Fruit of Which Vine?

1364007_wine_grapeWhen it comes to the practice of Holy Communion many churches use grape juice as opposed to wine. Is the blood of Christ given through grape juice as it is wine? For those who believe Communion symbolizes something, this is not an issue for symbols are shadows which deliver nothing. However, should you rightly confess from Scripture that Holy Communion delivers the gifts of Good Friday to us, namely the body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord, then the question becomes acute: does grape juice contain and deliver the forgiving blood of Christ just as wine does?

It is always good to begin with the Catechism which nicely teaches that the phrase, “fruit of the vine” means wine, and nothing else:

289.   What are the visible elements in the Sacrament?

The visible elements are bread and wine.

935. Matt. 26:26-27 Jesus took bread … Then He took the cup.

Note: “The fruit of the vine” (Luke 22:18) in the Bible means wine, not grape juice. See also 1 Cor. 11:21.

ProhibitionPropaganda Grape juice was commercially developed circa 1890 when Thomas Bramwell Welch developed unfermented wine now commercially marketed and sold as grape juice. Prior to that date grape juice was never commercially produced for the mold that grows on the skin of the grapes is toxic to humans. Yes, a vintner and many of us have eaten grapes picked off vines but this is all-together different from commercial mass-production.

An avowed teetotaler who believed wine to be inherently sinful Welch made it his goal to develop a non-fermented drink for Communion. In 1890 Thomas Welch applied Louis Pasteur’s technique of pasteurization upon wine for the purpose of arresting the fermentation process. Welch and his Reformed friends must think that Jesus “sinned,” when he used wine—but that is another discussion.

The term, “fruit of the vine” is a technical term which means simply, “wine.” It is akin to the phrase, “the twelve,” being a technical term for the apostles, not a numerical head count of those who had gathered. Jesus loved all his disciples. But when the Scriptures speak of the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” (Jn 13:23; 19:26, passim) this is a technical term to specify St. John. When our Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper at the Passover gathering he used wine. This is still the drink used by Jews to this day who celebrate the Passover.

Here in the Upper Mid-West we have technical terms as well. When you attend a party and ask for “cold one,” you would be disappointed if the host brought you a Pepsi and not a beer. Should you use the technical term, “barley pop,” for a drink you would be perplexed if handed a Root Beer. In certain geographic regions and cultural gatherings these are technical terms for a specific drink and not mere descriptions of a beverage. To do so would show one was seriously blind to the zeitgeist, the “spirit of the age,” and the cultural setting.

To those who say that “fruit of the vine,” is not a technical term for wine the possibilities then far surpass mere grape juice. If “fruit of the vine,” is to be understood as an agricultural description and not a technical term then according to my count there are eight (8) possibilities and why should anyone settle simply for “grape juice”? Fruit of the vine would include:

  1. Grapes
  2. Watermelon
  3. Cantaloupe
  4. Squash
  5. Tomato
  6. Strawberries
  7. Pumpkins
  8. Muskmelon
  9. Zucchini
  10. Cucumbers

Through the power of spoken word in the Words of Institution Jesus places his sin forgiving blood in wine, and only in wine. To change the element(s) is to do more than deviate from being “right,” and veering into “error,” which is no doubt what happens. The gift of forgiveness is bypassed and the person has drunk only grape juice, or any of the ten other possibilities listed above.

In order to have a marriage you need specific elements—male and female—and anything that changes these elements such as two women or two men is not a marriage in God’s eyes. In similar manner to have Holy Communion one needs the elements to which Jesus has promised to attach his life giving blood. As will be shown shortly our Lutherans Confessions clearly, and to our modern ears, audaciously, make the claim that when one changes the elements which Jesus has prescribed—such as substituting grape juice for wine—one does not have the sacrament.

When Jesus said, “this do,” he meant using bread and wine in addition to the Words of Institution and the act of distribution. These two elements also are contained in his command, “do this” (Lk 22:19). This is what our Lutheran Confessors teach in the Lutheran Confessions and which I confess as well. But do not listen to me. Listen to what all pastors swear to teach at their Ordination vows. From the Book of Concord we read:

Christ’s command “This do” must be observed unseparated and inviolate. (This embraces the entire action or administration in this Sacrament. In an assembly of Christians bread and wine are taken, consecrated, distributed, received, eaten, drunk, and the Lord’s death is shown forth at the same time.) St. Paul also places before our eyes this entire action of the breaking of bread or of distribution and reception (1 Corinthians 10:16).[1]

As an earthly marriage is negated when the elements of a man and a woman are changed from Christ’s institution in the Garden of Eden so too is the Lord’s Supper negated when the elements are changed. In the original context of the above quote the Confessors are addressing the Corpus Christi processions which still happen in Roman cultures and countries. The Confessors say the Sacrament ceases to be the Sacrament when the use instituted by Christ is not fulfilled; be it either the Corpus Christi procession, or in today’s context by changing which elements are used. The principle enunciated by the Confessors is still applicable:

To preserve this true Christian doctrine about the Holy Supper, … the following useful rule and standard has been derived from the words of institution: Nothing has the nature of a Sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ or apart from the action divinely instituted. This means, if Christ’s institution is not kept as He appointed it, then there is no Sacrament. … The use or action here does not mean chiefly faith. Nor does it mean the oral participation alone. It means the entire external, visible action of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ: the consecration, or words of institution, the distribution and reception, or oral partaking of the consecrated bread and wine, of Christ’s body and blood. Apart from this use, it is to be regarded as no Sacrament…. [2]

Without ambiguity we read: “If Christ’s institution is not kept as He appointed it, then there is no Sacrament.” The Confessions explain that Christ’s institution—the “use” and “action” Jesus has instituted—encompass three criteria: 1) the words of institution, 2) distribution and reception, 3) as well as the elements of bread and wine wherein Jesus promises to place his body and blood. And then the Confessions state that should we depart from this use, which among the items listed includes using wine, we have no sacrament. We depart from the “use” or “action” prescribed by Jesus when we no longer have “bread” and “wine.”

