This article was translated from the Portuguese and some points reflect Brazilian law and society.
I dislike talking on the phone, a trait no doubt inherited from my dad, since he avoided it at all costs. But last week The Missus was busy when the phone rang, so I answered it.
“Is this the phone number of the church?” a feminine voice asked.
“My name is Randal, and I’m a Christian, can I help you?”
“What is the church’s address?” she asked.
I explained that now there are two congregations in the city, with two different meeting times.
The caller revealed that she was searching for another “church.” She was leaving her denomination.
“Do you serve wine or grape juice in the Lord’s supper?” she wanted to know.
I thought the question strange, but answered it.
“Where we come from, it’s wine,” she said, and I sensed that, for her, the conversation was ended.
With the probability of never again having contact with her, I decided to go for it.
I informed her that, in the Bible, the word “wine” is a generic term that includes grape juice and alcoholic beverages. During the Passover, when the Jews celebrated their meal, and when Jesus established his supper for Christians to observe, they would have removed all types of ferment, according to the divine command. And alcoholic wine contains ferment. So they would have used grape juice.
I had to speak quickly, but I managed to let her know that, in the things that matter, we follow the model of the New Testament.
She said she was behind the wheel and would call later. The conversation ended.
I wondered why, if she was leaving her denomination, why this point about the Lord’s supper was so important.
I didn’t have the chance to share another detail with her: In the narratives about the supper that Jesus established, none of them say that “wine” was used. The biblical text uses the phrase “fruit of the vine.” And when Jesus looked to that future in the kingdom of God when he would again eat the supper, he described the fruit of the vine as “new wine,” that is, not fermented, Matthew 26.29 (CEV, ERV, Mounce, NJB, NVI, NBV, BJ, CNBB).
People insist on human doctrines at the same time they fail to read carefully what Scripture says.
Besides the biblical evidence, there’s a practical need. Even if the use of alcoholic wine was permitted, it would certainly present difficulties for people with problems with alcohol or with the potential for alcoholism.
The day before my phone conversation, a news report appeared showing that the smell of alcohol alone lowers people’s inhibitions. Lowered inhibitions tend toward sin (and that’s why there are so many bar fights), so it is proper that Christians always avoid alcohol.
If the government does not tolerate any alcohol in the blood of drivers, for affecting their reactions behind the wheel, why would the Christian tolerate a substance that facilitates uninhibited words and actions? We ought to be diminishing the influence of evil in our lives, not giving it more power.
Research shows that there is no safe level of alcohol. Moderate drinking is a myth, according to a professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and president of an independent research drug commission. So a person who drinks alcohol is opening the door to evil, instead of permitting the Holy Spirit to have his full effect in body and soul.
In all the Bible, the Lord warns against the effects of alcohol. Don’t let its attractions deceive you, Proverbs 23.29-35. Don’t be controlled by it, Ephesians 5.17-20.
Society itself recognizes that a glass of wine or a bottle of beer already influences and alters a person. No drug has caused so much harm to society as alcohol. And it also harms one’s spirituality and self-control, that badly needed fruit of the Spirit in the Christian, Galatians 5.22-25.
Let us do things as the New Testament directs us, and not according to the practice of some denomination. And let us remove from our lives anything, such as alcohol, that hinders our total concentration on the Lord Jesus Christ.