“When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating… one is hungry, and another is drunken…
He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
1 Cor. 11:20-21,25
Much more on this topic can be found in the works
on our page about Alcohol.
Historic Quotes on Wine in the Supper
Rechabites bound by Forefather?
Sacraments in Extra-Ordinary Circumstances
Order of Contents
Significance of the Supper’s Wine 2
Mixing Water with Wine 4
Type of Wine 4
Former Alcoholics in the Congregation?
A Vow to Never Drink Alcohol?
Willet, Andrew – ‘Concerning the other element of wine…’, pp. 462-63 in ‘Concerning the Elements, or the Material Part of the Sacrament, namely Bread & Wine’ in Synopsis Papismi (London, 1592), Controversies Concerning the Church Triumphant, 13th Controversy, of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, First Part: of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, 4th Question
Sprague, William – ‘Danger of Being Over Wise’ (1835), 29 paragraphs, a sermon on Eccl. 7:16, with a ‘Reply to Professor Stuart’s Letter addressed to him through the American Temperance Intelligencer of August, 1835. Relative to his late sermon on the exclusion of wine from the Lord’s Supper.’ 46 paragraphs
Slater, William – ‘Should Fermented Wine be Used in the Lord’s Supper?’ in The Reformed Presbyterian, vol. XIII (Jan., 1850) no. 11, pp. 332-35
Wilson, A.M. – ch. 8, ‘Ancient Wines – Sacramental’ (1877) 41 pp. in The Wines of the Bible: an Examination & Refutation of the Unfermented Wine Theory, pp. 340-80 Wilson discusses the nature of the wine in the Passover and in the Lord’s Supper.
See Charles Spurgeon’s favorable review of this book here.
McMahon, Matthew – ‘Wine vs. Grape Juice in the Lord’s Supper’ 3 paragraphs with a bibliography
McMahon gives a list of about 40 references to where numerous puritans and others affirm and/or discuss wine in the Lord’s Supper.
Trinity Presbyterian Church – ‘Understanding the Use of Wine in the Lord’s Supper’ n.d. 22 pp.
Trinity Presbyterian Church is a PCA church in Crofton, Maryland.
Polanus, Amandus – A System of Theology, vol. 2 (Hanau, 1609; 1615), cols. 3214-15
Query 2, ‘Whether it is not allowed out of love and the study of sobriety to abstain from wine in the Eucharist and to use water in place of it?’
“wine is by no means to be abstained from with the pretext of greater holiness and sobriety.” trans. Charles Johnson
Query 3, ‘Whether one should not use wine mixed with water in the sacred Supper such that a threefold earthly thing adheres, bread, wine and water?’ [Only out of necessity]
Voetius, Gisbert – Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, book 2, tract 2, section 4, ch. 1, pp. 737-40
Question 11, ‘Whether only wine, and of what kind, ought to be used, and how much?’ [In necessity something else analogous may be used], p. 737
Voet (1589-1676) was a professor of theology at Utrecht.
Question 12, ‘Whether water ought to be mixed with the wine?’ [No; exception is made for dilution in necessary circumstances]
Question 13, ‘Whether, where wine cannot be had, a drink which analogously approximates the usual wine may be able to be substituted? or rather all use of the Supper, or at least the cup, ought to be omitted? I respond: the latter is denied; the former is affirmed.’, pp. 738-40
On the Sacramental Significance of Wine in the Supper
It is clear that alcoholic wine was used in the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. The only question left is whether the alcoholic content of the ‘fruit of the vine’ is religiously significant.
If it is not, then alcoholic wine is indifferent and cannot be insisted on as obligatory for the Lord’s Supper. If it is, and the worship revealed in Scripture is binding upon us (the Regulative Principle of Worship), then wine is morally necessary in the Lord’s Supper.
Thomas Boston and John Willison, representing the mainstream of historic, Christianity, affirm and delineate the Scriptural ways in which alcoholic wine is sacramentally significant. To not use alcoholic wine in light of such, is to shave off a part of Christ’s intended ordinance.
Boston, Thomas – pp. 484-85 of ‘The Nature of the Lord’s Supper’ (†1732) 2 pp. a sermon in Works, vol. 2
Boston was a minister in the Church of Scotland.
Willison, John – pp. 60-61 of A Sacramental Catechism (†1750) 2 pp.
Willison was a minister in the Church of Scotland.
On Mixing Water with the Wine
Adding water to the wine in the Lord’s Supper, and thus diluting it, was an ancient practice that approximated the modern practice of using grape juice.
Adding water to the sacramental wine began in the Early Church and was commonly practiced in the Romanist Chuch before the Reformation. The Reformers and puritans typically rejected the practice.
Abbot, Robert – Section 2 in A Mirror of Popish Subtilties, Discovering Sundry Wretched & Miserable Evasions & Shifts… (London, 1594), pp. 3-16
The first section is a block quote from a Romanist priest, Paul Spence. Abbot, who was a reformed Anglican (not a puritan), then responds.
