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The Great Wine Debate


Should Wine Be Used At The Lord’s Table?

Dr. L. K. Landis, Wilderness Voice Publications, Liberal, KS

Available in Tract Form. Contact the Editor.

One of the most divisive issues facing Bible believers today is the issue of alcoholic wine being used in the observance of the Lord's Supper. I must confess at the outset of this work that I was raised in a very strict Baptist home where my strict Baptist parents despised and forbid the use of alcohol in any form, at any time. I must also confess that I am glad they did. In these many years that I have been in the ministry I have learned to hate alcohol and have seen the ravages that the use of alcohol brings on its victims.

There is nothing that does more to destroy homes, morality, purity, virtue and families than does this drink with a kiss of death. While I understand that those who use wine at the Lord's Table do it with a sincere desire to please God and be obedient to Him, I believe that the Scriptures reveal that exactly the opposite is true. I contend that the Bible is very demanding and that it demands the use of the purest grape juice in the observance of this vital ordinance.

In the following pages, I trust that, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, I can lay to rest, once and for all, the question of this matter, at least for the people whom the Holy Spirit has made me overseer (Acts 20:28). While it is my intention to thoroughly put forth a valiant defense of the use of grape juice, this is by no means an exhaustive study. To do absolute justice to the subject would require volumes.

In this short treatise, I shall put forth only three of the major reasons why I completely reject the use of alcoholic, intoxicating wine. The evidence against the use of wine is so great in the Scriptures that don't see how anyone with an open heart and mind could come to any other conclusion than that of the use of grape juice as the element of the Lord's Supper. In all of my discussions with the brethren who do use wine, I have noticed that they have all gone outside the perimeter of the Bible to defend their position. However, I shall confine my arguments to the Word of God alone.

I. To begin with, we must consider the ATTITUDE OF THE SCRIPTURES themselves toward the wine itself. It is totally out of character with what the Bible teaches regarding intoxicating wine to believe that the Lord Jesus would use this liquid to represent His blood: From the very beginning of the Bible, it is obvious that wine has played a major part in the sins of men and the tragedies that are in this world:

1. God compares wine to "...the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps" (Deuteronomy 32:33). Ask anyone who has ever had a hangover about the bite of alcohol. Ask -the "winos" with cirrhosis of the liver, or those whose -brains have been pickled because of the alcohol. Wine is indeed as the "poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps".

2. God associates wine with violence (Proverbs 4:17). Any social worker in this country will tell you that the vast majority of domestic violence incidents involve alcohol. Ask any police captain and they will tell you that the vast majority of violent deaths, stabbings and shootings involve alcohol in some form or another.

3. God says, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1). Think about this verse for just a moment. If the God of heaven says that those who are deceived by wine and strong drink are fools, isn't it highly unlikely that His Son would use wine the ordinance of the Lord's Supper?

4. God tells us we are not even to look upon intoxicating wine; "Look not thou upon the nine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder" (Proverbs 23:31-32). Not only are we not to drink it, but we are not even to look upon it. How could Jesus use it without looking at it? That doesn't even make good sense.

5. God says that wine causes people to "...forget the law; and pervert the judgment..." (Proverbs 31:4-5). In these verses God also says that people in positions of leadership should not drink wine or strong drink This is good advice for our two Baptist presidents of recent years, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, one who says that his favorite beverage is a particular brand of whiskey, and the other who was often seen sipping wine with his meals. And if this is good advice for political leaders, certainly this is excellent advice for those in positions of religious leadership such as the world's foremost Baptist evangelist whose Presbyterian wife and he are known to use wine.

6. God says that wine inflames and that those who drink strong drink and wine do not regard the Lord's work, "neither consider the operation of his hands" (Isaiah 5:11-12). Wine inflames the uncontrollable passions of lust and it is certain that those under the influence of wine are not considering the fact that one day they, too, shall stand at the judgment before God Almighty.

7. God pronounces a "Woe' upon those who drink wine, and says that it perverts their judgment and takes away their righteousness (Isaiah 5:22-23). Wine breaks down the natural barriers of morality and causes people to do and say things that they normally would not do if they were not under the influence of alcohol.

8. God says that those who drink wine and strong drink cannot be merry (sing a song), but the end result of their drinking is bitterness (Isaiah 24:9).

9. God associates those who drink wine with "drunkards" tilled with pride and that their beauty is a fading flower (Isaiah 28:1).

10. God says that wine causes people (especially those in religious positions) to "...err in vision (and) stumble in judgment' (Isaiah 28:7). That preacher who is a winebibber (one who drinks wine) cannot stand to preach and be the instrument of God to condemn sin.

