Wine in the Lord’s Supper
Order of Contents:
1. A Summary of Church History
2. Historic Quotes
. Luther, Calvin, Sigismund, Fisher, Shaw, Sprague, Hodge, Bavinck, Lenski
3. Contemporary Writers
. Lane, Geldenhuys, Jeremias
4. Bible Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
. Vine’s, Religious Encyclopedia, Encyclopaedia Biblica,
. Expositor’s Greek Testament, Theological Dictionary of the N.T.,
. Illustrated Davis Dictionary
5. The Talmud
6. Creeds and Confessions
. Luther’s Larger Catechism, Luther’s Smalcald Articles,
. Catechism of the Church of Geneva, First Scottish Book of Discipline,
. Belgic Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism,
. Thirty-Nine Articles, Irish Articles of Religion,
. Westminster Directory for Public Worship, Larger Catechism,
. Shorter Catechism, Savoy Declaration, London Baptist Confession,
. P.C.A. Book of Church Order
These quotes, except where otherwise noted, were compiled by Scott Bushey.
1. A Summary of Church History
Keith A. Mathison, Given For You, 2002, pp. 301-304
The Testimony of the Church:
We have already mentioned that wine was universally used by the entire church for the first 1,800 years of her existence. During those years, there was never any suggestion that another drink should be used.
In the early church, for example, we find clear testimony to the use of wine by such men as Justin Martyr [100-165 AD] (The First Apology, 65) and Clement of Alexandria [150-215] (The Instructor, 2.2).
In the eighth century, the [Third] Synod of Constantinople [680 AD] bore witness to the continued use of wine in the Lord’s Supper.
At the time of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, there were disagreements over virtually every other issue related to the sacrament, but there was no disagreement over the use of wine. All of the churches continued to teach that bread and wine are the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper. Martin Luther taught this in his Small Catechism of 1529, and the Lutheran church continued to teach it in The Augsburg Confession  (art. 10). The Anglican church taught the use of actual bread and wine in The Thirty-nine Articles  (art. 28). Even the Anabaptists continued to teach this in the Dordrecht Confession of 1632 (art. 10).
In the Reformed branch of the church, the use of wine was taught and practiced by John Calvin [1509-1564]. It was also taught in the great sixteenth-century Reformed confessions, such as The Belgic Confession  (art. 35), The Heidelberg Catechism  (Q. 79), and The Second Helvetic Confession  (chap. 19). The use of wine is also clearly taught in The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms [1645-47]. This Confession teaches that Jesus has appointed his ministers to “bless the elements of bread and wine” (29.3). The Larger Catechism repeatedly declares that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine (Qq. 168-69, 177). Every Reformed theologian form the time of Calvin forward taught that bread and wine were the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper. This teaching is found in the writings of Robert Bruce [1554-1631], William Ames [1576-1633], Francis Turretin [1623-1687], Wilhelmus a Brakel [1635-1711], Jonathan Edwards [1703-1758], Herman Witsius [1636-1708], Charles Hodge [1797-1878], A.A. Hodge [1823-1886], Robert L. Dabney [1820-1898], W.G.T. Shedd [1820-1894)], B.B. Warfield [1851-1921], John Murray [1898-1975] and Louis Berkhof [1873-1957], among many others.
The use of wine in the Lord’s Supper not only is unanimously taught by all the Reformed theologians and confessions from the sixteenth century forward, but also is explicitly taught in modern Presbyterian directories of worship. The Book of Church Order of the PCA, for example, is clear in its teaching that the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine… The PCA’s directory of worship is in perfect agreement with her doctrinal standards. Both the Confessions and The Book of Church Order clearly declare that the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine, not bread and grape juice.