Edgar, Andrew – pp. 147-48 of Old Church Life in Scotland (London, 1885)
On the covenanters rejection of the practice in 1600’s Scotland.
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…
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.”
Voetius, Gisbert – Question 12, ‘Whether water ought to be mixed with the wine?’ [No; exception is made for dilution in necessary circumstances] in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, book 2, tract 2, section 4, ch. 1, p. 737-40
On the Type of Wine Used
Perth Assembly… ([Leiden, 1619]), ‘Kneeling in the Act of Receiving’, ‘Kneeling Considered as it is a Breach of the Institution’, p. 38
“It is indifferent whether we use white or red wine; we are no more bound to the wine of Judea than to the wine of France at the ministration of the Supper: these are but national differences.”
William Steuart of Pardovan
bk. 2, Title 4, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’, section 3, p. 98 in Collections & Observations Concerning the Worship, Discipline & Government of the Church of Scotland… (Edinburgh, 1770)
“Any kind of wine may be used in the Lord’s Supper, yet wine of a red color seems most suitable.”
Burns, Thomas – pp. 16-17 of Old Scottish Communion Plate (Edinburgh, 1892)
Burns says (citing two examples) that claret was commonly used in Scotland after the Reformation, giving a few economic reasons for this practice, though port was the common wine used in his day in the late-1800’s.
Voet, Gisbert – Question 11, ‘Whether only wine, and of what kind, ought to be used, and how much?’ [In necessity something else analogous may be used], p. 737 in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1 (Amsterdam, 1663-1676), pt. 1, bk. 2, tract 2, Section 4, ’Of the Administration of the Lord’s Supper’, ch. 1, ‘Of the Symbols, or the Elements (so Called)’
Voet (1589-1676) was a professor of theology at Utrecht.
What about Former Alcoholics in the Congregation?
Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-11 that there were former drunkards in the congregation at Corinth, but that now they are sanctified by the Spirit of God, and in 1 Cor. 11, Paul tells them to partake of the Lord’s Supper, yet without getting drunk (1 Cor. 11:20-21,25):
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators… nor thieves… nor drunkards… shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
How is a former drunkard supposed to drink a small amount of wine, at Christ’s all-wise directive, without indulging himself into a downward drunken spiral? By exercising the capstone fruit of the Spirit: ‘temperance’, or self-control (Gal. 5:23).
The same moral characteristic that had once been chronically neglected and abused to become a drunkard, is the same one prescribed as the remedy in order to walk soberly before the Lord.
Having repentant thieves in the congregation is no reason not to collect an offering; rather, Paul exhorts them to work for a living, save, and to give to those in need (Eph. 4:28): going 180 degrees contrary to their habitual sin in order to positively put on will of God in doing good.
A vacuum of abstinence from alcohol by removal of circumstances with little experience in self-control is a hole ready to fall into; moderation in all things coupled with experience in what is right and good in the community of friendly Christians, is strength (Phil. 4:5).
How can I help a former drunkard to partake of Christ’s ordained means of grace without falling into drunkenness?
Encourage your friend in the Lord, including that it is the will of God for him to be able to worship God through Christ’s ordinance in self-control through the strength of the Holy Spirit, and pray with him or her to this effect.
Make sure that the first few Lord’s Day’s your friend drinks a bit of wine in the Lord’s Supper that he is around people the whole day, either his family, friends, or yourself. Check in with your friend mid-week, if need be. For a few more communion Lord’s Days, give your friend a phone call later in the day, to see how he or she is doing.
Do this as long as one needs to, though one might be surprised at how quickly self-control and stability in controlling one’s appetite is attained through the grace of God and committed resolve. If there is a relapse, no worries: where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. Be with your friend through it, and help them press toward the high calling that we have in Christ.
If the battle wages hot, in order to put one’s body into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27) through self-control-boot-camp, start fasting. There is something about denying the most basic, daily need of our body for several days at a time, coupled with prayer, that is spiritually invigorating (Mk. 9:29) in order to bring ourselves wholly inline to the known will of God.
When Paul’s words become true of your friend, ‘and such were some of you’, past tense, rejoice and give thanks to God!
What about Persons who have taken Vows Never to Drink Alcohol?
Insofar as such a vow cuts one off from partaking of the Lord’s Supper as Christ has instituted it, it is a sinful vow.
When one discerns that a former vow is contrary to the will of God, repents of it, and seeks to walk in new obedience according to the will of God, one is released from the former obligation of their vow.
If one knowingly remains under a sinful vow, only the effects of the withdrawing of the Holy Spirit and an injured conscience may be expected.
The Westminster Confession, ch. 22
III. …Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just… [h]…
IV. An oath… cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance… [l]…
[l] 1 Sam. 25:22,32-34. Ps. 15:4
VII. No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God.[q]…
[q] Acts 23:12,14. Mark 6:26. Numb. 30:5,8,12,13
Further see our subsection:
All Vows are Qualified on our webpage, On Oaths & Vows
“Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter… ‘…For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.'”
The Administration of the Lord’s Supper
Common Bread in the Lord’s Supper