Which is best for communion, grape juice or wine?Many churches and believers have debated what drink should be used during communion (also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist). What does the Bible state about this issue?
First, the original communion meal existed during a time before refrigeration. Nearly everyone drank wine as grape juice quickly fermented. It is clear that Jesus and His disciples drank wine during the first communion (Mark 14:22-25). Though the tradition simply says "cup," the problems associated with wine at communion in 1 Corinthians 11:17-26 show that drinking too much of this drink at communion resulted in drunkenness.
Drinking wine in the New Testament was not limited to communion. Though drunkenness was condemned (Ephesians 5:18), the first miracle Jesus performed was turning water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-11). The apostle Paul also told Timothy to drink some wine due to his illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23). Wine was also the traditional drink used at Passover for the Jewish people.
Second, however, there are some considerations that could cause many modern Christians to use juice instead of wine. Of great importance is the fact that many young people take communion in church. In many countries, the age limits for drinking alcohol are 21 or at least 18 years old. Churches should consider whether using wine would cause people to break this law and choose grape juice instead in order to "be subject to the governing authorities" in these cases (Romans 13:1).
Another concern is to keep some believers from stumbling or sinning. Romans 14:21 states, "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble." Since there are likely people in any larger congregation who have struggled with the abuse of alcohol, it may be safer to use juice to avoid causing a problem for those who have concerns in this area.
Finally, church leaders are called to be "above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2). This includes living with character and avoiding things that could cause sinful accusations to occur in the church as much as possible. Using grape juice instead of wine may help with this concern.
While the use of wine in communion may not be a problem in some cultures, it clearly can be in others. Each church and its leaders must carefully consider both the biblical information and the cultural impact of their decision and choose what will best build up the body of Christ and help in serving one's community. God can be honored through either the use of real wine or grape juice. The concern is not the type of drink, but rather the remembrance of Christ through the ordinance of communion.
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Who is permitted to oversee the Lord's Supper?
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