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. @Tim Jackson #41
    I think you’ve nailed it Tim. We’ve permitted a non-Lutheran practice to enter our church because, in a very narrow sense, it doesn’t impact the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper (and I concede that individual cups “deliver the goods” as efficiently as the chalice.)

    I can get the same caffeine jolt from a pill that I can get sitting w/ my wife over a few cups of coffee in our nice porcelain cups on a Saturday morning, but there are things the pill won’t deliver. I’m trying to keep this “G-rated” but I’m sure that there are also more hygienic ways of making a baby than the way my wife and I did it, but again, “communion” rather than hygiene drove the bus on that decision.

    We as a church have missed the fact that there is a horizontal element as well as a vertical element in the sacrament. Why do we call the Lord’s Supper “Holy Communion”? In the original Latin of the Apostles Creed “Sanctorum Communio” can be translated both as community of the saints (holy people) or community in the holy things. I don’t think that was accidental. “I want my own Jesus w/o Billy’s germs” doesn’t fit either translation particularly well. I am also bothered by the unstated assumption that we as a culture understand germs in a way that Jesus (the Author of creation after all) did not. (So there is a reciprocity of the second genus?) Still, this is not a damning issue, but an impoverishing one, and w/ patient catechesis we can make the individual cups go away in a few generations. That would be my suggestion and my prayer for our churches.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  2. Matthew Mills claims, A pastor is not sinning by using “Jesus jiggers.” Again, there is nothing inherently evil or wrong about the cups themselves and it doesn’t impact the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper (and I concede that individual cups “deliver the goods” as efficiently as the chalice.)

    At the same time Mills describes the use of individual communion cups (as well as the motivations of others using them) with phrases such as

    selfish licience
    the problem is in the spirit that advocates for them.
    Jesus jiggers.
    foolish things
    here we are worrying about Christ’s blood harbouring cooties
    Only someone who had totally lost all conception of what is happening in the mass could think like that.
    final Satanic insult
    “I want my own Jesus w/o Billy’s germs”
    unstated assumption that we as a culture understand germs in a way that Jesus (the Author of creation after all) did not.
    an impoverishing [issue]
    w/ patient catechesis we can make the individual cups go away in a few generations

    This rhetorical tapdancing is simply duplicitous.

  3. @Carl Vehse #2
    I have specifically stated my position. Individual cups are not sinful, and they in no way prevent our Lord from forgiving sin in His supper. The cups contain the very blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of those who receive it in faith, discerning the body and blood of Jesus. You can disagree w/ my position, but that doesn’t make it duplicitous. I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I honestly do not believe that our actions become sinful or God’s actions become inefficacious because humans are being fussy, foolish, internally or theologically inconsistent.

    For me this is a 1 Cor 10:23-24 issue: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

    Did Christ’s true humanity limit his divine knowledge of His creation in a way that He instituted the Sacrament of His body and blood in a form that hurt His bride the Church? Was Jesus 2,000 years dumber than we are about human physiology humanly speaking? My answer is absolutely not.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  4. @Matthew Mills #3

    My interest in my neighbor is my motivation for taking the individual cup when i’m well enough to attend work and church, but can still carry germ that spreads by contact. I certainly would stay home if I felt I was endangering others. I hope that is not considered theologically foolish, fussy, satanic, or non-Lutheran.

  5. @Carl Vehse #49

    For clarity, your disagreement is that I interpreted the Confessions’ recommendation of the “Confession concerning Christ’s Supper” as a mandate to subscribe to those works quia. Your point is that The Formula is recommending further reading, not in toto subscribing the Formula (and thus us) to those works.

    On the other hand, you want to be clear that you’re dismissing my interpretation of the Formula, not Luther’s exegesis. Your disagreement is not with Luther’s conclusion that “He commands them all to drink out of this single cup,” and that “He took a special loaf which He divided among them all.” Your disagreement is with my connecting this exegetical conclusion to a Confessional mandate.

    Then let’s find a way to end this silly dispute.

    In his Great Confession, Luther says, “I have often asserted that I do not argue whether the wine remains wine or not. It is enough for me that Christ’s blood is present; let it be with the wine as God wills. Sooner than have mere wine with the fanatics, I would agree with the pope that there is only blood.”