11. The Bible records that Daniel associated drinking wine with defilement (Daniel 1:8) and refused to drink it.

12. God associates the drinking of alcoholic, intoxicating wine with blasphemy, desecration of holy things and heathen worship (Daniel 5:1-4).

13. God associates drinking wine with "whoredom and says that it "take(s) away the heart' (Hosea 4:11).

14. God associates the consumption of wine with disease and having companionship with scorners (Hosea 7:5).

15. The Bible says that wine causes rebellion against God and that it keeps people from crying out to God with their heart (Hosea 7:14).

16. God says that the drinkers of wine "weep and hold' and that they need to "awake" to the truth and cease from drinking this awful beverage (Joel 1:5).

17. God says that a person who drinks wine is a "proud man neither keepeth at home” and that he "transgresseth" (sins) by doing so (Habakkuk 2:5).

18. God pronounces a "woe' upon those who offer their neighbor a drink of intoxicating beverage. He also says that the man offering the drink is "filled with shame" and associates drinking with sexual impurity (Habakkuk 2:15-16).

19 And finally, God uses wine as the symbol of that which causes false religion, blasphemy, fornication, martyrdom, murder, harlotry, abominations, filthiness and identifies it as the drink of the anti-Christ (Revelation 17:2).

Yes, the attitude of the Scriptures and the Author of the Scriptures is very definitely against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Surely a person cannot be an honest student of the Bible and suggest that the lovely, Lord Jesus Himself used this intoxicating beverage at the institution of this most sacred of church ordinances. Jesus was sinless (II Corinthians 5:21), pure and holy. How could He, who came to do His Father's will (John 5:30), disregard the fact that God had placed a curse on those who give their neighbor to drink?

Alcohol is evil! Its consumption brings great ill in this world. It causes men to lose their senses, desert their families, beat their wives, rob their neighbors and murder innocent citizens. The consumption of alcohol in any form is a sin. It causes great sorrow and heartache in this old world. Certainly Jesus, who came to give life and that more abundantly (John 10:10), would not offer His disciples that which steals their brains away. The attitude of the Bible toward alcoholic wine forbids its use at the Lord's Table.

II. Secondly, we must consider the ACTIONS IN THE SCRIPTURES of those who were affected by intoxicating, alcoholic wine. The use of wine is recorded in the Bible, and many, many times it is associated with great tragedy, sin, moral corruption, depravity, degradation and reprobation. Certainly one cannot deny that alcohol is a curse upon our society. Certainly one cannot deny that its use has caused great grief and brought much sorrow upon our nation. And yet not only ours, but every nation where drinking is allowed. However, the horrible things caused by alcohol are not confined to today's society. Much sorrow was brought upon the world from the very first encounter with wine.

1. Noah is the very first man to be recorded as drinking wine (Genesis 9:20-25). From its introduction into this world, wine has caused nothing but harm, sin and trouble. This first recorded consumption of intoxicating, alcoholic wine produced tragic results. It brought about the downfall of a great prophet. It was at the root of nakedness. It brought about the most disgusting, depraved, amoral, ungodly sin imaginable and resulted in the curse of an entire nation of people.

2. Lot is another man whose entire life was changed because of intoxicating wine. In fact, the whole world was changed because of Lot's consumption of wine (Genesis 19:29-36). One cannot deny that the use of wine played a central part in the diabolical plot of this man's two wicked-hearted daughters to commit incest with their father. They schemed to get their father drunk so that he would commit this heinous crime, this depraved act. Lot would not have done such a dastardly deed as fathering children by his own two daughters had his sense of moral decency not been impeded by alcoholic, intoxicating wine. Here again the drinking of wine caused untold heartaches and troubles in this world.

3. In the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau, we see again that wine played a part in this tale of deceit and lies (Genesis 27:1-29). In this account Jacob pretended to be his brother, Esau, and tricked his father into giving him his elder brother's blessing and birthright. In verse 25 of this passage, we find that Jacob brought his father wine to drink so as to dull his senses, confuse the old man and deceive him. Perhaps this trickery could not have been accomplished had Isaac not been under the influence of this wine. At any rate, no one can deny that wine was present when this web of lies was spun.

4. In II Samuel 13:28-29, we read again that drinking wine contributed to great sorrow and sin. In this brief passage we are told that Absalom used wine to make it easier to kill his brother and King David's son, Amnon. Regardless of the situation, wine devalued the young man's character so that murder could be perpetrated.

5. In Esther 1:10, we find that wine is mentioned in the fall from grace of Queen Vashti.

6. In Job 1:13, we are told that wine was being consumed when tragedy struck Job's children.

7. The drinking of wine is responsible for the actions of King Belshazzar that brought God's wrath upon him and destroyed the nation he ruled (Daniel 5).

