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Is Alcoholic Wine to Be Used in the Lord’s Supper?

We read of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26, and Luke 22:14-20 (cp. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The bread is unleavened (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12), representing Christ’s body. The cup containing “the fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18) represents Christ’s blood, shed “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Leaven or yeast (zumē) was prohibited in all grain offerings to God (Leviticus 2:11; 6:14-17). Because leaven permeates and ferments, it is metaphorically applied to pervading and corrupting influences (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:21; Galatians 5:9), including doctrinal error and corrupt behavior (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Jesus warned about the “leaven” or negative influence of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Herod [Antipas] (Matthew 16:6, 11-12; Luke 12:1; Mark 8:15; cp. 3:6; 6:14-28; 12:13).

The Greek word oinos, often translated “wine” in our English Bibles, is never employed with reference to the Lord’s Supper. The expression used is gennema tas ampelou (“fruit of the vine”), contextually meaning the juice of grapes (cp. Leviticus 25:5; Revelation 14:18). The same species of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide in bread (causing it to rise) and to alcohol in grape juice (causing it to ferment). Seeing that yeast (leaven) was prohibited in the Passover bread (Deuteronomy 16:3), it follows that the same would be absent from the fruit of the vine, i.e. non-alcoholic.

A number of religious groups, including the Catholic Church, some branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopals (and the Church of England) use alcoholic wine, also called sacramental wine. Perhaps even more surprising is that some churches of Christ (particularly in Italy) use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper. These people do so without the approval of Christ. If we are going to respect His authority (Colossians 3:17), then we have to follow the pattern that’s revealed in the Holy-Spirit inspired New Testament.

Adapted from Kevin L. Moore

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