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Guests Question, Bob Answers about...

Lord's Supper

"Bob, I feel you are using your gifts to God's glory. I am writing because of the recent cartoons about wine in lieu of grape juice. I say this in love, but I feel you're missing the mark on this point. All throughout the history of your cartoons, you've pointed out the fallacy of the "One True Church" being so wrapped up in legalism. Isn't that what you're doing now with the wine issue?"

It is true that legalism is destructive to an intimate relationship with Jesus and with our relationships with each other. It is good that more and more of God's people wish to be free of legalistic bondage to enjoy freedom in Christ. However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from law. Jesus did not leave us without direction.

Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." Also see John 14:21, John 15:10, 1 John 5:3, and 2 John 1:6.

Is it legalism to encourage people to obey Jesus' commandments? Edward Fudge puts it this way: "True faith will seek to please Christ, but it is not legalism. There is a vast difference between law-keeping and law-depending. Those who understand God's grace will want to do God's will, but they will never trust in their own performance for their salvation. They will glory only in the cross of Christ. It is one thing to seek God's will because we love him and want to please him. It is another thing altogether to approach a matter with the idea that our salvation depends on our own good performance. That is legalism, and it will always lead to pride (insofar as we are successful), or to despair and hopelessness (insofar as we fail)."

Jesus gave very few commands:
Love God. (Mark 12:28-34)
Love each other. (John 15:12-17)
Make followers for me... baptize them... teach them to obey everything I commanded you... (Matthew 28:18-20)
Eat this (unleavened) bread to remember me...
Drink this (wine) to remember me... (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

Is it being legalistic to obey those commands? And teach others to obey them?

Were the children of Israel being legalistic when they obeyed God's command to rid their houses of all leaven for the Passover? Were they being legalistic when they were obedient and used unleavened bread and unleavened fruit of the vine (wine) for the Passover?

Was Paul being legalistic when he corrected the Corinthians concerning what they were doing with the "Lord's Supper" when they came together (1 Corinthians 11)? In so many words he told them that what they were doing was not a supper that the Lord would own. Why was it not a supper belonging to the Lord? Because they had changed its purpose (1 Corinthians 11:17-33).

We could ask the same question concerning a supper in which the symbols have been changed -- where leavened grape juice is substituted for unleavened wine to represent Jesus' unleavened blood. Is it still a supper belonging to the Lord? Or is it now a supper belonging to man? A supper that began about a hundred years ago when it was introduced into churches in the United States by the son of the man who started the fruit juice industry.

"Is using wine in lieu of grape juice a point of doctrine or a personal matter? I could go on about the dangers of using wine in the church whenever children are involved and when in today's society there are many recovering alcoholics, but I think those issues are readily apparent."

Being tee-totallers in strong reaction to the problem of alcoholism in both of our families, Sylvia and I resisted what the Lord was trying to get us to understand and to do. And we didn't even like the taste of wine. Still don't. But the Lord got my attention BIG time! He convicted me! Sylvia too. What happened to Sketch is what happened to me. Now 8 years later, the Lord told me to tell that part of my story on the internet for the whole world to see, and I've been obedient.

This is Jesus' message, and it is His timing. Some find this message disturbing, because there is spiritual warfare taking place on the battlefield of their minds. The devil is confusing the issue with thoughts about "dangers" concerning children and recovering alcoholics.

"I've been reluctant to ever have wine, because my dad was an alcoholic. I've also heard many sermons on the evils of alcohol, and for the most part, I agree. Scripture does condemn its abuse. I'm not too thrilled about using wine, but it really is right, right?"


"I must say that I found your recent series on grape juice vs. wine at the Lord's Supper rather disturbing. The 'bottom line' message I get from your strip is that all who use grape juice at the Lord's Supper are committing a sin like that of Nadab and Abihu. (I'm surprised that the Theophilus message board has been so quiet!)

I also followed the link to Art Thompson's site and read his paper. It is one of the best I have ever read on this subject. It is very readable and follows a logical progression, and it is very honest in dealing with the favorite prooftexts used by those who want to be "always right" about this issue.

I went to the site of the Concord Grape Association and verified the history of grape juice, and I also found at a wine-making site that the particular yeast that is indigenous to grapes is called "Saccharomyces elipsoideus." So, I'm not disputing the facts."

Jesus' first miracle was changing water to wine. Around 1,800 years later with the advent of the fruit juice industry and the fever pitch of the prohibition movement, Satan was able to perform a "miracle" of his own. He changed wine to grape juice (at least in the United States).

Jesus loves us so very much. He knows our hearts, our backgrounds, our circumstances, what we have been taught, and what we understand, and He is merciful. He will draw us to Him, provide opportunities for us to learn the truth about what is important to Him, and He will disturb our rest as He calls us to repentance and obedience. Some will respond to His call and be blessed. Others will quench the Spirit by not responding.

"Jesus used wine and unleavened bread to represent His Body and Blood. Isn't the REPRESENTATION what really matters? Does God's grace allow for substitution of grape juice for the wine?"

You're right -- the representation IS what really matters! That's why the devil wants us to change it.