8. We are told that while Moses was upon the mountain receiving God's commandments, the children of Israel were busy drinking, dancing, fornicating and begging Aaron to make them a god of gold (Exodus 32:6). Certainly alcohol played a significant role in this dark time in Israel's history. God had been so good to them, led them out of bondage and now as their minds were controlled by the alcohol, they fell to the basest sort of iniquity.

What an example! Over and over again God has spoken of the tragedy, heartache, sorrow, she and wickedness that drinking wine has caused. Scarcely could an honest student of the Bible suppose that the one thing that has been responsible for so much woe would be the choice of our Saviour at His last supper. Example after example has been given in the Scriptures of the destruction that thinking wine produces: incest, the murder of a prince, the cursing of a nation, the downfall of a prophet and a queen, abomination, blasphemy, desecration of holy things, false religion, and the martyrdom of millions of God's saints can be laid at the feet of this demon, wine.

III. However, the most compelling reason that alcoholic intoxicating wine could not have been used at the Lord's Table is because of the ADMONITION FROM THE SCRIPTURES; the Biblical mandates and proofs that Jesus did not use wine at all, but rather the purest grape juice Again I say that while all of the wine using "brethren" I have ever talked to retreat to some elaborate, recipe for making wine to try and prove their theory, we shall stick just to the context of the Bible.

I personally do not care to know how to make wine. And since God did not include the process in the Scriptures, I doubt sincerely that the way that the wine is made matters to Him. Wine is wine! Whether it is Mogan David or made at home, wine is still wine! In as they may to justify the use of the devil's drink at the Lord's Supper, we must not be concerned with tradition (Colossians 2:8), but rather stick with "what sayeth the Scriptures".

1. We must start with God's instructions to His priests in Leviticus 10:8-9 "And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons With thee, when ye go into the tabernacle oldie congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:". This was God's instructions to the priests and He said that it would be a "statute for ever throughout your generations". If it was impossible for the priests of the Old Testament to drink wine, is it not impossible for the High Priest of the New Testament to drink wine?

Consider Hebrews 2:17 or Hebrews 3:1 or Hebrews 4:14-15, Hebrews 5:10, Hebrews 6:20 and especially Hebrews 7:25-26, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;." Jesus is the highest High Priest. Those "wine" brethren will say, but at the Lord's Supper He was not yet the High Priest, but again I ask "what sayeth the Scriptures?" And the Bible says, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to day, and for ever' (Hebrews 13:8).

Yes, before the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus was our High Priest. And His Father commanded that the priest could have no wine. It would, therefore, be impossible for Him to have used alcoholic, intoxicating wine at the institution of the Lord's Supper. Not only this, but using this same logic, a saved person cannot imbibe in any alcohol, wine or strong drink. Revelation 1:5-6 tells us that because He has "—washed us from our sins in his own blood," He has made us also kings and priests. Since the New Testament teaches the priesthood of the believer, we who are saved have no right to partake of any wine.

2. We must also consider a passage from the Book of Wisdom, Proverbs 31:4, "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink nine; nor for princes strong drink'. If it is not for kings to drink wine, was not the Lord Jesus Christ Himself the "King of kings"(1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14)? Again we must say that from eternity past, He has indeed been the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Scriptures attest to His royalty. Great anthems have been written to proclaim Him King of kings. Jesus could not be less. He, who is the same yesterday, today and forever has always been the King of kings. It is preposterous to even think that He was guilty of transgressing the law that His Father proclaimed.

3. To completely exhaust the Bible on this very important subject would be impossible. However, to fully understand this debate between wine and grape juice advocates, we must consider when the Lord's Supper was instituted. It is a given fact that the Lord's Supper was given as an ordinance at the time of Passover (Matthew 26:2, 16-30). Now comes the question, did the Jews use alcoholic, intoxicating wine or grape juice at Passover? To comprehend the answer, we must go back to the institution of the Passover in Exodus 12. We are told that each family had to have a lamb. Not just any lamb would do, but it had to be a male of the first year without blemish (Exodus 12:5).

