Wine in Personal Experience
For several months the elders on the Worship Committee have been discussing the addition of wine to our ordinary celebration of the Lord’s Table. The session (our board of elders) has decided that offering both wine and juice at the Lord’s Table will become the ordinary practice of Covenant. This will happen for the first time on Sunday, November 7, 2021.
For more than thirty years our elders have thoughtfully and prayerfully pursued a manner of corporate worship that is Scripturally clear and theologically rich. We believe that corporate worship that is reverent and winsome best nourishes the saints and proclaims the gospel to the lost. The addition of wine simply represents an ordinary re-calibrating of our worship with Scripture. The truth of the matter is this: there is no perfect corporate worship in the church on earth (WCF 25.5). Elders minister in ways fit for the needs of the body, to the best of their ability, in the moment. What we will begin on November 7 is simply the result of examining an aspect of our worship according to our clearest understanding of Scripture.
The PCA and the historical confessions of our church allow for a variety of practices at the Lord’s Table. Our sense is that wine, along with juice, is already in use by many churches in the PCA. For some congregations this has always been their practice and, for others, this represents a change. Regardless, variety is permitted.
We first wrote about this change in the Newsletter article, “Introducing Wine.” You can also find a website article, “Wine in the Story of Redemption,” that deals with the Scriptural evidence, along with “Wine in the History of the Church” dealing with historical matters since the New Testament church. Our elders were also helped by a very short book by G. I. Williamson called, Wine in the Bible and in the Church.
During worship on Sunday, you’ll hear clear instructions about our new practice, and there will be clear written instruction in the Worship Bulletin. The trays that once contained only cups of juice will now include cups of wine. The wine-filled cups will be colored plastic and clearly discernible. The cups will also be grouped together so that a cup of juice may be selected without ever touching a cup that contains wine. The wine we use will be ordinary, undiluted, red wine.
It is worth asking for your patience as we discern the proper ratio of wine cups to juice cups. This is new for all of us. Our desire is to never run out of juice-filled cups. When we incorrectly discern the ratio, we want to be in a position where those hoping for wine will have to take juice instead.
As a church family, we do not all have the same views on wine. For this and other reasons, juice will always be available for those who wish to abstain. For several reasons, a person’s conscience may prevent them from drinking wine (Romans 14.22), even at the Lord’s Table. We offer juice in order to promote the peace and mutual upbuilding of our church family (Romans 14.19). We also want to acknowledge that many of the places in the Bible that encourage us not cause another to stumble, also remind us that there is freedom (Galatians 5.13), a right (1 Corinthians 8.9), lawfulness (1 Corinthians 10.23), and cleanness (Romans 14.14, 20; Acts 10.15) in our choice. We do not wish to cause any to stumble, and we do not wish to go beyond Scripture and treat wine as a forbidden object.
Scripture does warn us, repeatedly, about the improper use of alcohol (Genesis 9, also Proverbs 20.1; 23.29-35; 31.4-5; Deuteronomy 21.18-21; Luke 21.34; Romans 13.13; 1 Corinthians 6.9-10; Ephesians 5.18). Scripture also tells us, though, that the Lord’s Table is a place of spiritual nourishment to the saints (Matthew 26.26-28; Mark 14.22-24; Luke 22.19-20) and a united participation in the life and sufferings of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10.16). We need to remember that the Bible does not condemn objects and activities simply because they can be used in ways displeasing to God (Colossians 2.20-23; 1 Timothy 4.1-5). God warns us that things like food, money, sex, language, time, and wine may be used in displeasing ways, but He also tells us how they may be used in ways that please Him. The Word, and not our conscience, is the final arbiter of truth. All of us have a conscience that is impacted by the Fall, can sometimes lead us astray (1 Timothy 4.2), and thrives with growth and maturity in the Word (1 Corinthians 4.4; Romans 9.1; 2 Corinthians 1.12).
We believe that offering wine at the Lord's Table can be a blessing even to those who abstain. In, “Wine in the Story of Redemption,” you’ll learn why we believe wine does a great job of impressing upon us the meaning of the Lord’s Table. We expect communion Sunday to be a time for us to witness and participate in a vision of wine and bread used for God’s purpose and pleasing to Him. We believe it is very worthwhile to add wine to our worship and will fortify our time together.
Dads and moms, we want to honor your discretion with regards to your Little Theologians and assist rather than frustrate your parenting. We support how you handle this matter Sunday morning, even as we share candidly with you that we do not find in Scripture a practice of the Lord’s Table for children that is different from their parents.
Please know that your elders love Christ and you, His church body. Join them in expecting the addition of wine to enrich our time at the Lord’s Table. Reflect on the articles shared with you. Continue to reach out to our pastors and elders with questions and concerns. Above all, thank God for His own means of caring for us through reverent and winsome Lord’s Day worship.