    We do not subscribe to this. (Though we probably chuckle [or cringe] at his excellent rhetorical point about the importance of the Real Presence.)

    The Smalcald Articles, as we all know, were written to show which things we could never comprise to the pope. There Luther says, “Concerning transubstantiation, we have absolutely no regard for the subtle sophistry of those who teach that bread and wine surrender or lose their natural substances and that only the form and color of the bread remains, but it is not longer real bread. For it is closest agreement with Scriptures to say that bread is and remains there, as St. Paul himself indicates, ‘The bread that we break…’ and ‘Eat of this bread.'”

    We do subscribe to this. We cannot compromise on Transubstantiation. Why? Because it is in “closest agreement with the Scripture to say that bread is and remains there.” It isn’t in “closest agreement with the Scriptures to say that bread is” no longer there.

    Now, as we know, Luther prepared his Great Confession when he thought he was dying. In it, he says he would rather compromise Transubstantiation than the Real Presence. The Smalcald Articles [after III part 4] were also written when Luther thought he was dying. Here, he mandates that we never compromise on Transubstantiation. Why? Because it is not in “closest agreement with the Scriptures.”

    Since we all already agree with Luther’s exegesis that Jesus, in the Scriptures, instituted His Supper with one loaf and one cup for the one group of communicants, why not just do it that way? It is “in closest agreement with the Scriptures” for “the cup” to be “one cup” and “one loaf” to be a single loaf. I’m not saying the Confessions mandate this. I’m asking this: what motivates us to seek less agreement with the Scriptures? Perhaps there may not be a clear mandate from the Scriptures, “use a single loaf and a single cup,” but why would we, willingly and without constraint, desire anything except the “closest agreement with the Scriptures”?

    Or can we boast as confidently as Luther could that “we have the holy sacrament of the altar, just as Christ instituted it”? Don’t we have to admit that we have it mostly as He instituted it. We have it almost and symbolically as He instituted it. He used one. We use many but they all symbolize one. He instituted in the singular; we “do this” in the plural. It’s not just as, but it’s probably close enough to count.

    Why do we have debate technicalities of what is probably permissible? Why not just try to be as close as we possibly can? People, of course, are being as close as they possibly can if they receive whatever is given to them.

    But are we, as a Synod, able to boast “just as Christ himself instituted”? Or don’t we have to boast, “We have the holy sacrament of the altar almost as Christ instituted it. We still have the Real Presence of course. We just made a few practical innovations that seem like they’re not clearly forbidden.”

    Let’s just say, “Nobody will deny that we have the holy sacrament of the altar, just as Christ himself instituted it and the apostles and the whole of Christendom have since practiced it. Thus we eat and drink with the whole of ancient Christendom from one table, and we receive with them the same once ancient sacrament; we have done nothing new or different. Consequently, we are once church with them, or as St. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 11, ‘one body’ and ‘one loaf’ since we eat of one loaf and drink of one cup. So the papists cannot call us heretics or a new church, unless they first call Christ, the apostles, and the whole of Christendom heretics, as in truth they do, for we are once church with the ancient church, in one sacrament.” [Luther, “Against Hans Wurst,” 1541, AE 41.]

  6. So it is true that we Christians are the spiritual body of Christ and collectively one loaf, one drink, one spirit. All this is achieved by Christ, who through his own body makes us all to be one spiritual body; so that all of us partake equally of his body, and are therefore equal and united with one another.

    Likewise, the fact that we consume one bread and drink makes us to be one bread and drink. And just as one member serves another in such an integrated body, so each one also eats and drinks the other; that is, each consumes the other in everything, and each one is food and drink for the other, so that we are simply food and drink to one another, just as Christ is simply food and drink to us.

    With words such as these, St. Paul portrayed the riches and the nature of faith and of love, using the very terms appropriate to natural bread and wine. For the many grains that are ground together become a single loaf; each grain loses its own form and becomes the flour of another. Likewise, many grapes become one wine; each grape loses its own form and becomes the juice of all the others.

    Likewise, Christ has become all things to us; and we, if we are Christians, have become all things among ourselves, each to the other. What one has belongs to the other; and what one lacks is a matter of concern to each of the others as if he were lacking it himself.