Secondly, they were to eat bread. Not just any bread, but specifically unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8). Notice that before the observance of Passover, the people were to remove ALL leaven out of their houses (Exodus 12:15). They were not to remove just the leaven from the bread, but all leaven. Now, friend, in order for the grape juice to ferment into wine, there must be the presence of yeast, or leaven as the Bible calls it. Grape juice will sour and turn to vinegar, but it will not ferment without the leaven. If there could be no leaven in the house whatsoever, then the wine, with its leaven, had to be removed as well as the leavened bread. It would make no sense whatsoever to remove only part of the leaven, that which was in the bread, and leave another source of this picture of sin in the wine. Did Jesus use alcoholic, intoxicating wine at the last supper? Tradition says "yea", but the Scriptures say "nay"! Jesus did not have alcoholic, intoxicating wine available for the occasion, but only the purest grape juice.

4. Next we must consider what the liquid at the Lord's Table represents; Matthew 26:27-28 "And he took the cup,' and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." The beverage of the supper in no uncertain terms represents the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, dear friend, if this represents the blood of Christ, it must then be the purest liquid available. It must also be noted that in dealing with the Lord's Supper, the Bible never uses the term "wine", but rather refers to the liquid as the "fruit of the vine" (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25 Luke 22:18), thus grape juice.

Wine cannot be the fruit of the vine; it is not pure. How can something that is not pure represent the blood of Jesus which was the purest blood? The "wine" brethren then say that the leaven (yeast) is in the grape juice naturally because it exists on the grape skins themselves and therefore nothing is added to the grape juice. But this is worse than admitting that the leaven had to be added. If leaven (yeast) represents sin, which it most surely does, and Jesus said that the grape juice of the Passover represents His blood, then by their own admission, the churches who use alcoholic, intoxicating wine in conjunction with the Lord's Supper or communion, are denying the very deity of Jesus Christ Himself.

If the yeast is present naturally, then that is saying that His blood contained the natural taint of sin, that the blood flowing through His veins was tainted by that natural sin and therefore, denying that He had no human father, and that lie was conceived by the Holy Ghost as the Scriptures say (Matthew 1:20). But, my friend, His blood was not just blood of another spotless lamb; His blood was precious blood, perfect blood, sinless blood, atoning blood. As He held up the cup at the last supper and said, "this is my blood of the New Testament", He was not holding up wine which contained the leaven of sin, but rather the purest grape juice with no imperfections, no leaven, no yeast, no taint of natural sin.

5. If all this evidence has not been sufficient to persuade the reader that grape juice and not wine is the correct element to be used for the Lord's Table, then consider this: According to the Scriptures a man who is a pastor may not have any wine (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). Now this being as it is, then, the pastor of a local, New Testament church could not even take the Lord's Supper with his own church. If intoxicating, alcoholic wine is used at this very solemn occasion, this excludes the overseer of the flock front partaking in this church ordinance.

This, in turn, raises another valid question. If the shepherd of the flock is not present, then who administers the ordinance to the local church? Does a visiting preacher administer it? If so, then, the concept of the local church is destroyed. Do the deacons administer it? Again this opens a virtual "Pandora’s box" and some very interesting questions. Another question is this. If children are members of that local church which uses wine in the observance of the Lord's Supper, are they given alcoholic, intoxicating wine, too? I cannot believe that genuine, true Christian parents would want to start their children on the road to ruin by introducing them to alcohol consumption, at church, no less. And what about the recovering alcoholic? Is he or she to be excluded from partaking of the Lord's Table? Who would want the responsibility of causing this brother or sister to fall back into the sin of drunkenness?

I sincerely believe that if a person is honest before God, that person could not seriously entertain using wine in any solemn situation, including and especially in observance of-the Lord's Supper. If I am totally positive of anything, I am absolutely sure that true, Baptist churches have no business using worldly and apostate practices in them. Wine, as are all alcoholic beverages, is not suitable for God's people in any circumstance. We are told to abstain front all appearances of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22) and certainly one of the greatest evils in this world is alcohol.

Tradition, not the Bible, is the basis for this defilement of the Lord's Supper observance. We must remember that it is His supper and He alone has the right to determine what can and cannot be used at its observance. The use of alcoholic, intoxicating wine in the Lord's Supper is a hold-over front Roman Catholic traditions, and is certainly not subscribed to by any true Bible believer.

I was once told that real independent Baptists all use wine at the Lord's Table. Well, that just isn't so! Many of our Baptist forefathers would rather have died than turn the ordinance of the Lord's Supper into some Bacchanalian feast. In closing, the Apostle Paul rebuked the carnal church at Corinth for using wine at the Lord's Supper. Read the whole account of I Corinthians 11:17-30.

The Corinthians were guilty of turning this sacred, solemn occasion into nothing short of a festive party with booze. God help us not to fall into the same sin that the Apostle Paul writing under the anointing and inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God condemned the Corinthian church for. Let us not be guilty of "...teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). God help us who claim the name of Christ to be above reproach and not be "...given to wine" in any form at any time.