My friend Shane in seminary keeps running into guys who are arguing that wine should be used for the Lord's Supper. In Baptist land, we've used grape juice forever. He asked me why we didn't use wine, and I came up with the following five reasons, which I post here to stimulate discussion. Keep in mind I'm on vacation, and don't have access to my Greek New Testament, so be kind.
First, I'm going to argue, again, that this is NOT a dispute about what's biblically correct, but an argument about culture. It may sound like a biblical argument, but I'm quite confident that Shane's friends are all thoroughly enculturated as Reformed, 5-point nut cases who want to justify their beer, cigars, leather chairs and tweed smoking jackets. Ok... kidding about the tweed.... relax.
1. The gospels refer to bread and "cup", not bread and wine. The word choice and its consistency seem relevant to me. Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17, 20.
2. Jesus referring to the contents of the cup says "fruit of the vine," not wine. This too is consistent. Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18.
3. Even Paul in 1 Corinthians does not use "wine". 1 Cor 11:25ff. The context of Corinthians suggests that they were using wine, b/c theywere getting drunk, but that seems to me to contribute to the argument to NOT use wine.
4. I surmise, then, that the Bible contains NO explicit references to wine with respect to the Lord's Supper. (Without my usual study aids, I'm happy to receive correction on this point.)
5. Finally--and this is the kicker as far as my church goes--the reality of alcoholism is such that an alcoholic who has been straight for years can relapse upon a mere taste of the old substance. I have many friends recovering from alcohol abuse at different levels, and I would NEVER serve wine to any of them for this reason. Even if we are free in Christ to drink alcohol, we limit our freedom to accommodate our weaker brother (Romans 14).
These are not arguments for the superiority of grape juice, but against the notion that only wine is permissible, or that wine is best or "most biblical."
Come, do thy worst, ye wine-bibbing toads!