Lord Jesus did not say when, where, or how often we should eat His supper. We are free to decide that ourselves. But we are not free to change the symbolism. When we change the symbols, it is no longer the Lord's Supper. Leavened grape juice does not represent Jesus' unleavened (sinless) blood.

At the other extreme of legalism is the idea that one can do whatever he wishes, which abuses God's kindness and perverts true grace.

The cup that Jesus told his disciples to drink from had wine in it. If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments.

"I do think maybe you are regressing into legalism with this wine only for the Lord's Supper. I think most people realize that the matzo crackers don't have leaven in them. That is pretty simple stuff! But how many chemists do we have that know about grape juice? We don't have to be lawyers to read and obey God's word, and I don't think we have to be chemists to take the Lord's Supper correctly.

I guess this kind of limits who is in the 'one true church' now. You and who else????"

I'm sorry that you don't like the message the Lord gave me to share about how the devil has changed the symbolism of His Supper, and that you think calling attention to that is legalism.

As you said, we don't have to be chemists to observe the Lord's Supper correctly. All we have to do is obey God's word -- just like the disciples did for almost 1,800 years, and some continue to do today.

What you do about the Lord's Supper is between you and the Lord. It is Jesus' Supper we're talking about, not mine. I love you and accept you as my brother regardless. I am not your judge. If you think you should use grape juice, or that it doesn't matter one way or the other, I respect your conscience and have no problem eating with you as long as you respect my conscience and allow me to use wine according to my conviction. Perhaps in the Lord's timing, He will convict you as He has me. But that is not my call.

Jesus gave me this message about His Supper about 8 years ago (July 1992) and recently (March 2000) He told me it was time to tell that part of my story on the internet for all to see. Reluctantly, I have obeyed. You now have the message. What you do with it is between you and Jesus.

"You argue... 'Were the Children of Israel being legalistic when they obeyed God's command to rid their houses of all leaven for the Passover?' Of course they were being legalistic. They were under a system of Legalism. Why do you not rightly divide the word in this matter?"

Not true! Israel was not under a system of legalism. True, they were under God's law, but so are we. Animal sacrifices are no longer needed, since Jesus became our Passover Lamb, but there are still commands to be obeyed.

As I commented, legalism has to do with motive, where one obeys law with the thought of being saved on one's own merit or earning his salvation. The weakness of the Old Testament system was the weakness of the people, not of the rules.

"God has preserved His message from generation unto generation. He warns, do not add to nor take away from it. Nadab and Abihu 'added strange fire.' They went beyond God's word. They chose a way, which seemed right to them.

"You rightly point out the light yoke of Christ, the simplicity of His commands. Then you weigh down that easy yoke. You are using human reasoning to conclude that fermented wine must be used in the Lord's Supper and in doing so, you are putting new wine in old wineskins. You were disobedient to God when you went beyond what is written and touched His word to wrest its meaning."

You say, "Nadab and Abihu chose a way, which seemed right to them." Isn't that the very thing we do when we change the symbols of the Lord's Supper?

The following questions (which we would all do well to consider) come to mind.

Who gets to be God over your life, you or Jesus?

Who gets to decide what represents His body and His blood as you remember Him while eating His Supper, you or Jesus?

Who is adding to (or taking away from) God's word, the one who uses what Jesus used, or the one who uses something different?

Jesus used wine, and told His disciples to use it. He said it was the new covenant in His blood. And apparently that is what the disciples continued to use after Jesus went back to heaven, i.e., the disciples in 1 Corinthians 11, for it is unlikely that they were getting drunk on too much unfermented grape juice.

I make this appeal to those of us who have received Jesus as our Savior. Let us also let Jesus be our Lord -- in ALL things, including what we use for His Supper.

"I realize that the grape juice vs. wine story is long past, but I wanted to write anyway. When I first read the strips concerning how the Lord led you to change from juice to wine, my first response was 'how dare you make me feel convicted.' I resisted the idea and opposed it, thinking that you were forcing your convictions and what the Lord had done in you, and it was not personal to me. At the same time I told the Lord that while it was fine for you, it wasn't for me and if He wanted me to do the same He would have to change my heart and convict me. (Duh! :)

"I promptly forgot about the whole thing. Then recently the Lord brought it all back to my memory. And yesterday, as I was praying and feeling the unction to fast, He clearly placed in me the conviction to change from juice to wine. I did not even fight it; it seemed like a natural thing to do. I gave it quite a bit of thought, because there were many things I needed to consider. For one, my church uses juice for communion. So for those services I will use what the church provides. But during the fast I am about to start, I will be taking communion 3 times a day by myself -- and I will be using wine and matzo. Also, I am a part of a weekly intercessory prayer group and we take communion every week. I will be talking to the group (only 4 other ladies besides myself) and my pastor in the next couple of days to explain to them why I am changing. And I will request that when they prepare the communion to just provide me with a cup and I will bring wine for me to use. They can continue to use juice if that's what they feel they need to do. I've already talked to a couple of people and they actually surprised me by being so understanding and supportive :)

"In short, or rather, in long because this has turned into a longer message than I had intended, I want you to know that your message -- or rather the Lord's message given through you -- HAS impacted someone. Even though it took me a while :) And maybe through my obedience it will impact others I have contact with."

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