This article is offered not to be “right” or prove others “wrong.” It is offered to deliver comfort and forgiveness to people based on the Lord Jesus’ command and promise. Our faith, sincerity, and action do not make the Sacrament. What creates the Sacrament is when we receive what Christ has commanded and promised as we speak the Words of Institution over bread and wine. The certainty of following our Lord’s loving promise and not our own rationalist ideas is what comforts sinners and brings forgiveness.

Due to the fall people suffer in all sorts of manner; allergies, alcoholic issues, etc. A nice solution which preserves Christ’s mandate found in the Words of Institution and in the elements to be used is as follows. I instruct the Altar Guild to fill an individual communion cup with water and then place one or two drops of wine within which significantly dilutes the wine—but wine is still the element used! Sensitivity to personal issues is considered and faithfulness to Christ’s words is observed which enables people who know their need to receive the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

In Christ,

Pastor Weber



[1] “Solid Declaration, The Holy Supper,” in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 2nd edition, gen. ed., Paul T. McCain (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 575:84.

[2] “Solid Declaration, Article VII, The Holy Supper,” in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 2nd edition, gen. ed., Paul T. McCain (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 575-576:85-87.

About Pastor Karl Weber

Karl has been serving St. Paul’s Richville LC and St. John’s, Ottertail, MN since Labor Day, 2004. He was raised in the Roman Church receiving his BA from Fordham University. Before going to seminary he was a computer programmer in Minneapolis. He served as a short term missionary in Guatemala and Kenya, East Africa. He spent time as a member of the ELCA and studied two years at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN pursing his M. Div. before transferring to the LCMS for theological reasons and continuing his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He was ordained in 1991 and earned his D. Min. in May 2002 from the same institution. He has contributed study notes to The Lutheran Study Bible. He enjoys deer hunting, going to the gym, swimming, and reading. He is married to Mary and has five wonderful children.


Fruit of Which Vine? — 119 Comments

  1. Pastor Weber,

    Thank you for showing me exactly where to find this in our Confessions. This very topic was discussed in a Bible class I attend and there seemed to be a lot of confusion amongst the participants. I have found that some Christians want to believe that when grape juice is used it is the Sacrament. It certainly is important to know what we as Lutherans believe, teach and confess.

    In Christ,

  2. Thank-you!

    First, I learned for the first time a great solution to the problem of those who can not receive the Cup and also the teetotaler history of grape juice!

    Second, similar to Luther at Marburg regarding the real Presence, which many theologians and historians opine was just Luther’s obstinacy which blocked the unity of the churches, Luther’s Scriptural right assertion of the Body and the Blood was about the Incarnation. The use of wine seems small but the use of grape juice is like the well-meaning pretty tip of the spiritualist iceberg. Matter matters, after all God created all matter. He became man. Man and woman are the “specific elements”. But once the move is made that matter matters not, it is a denial of creation and then the Incarnation and the redemption. and the written Word of God, the Bible. From Here We Stand by Hermann Sasse:

    “The rejection, by Luther and the Lutheran Church, of Zwingli’s and Calvin’s teachings concerning the Sacrament can be understood only in the light of their consequences: these teachings must inevitably, although certainly against the will of those who represent them, eventuate in undermining belief in the Incarnation and particularly belief in the presence of Christ. A spiritualism which will have nothing to do with Christ’s humanity, and concerns itself, instead, solely with His divine nature, will soon even loose this.”

  3. It’s grimly ironic that the Welch name supported the institution known as the Flintstones after they endorsed smoking but opposed the institution of Christ because He included wine.

    However, it makes us guilty to examine the practices of others without examining our own practices. Such self-examination prompts several questions, which are offered only as such: questions.

    Isn’t “the cup” a technical term for “a single drinking vessel”?
    Isn’t “the bread” or “the one bread” (as Paul says) a technical term for “a single loaf”?
    If we deny this, aren’t we denying the zeitgeist of the Institution just as much as Welch?

  4. @Ernest Antine #3
    While many of us may prefer common cup, “the cup of blessing” after the Passover meal has been understood both with respect to individual cups as a round drinking for one common blessing, and as a common cup passed around. Both these understandings are ancient and find expression both in early written Passover Haggedot as well as Christian iconography.

    Remember, this is the Passover meal we are talking about. Samuel Ginsberg and Nahum Glatzer have a very nice volume on the historical practice of Ha-Seder shel Pesach, Ha-Haggadah shel Pesach. From very early times, that is, at the time of the Incarnation and possibly before, the Seder was celebrated with several “cups,” most poured out individually, then blessed. The first cup, the cup of sanctification, was drunk at the beginning. Some traditions have this as a common cup passed all around, some have them poured individually, then blessed. The second cup, the cup of Praise, was poured individually and accompanied the main dish. After the meal the Afikomen, the bread remaining from the beginning of the meal, set aside for special blessing, is distributed, each person breaking off a part for himself. The Third Cup was the cup of Redemption, also called the Cup of Blessing, which was poured individually, then blessed. The Fourth cup, the cup of Praise, was poured individually and then blessed. The historical evidence can be in error. But when the Bible says, “After they had supped, he took the cup, and when he had given thanks,” it seems as if the Cup of Redemption, the third cup, is being used for the Lord’s Supper. It follows just after the common loaf of the Afikomen. This is supported by Paul’s terminology in I Cor. 10-11 “the cup of Blessing”

    Bergamo Italy Giottesque fresco of Last Supper, 14 cent in Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore: individual cup

    The Last Supper” painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna 1308-1311: individual cup

    Another “The Last Supper” painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11, Individual Cup

    Fresco Italian (Spoleto)
    , about 1300 individual cups around the table

    Giusto de’Menabuoi, The Last Supper, 1376-78. Fresco, Baptistery, Padua. Individual cup

    The Last Supper” , Frescoes by Franciabigio (1482-1525, Italy) individual cup

    The Last Supper” painting by Leonardo DaVinci 1495-96 individual cup

    Last Supper, Stavronikita Monastery, Refectory, Fresco by Theophanes the Cretan, Cretan School, 1546. individual cup.

