Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reasoning for switching from Grape Juice to Wine in Communion at Redeemer

Like many churches here in the Midwest, Redeemer has always used grape juice for communion. Over the last 10 years the elders, have discussed the matter and studied it independently basically hesitating to make a change. Over a year ago the issue was brought up again and we collectively agreed to study the matter more formally and began praying, searching Scripture, and reading various positions on the Bible's teaching about communion as a whole.

In the end, we unanimously agreed that Jesus prescribed wine to be used for communion, not grape juice. Essentially there was no such thing as grape juice before 1869 (when Welch invented pasteurization for grape juice) so there can be little question (despite some creative attempts to prove otherwise) the 271 references to wine in the bible could refer to anything other than alcoholic wine. A study of wine in Scripture actually shows it's rich symbolic meaning for the people of God, so it makes sense that Jesus would use it for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The temperance movement of the mid 1800's had a profound impact on the church and unfortunately influenced the use of biblically prescribed wine for communion.

With much prayer, discussion, study, and consideration, we (the pastors and elders) decided unanimously to use wine for communion starting in February. This decision is based solely on one thing- to be as biblical as possible. There is no other reason for the switch.

Now, so as not to cause a stumbling block to those who are not quite ready for such a change or perhaps there is some other personal reason a member doesn't want to drink wine- we’ll still offer grape juice in the outer ring of the communion trays. We want to be caring and respectful, at the same time we desire to act upon a biblically based conviction the Lord has been working in us as a Session.

Very frankly, I am so blessed to be part of a Session like this. We have eleven elders on our Session (two pastors and nine ruling elders) who are as independently minded as they come, yet submissive and captive to the Word of God. They are willing to make choices they feel are biblical without being held hostage by what might be considered expedient or popular.

Some might be interested in our line of thinking. There are several resources that capture the basic biblical reasoning we found compelling. I will post some links for you to check out if you are interested. Posting these links doesn't amount to a full endorsement of these pastors and churches, but rather an appreciation for the biblical thought they embody concerning the issue of communion. We may have some slight differences with these resources but they are nevertheless very helpful.

Finally, unlike my usual posts, this one isn't open for debate or comment publicly. If you have reservations, concerns, or comments, feel free to email me or talk to me personally (or any other RPC Elder) to discuss the matter more fully. I won't be posting comments to this post, it's meant for information only.

Helpful Resources on the use of wine in communion:

Why Did We Change the Grape Juice to Wine in the Communion Cup? By Pastor Marion Lovett

Pastoral Letter from Session of Grace OPC

Wine in Communion by Pastor Brian Abshire

A Sermon explaining the use of Wine in communion by Pastor Robert Rayburn (PCA)

A Sermon Responding to John MacArthur's denial of wine for communion by Pastor Robert Rayburn: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Michiana Covenant Church (PCA)- looks like they just went through same study as us.

1 comment:

Wayne said...

That's great, Tony! Ironically, this year is the first year that we added three cups of white grape juice in each tray for those who can't have wine for medical reasons. We had someone who has an allergy to wine. Anyway, this is great news.