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Question #114

Are we guilty of picking and choosing the verses we will follow?

Hello, I have been a member of the Church of Christ for over 30 years now. I belonged to the same church from most of that time and just changed recently because I am late deafened and moved my membership to a Sign Language Church so I can understand the deaf preacher. I am taking sign language classes now.

Question: If the church of Christ is silent where the Bible is silent and worships like the first Christians did, then why don't we serve actual wine at the communion and not grape juice? I am content with using grape juice, but didn't Jesus and the disciples use real wine?

A friend of mine who is thinking about becoming a church member thinks we pick and choose. The examples he shows me are: turning the other cheek; give them your coat if they want your shirt. It seems Jesus never defended violence with violence? Did Jesus loose his temper with the money lenders? Early Christians were never in the army? So, should we do likewise?

The Answer:

This question is a actually a series of questions addressed to the concept of speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent. Let’s look first at the primary question; then we will address the remainder of them in the context of the concept and its application.

1. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he said, “17 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:17-20. Jesus identified the content as the “fruit of the vine.” Both unfermented and fermented grape juice qualify as the “fruit of the vine” and thus superficially qualify to be used in the Lord’s Supper. However, further consideration dictates otherwise. Alcohol is not the “fruit of the vine.” It does not come from the grape. It comes from some outside source, a fermenting source. Thus, to the extent that alcohol is present, it is not “the fruit of the vine.” Louis Ginzberb (1873-1941), a distinguished Talmudic scholar, who for nearly forty years was chairman of the Talmudic and Rabbinic Department at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America writes in the Jewish Encyclopedia:

According to the synoptic gospels, it would appear that on the Thursday evening of the last week of His life Jesus with His disciples entered Jerusalem in order to eat the Passover meal with them in the sacred city; if so, the wafer and the wine of the mass or the communion service then instituted by Him as a memorial would be the unleavened bread and the unfermented wine of the Seder service. (Vol. 5. p. 165)

Jesus used unfermented grape juice in the last supper in obedience to the Mosaic law which required the absence of all fermented articles during the Passover feast.

The law forbade the use and presence in the house of seor (Ex. 12:15), which means leven, yeast, or any other matter capable of producing fermentation. For seven days the Jews were to partake of hametz, which is translated "unleavened bread" (Ex. 13:6-7). The word "bread" is not in the text, thus a more accurate translation would be "unfermented things."

The most important reason to believe that unfermented grape juice was used at the last supper is the symbolism of the wine of the new covenant. Could Christ have offered a cup of intoxicating, brain-numbing alcohol to symbolize His sinless, redeeming blood? Could the blood of Jesus, who had not one taint of corruption in Him (Acts 13:37; 1 Pet. 1:18,19), be rightly represented by wine which was corrupted by the decay of fermentation? Christ admonished all Christians to partake of the cup. According to the Talmud, each person at the Passover was supplied with at least four cups of wine. If this was alcoholic wine, this was a sufficient quantity to make anyone drunk. To imagine that Christ wanted men, women, and children to become intoxicated during the sacred communion service is blasphemy. Clearly, the weight of the evidence shows that the communion wine was unfermented grape juice.

Based on this it seems that the wine used in the institution of the Lord’s Supper was unfermented. But even if it is assumed that either fermented or unfermented may be used, one must still consider which of two possibilities is the wiser. In this day the purchased of alcoholic wine often takes a Christian where he should not be seen, e.g., the local liquor store. Moreover, the alcoholic wine of our day is much stronger than the alcoholic wine of Jesus’ day. Finally, converted and repented alcoholics may be unable to partake of the Lord’s Supper for fear that the taste will cause them to “fall off the wagon.” Given these considerations, it is wiser to choose the unfermented fruit of the vine. Thus, whichever argumentation road one travels, the same destination is reached.

2. The remaining charges of your friend that the church of Christ does not “speak where the Bible speaks” are really charges of hypocrisy – Christians don’t practice what the New Testament teaches. Christians aren’t sinless, but they are saved from sin as long as they walk in the light. 1 John 1:7. It ill becomes your friend to judge the church based on the failure of the few or the many. The sin of another does no justify his continuing to refused obedience to the commands of Christ. He cannot hide behind the hypocrisy of others (assuming that they are hypocrites and not weak, struggling Christians). The truth is that Christianity became known as the “religion of the second mile.” It gained that reputation because of the sacrificial, loving lives of the followers of Christ. If your friend really wants to find someone to follow, then let him follow those believers as they follow Christ. See, 1 Corinthians 11:1. By the way, the New Testament does not forbid one’s being in the military. Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was a Centurion of the Band called the Italian Band. Acts 10.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)