    What I want to emphasize is that the phrase “the Cup of Blessing, which we bless” could easily have applied to a round of individual drinks set aside for the purpose of celebrating the Redemption. Pre-reformation depictions of the Lord’s Supper give the very strong suggestion that the church also understood so. But there are many many depictions of Common Cup. And I want to emphasize that it is early church tradition and teaching value, not the evidence of Scripture, that motivates us to use a Common Cup. That tradition and teaching value should not be lightly dismissed. But that testimony should not speak in place of Scripture where in fact the Holy Spirit is silent.

  5. @Pr. Abrahamson #4
    Thank you for the interesting perspective. It’s an intriguing proposition, one with which, to my discredit, I’m unfamiliar. It raises some new questions:

    You say tradition shouldn’t speak in place of Scripture. Please permit my friendly observation that tradition is the only evidence you give to support a singular case “cup” easily meaning the plural “cups.” Now, we both love tradition because we’re pretty cool guys like that, or, at least, you seem pretty cool (and I wish I was).

    The traditions you’re citing are the Passover and some Medieval depictions. Therefore, because Passover primarily involves the eating of a lamb as well as individual cups, should this context suggest the possible inclusion of lamb meat in the actual Lord’s Supper along with many cups? Or, in the Medieval case, since at the same time those icons portray multiple cups it was equally tradition in some places for people to drink from zero cups, is that an acceptable understanding of drinking the Cup of the Eucharist? That is, since in some places (a millennium removed from the zeitgeist) “the cup” meant “the cups,” while in others “the cup” meant “no cups,” is offering no cup for people also acceptable? This would be the very strong suggestion of many Pre-Reformation churches. Is that, therefore, the recommendation of the Church?

    On a different note, the Baptismal rite is dissimilar to Circumcision, yet fulfills, replaces, and furthers it theologically. Why then should the Eucharistic rite be identical to Passover when it likewise fulfills, replaces, and furthers it? The Lord’s Supper is more than the Passover. For instance, Baptism was prefigured by Naaman’s cleansing in the Jordan. He washed seven times. Despite this, nobody Baptizes with seven immersions. In 1st Corinthians 10, the Holy Spirit interprets the Lord’s Supper as prefigured by the water in the wilderness. The people definitely drank from a single source there. However, we could not easily apply “the Cup of Blessing” to a literal stone. That’s because the Water from the Stone was typological, just like Passover was typological. Neither literally are the rite. Otherwise, according to 1st Corinthians 10, placing the Bread from Heaven which we Break on the ground for people to collect for themselves would fall with multiple cups in the category of acceptable liturgical practices. Why not admit such a thing?

    What I just suggested is completely ridiculous!

    Scripture consistently uses a singular form of “cup,” ποτηπιον, as well as singular pronouns (both demonstrative and relative) and also the singular form of “to be,” εστιν. How is such a consistent use of the singular considered silence? Aren’t the words used in Scripture a testimony spoken by the Holy Spirit? How are His actual words irrelevant to the original sense, while practices from a millennium later prove more relevant? By such logic, because grape juice is commonly employed in the Lord’s Supper today, the phrase “fruit of the vine” could easily have applied to grape juice.

    But then we just lost an excellent article about how the exact words and phrases used really mean something exactly. This excellent article highlights why the exact phrases of the Institution don’t allow just anything that they might possibly be allowed to mean. The article correctly asserts that the phrase “fruit of the vine” normally means wine unless very strong evidence (unexpectedly) contradicts. Likewise, “the cup which,” “from it,” and “this” are all phrases that normally mean a singular entity unless very strong evidence (unexpectedly) contradicts.

    There is lots of evidence in the text for one cup. What evidence in the text even suggests otherwise?

    That is, how would “μετα το δειπνησαι” seem to say “3/4 of the way through the meal”? This would be the case if it indicated the 3rd out of 4 cups. Along with that you suggest it might specify that they had just eaten the bread. When does δειπνω indicate a single act of biting/chewing/eating like φαγω might? Doesn’t δειπνω denote the eating of a whole meal? Is there evidence that supports the claim that δειπνω could easily have applied to a single action within a meal in contradistinction to the entire meal?

    Furthermore, when the Words of Institution in our hymnal state, “He took the cup after supper,” should we best understand this to mean, “He took the cup during supper”?

    Are you satisfied with the conclusion that “λαβων ποτηπιον…εδωκεν αυτοις” can easily mean “When He took His cup…He signified for them [to also take their own cups]”? Or maybe a more literal conclusion, “When He took His cup…He gave [permission to take their own] to them”? Or do both seem wanting only of Carlstadt jumping in, “Yeah, and when He took the bread, He pointed away from it and to His own chest, then said, ‘This is my body'”?

    Or is there a genuine tradition from the Fathers for reading the singular cup as plural cups? Isn’t it, as you indicated, that the early church (i.e. Patristic) tradition is singular?

    But even more so, the Scriptures are unanimously singular in the entire external, visible action of “the Cup” instituted by Christ. Why would we even want to be plural? Why would we want singular to symbolize plural? Where is the comfort in an uninstituted external, visible action of “several/many cups” or “several/many loaves”? If we stick to the exact institution without asking, “what if we just tweak this?” then we wouldn’t ever have to have this perennial discussion again. It would be over. We’d have one loaf which we break and one cup which we bless – the exact phrases without deviation. What greater comfort could we possibly find than receiving the exact external action of Christ exactly as described by the Holy Spirit?

  6. Two questions: For those with alcohol problems, can we just commune them in one kind? Why do we use individual wafers instead of one loaf?

  7. “Ernest Antine” appears to be a recent (Lutheran?) poster on BJS, who initially asked the question, “Isn’t ‘the cup’ a technical term for ‘a single drinking vessel’?” and then rhetorically asks, “If we deny this, aren’t we denying the zeitgeist of the Institution just as much as Welch?”

    First, regarding “a single drinking vessel,” in what communion practices does a communicant, in following our Lord’s command, drink His blood from more than “a single drinking vessel”?

    Second, in a number of (typically larger) Lutheran churches, in addition to individual communion cups, multiple “common cups” are alternately used by the pastor(s) during the Lord’s Supper. Again, each communicant drinks from only “a single drinking vessel.”