    -Luther, “The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ – Against the Fanatics” AE 36

  7. a href=”#comment-829112″>@Lifelong Lutheran #39
    Perhaps they did die from infection received from the chalice. Having received in faith the Gift Christ gives from the chalice, did they really Die, though? Frankly, if I get a flu that “kills” me from the chalice, that’s the Lord’s blessing, too. I don’t agree with Tim that it’s impossible to “catch” a bug from the chalice. I just don’t care. I can’t lose, either way.

    Just recently re-read the chapter “A Community of Joy” from the “Little Book on Joy”. I was struck again about how Christ *and* His Body share in everything that each Christian brings with him to the altar. Why should germs be any different? If I receive flu or even something worse from my brother or sister in Christ, I’ll count it as a blessing to share with him/her that cross.

    All this being said, though the use of the common cup is something I want to gently encourage, I also don’t worry about the folks who “take, drink” from the individual cups, as though I think their faith is inferior or weaker than “common cuppers”.

    More to the point of the original article: I wonder about the “one or two drops” of wine/blood in an ind. cup of water idea. I’ve read some varying things on this. I do have a situation where the alcohol content of our undiluted wine causes one person to have a serious and rather instantaneous drop in blood pressure, so that we have one indiv. cup in the center set aside for that person that is maybe half water, half wine, maybe a bit more water. My understanding is that it was the *normal* practice to mix water with the wine, both in everyday practice and in the Supper, in ancient days. Any enlightenment out there on this?

  8. @Matthew Mills #11
    As for the germs–I do suspect that shaking hands with folks, and even the distribution of the host/Body, since *hands* are involved, are more likely to pass along any germs. Besides that, how “sanitary” is it to have all those hands reaching into the tray, bumping other little glasses, etc., using the individual cups? I *suspect* it’s more a psychological issue than a true sanitary issue.

    As to Tim Jackson’s query re: would I switch to common cup only if I wouldn’t be burdening someone’s conscience in the process or creating the potential for a “riot” in my congregations? In a heartbeat. I do consider the common cup to be the “better” practice–even practically speaking. Am I “pushing” on this issue? Only at a “2 generations” pace. Am I losing sleep over it? Not a wink. (I lose enough sleep over other stuff.)

  9. @John Rixe #22
    Actually, I have anecdotal evidence that some have been “disgusted” by receiving the wine/Blood from the common cup that was “contaminated” by someone with a mustache. Also, the concept of “backwash” has come up. The line between the germiness of the container vs. the Contents isn’t quite so sharp as you suggest.

  10. @Rev. David Mueller #10

    I guess I never thought about backwash or mustaches. I’m ashamed to admit I’m getting disgusted. 🙂 Fortunately we have always had both options, and it never has been an issue nor even an interest.

    If the flu from the chalice is such a blessing, why bother to ever wash it?

  11. @John Rixe #11
    It’s a matter of keeping first things first. I won’t “like” the flu I get, regardless of the source from which I get it (“holy” or “mundane”). But I know the One who allows it to come is bound by His own Word to bless me for Jesus’ sake, just like the Canaanite woman caught Jesus in His words and bound Him to them, regardless of how He seemed to regard her. I will do prudent things–washing my hands carefully (and that includes, btw, using hand sanitizer during the Offertory, before the service of the Sacrament) washing holy and common utensils carefully and such, but not concerning myself with this to the point that it obscures the daily bread and the Daily Bread God is giving me from those utensils. In the Sacrament, *especially*, the least of my worries is germs from my brother.

    If the Lord chooses to give me the “backwards-appearing blessing” of a temporal illness as He gives me the Medicine of Immortality, well, “I do not consider the sufferings of this age worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed.” “For Your sake, [O Lord] we are given over to death all the day long,” after all. In my preaching and teaching, then, it is my goal to teach such a distinction and attitude to my sheep.

    As for mustaches–hmm. I wonder how many Harrison supporters would think twice about receiving our Lord’s Blood after him from the same chalice? (Never considered that. 🙂 )

  12. A) I haven’t seen a pastor use hand sanitizer. That’s considerate of you!
    B) I didn’t want to bring this up, but since the conversation continues I have to say it. Herpes mouth sores are very contagious and once you’re infected it stays in your body forever and reappears periodically.
    C) Apparently the chalice is very important for some people spiritually, or emotionally, but I wouldn’t even bother trying to take away the individual cups because lots of people are happy with them.

