The New Testament Witness to the Responsible Use of Wine

Now I’ll continue with my excerpt from Keith Mathison’s Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.
I have included the author’s extensive documentation in complete detail, for the purpose of urging the church leaders among my readers to examine the claims for yourself and see whether these things be so.

In the New Testament, we find a continuation of the same general line of thought that is found in the Old Testament. Wine itself is a good gift of God and is a sin. We see in Luke 7:33-34 that Jesus himself drank wine. In this passage, Jesus draws a parallel between himself and John the Baptist. John was condemned for not eating bread and drinking wine. Jesus was condemned for the exact opposite. he was even accused of being a drunkard. No one would have accused Jesus of being a drunkard if all he drank was grape juice.

In John 2:1-11, we read of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, the turning of water into wine. the Greek word used throughout this passage is oinos, which refers to the fermented juice of the grape, or wine (Cf. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed. William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, 2d ed. {Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979}, 562.) If the authors of the New Testament had wanted to refer to unfermented grape juice, they would have used the Greek word trux (Ibid.) Jesus turned water into wine, not grape juice, and it is impossible to believe that Jesus would have provided something inherently sinful to the guests at the wedding. But the fact that Jesus both drank wine and made wine does not mean that he condoned the abuse of wine. Like the old Testament, the New Testament repeatedly condemns drunkenness (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:2-3, 8; Titus 2:3; 1 Peter 4:3). The message of Scripture on the general use of wine is clear. Wine is a good gift from God to be used in moderation. The abuse of wine, like the abuse of any other good gift from God, is a sin.

Having examined what Scripture teaches about wine in general, we must next examine what it says about the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper. As we have already seen, the institution of the Lords’ Supper is recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:27-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:15-20). In each of these accounts, Jesus identifies the contents of the cup as the “fruit of the vine.” Because the Lord’s Supper was instituted during a Passover meal, it can hardly be denied that this “fruit of the vine” was the same wine that was used at the Passover

See, for example:
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 660-62;

William Hendricksen, the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), 911;

D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 536;

Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew (Nashville: Broadman and Holmna, 1992), 390-91;

William L. Lane, The Gospel According to mark, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 507-9;

Norval Geldenhuys, Commnentary on the Gospel of Luke, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 554;

R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1946), 1043-44;

Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, trans. Norman Perrin (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 50-51.)

And, as Joachim Jeremias notes, “to genema tes ampelou (‘the fruit of the vine’) for ‘wine’ is in the Judaism of the time of Jesus a set liturgical formula at the blessing of the cup, both before and after the meal.” (Jeremias, Eucharistic Words of Jesus, 183);

and compare:

Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopedia of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal and Practical Theology (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1887), 2537-38;

Heinrich Sessemann, “oinos,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 5, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 164;

T. K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black, eds., Encyclopaedia Biblica (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1903), 5309;

Blomberg, Matthew, 390-91;

Lenski, Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, 1043-44.

In other words, when the historical and grammatical context is taken into account, there are simply no grounds to conclude that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with anything other than the same wine that was used in the Passover meal.

Tomorrow we’ll hear from the Testimony of the Church regarding the Responsible Use of Wine, especially as applied to the Lord’s Supper. Posted by Picasa


6 responses

  1. Fundamentally Reformed | Reply


    Great stuff! Thanks for posting these articles. I have come across a lot of posts on this subject around the web these days in response to yet another SBC resolution condemning the “use” not merely “abuse” of alcohol.

    A while back I posted my own personal study on the topic entitled “‘Wine to Gladden the Heart of Man’: Thoughts on God’s Good Gift of Wine”. As God is my witness, I had no compulsion to drink alcohol, and the study was not conducted out of a desire to defend or provide an excuse for the practice. Rather, I started drinking because I felt to not drink would be to snub my nose at what God said was a good gift.

    I look forward to the rest of the excerpts.

    God bless!

    Bob Hayton

  2. I find it interesting about those who supposedly adhere to “Verbal Plenary” inspiration, namely, Fundy Baptists… often water down the use of wine in the NT. “Oinos” means wine, “Trux” means juice. Seems simple to me… So I ask myself the question, why is it there is such a burning desire to disallow, what Jesus instituted? It was Jesus who was accused of being a drunkard, and a friend of sinners. Why would he be accused of that? Was it because he had a glass of wine in his hand? So why do the Fundy Baptists especially try to water down the use of wine? I think I know… I think it’s because of Charles Grandeson Finney. (:

  3. John D. Chitty | Reply


    The timing you noticed is interesting. Although I’m a member of an SBC church now, I’m still pretty aloof to the conventional goings-on.

    Look forward to reading your study.

  4. John D. Chitty | Reply


    When you spend as much time avoiding scholarship, in the name of maximizing your soul-winnin’ time, as well as to just keep your faith, “simple,” you never get around to learning about “oinos,” vs. “trux,” you just pick up the prohibitionist picket sign and join the march!

  5. Nothing like having a cause…
    “A little Revolution is a healthy thing, now and then, don’t you think?”

    -From the Movie Red October

  6. […] related posts to which Traver responds: The Old Testament Witness to the Responsible Use of Wine  The New Testament Witness to the Responsible Use of Wine The Church’s Witness to the Responsible Use of Wine The Rejection of Wine Objections to Wine […]

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