    Third, FC.X.4 states: “We believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has the power, according to its circumstances, to change such ceremonies in such manner as may be most useful and edifying to the congregation of God.” This would include the use of individual cups or multiple common cups, as the congregation, following explanation and care for the weak in faith, would decide.

    Fourth, according to FC.X.6, when persecuted by pietists or those falsely claiming the use of individual communion cups or multiple common cups during the Lord’s Supper violates doctrine, a Lutheran church is to “believe, teach, and confess that… we should not yield to the enemies in regard to such adiaphora, as the apostle has written Gal. 5:1: Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage. Also 2 Cor. 6:14: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, etc. For what concord hath light with darkness? Also Gal. 2:5: To whom we gave place, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you. For in such a case it is no longer a question concerning adiaphora, but concerning the truth of the Gospel, concerning [preserving] Christian liberty, and concerning sanctioning open idolatry, as also concerning the prevention of offense to the weak in the faith [how care should be taken lest idolatry be openly sanctioned and the weak in faith be offended]; in which we have nothing to concede, but should plainly confess and suffer on that account what God sends, and what He allows the enemies of His Word to inflict upon us.”

  8. “Carl Vehse” appears to a habitual (Lutheran?) poster on BJS who initially failed to understand the above article and the subsequent question.
    SD VII confesses that “the entire external, visible action” of the Lord’s Supper is not an adiaphoron. If it is missing, the doctrine is false and the Sacramental validity immediately suspect. Based on that confession, the article asserted that ‘pasteurized wine’ may not be used. If unfermented grape juice is used, the Communicant should be concerned that he might not have received Jesus True Blood for the forgiveness of his sins. Why? Because the external form is not an adiaphorous thing. The precise visible action is in fact an absolute ‘diaphoron’.

    “Carl Vehse” contradicts SD VII with FC X. He (accidentally?) asserts that the “entire visible action” of the Lord’s Supper is an adiaphoron. Based on that denial of SD VII, he further asserts that FC X therefore applies. It does not. The external form of the Holy Supper is absolutely necessary and is never adiaphora.

    Also, what is he talking about with drinking from more than one? That’s the dumbest straw man substitute double back flip with a half gainer. The question is, did Jesus institute a Supper (contradistinct from the external form of Passover) with “one cup” and “all” “drink from it”? Or did He institute a meal where individuals “drink from one of many cups” but few or none from the same cup?

  9. @Ernest Antine #8: “Carl Vehse” contradicts SD VII with FC X. He (accidentally?) asserts that the “entire visible action” of the Lord’s Supper is an adiaphoron.

    Such claims are idiotic. Ernest Antine’s hot air does nothing but burn roasts. . . wait a minute!

    Publisher Paul… is that you?!?!

  10. “cold one”

    We have a different context from that of the first century church. In the first century church, you do not multinational alcohol corporations seeking to push an alcohol culture upon the rest of society. That is what we have now. There is no first century equivalent of the Swedish bikini team or any of these types of advertising campaigns. We’re living in a world in which alcohol is not simply an individual matter under any circumstances. This is an issue in which you have an agenda that is being pressed by an industry that is leaving lives devastated everywhere.

    Russell Moore
    September 2005

  11. Is it possible that Jesus doesn’t care whether we use one big cup or a lot of little cups?

  12. @“LC-MS Quotes” #10
    Russel Moore? Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary?

    This quotation and others you have made from heretics like Bob Larson undercut your chosen moniker.

  13. Great article and interesting discussion in the comments! Couldn’t agree more with the OP.

    Growing up a Lutheran I remember the pastor in 8th grade confirmation telling us about common cup and individual cup. He said most in my congregation used individual cups because they were afraid of germs on the common cup and if we were too to go ahead and use the individual cups.

    Unfortunately it took a few years to realize that, on this point, the rationale for taking the individual cup is really bogus and half baked. You can’t get sick from Christ’s Holy Body and Blood. I may catch germs at church, but probably from the bathroom or talking to people after Church, but not at Holy Communion. It’s impossible. Receiving Christ’s Body and Blood will never poison me for the reasons people are concerned about today. (Of course, it could poison me, as Paul says, if I abuse it in the manner the Corinthian adults did)

    Lately I’ve become suspicious that the whole impulse for the plastic cups and extremely thin, unbreadlike wafers is a tradition, in America, that Lutherans developed like a bad sinus infection from baptist teaching.

    You care for and invest in what you care about most. They do the Supper because they have to, not because they believe Jesus is there, bodily, to give them forgiveness, life and salvation. So of course they use Nilla wafers and Welch’s. Cheap elements and vessels communicate, “We don’t care that much about this, we just gotta do it so lets do it cheap, wal-mart style”. It’s like Lutherans, suffering an obligation to be different from baptists figured out a way to do the supper as cheaply as they could. Sadly it’s like doing the bare minimum to comply with a law rather than accepting a beautiful gift from our Lord.

    Why does it seem like everything, from communion to worship music, always gets talked about as adiaphora … it’s like the wrong question is being asked in the first. What is necessary? What do we have to do? What can we get away with and it still be valid? Give me a break. My pastor taught me I was made a SON of God in Baptism. I was given a relationship. God is my Father, not the state trooper. Maybe if people were taught who they are in Christ we’d stop asking such silly questions about necessity in legalese and finally believe we’re in our Father’s house. Maybe we’d finally be Ok with the way Lutherans and orthodox and catholic Christians before us lived and worshiped and act like we belong instead of being like ridiculous, angsty teens in our Christianity.

    The dissonance between the sermons I usually hear, that rightly extol the benefits of the Supper as a great gift for us, and the practice I usually see is astounding. We have this great mystery presented before us and then … the plastic shot glasses and Dollar General wafers are given out and it makes me think “Wow, so really we don’t care about this *that* much, this stuff is cheap”. Honestly, if we’re going to have wafers can’t they at least taste a little like bread? Is it really fitting to throw away vessels that contained the very blood of God? It’s sad, to me, that this is tolerable. Talk about undermining the pure teaching by what we do … I’m not sayin we need Panera Bread and Napa Valley wine on every altar, but seriously, churches have A/C and padded pews and thousands of dollar sound systems, a loaf and Common Cup not tossed out next to the coffee and donut garbage after service is really doable.

