up about what to do with alcoholics in the church who wish to partake of communion, but might not if wine is used. And I will be honest, this concern baffled me. Why? Not because I don’t have concern for those who struggle with alcohol (I am the last person who would lack empathy for those who struggle with a particular sin), but because it seems to show lack of faith in the power of the Gospel and the work of the Spirit in sanctification!
The Lord’s Supper is a tangible way the Gospel is preached to Christians. When we partake of communion, we are having the Gospel preached to us with physical representations that we can touch, see, taste, and smell, and which point to Christ’s death and atonement for our sins. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way,
“Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.”
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation! Do we not preach the Gospel in our churches? Should we not preach the Gospel to all, including alcoholics? The Gospel is the means God uses to transforms lives. His Spirit works in the believer to sanctify them, enabling “more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness” (WSC Q35). Do we truly believe this? And if we truly believe this, we will be faithful to worship him using the elements he has outlined in his Word.
Throughout Old Testament history, when Israel was faithful and kept the religious festivals as God commanded and worshiped God according to His statutes, God protected them, and restrained their enemies from taking advantage of the fact that they were largely undefended. From that we can be assured today that God will protect His people, His children, from stumbling into sin through their faithful observance of the sacrament.
To buy into the idea that alcoholics should abstain from participating in communion if wine is used is allowing the Big Book a higher place in the life of Christians who struggle with alcohol than the God’s Word, and that’s a slippery slope that needs to be avoided at all costs.