  13. @Lifelong Lutheran #13
    Funny you say that, I do…Mainly because I was sick a bit, and wanted to make sure the flock knew I was clean. After the Offering, I went to the side and spritzed on some sanitizer. Now I just do it, and many have asked.

    Also, now you know why pastors “should” as they bless (if they do) at the Altar rail with their other hand, not the one we hand out the host, and only the Pastor “should” be handing out the host. OK, that is if they lay a hand on for a more personal blessing.

  14. @Lifelong Lutheran #13
    My Pastor also uses hand sanitizer, as does the Elder assisting.
    There is still a formal hand washing in the RC mass after the offertory, the “lavabo” (literally “I wash” in Latin.) It certainly goes back to the early 4th Century, and might go back all the way. I’m not sure how the lavabo faired in the early Reformation liturgies, but if we labeled it a “superstitious papal tradition,” and ditched it in our “Christian liberty,” perhaps we were too hasty.

  15. My Elders (at one of my two churches–the Elders at the other do not assist in the Distribution) have their own hand sanitizer bottles at their regular places in the pews. We began this during the Avian Flu scare–mainly to be a visible indicator that we weren’t simply ignoring the issue. There were hints that a few folks thought we were being stubborn and uncaring and putting the congregation at “risk” (lawsuits and such) by continuing to offer the common cup *in addition to* the individual cups. We had an announcement made by the head Elder and myself after church one Sunday, and we ran a bulletin announcement/explanation for about 2 months. One or two people who usually received the Blood via the chalice switched for the time being, but these days the number of chalice people has increased.

    I have actually considered re-instituting the lavabo for precisely this sort of reason. Haven’t studied it in detail, however.

  16. @Rev. David Mueller #16
    If you have an adjacent sacristy with a sink, you needn’t make a “ceremony” of clean hands.
    Our Pastors have told me they wash hands during the Offertory, (because of “passing the peace”), while one vests with the chasuble. I don’t need to see it to believe it. 🙂

    The first LCMS church I attended had one tray of individual cups, used by very few. The history was that a member had arrested TB and even though she was not contagious, the tray was there for her and anyone else overly concerned.

  17. I recently wrote and delivered a 63-page paper for my conference titled “The Fruit of the Vine: An Elemental Investigation and Application.” I can confirm for a fact what Pastor Weber says here about “the fruit of the vine” simply being a colloquial, liturgical, synonymous phrase for “grape wine” in Jesus’ day and culture. The question of paramount importance, not only for the issue at hand (wine vs. grape juice), but also for some of other issues brought up (common cup vs. individual cup) is NOT, “What did JESUS use?” but “What did Jesus make explicitly clear that he wants US to do and to use?” (Otherwise, Jesus’ death on the cross means that he wants us to die on a cross too, Jesus’ performing of miracles means that he wants us to perform miracles too, and other absurd conclusions.) I would prove on the basis of five points that the answer is: He made explicitly clear that he wants us to use grape wine as our standard, regular practice. (Exceptional cases are separate from this discussion and do not, and should not, prove or influence our standard, regular practice.)

    1. The Greek phrase “the fruit of the vine” (even in the Greek of Matthew’s “this fruit of the vine,” which is literally, “this the fruit of the vine”). “Fruit” is clearly not referring to the ripened ovary of the vine, namely the grape, because Jesus tells his disciples to drink it, and promises that he himself will never again drink it. (You can’t drink a grape.) Also, the word in Greek is not KARPOS, but GENEMA. That brings us to the transferred or secondary meaning of “fruit,” namely, “product.” Jesus does not tell his disciples to drink “A product of the vine,” nor does he promise to abstain from “A product of the vine,” but “THE product of the vine.” The only logical explanation for the presence of the definite article THE is the individual use, namely referring to something par excellence. THE product of the vine, par excellence, has always been, continues to be today, and will always be, wine.