    No wonder most of our people don’t get it and don’t care, this FC X has been trotted out to mean “Do whatever you want guys, no one cares that much”. I love being a Lutheran, but lutheranISM just gets me down with it’s weird tradition of justifying little plastic cups and cheap wafers.

  14. @Carl Vehse #9

    Sure, Carl. I asked why we change the visible action of the Lord’s Supper. You replied, “FC X.” I answered that FC X explicitly refers to adiaphora, but SD VII had already clarified that the external form of the Lord’s Supper is not adiaphora. Therefore, FC X does not address why we alter the one loaf into many or one cup into many.

    Yet, instead of just admitting that maybe FC X doesn’t so much permit altering Christ’s Institution of the Holy Supper (cf. SD VII), you resorted to insults and playing the Eighth Commandment card…while slandering. Groovy!

    So seriously, if FC X justifies changing the visible actions of the Lord’s Supper, then this excellent article above was completely wrong. (Except the article was excellent and not wrong.) Furthermore, if FC X justifies changing the external forms of the Supper, then we indeed are free to use the fruit of any vine. Why not tomato juice? It’s resembles blood even more than wine, and symbolism is what we’re doing…right?

    But for real, let’s even suppose you’re right. Let’s suppose that FC X applies to the external elements of the Holy Supper. If you were serious about FC X, and not just using it as an excuse, you should still demand one loaf and one cup – precisely because the Baptists use individual cups and lots of wafers or crackers. Instead, you say that we should continue imitating the Zwinglians! Let the contradictions abound!

    Now I’m not trying to blow hot air at you. My conscience has been deeply troubled by this topic for at least seven years. After receiving Communion from my Pastor, I am often filled with grief. How can what I was given really be Holy Communion? I just received a Holy Individuality.

    I’m fairly confident that I’m still receiving my own personal forgiveness of sins by it (though imagine if I read the above article and had grown up in an LCMS congregation where grape juice was normal). But even if I’m confident my sins are forgiven, I’m not at all confident about the Communion of the Saints. I don’t want to receive a Sacrament of me and Jesus next to you and Jesus. Jesus instituted a Sacrament of He and we. I want to receive His Institution. He took a singular loaf and a singular cup – those are the Words of Institution. Why aren’t our Synod’s Pastors doing the Institution?

    The Pastor says that Jesus took a singular loaf of bread, but then the Pastors takes a multiplicity of breads. The Pastor says that Jesus took a singular cup, but then the Pastor takes many cups. We aren’t doing the Words. The external form is similar, as similar as grape juice to wine. We “technically” (probably) fill all the requirements, like technically tomato juice is fruit of the vine. But we’re not technically doing the Sacrament according to the Words of Institution. That’s disturbing.

  15. @“LC-MS Quotes” #10

    In the first century you have Dionysius the god of wine. In the first century you have the traditional “symposium,” the drinking party. You have obligatory tripartite toasts of wine to Zeus. Wine was more accessible than clean water. They didn’t need flashy commercials or girl’s skin to sell wine; wine was everywhere. Drunkenness was everywhere. There was no AA. Wine was more of a problem in the first century than in the 21st.

    Besides that, we do have the same context. Our context is the Person of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper gives us the Eternal Son of God who does not change. Communion with Him is the context yesterday, today, and forever.

  16. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:7-13)

    …and we should be obsessing over the size of communion cups? 🙂

  17. In my American context I do not obsess over the size of communion cups as John Rixe rightly observes. But then, should we enter a different context which our nation is rapidly approaching—it might be very well to consider the size of communion cups. Allow me to opine.

    In the summer of 1985 I did short term mission work in Kisi, Kenya, East Africa. The Divine Service was beautiful in that it held to the catholicity of the faith. When it came time to receive the gifts of Christ in the bread and wine the few remaining “white” retired missionaries *ran* up to the altar irrespective of which pew they were sitting in before others could or did commune. It took me a nano second to realize what was going on and so I stayed in my pew and went to the holy altar amongst my African brothers and sisters in Christ focusing on the gifts and not what my eyes see.

    As our nation becomes more diverse think and pray about the wonderful gift that the common cup offers for overcoming our human blood boundaries and uniting us in the blood that forgives sins and makes us into a new family — the blood of Christ.

    I take nothing from what John Rixe but there are more things to consider as well.


    Pr. Karl Weber

  18. My mother fed us home baked bread. Before the meal it was sliced, but we were still all eating from the same loaf. Therefore I can accept the wafers which are miniature “slices” of bread. (I grant, some resemble bread more than others. Speak to your Pastor or Altar Guild, if you are getting the “almost nothing” kind.)

    One cup, OTOH, means one cup to me and I will not engage in semantics to justify the other kind.
    There is no justification in Lutheranism.

    [But if you can’t get rid of them, use glasses and wash them, after rinsing and disposing of the leftover blood-of-Christ in the piscina, if you have one, or on clean grass, if you haven’t.]

    And don’t tell me it can’t be done. I’ve done it.

    If you think it’s too much trouble, teach the Common Cup!

  19. @Rev. Karl Weber #19

    Point well taken. Common cup can indeed send a message of unity amid diversity.

    Around here all churches that I know of offer both common and individual – never tacky disposable.

  20. @John Rixe #18

    The only one obsessing about size is you ; P Maybe you’re a short guy living among short people, I don’t know. : >

    And that’s all right. Use a short glass. Or a tall chalice. Or a medium cup. the cup is one cup whatever the size. It can even be refilled as often as needed. Even though cheap, disposable plastic Communionware is abnormal, I’d rather my Pastor Communed our whole congregation from just one individual cup no matter how many refills were necessary.

    Rev. Weber has an excellent anecdote highlighting the beauty of being one Body in one Communion in one Christ. That’s why one cup. Who’s ever cared about size? For though the Cup is but the size of a mustard seed (and highly impractical), it will nourish us into a mighty tree of unity in Christ.

