“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
Order of Contents
Willet, Andrew – ‘Concerning the other element of wine…’, pp. 462-463 in ‘Concerning the Elements, or the Material Part of the Sacrament, namely Bread and 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. 332-335
Wilson, A.M. – Ch. 8, ‘Ancient Wines – Sacramental’ 1877 41 pp. in The Wines of the Bible: an Examination and Refutation of the Unfermented Wine Theory, pp. 340-380 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.
Voetius, Gisbert – 12. Question: Is Water to be Mixed with the Wine? & 13. Question in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, book 2, tract 2, section 4, ch. 1, p. 737-40
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. 484-485 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.
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]…
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]…
“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.'”