It may come to a surprise to some, but even the great theologians and confessions of faith in the historic Baptist church taught that bread and wine were the proper elements to be used in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Great Baptist theologians such as John Gill [1697–1771], John L. Dagg [1794–1884], and James P. Boyce [1827–1888] all taught that wine was to be used in the Lord’s Supper. The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 closely follows the wording of the Westminster Confession of Faith when it says, “The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine.” (30.3). The Southern Baptist Abstract Principles of 1859 says, “The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of Jesus Christ to be administered with the elements of bread and wine…” (art. 16). Even the Baptist Faith & Message, written in 1925, long after the beginning of the temperance movement, declares that bread and wine are to be used in the Lord’s Supper (art. 13). Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper was simply a non-issue for Christians.
Agreement on the matter was so universal that most confessions and theologians in the history of the church mention the subject in passing, as if they are simply stating the obvious. They do not even bother to present arguments for the use of wine because no one had ever suggested that anything else be used. They consider the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper to be as biblically self-evident as the use of water in baptism. The nineteenth-century theologians, such as the Presbyterian A.A. Hodge and the Baptist John L. Dagg, who were the first to be confronted with the question, were adamant in their refusal to change the elements of the Lord’s Supper in order to pacify the legalistic spirit of the age.
2. Historic Quotes
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Luther’s Works, vol. 54: Table Talk (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (54:438). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. No. 5509: A Substitute for Wine in the Sacrament? Winter of 1542–1543
When somebody inquired whether, when a sick person wished to have the sacrament but could not tolerate wine on account of nausea, something else should be given in place of the wine, the doctor [Martin Luther] replied, “This question has often been put to me and I have always given this answer: One shouldn’t use anything else than wine. If a person can’t tolerate wine, omit it [the sacrament] altogether in order that no innovation may be made or introduced. Is it necessary for a person who is dying to have the sacrament again at the last moment?
John Calvin (1509-1564)
1540, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.3, this quote was compiled by Michael Daniels
When we see wine set forth as a symbol of blood, we must reflect upon the benefits which wine imparts to the human body. We thus come to realize that these same benefits are imparted to us in a spiritual manner by the blood of Christ. These benefits are to nourish, refresh, strengthen and gladden.
The Confession of John Sigismund 1614
in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, Vol. 4, edited by James Dennison, Jr, p. 83-84
As for the ceremonies associated with the holy Lord’s Supper… Therefore, it is reasonable to consider whether one ought not to have an eye much more for the original institution than for human alterations, and for God’s wisdom more than for man’s, and for the truth in the sign more than for the appearance; and whether one ought not to take and use genuine and real wine pressed from the vine, and therefore also genuine and true bread, especially in light of the significance specified by the ancients, and to which the apostle himself point in 1 Cor. 10:17. For just as the genuine bread sustains the human body, and strengthens the heart of man (as is written in Psalm 104 [see v. 15]), so the body of Christ is a spiritual and heavenly meal by which the soul will be nourished, fed and sustained unto eternal life.
Fisher’s Catechism (1765)
Question 96: What is the Lord’s Supper?
Answer: The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointments his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.
Robert Shaw (1795-1863)
An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, on the Sacraments
The parts of a sacrament are two–the sign and the thing signified. The sign is something sensible and visible–that may be seen and handled. Thus, the outward sign in baptism is water, which is visible to us; and the outward signs in the Lord’s supper are bread and wine, which are also visible, and which we can handle and taste.
William Sprague (1795 – 1876)
Another way in which men make themselves over-wise on this subject is by modifying the ordinance to suit their own views; especially by inculcating the doctrine, or adopting the practice, of dispensing with the appropriate elements, or of substituting something in place of them, which the scripture does not warrant; or to come fully to the point which I now have more particularly in view, and on which the movements of the present day will not allow me any longer to be silent — THE EXCLUSION OF WINE FROM THE LORD’S SUPPER. Do you say that it is impossible there should be any danger of such extravagance in an enlightened community like this, and that I am giving a false alarm in expressing the opinion that there is danger? You shall know then the grounds of my apprehension, and judge for yourselves of their validity.