    P.S. Your translation of Matthew 7:12 is inaccurate because it ignores the sequence, “dia + accusative article + infinitive verb.” That sequence indicates purpose. It’s not just a factual statement, “Sin will abound.” It’s a statement of cause: a cause clause. “Because lawlessness [not just ‘sin’ but a + nomia, “un + lawfulness”]…because lawlessness [will] abound, [therefore] the love of many will grow cold.” The reason the love of many becomes frigid is precisely because of lawlessness. Lawlessness disregards commands and institutions.

    But you and me – indeed all of us – we are those who teach all nations to keep all things Christ has commanded. And He says, “Do this.” Do what, Lord? “Take and eat; take and drink.” Eat what, Lord? “The bread.” Drink what, Lord? “The cup.”

    Keeping the Institution is persevering until the end because it is observing all thing Christ has commanded even until the end of the age.

  21. Can someone tell me why the Bangers are so wound up that whith Baptism you MUST immerse because they think the Bible indicates Jesus was immersed (which is very dubious), and yet, with the Supper, they jump through huge mental and hermaneutical hoops to justify that “we don’t know for sure” that Jesus meant wine by “fruit of the vine.”

    As a simple laymen this makes no logical sense to me. Am I missing something in the Greek?

  22. @Tim Jackson #13

    “It’s impossible”

    I think the alcohol can help kill bacteria, but does the Bible say we’re protected from disease by taking communion from a dirty cup?    You may be right but are you assuming too much? Why do we keep wiping the cup?

  23. A previous discussion on individual and common cups is on the BJS thread, “Question of the Wine and of the Cup.” In Post #4 of that thread there are also links to two earlier threads from 2009 on the same topics. On one of those 2009 threads, “Influenza and communion,” in the Post #7 (p. 1) Erich Heidenreich, DDS, states:

    It always amazes me when intelligent people argue about the scientific evidence of whether you can catch anything from use of a common cup. Of course it hasn’t been proven either way with regard to communion cups, because studies of this mode of disease transmission have almost never focused on communion cups. It is important, however, to point out the fact that it is false to think that the alcohol in the wine or the silver in the chalice act as efficient disinfectants. Silver has no efficient disinfectant effect, and it takes a concentration of 70% ethanol ten minutes to adequately disinfect a surface. Even fortified wine does not begin to approach that concentration. Only 151 Rum and Lysol do, and remember it takes ten minutes. Wiping the chalice lip does reduce the bioburden, but it does not eliminate it either.”

  24. @23…What the heck is a banger? Are you talking about sausages?

    Well, I think I get your rather…well…uncharitable take on our Baptist brethren.

    Now, interestingly enough, I went to a Baptist church yesterday, and the preacher talked about the wedding at Cana and how, contrary to popular Baptist understanding, the wine in the miracle was REAL wine, and probably the best ever.

    So, it’s probably best not to…generalize? We all have our errors, for sure and certain. Think about the Lutheran confessions. THEY say baptism is necessary to salvation. The LCMS says it’s necessary, but not ‘absolutely necessary’. Okay then..that’s a little odd, no?

    Friend, we all have a little ‘paradox’ in our denominational ideas.

  25. We used a common cup with the Anglicans, but I always dipped(intincture) rather than drink.

    I wasn’t worried about germs, but rather not controlling the cup as it came to my mouth. I found that I was thinking TOO much about the machination when I worried about it, so took to dipping, keeping my mind on the Lord, not on whether the priest and I would coordinate well.

    Our Lutheran church provides both common and individual cups, which I really like.

  26. @John Rixe #11
    Here’s the conundrum from my perspective Mr. Rixe:
    1) As a Lutheran, I must confess that the cup(s) used in the LS have no impact on the Real Presence or the efficacy of the Sacrament.
    2) I have never heard an actual explanation or argument of why Lutherans use or should use individual cups in the Lord’s Supper that wasn’t heterodox or heretical from a Lutheran perspective.
    So, for my money this is a 1 Cor 10:23-24 moment. Should a Lutheran doubt the Sacrament based on the container used? No, but to use individual cups for bad reasons crosses the line between Christian liberty to selfish licience.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  27. @Matthew Mills #29

    I think the little cups are widely used just for sanitary reasons not for bad reasons. I’ve been to many churches over many years and can’t ever recall the common cup being used exclusively. I personally have no preference, and since both options are available I don’t even make a conscious choice from one Sunday to another.

    I’m still trying to figure out what is a Banger.

  28. @John Rixe #30
    Well, I guess that’s neither heterodox nor heretical in itself, but I will say:
    1) Sanitation seems a very strange focus for someone with a Lutheran understanding of the LS. Here we are, receiving the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in a startlingly intimate way, and with it forgiveness, life, and salvation; anyone stressing over questions of sanitation is probably missing the whole point. (PG-13 parallels to married life available upon request;-) .)
    2) That being said, I doubt that using fussy little individual cups that must be handled by the rims in order to load them into trays (I defy you to find another way) and fill them can be any more sanitary than a common cup. How would you feel about a waitress setting your drink to the table by grabbing the rim of the glass with her bare hands and lifting it off the tray?
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills
    p.s. It wasn’t my term, but I assume that “bangers” was used as a short version of “Bible bangers.” I prefer calling them Schwärmer, but … .

  29. @Lifelong Lutheran #31

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but maybe don’t breathe around those 100 people on Sunday? : )

    When a person talks, sings, coughs, sneezes or laughs, droplets are made. These tiny drops of liquid may have germs inside. The droplets with germs can be breathed in or land in the eyes, noses or mouths of others. This is how germs can be spread by droplet transmission. These drops can travel 6 feet through the air before they fall to the ground. the flu (influenza) and whooping cough (pertussis) are spread this way.

    Some germs travel through the air on specks of dust or particles made when a person talks,
    sings, sneezes, coughs or laughs. These germs can float in the air for a long time. They can be carried a long way by air currents. Illness occurs when people breathe in the germs floating in air. Tuberculosis (TB), measles and chickenpox are some of the germs spread by airborne transmission.


