“On Your Mark”
The Fruit of the Vine (Chapter 14 Verses 12-26)
The institution of the Lord’s Supper came at the end of the meal (vv22-26). This was something entirely new, the eating and drinking of bread and wine as symbolic of Jesus’ broken body and poured out blood. First he takes the bread and breaking it says, this is my body, no, not literally, the bread is representative of food, spiritual, supernatural food, Jesus himself, the living bread (John 6.25- 59). It is symbolic of what Jesus is about to accomplish in Jerusalem, giving himself to the sacrificial death of the cross for his Church.
The cup (vv23-24), contained the fruit of the vine (Matthew 26.29; Luke 22.18), wine in other words. Now some, seeking to defend their own taboos, seem to think they have to defend the Lord Jesus also, by stating that this was wine mixed with water, a dilution, well we are not told that. Some, seeking to defend the same taboos, have even suggested there would not be any wine, alcoholic content whatever, we are not told that either. It was the fruit of the vine. The use of alcohol is defended in the Bible (Proverbs 3.9-10; Ecclesiastes 9.7; Psalm 104.15), but it is abuse that is condemned (Proverbs 20.1; 23.30-32). But in every day and generation we have those who build lists of taboos, their own rules and regulations. It was from such taboos the Temperance Movement was born. And from that arrived the cultish idea that you could not possibly be a Christian if you partook of alcohol. Then equally erroneous the idea that if you had signed the pledge, if you did not partake of alcohol, you were a Christian. That movement was born out of a desire to protect victims of drunkenness, but really was not Biblical, in fact it got to the stage where being a Christian was synonymous with alcohol abstention. “Charles Hodge in horror protested that the replacement of communion wine with grape juice was an insult to Jesus and Biblical ethics”. We do need to be careful with our own rules, and especially when we enforce them, or try to enforce them on others. And of course we can commit the very dangerous error of imposing on the conscience stricter rules than those which are prescribed to it by the word of God (Colossians 2.13-23). Christ has made us free, we must stand firm in that freedom at all costs (Galatians 3.1-5). Make sure you maintain that freedom. However, two things need to be added. One is that in the use of your freedom you do not cause a brother or sister to stumble, especially a weaker brother (1Corinthians 8). The other thing we need to consider in our legitimate use of alcohol today, is the awful blight it is in our society, the damage, the fall-out, not to mention the careless avarice of the producers of the stuff? Is it possible that abstention is a better witness? You do have the freedom to abstain too. I do!
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)