Remember that no authority is worth a rush, that contradicts the plain declarations of Christ and his apostles, as they are found in the New Testament. And I ask how the blessed Founder of our religion — a religion designed for common people who can only judge the meaning of scripture, by the principles of common sense — I ask how it was possible that He should have instituted this ordinance to be observed in the Church forever, and spoken of the fruit of the vine, and nothing else, as one of the elements, if, after all, He meant wine and water, or tamarind water, or molasses and water, or anything else than that which his words properly and exclusively indicate. I say, brethren, you have no occasion for Hebrew learning, or Arabic learning, than plain English, to settle this question. The Master Himself has settled it; has settled it for the obscurest
peasant as truly as for the most eminent biblical critic. And no man, no body of men, has a right to call in question the Master’s decision.
A.A. Hodge (1823 – 1886)
1890, Evangelical Theology; p. 347-348, this quote was compiled by Michael Daniels
The contents of the cup were wine. This is known to have been ‘the juice of the grape,’ not in its original state as freshly expressed, but as prepared in the form of wine for permanent use among the Jews. ‘Wine,’ according to the absolutely unanimous, unexceptional testimony of every scholar and missionary, is in its essence ‘fermented grape juice.’ Nothing else is wine. The use of ‘wine’ is precisely what is commanded by Christ in his example and his authoritative institution of this holy ordinance. Whoever puts away true and real wine, or fermented grape juice, on moral grounds, from the Lord’s Supper sets himself up as more moral than the Son of God who reigns over his conscience, and than the Saviour of souls who redeemed him. There has been absolutely universal consent on this subject in the Christian Church until modern times, when the practice has been opposed, not upon change of evidence, but solely on prudential considerations
Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)
Second, the association of the Lord’s Supper with a meal is strongly evidenced by the food and drink distributed and enjoyed in it. The signs of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper have no more been arbitrary or accidentally chosen than the water in Baptism. In the sacrifices of the Old Testament, flesh and blood were of primary importance, since they typologically pointed to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Yet the Lord’s Supper itself is not a sacrifice, but a memorial of the sacrifice made on the cross, and expresses the communion of believers with that sacrifice. For that reason, Christ did not choose flesh and blood but bread and wine as food and drink in the Lord’s Supper, to indicate thereby that it is not a sacrifice but a meal, a meal on the basis of, in memory of, and as an exercise of communion with, the crucified Christ. To that end, the signs of bread and wine are eminently suited. In the east, they were regular constituents of a meal. Everywhere and at all times even now they are easy to obtain. They are the chief means for strengthening and rejoicing the human heart (Psalm 104:15) and a graphic symbol of the communion of believers with Christ and one another.
C. H. Lenski (1864 – 1936)
The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, 1946, pp. 1043-1044
The efforts that are put forth to read wine out of this account are unavailing. Because oinos, the [Greek] word for “wine,” does not occur, the presence of wine is at least gravely questioned, which means practically denied. Luke’s “the fruit of the vine”… the lovely liturgical term for the wine that was used in the Passover ritual, which Matthew makes even more specific by writing “this fruit of the vine,” the one that was regularly used in the Passover and was used at this Passover by Jesus, is misunderstood by these commentators, for they assert that grape juice fits this phrase better than does wine – although such a thing as grape juice was an impossibility in April in the Holy Land of Christ’s time. It could be had only when grapes were freshly pressed out, before the juice started to ferment in an hour or two.
3. Contemporary Writers
The Gospel According to Mark, (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 1974, pp. 507-509
By his prophetic action in interpreting these familiar parts of the ancient paschal liturgy Jesus instituted something new in which the bread and wine of table-fellowship become the pledge of his saving presence throughout the period of time prior to the parousia [second coming] and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
The cup from which Jesus abstained was the fourth, which ordinarily concluded the Passover fellowship. The significance of this can be appreciated from the fact that the four cups of wine were interpreted in terms of the four-fold promise of redemption set forth in Ex. 6:6-7: “I will bring you out … I will rid you of their bondage … I will redeem you … I will take you for my people and I will be your God” (TJ Pesachim X. 37b). Jesus had used the third cup, associated with the promise of redemption, to refer to his atoning death on behalf of the elect community. The cup which He refused was the cup of consummation, associated with the promise that God will take his people to be with Him. This is the cup which Jesus will drink with his own in the messianic banquet which inaugurates the saving age to come. The cup of redemption (verse 24), strengthened by the vow of abstinence (verse 25), constitutes the solemn pledge that the fourth cup will be extended and the unfinished meal completed in the consummation, when Messiah eats with redeemed sinners in the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk. 14:15; Rev. 3:20f.; 19:6-9).
Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 1951, p. 554
All that is taught in Matthew, Mark, and 1 Corinthians 11 in the original Greek is that on the occasion of the Passover the Savior instituted the Holy Communion by giving bread and also by giving wine.
The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, 1966, p. 50-51, 183
Jesus and his disciples drink wine at the Last Supper … the annual festivals provided an occasion for the drinking of wine, especially the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles); the drinking of wine was prescribed as part of the ritual of Passover…
…to genema tes ampelou (‘the fruit of the vine’) for ‘wine’ is in the Judaism of the time of Jesus a set liturgical formula at the blessing of the cup, both before and after the meal.
4. Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1870, 4:3446.
In instituting the Lord’s Supper He [Jesus] speaks of the contents of the cup as the ‘fruit of the vine.’ So Mark 14:25.”
A Religious Encyclopedia of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal and Practical Theology, 1887, ed. Philip Schaff, p. 2537-2538
The expression the “fruit of the vine” is employed by our Savior in the synoptical Gospels to denote the element contained in the cup of the Holy Supper. The fruit of the vine is literally the grape. But the Jews from time immemorial have used this phrase to designate the wine partaken of on sacred occasions, as at the Passover and on the evening of the Sabbath. The Mishna (De. Bened, cap. 6, pars 1) expressly states, that, in pronouncing blessings, “the fruit of the vine” is the consecrated expression for yayin [Greek for wine]… The Christian Fathers, as well as the Jewish rabbis, have understood “the fruit of the vine” to mean wine in the proper sense. Our Lord, in instituting the Supper after the Passover, availed Himself of the expression invariably employed by his countrymen in speaking of the wine of the Passover. On other occasions, when employing the language of common life, he calls wine by its ordinary name.
Encyclopaedia Biblica, ed. T.K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black, 1903, p. 5309
In the Gospels we find wine designated ‘the fruit of the vine’…, a periphrasis doubtless already current in Jewish speech, since it is found in the time-honoured benediction over the wine-cup in Berakh 6.1…
The Expositor’s Greek Testament, A.B. Bruce, originally printed in 1909, reprinted 1997, p. 1232.
A.B. Bruce summarizes Jesus’ statement in Matthew 26:29 in the following words:
“It is the last time I shall drink paschal… wine with you. I am to die at this Passover.”
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, 1967, vol. 5, p. 164
It is obvious … that according to custom Jesus was proffering wine in the cup over which He pronounced the blessing; this may be seen especially from the solemn genema tes ampelou [fruit of the vine] … which was borrowed from Judaism.
The Illustrated Davis Dictionary of the Bible, 1973, ed. John D. Davis, p. 868
Fruit of the vine, the designation used by Jesus at the institution of the Lord’s Supper … is the expression employed by the Jews from time immemorial for the wine partaken of on sacred occasions, as at the Passover and on the evening of the Sabbath (Mishna, Berakoth, vi. 1). The Greeks also used the term as a synonym of wine which was capable of producing intoxication (Herod. i. 211, 212).
5. The Talmud
On the eves of the passovers near to the time of evening prayer a man must not eat till it be dark. And even the poorest in Israel must not eat till he can recline at ease, and they must not withhold from him the four cups of wine, even though he receives the weekly alms.
When they mix for him the first cup of wine, the school of Shammai say, “he shall repeat the blessing for the day, and after that the blessing for the wine.” But the school of Hillel say, “he shall repeat the blessing for the wine, and after that the blessing for the day.”
6. Creeds and Confessions
Luther’s Larger Catechism, 1529
 Now, what is the Sacrament of the Altar?
Answer: It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine which we Christians are commanded by the Word of Christ to eat and to drink.