    At least Peter and Paul are dead so they can’t Apostolically command us to kiss everyone at Church! Romans 16:16, 1st Corinthians 16:20, 2nd Corinthians 13:12, 1st Thessalonians 5:26, 1st Peter 5:14. Just saying, maybe sharing the medicine of immortality aint’ so bad.

  30. This seems so weird. Does Jesus love common cuppers more than the little cuppers? Are the common cuppers more loving Christians? Bye for now and have a blessed day.

  31. @John Rixe #37
    Does Jesus love common cuppers more than the little cuppers?

    Maybe not.
    People are just pointing out various ways that the “reasons” for the individual cups are false. (They are also a recent invention; I don’t know how our grandparents survived!)

    Nobody has said, (but it’s true) that one chalice is easiest on the Pastor, the Altar Guild and the church budget. [The budget because surplus little cups cannot be poured back into a bottle with good effect; they should be poured down the piscina or out on the grass. It was suggested in one place that the Elders gather to drink the leftovers in the sacristy, but I didn’t notice that they did it.]

  32. @John Rixe #37
    The miraculous thing is that Jesus DOESN’T love the common cuppers more than the little cuppers. Speaking for myself: if (before I married of course) I had two girlfriends and one of them was so frightened of germs that she wouldn’t hold my hand w/out weqaring latex gloves and thought kisses were my way of trying to give her a cold, while the other saw holding hands and good-night kisses as a way to express her joy at being with me, I think I would develop a favorite rather quickly.
    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33)

  33. “And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you” St. Matthew 26:27. This is the reason for the common cup.

    What do these changes signify? Why are they being done now? Are they done for sound doctrinal reasons? So germ theory becomes accepted science at the turn of the last century and so the move to individual cups? Or was it those Reformed and evangelical Methodists used little cups and they are so successful? Confirmed in an LCMS congregation in ’68, I only knew of the one Cup as the koinonia, the fellowship, the communion of the saints, in His Body and Blood. Then began the stirrings for a more experiential communion practice. I thought it was so “cool” to receive communion from the hand of fellow believers in a circle (all LCMS) and I would share the Bread and the Cup with the person next to me. Then I and many others got tired of those tasteless wafers. Real, home baked bread, that would make Communion more authentic, more real (?!). So congregations organized Communion bread-bakers and recipes abounded. One year for confirmation, (I was serving as the AELC assistant pastor in an LCMS/dual member congregation) a mom volunteered to bake the bread for the service. We discovered at the Altar, it was like hard tack! Hmmm, I thought maybe there is something to the wafers which I think were baked at the Lutheran Deaconess house in Milwaukee,. Then in my last ELCA congregation, which had deep red carpeting and ‘real’ bread, I began to notice all the crumbs being trampled underfoot every Sunday. As it progressed, actually in my opinion devolved, many an ELCA congregation had choices. One congregation had:

    individual cup: grape juice
    common cup: wine
    common cup: grape juice
    individual cup: wine

    So we just queued up for what everyone wanted. I began to think maybe we should have a choice of bread, whole wheat, gluten-free (haven’t even discussed that here!) or a sturdy pumpernickel (after all, German descent!) and a choice of wine, a lovely Napa Cabernet or a Chilean Merlot. Ooh, then we could have the donors of the wine and bread and put their names into the bulletin which will help them to identify with the congregation, and have a ministry and and not leave. Then I actually heard from a dear sister in Christ, at Yale, from a conservative ELCA congregation, go to the the ELCA campus ministry and they served champagne for the Lord’s Supper…more festive I guess. (The only time she attended) Then I started hearing about Kool-aid and goldfish crackers for the kids to receive.

    What does a little change signify? So many of the changes becomes the living out the old Burger King jingle: “You can have it your way”. And that’s what Sunday morning has become: a choice, you can have it your way. I can have the Church, the Word, the Bible my way. I’m in the mood for traditional, I can have it…or feeling a little contemporary? That, too. We have been trying to satisfy the itches and tickles of a lot of people for a long time! I think this thread, CoWo/Traditional, forever discussing doctrine and practiced that are settled questions is all one bundle.

    Brothers and sisters, fwiw, this past Sunday (June 2, ’13) the Epistle reading is Galatians 1: 1-10, and when I came to verse 10, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ”, I was overwhelmed, felt like preaching the text. I thought that when I preach and teach the Gospel it may not please man. I’ve tried to please man, then I was no servant, or slave, of Christ. The Greek verb translated as “pleased” has to do with rhetoric. Paul did not try to please man to convince them of the Gospel, but to proclaim and preach the Gospel, Jesus Christ for sinners and God the Holy Spirit do the convincing. Having it our way puts us into the driver’s seat. Choice means us directing the building of the Church, her administration, her sacraments, her life in order to ‘reach’ people. We have gotten along fine for some 2,000 years with the one cup, wine and Words of Institution. We’ve made pleasing man into an art, a science, i.e. the ultimate: Church Growth…and in many incremental steps leading up to such. Symbolism is important and the symbol better be Scriptural and Confessional as Pr. Weber made clear.

    @helen #20 Helen, you might be pleased to know that in two congregations when I guided them to the common Cup (with the concession of intinction), two Altar guilds just loved me!

  34. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #41

    I guess we all speak from our own limited experience, but I was confirmed May 24, 1953 with little cups and I can’t recall ever being in a church that used the common cup exclusively.  I’m not arguing for anything except massive indifference when it comes to cups. 🙂

    If change is so bad, why did we stop running around greeting everyone with a holy kiss?

  35. “And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you” St. Matthew 26:27.

    In his Christian Dogmatics (CPH, St. Louis, 1934, p. 521), J.T. Mueller, Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary, wrote:

    Against the claim of the Lutherans that their doctrine rests upon the literal sense of the words of institution, the Reformed (including Hodge, Syst. Theol., III, 662) have set up the counterclaim that the Lutherans, too, “have given up the literal sense” of the words. This accusation is based upon the fact that the Lutherans admit that “the cup is used metonymically for the wine in the cup.” To this we reply that we indeed admit this metonymy (synecdoche), the container (“this cup”) being named for the thing therein contained; for Scripture itself tells us: “And they all drank of it,” Mark 14,23. What the disciples drank was not the goblet, but the wine in the cup. In other words, Scripture itself establishes the metonymy in this case. But that point is beside the question, since the literal interpretation, upon which the Lutherans insist, does not apply to the expression cup, but rather to the statements: “This is My body”; “this is My blood.”

