The gospel is such good news. It is good news to those who have been Christians for as long as they can remember, and it is good news to those who have just begun in the faith. For the believer, the good news will always be good news. Whether you are a mature Christian or a new Christian, God is faithful to you where you are at, and in His good patience, He sanctifies you into greater and greater faithfulness. That is what sanctification is, it is the process of learning to die to sin and live more and more unto Christ. So, along the way, some Christians are immature because they are new to the faith, some Christians God expects better of and should be teachers, but instead they need more milk (Hebrews 5:12).
Other Christians are pressing on and reaching forward to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-15). These capture three stages or conditions that Christians can find themselves in (not counting backsliding Christians, and I am sure you can think of more). For each status, God has different expectations for the various groups, and included in those expectations for all three groups, is “that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). No matter what stage you find yourself in, or your neighbor, we all need to be growing from where we find ourselves currently in knowledge and discernment. My pastor has a helpful saying that, God picks us up where we are at, and not where we should be, but that does not mean we should be content and stay where we are at. Hopefully this will all make sense by the end.
Last week, I created a little tweet storm when I tweeted two tweets back to back. The first tweet is below:
And the second follow-up tweet below, is what really caused the frustration with some of my friends:
Apparently this tweet ventured into Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, and even made it into Catholic circles. Somehow, I managed to heal centuries of division between churches and denominations and bring unity among the church like never seen before, but no one commended me for that. I will just chalk it up for the righthand does not know what the lefthand is doing labor of love.
I should have included in my tweet, that church leaders who mandated government tyrannical protocols in their pews, who reject the Biblical theology of the serrated edge and who serve grape juice in communion are effeminate and encouraging a culture of effeminacy in the church. Call it the effeminate trifecta. But that is a blog post for another time. The Twitter fray on my feed has been crazy, and left me unable to answer all the challenges and questions. So, consider this is my attempt to explain my blanket statement and some of the loose ends my tweets created. There were several points of contention, but the biggest was the fact that I tied the serving of grape juice during communion to being effeminate, and ended with a little sauciness at the end of my statement (as shown above).
Now I grew up in the PCA, attended a couple non-denominational churches, and now serve as a Deacon in a CREC church in Moscow, ID (King’s Cross). In the PCA, I was a member of three different churches in three different states. I have participated in churches that serve only grape juice, churches that served a mix of both wine and grape juice in the trays, and churches that serve wine in the trays, while keeping grape juice in the back of the church for those who have some form of religious or practical scruples.
What am I doing painting with such a broad brush calling men “effeminate” who sip a little grape juice during communion? Is every man falling into the sin of effeminacy by participating in communion which serves grape juice? Of course not. However, this kind of broad-brush claim has to be true or false. Just by claiming a broad-brush does not mean that it is a get out of jail free card, or that my claim is even accurate in the first place. In scriptures, we have many examples of Jesus, Paul, and even the prophets painting with a broad brush. Were all the Pharisees against Jesus? Enter Nicodemus (John 19:39-40). Were all Cretans liars (Titus 1:12)? Of course not. Did all of Israel reject God? A remnant was saved (Zephaniah 3:8-13). I am sure some of the members at the church in Corinth were faithful and did not deserve Paul’s rebukes. So, the possibility of my broad-brush use being accurate can be a legitimate biblical argument.
Now my claim is accurate for two reasons. The first reason is because men that sit in the pews, who should know better, and yet passively follow their elders with full knowledge of what the scriptures plainly teaches, are being effeminate. They should know better, and yet they sit in silence because they don’t want to rock the boat. Think of how many men in the church sit in silence as their elders refuse to step down due to raising unfaithful children (Pastor DeYoung’s kids are as far as I know faithful, so this is not a shot at him at all). I hope we can all agree to that example. In the same way, a man who knows his Bible and knows what to do, and does not do it, is in sin (James 4:17). My target for this tweet is those men who know better, and yet sit idly in the pews.
These men can read and they know what the Bible says, yet they prefer superficial peace offered through grape juice, instead of the kick of the gospel that is demonstrated in the symbol of wine. That is an effeminate man, and the sin of cowardice generally goes side by side with the sin of effeminacy. We just went through COVID, where millions of Christians complied to tyranny, and so this sin of effeminacy is far greater than we realize. In general, the evangelical church is full of cowards and effeminate men, and it reveals itself in a number of ways. I believe most of my friends would identify this as one of the predominating sins in the broader evangelical church, but that sin starts with men complying in the pews, and does not just pop-up out of nowhere in blaring public manifestations that we see now.
At this point, it might be helpful to define the sin of effeminacy. The sin of effeminacy is not some man walking around with the swag of a woman or talking with a little more breath in his voice than he should (all though that could be included). The sin of effeminacy is when a man takes on female characteristics and traits contrary to God’s design. In a woman, godly submission to her husband is good and right, it is a perversion when those roles are flipped. Effeminacy is particularly the sin of softness, including as the passive partner in a homosexual relationship (1 Cor. 6:9, also see Grace of Shame on this topic), it includes dressing like a woman (Duet. 22:5), and lastly submitting to another man when he ought not to (Acts 4:19-20). No human authority on this earth is absolute and it is the duty, particularly of men, to act when they know God’s word is not being obeyed in all of its wonder and detail. After-all, we are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:27-29).
