Ever since Noah got drunk and cursed Ham, ever since Thomas Welch’s new way of making it, ever since the prohibition movement in America, many churches have struggled with the Wine vs. Fruit of the Vine issue.
A Matter of Interpretation
The only way to teach that intoxicating wine best symbolizes the blood of Christ is to be so blinded by what is perceived as tradition (Mark 7:1-13) that a person incorrectly interprets the Bible. Several rules are needed to correctly interpret the Bible. Context is always key, and to understand what the verse means today one must understand what the verse meant at the original time. The Bible is always perfectly consistent; if two verses seem to contradict one another then an error has been made in the interpretation. For example, the Bible clearly teaches that both Christ’s body and His blood were perfectly sinless (1 Peter 1:19). It also clearly teaches that “wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). How can “a mocker” be used to represent the purity of Christ’s blood? Isaiah 28:7 says, “The priests and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are confused with wine, they stagger with strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in giving judgment.” Tragically, pastors are guilty of being confused and stumble in giving council when teaching that Christ’s blood has to be intoxicating wine. When a pastor forces a church member to go against what they know is the truth at the communion table, they are guilty of sinning against the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12).
A Doctrine of Hypocrisy
Jesus said it best in Luke 12:1-3: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.” Hypocrisy may involve a failure to discern spiritual truth or even a willful blindness to spiritual matters. The truth in regards to the cup at the Lord’s Supper is not hard to find. In this verse, Jesus was warning His disciples against false and sinful ideologies by using a comparison of yeast. The disciples were to totally avoid it. Whenever leaven or yeast is mentioned in the Bible (22 times in the Old Testament and 17 times in the New Testament) it nearly always represents sin or evil. That’s why in Exodus 12:15 God gave the Israelites a strict command to remove all yeast from their houses.
In Christ and the truth there is no margin of error. Can that be said of the way churches practice the Lord’s Supper? Is it not hypocrisy for modern day Hams (Genesis 9:24-25) along with the daughters of Lot (Genesis 19:32) to strictly enforce intoxicating wine at the table of the Lord? How many times must the cup turn red and the serpent bite before Christ’s churches realize intoxicating wine symbolizing Christ’s blood is preposterous?
Let’s think through some of the major arguments:
- “My church has always used intoxicating wine for the Lord’s Supper.” It’s time we examine some of our Baptist practices to see if they align with the truth. Or do we expose the truth that Matthew 15:3 applies to Baptist tradition just as much as that of the Jews? Unfortunately, most people will not examine the scripture and pray about the issue for the risk of having to be like Daniel and repent of the things our Baptist forefathers did wrong (Daniel 9:6,16).
- “The Biblical words for wine show no difference between fermented and unfermented wine. Therefore, they must have only had intoxicating wine.” Or “The KJV translates the Biblical words for wine. It must have been intoxicating.” The truth is the word “grape juice” first appeared in Webster’s dictionary in 1896. In ancient literature the word “wine” had a dual meaning of either fermented or unfermented grape juice. The four commonly used related Biblical words wine (English) vinum (Latin), oinos (Greek), and yayin (Hebrew) are generic and have been used interchangeably between fermented and unfermented wine leaving the interpreter to use context to determine which is being used. According to Abbott’s Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, “It is tolerably clear that the word wine does not necessarily imply fermented liquor. It signifies only a production of the vine.” The Bible disapproves of fermented wine (Isaiah 28:7, Leviticus 10:9-11, Isaiah 5:11-12, Proverbs 23:20-21, Ezekiel 44:23) and approves of unfermented wine (Genesis 27:28, Joel 2:18-19, Isaiah 55:1, Leviticus 23:13). Notice in the four accounts of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26: 26-29, Mark 14:23-25, Luke 22:17-18, I Cor. 11:25) the word wine is not used. Rather it is the FRUIT OF THE VINE. The vine never produces intoxicating drink. Josephus explicitly calls the freshly squeezed grape juice “the fruit of the vine” (gennema tes ampelou). This establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that the phrase “fruit of the vine” was used to designate the sweet, unfermented juice of the grape.
- “Grape juice ferments on its own. Fermentation is a natural process.” “There was no way for the Jews to preserve grape juice. It would have been too hot in Palestine during Passover for the grape juice to be preserved.” “Until Thomas Welch used the process of pasteurization wine would ferment and become intoxicating.” The truth is grape juice does not become intoxicating until yeast and sugar are added to it. Natural fermentation, putrefaction, and decay are processes of decomposition. Jesus’ body and surely his blood never saw decay or corruption (Acts 2:22-36). Intoxicating fermentation requires oxygen, sugar/yeast, temperature between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the juice must have a certain consistency. Thick syrup, the end result of the boiling process, will not undergo fermentation (Wines and Laws of Fermentation, page 15). Three of the component parts of the fruit of the vine are destroyed by intoxicating fermentation (Gluten, Gum, and Aroma). Fermentation replaces these destroyed parts with alcohol and glycerine. Death did not destroy any part of the blood of Christ. Grape juice without a controlled environment (what some consider natural fermentation) becomes vinegar, which no one would drink. Ancient Jews were very well aware of how to preserve natural grape juice. Jews would boil the juice into a syrup, fumate the jars with sulphur before storing, straining, and putting the jars into pools of cold water. Cato (234-149 B.C.) states, “If you wish to keep grape juice through the whole year, put the grape juice in an amphora, seal the stopper with pitch, and sink in the pond. Take it out after thirty days; it will remain sweet the whole year.” Columella, a renowned agriculturist who lived in first century AD, in his treatise on Agriculture and Trees discusses at great length various methods to produce and preserve unfermented grape juice. Pliny, a Roman scholar and naturalist who lived at the same time as Columella, described methods to preserve grapes in his book Natural History. Plutarch, the first-century Greek biographer wrote: “Wine is rendered old, or feeble in strength, when it is frequently filtered. The strength being thus excluded, the wine neither inflames the brain nor infests the mind and passions, and is much more pleasant to drink.” The scientific facts and historical proof of the preservation of grape juice isn’t hidden if the interpreter looks for it.
- “There is nothing wrong with intoxicating wine in moderation.” Arguing for moderation goes against Proverbs 20:1 which reads, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, whoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” To interpret the verse by inserting a drunk instead of wine itself being a mocker and brawler is an eisegesis (inserting something into the text because of a presupposition). Wine itself is a mocker because a person thinks they can handle the intoxication without ramifications. Proverbs 23:31-32 says, “Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.” The point is don’t even look at it because you think you can handle it, but you can’t. Proverbs 23 also explains the addictive nature of alcohol by stating the consequences for those who linger over wine (vs. 30). The instruction given is do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. IN THE END it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper (vs.31). After the woe, sorrow, bruises, confusion of the mind, and loss of physical feeling, the person wakes up longing for another drink. Instead of moderation the instruction is to not be so ignorant as to think that a little bit won’t hurt.
Earthly wisdom, circular reasoning, and tradition can be used to argue for the use of fermented wine. A pastor may instruct his flock to use wine, but he would error in judgment through hypocrisy. Biblical truth, historical facts, and scientific examinations clearly argue in favor of grape juice. For more information, check out the extended version.