  36. So germ theory becomes accepted science at the turn of the last century and so the move to individual cups? Or was it those Reformed and evangelical Methodists used little cups and they are so successful?

    The guilt-by-association-with-Reformed rhetorical questions about individual cups are misleading. In the late 19th century, death from disease was a frequent visitor to American homes. Babies and children were often the victims of common killers, such as “summer diarrhea,” cholera, typhus, and of course tuberculosis. During this period, one in seven deaths was due to tuberculosis (also called “consumption”). One in five babies in the U.S. never saw their first birthday. Death from disease struck the aristocratic homes as well as those of the poor.

    In 1882, German bacteriologist Robert Koch presented to the Berlin Physiological Society his scientific evidence that the tubercule bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was the cause of tuberculosis. For that discovery, Koch was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905. Previously, Koch had discovered the anthrax bacteria, and in 1883 he also identified the cholera vibrio bacterium.

    Over the next several decades the field of bacteriology expanded scientific knowledge about bacteria and the identification and transmission of diseases. In his footsteps, Koch’s students found the organisms responsible for diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, gonorrhoea, cerebrospinal meningitis, leprosy, bubonic plague, tetanus, and syphilis. Unfortunately, curing such diseases would have to wait until the development of antibiotics during WW2.

    But the germ theory that was solidified by Koch and others had another effect – a major change in the cultural and social-political life of the United States (and western cultures in general), spurring many new inventions and practices, including:

    The modern indoor bathroom, complete with a white porcelain toilet.
    Window screens.
    Linoleum (replacing carpeted or wooden) flooring, especially in the bathroom and food preparation areas.
    Safety razors (for clean-shaving faces at home); beards declined in popularity.
    Vacuum cleaners.
    Lysol (parachlorometaxylenol, with chloroxylenol as the main ingredient).
    Drinking fountains, rather than ladle or cup next to a public water faucet.
    Cellophane, for wrapping food.
    Municipal water supply systems and regulations to provide safe drinking water.
    Sewer traps and other plumbing improvements and regulations.
    Washing machines.
    Doctors washing their hands before surgery and using disinfectants.
    Dental hygiene; before the 20th century you had a 50-50 chance of surviving a root canal.
    The practice of washing hands before preparing food and using clean utensils when cooking.
    Resorts and spas, originally developed to help TB patients, but later becoming popular with automobiling vacationers.
    Miniskirts… well, at least skirts above-the-ankle so that hemlines would not pick up dirt and germs on the street.

    Because the many personal and domestic hygiene improvements and practices were in the areas of housecleaning, child care, and food preparation, the role of the housewife, mother, and the public health nurse received major emphasis. School health education, government programs, and advertizers directed their efforts to educating women to the new inventions, products, and practices designed to reduce the risk of germ-transmitted diseases to their families.

    Oh… and the individual communion cup was also introduced in the late 19th century in order to combat the recognized transmission of disease-causing germs. Opposition to individual communion cups occurred in many denominations, including those using only grape juice. But the use of individual communion cup did increase as people became aware of how germs could be transmitted.

    A Lutheran church was using individual communion cup by the end of the 19th century. The next decade and especially the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 introduced the individual cup to more churches, including Lutheran churches, at the same time Lutheran schools were still teaching the geocentric model that the sun and planets actually orbited a fixed earth.

    Within the Missouri Synod, a doctrinal resolution in the 1944 Synodical Convention (Vol.39, p. 254) stated, “Nothing in Scripture forbids the use of individual communion cups.” and also “Methods of distribution (breaking bread, using hosts, one or many cups) do not belong to the essence of the Sacrament.”

  37. @John Rixe #25

    I would suspect pastors wipe the cup more to prevent the blood of Christ from running down the cup and dripping everywhere, those cloths don’t appear to be disposable anymore than the altar cloth is if the blood is spilled on it.

    Knowing that the best and really only compelling reason for individual cups is to prevent the spread of germs I just wonder, why not stay home every Sunday. Just to be safe, watch the service on tv and hold some sealed cups and individually wrapped host in front of the tv during the consecration. You know, community is over rated. There, now we don’t have to be exposed to anyone else’s germs at all. I mean, I don’t want to drink after 100 other people, let alone breath the same air as them or touch the same pews or door handles … gads, all the GERMS!

    Dare it even be suggested that included in “forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation” there is also some kind of positive health benefit to the Supper too? If it can physically kill people who use it wrongly it makes complete sense to say it can physically heal you too. But, of course, with that filthy cup Christ’s blood can’t heal us. (Silly me, what was I thinking? As if I believed Jesus was really there for me in the Supper)

    Maybe Churches will have to pay Obamacare more for using those unsanitary common cups and getting all the taxpayers sick.

  38. @Tim Jackson #46

    As I mentioned, I have no preference for little cups. I can’t find anything in the Bible that talks about immunity from germs, but I’m willing to learn. The purpose of wiping the chalice is sanitation – ask your pastor please.

  39. @John Rixe #47

    Interesting. The way you phrased your comment got me thinking about those words, “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Perhaps through the misuse of the Supper those germs will get us sick. So if you got sick from the common cup perhaps the Lord is getting your attention in order to lead to repentance and a reception that benefits body and soul. It wouldn’t be the first time God used bodily weakness or frailty to get a sinner’s attention. Thanks

    Also, unless the rag is soaked in Lysol its not much for sanitation. It makes a lot more sense in terms of being careful and respectful of the blood as it is being distributed. If you’re right about it, that’s weird to me. I guess I’ll ask him.

  40. @Tim Jackson #48
    Well, as the historical name for the “rag” in question is the “Purificator” (I’m assuming from the Latin verb “purificare” to purify/clean) he’s probably got you on this one.

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