Luther’s Smalcald Articles, 1537
VI. Of the Sacrament of the Altar.
Of the Sacrament of the Altar we hold that bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ, and are given and received not only by the godly, but also by wicked Christians.
The Catechism of the Church of Geneva, 1545, for children
Q. 341: But why is the body of our Lord figured by bread, and his blood by wine?
We are hence taught that such virtue as bread has in nourishing our bodies to sustain the present life, the same has the body of our Lord spiritually to nourish our souls. As by wine the hearts of men are gladdened, their strength recruited, and the whole man strengthened, so by the blood of our Lord the same benefits are received by our souls.
First Scottish Book of Discipline, 1560
For Christ Jesus said, Take, eat, do ye this in remembrance of me. By which word and charge, he sanctified bread and wine, to the Sacrament of his holy body and blood, to the end, that the one should be eaten, and that all should drink of the other, and not that they should be kept to be worshipped and honoured, as God, as the Papists have done heretofore.
The Belgic Confession, Article 35, 1561
To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and wine as the sacrament of his blood.
The Second Helvetic Confession, 1562
Likewise, in the Lord’s Supper, the outward sign is bread and wine, taken from things commonly used for meat and drink; but the thing signified is the body of Christ which was given, and his blood which was shed for us, or the communion of the body and blood of the Lord. Wherefore, the water, bread, and wine, according to their nature and apart from the divine institution and sacred use, are only that which they are called and we experience.
The Heidelberg Catechism, 1563
Question 78: Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?
Not at all: (Matthew 26:29) but as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, neither is the washing away of sin itself, being only the sign and confirmation thereof appointed of God; (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5) so the bread in the Lord’s supper is not changed into the very body of Christ; (Mark 14:24; 1 Corinthians 10:16,17,26-28) though agreeably to the nature and properties of sacraments, (Genesis 17:10,11,14,19; 12:11,13,27,43,48; 13:9;1 Peter 3:21; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4) it is called the body of Christ Jesus.
The Thirty-Nine Articles, 1572
The Supper of the Lord, is not only a sign of the bue that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another: but rather it is a Sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death. Insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing, is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, can not be proved by holy writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture, overthrows the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The Irish Articles of Religion, 1615
93. The change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, commonly called Transubstantiation, can not be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to plain testimonies of the Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to most gross idolatry and manifold superstitions.
The Westminster Directory for Public Worship, 1645
…the minister is to begin the action with sanctifying and blessing the elements of bread and wine set before him, (the bread in comely and convenient vessels, so prepared, that, being broken by him, and given, it may be distributed amongst the communicants; the wine also in large cups,) having first, in a few words, shewed that those elements, otherwise common, are now set apart and sanctified to this holy use, by the word of institution and prayer. Let the words of institution be read out of the Evangelists, or out of the first Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, Chap. 11:23. I have received of the Lord, &c. to the 27th Verse, which the minister may, when he seeth requisite, explain and apply. Let the prayer, thanksgiving, or blessing of the bread and wine, be to this effect…
The Westminster Larger Catechism, 1646
Q. 168. What is the Lord’s supper?
The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace…
Q. 169. How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
Christ hath appointed the ministers of his word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1646
Q. 96. What is the Lord’s supper?
The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worth receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.
The Savoy Declaration, Ch. 30, 1658
The Lord Jesus hath in this ordinance appointed his ministers to pray and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.
The London Baptist Confession of 1689
30.3 In this ordinance the Lord Jesus has appointed his ministers to pray and to bless the elements of bread and wine (so setting them apart from a common to a holy use), and to take and break the bread, then to take the cup, and to give both to the communicants, participating also themselves. 1 Co 11:23-26; Mat 26:26-28; Mar 14:22-25; Luk 22:19-22
PCA Book of Church Order, 2014
58-5. The table, on which the elements are placed, being decently covered, and furnished with bread and wine, and the communicants orderly and gravely sitting around it (or in their seats before it), the elders in a convenient place together, the minister should then set the elements apart by prayer and thanksgiving.