I should also add a major yellow-light here. Men could be in the right, and yet approach their elders in all the wrong ways (Philippians 2:3, 1 Peter 5:5, 1 Timothy 5:1-3, Matthew 7:12, etc). So, my affirmation regarding wine in communion, is not to be referenced if you are being an ass to your elders about this. This of course is not a call to be a grief to your elders (Hebrews 13:17), but to be a faithful man to the word of God who could be a blessing and encouragement to their elders to a greater fidelity to the scriptures. Having a Biblically literate congregation coupled with a God-honoring personal holiness really is a blessing to church leadership, not a threat. Lay men are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), to be ready “in season and out of season” to convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering” (2 Timothy 4:2), and to grow out of the immature need for milk and into desiring the maturity of meat that discerns both good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14). If I was counseling a young man on his new conviction of the requirement of wine in communion, I would first encourage him to go as slow as God went with him, talk with his elders for a year or two about this, and if it becomes apparent there would be no budging, I would finally encourage him to peacefully and quietly move on. These are not trivial matters, because what Jesus has set apart as symbols matter.
If He said do this in remembrance of Him, and we decide to serve something other than what Jesus had in His cup, just maybe we should reconsider some things. Let me come at this the other way too. If you are at a presbyterian church or a solid reformed baptist church that serves grape juice, and your alternative is the Anglican church down the road that is in the process of going gay, stay away from the abominations and continue to pray and labor with the faithful church that gets the times we are in. In the long run they are more likely to grow in knowledge and all discernment, so hang in there.
History Lesson: Feminism and Grape Juice
The second reason for why my tweets were accurate is because the modern theology of using grape juice in communion came from first wave feminism in the temperance movement beginning in the 19th century. For 1800 years wine was served as communion in the church. What changed? Why after 1800 years do we now see a majority of evangelical churches (both Baptist and Presbyterian) serving grape juice instead of wine? Well, what began in the 19th century? The temperance movement. The temperance movement really began in the church, and even though some were advocating for drinking in moderation (the biblical view of alcohol), most were advocating for complete abstinence from alcohol. This view culminated in influencing the U.S. to outlaw alcohol at the federal level from 1919 to 1933. Apparently, the church has not been reading the bible very well for a couple centuries here in the US, as it even pushed an abstinence pledge in the pews. Little sins that go unconfessed, always turn into big sins. After the church got a hold of this idea, the movement spread into broader societies and organizations throughout Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and beyond. By the 1860’s, the movement gained enough steam to get the entrepreneurial wheels spinning in Pastor Thomas Welch and he figured out how to make the vine alcohol free, AKA grape juice. Woola! Now the church can say they are still following Christ’s command by drinking from the vine, while at the same time caving to the sensibilities of first wave feminism. Solid work American church and the Second Great Awakening.
The temperance movement was largely led by women advocates, women pastors, women with hatchets, and as already noted, it was basically first-wave feminism. Now, 21st Century pastors have a theology that was drastically influenced by what happened in the eighteen hundreds, and they don’t even know it. This conviction in the history of the church was never held until first-wave feminism crept in and they got a bunch of men to outlaw alcohol in the church, and then eventually in society. How effeminate is that!
Why Wine in the Lord’s Supper
Lastly, I suppose I should explain why I believe the Bible requires wine being served as the element Christ commanded in the Lord’s Supper. First, Jesus commanded us to imitate Him in practicing the communion. He specifically said to “Do this in remembrance of Me.” So, the logical question arises, do what? Eat steak and drink scotch? Eat peanut butter and jelly, and wash it down with Coca Cola? No! Jesus clearly states that what was in the cup is the “fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29). Out of all the commentaries I read regarding Matthew 26:29 and the phrase “fruit of the vine,” all of them argued that that phrase referred to wine. This also includes the Baptist Faith and Mission of 1925, and nowhere in the PCA’s Book of Church Order is grape juice a permissible substitute. In addition to this, if you break down the Greek word for fruit found in the phrase “fruit of the vine” (the word for fruit is “γεννήματος”) it means fruit or more to the point “product”. What is the product of the vine? The product of the vine was not grape juice, as obviously it had not been invented at the time, it was wine. Why would we change, or argue for a detour from wine when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Secondly, and has been pointed out numerous times, the scriptures are clear that Jesus commanded us to imitate Christ in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and Paul reiterates that in 1 Corinthians 11. In 1 Corinthians 11, you can clearly see that those taking communion were hogging the elements so much so that they were getting drunk at the table. This is impossible with grape juice. So, the command to “Do this in remembrance of me” is clear, and the element that was used to fulfill that command, was unambiguously wine. Why has the church allowed the feminist from the 19th century to influence our sacramental theology? It is because we have been more affected by feminism than we realize, and it would do us a lot of good to recognize this error.
For 1800 years the church has practiced wine in communion, and then the first wave feminist movement was ushered in the early 19th century convincing churches, and particularly pastors, to push vows of abstinence on their parishioners.
Most churches these days don’t know the history behind feminism and grape juice, so there is some room for ignorance in their current theological conviction. However, if the church would have stood against the temperance movement and resisted the pressures of the 19th century zeitgeist, those same pastors would not have the grape juice theology that they have today.
I have a lot of friends who participate in churches that serve grape juice, and I don’t think they’re effeminate, but I do think their theology regarding the elements has largely been shaped, most likely unknowingly to themselves, by the 19th century first-wave feminist temperance movement. Serving grape juice is a modern theological construct that can only be explained by this shift caused by the temperance movement, not by theological rigor. So, it would do my friends a lot of good to reject the modern theological shift and come back to the historic theological view grounded in the scriptures.
I agree with R.C. Sproul when he was asked if it was okay to serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Coca Cola as the elements.Sproul responded, admittedly rather intensely, that the question bothered him because it was sort of an “unbridled cynicism” and “profane question.” Sproul went on to say the reason is because Jesus never consecrated PB&J sandwiches and Coca Cola. You can extract all sorts of products from the fruit of the vine, including seed oils and grape juice, but what did Jesus actually consecrate? Sproul also said that the particular elements, bread and wine, are holy, not because there is anything intrinsically holy in and of themselves, but because what makes something sacred and holy is the “touch of God upon it”.