    2. The historical and religious context of the Lord’s Supper, which shows beyond a doubt that the phrase “the fruit of the vine” in the context in which Jesus’ used it meant grape wine. (It could be, and usually was, diluted with water [3:1 or 2:1 water to wine], or mixed with honey and spices, but it was always by definition grape wine, not must or grape juice, which was considered to be a different product and therefore not permitted as fulfilling the duty of four cups at Passover.) “Bread” in the ears of Jesus’ disciples meant the same thing bread does today – leavened or unleavened. (Obviously it was unleavened at the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but Jesus does not explicitly give us that stipulation, which is why the early Church also had no problem using either.) But “the fruit of the vine” in the ears of Jesus’ disciples did not mean wine or must, or any other product of the vine liquid or otherwise. It meant “grape wine.” (You can refer to for proof.)

    3. The content of Jesus’ promise in connection with “the fruit of the vine.” He solemnly promised not to drink of it again until the day he drank it anew with his disciples in his Father’s kingdom. He thereby clearly showed that this particularly liquid element served in the Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of what we will enjoy with Christ in heaven. We do not have that explicitly-desired foretaste with another product other than the one to which Christ joined his promise – namely, grape wine. To use Jesus’ own words, those using unfermented grape juice in the Lord’s Supper will
    not be drinking “this fruit of the vine” IN A NEW WAY with Jesus in the kingdom of his
    Father – whatever that might entail – but will rather be drinking it with him FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ANY WAY. That is not what Jesus wants for Christians who participate in his Holy

    4. Jesus’ actions subsequent to the institution of the Lord’s Supper. If we were to simplify the fermentation process, we could say: must (grape juice) to wine to wine vinegar. Jesus promised never again to drink “the fruit of the vine,” but then he DID drink wine vinegar on the cross. If Jesus’ himself understood “the fruit of the vine” so narrowly that wine vinegar (in which the alcohol of the wine has been converted into acetic acid) was not a violation of his promise, then certainly we are not permitted to understand the term more broadly than he himself did. If wine vinegar as a sort of “fruit of the vine” (by our modern understanding) is a separate product not falling under the biblical phrase “the fruit of the vine,” then must or grape juice as a sort of “fruit of the vine” (by our modern understanding) is also a separate product that does not fall under the meaning-umbrella of the biblical phrase “the fruit of the vine” either.

    5. 1-4 is verified by the practice of the early Church in connection with the liquid element of the Lord’s Supper. In all the main council treating the subject, bread and wine are always mentioned. The Council of Dovin in Armenia (527) specifically forbad the use of “new wine” or must in Communion. In the 1100s soaking a linen cloth in must, allowing it to dry, and then rinsing it with water into the chalice (surprisingly similar to the modern process of making nonalcoholic wine) was forbidden. In the winter of 1542-43 Martin Luther was quoted as saying people should receive nothing other than wine. It wasn’t until Calvin and the Reformed Church came into existence that the liquid element of Communion began to be devalued on a large scale, and that was because their practice was not based on God’s word, but by their own admission it was based on their feeling about what Christ was intending to do – namely, simply to represent spiritual nourishment of himself.

    As for common cup vs. individual cup, certainly we hope that germs are not the foremost thing on people’s minds as they step forward to receive the Lord’s own blood. But in and of itself, the Scriptures themselves prove that the physical vehicle for conveying the wine/blood does not matter, because it does tell us what Christ’s intent was in distributing “the cup.” Paul says that Jesus took and distributed the cup “in the same way” as he did the bread (1Co 11:25). The way he took and distributed the bread was by breaking it. Yet a person would be absurd to think that Jesus broke the cup like he did the bread – by smashing it on the floor or however else. (“Okay, disciples, this is my blood. Now get down on the floor and slurp it up.” Nonsense.) He could only have taken the cup “in the same way” as he did the bread by giving the cup to them in such a way that each of them could have some, just as he did with the bread by breaking it. The purpose of taking the cup in the same way, therefore, according to Scripture, was simply to make sure each of the disciples received some of the wine. So whether we take one cup and distribute it to each person so that they get some, or whether the cup is “pre-broken” into individual cups before serving and these are then distributed to the individuals – the result is the same and is in accord with Christ’s intent.

  18. Nathaniel Biebert, thank you for what you wrote. That helped me a lot. And Pastor Karl Weber article I thought was excellent and was very helpful also.

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