"Unit Fellowship" among grapes

The Northwestern Lutheran Vol. 82 No. 7, pg 32 (wisluthsem.org)

We've discussed the fruit of the vine previously... WELS seminary professors seem to have a penchant for playing fast-and-loose with the verbiage whereas our Lutheran confessors and the sainted Adolph Hoenecke affirm with all certainty the Biblical truth that it's grape wine, my dudes.

If you can't read the graphic, the question is "Our congregations permit people who have a problem with alcohol abuse to receive grape juice rather than wine at the Lord's Supper. One member objects because the Lutheran Confessions mention only wine in references to the Lord's Supper. What is the right thing to do?"

Brug's response, read-and-react format:

Because grape wine was used at the Passover, the church has used wine for the Lord's Supper. Scripture, however, does not specify "wine" but "fruit of the vine" as the elements used. It has, therefore, been the Lutheran practice that only grape wine should be used.

Brug says it had to have been grape wine, but the Bible does not specify grape wine. This is the prescriptive/descriptive dichotomy all over again "Jesus used wine, but it doesn't say use wine, so Jesus described a practice He doesn't prescribe." "The confessions say we uphold the mass, but that's just a description and not a prescription." "The confessions say we serve the Lords Supper every Lord's Day, but that's just a description not a prescription."

Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 does not praise the Corinthians because "each one takes his own supper ahead of others; one is hungry and another drunk" - this abuse of the Lords Supper resulted in drunkenness because they were drinking wine. But the troubler of Israel might call this a 'local custom'. But we read Christ's words in Mark 14:24:  "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." This is a reference to the libations offered in the Old Testament which were most assuredly wine. Finally, we know for certain the Lord offered His disciples wine because grapes were typically harvested around the Feast of Tabernacles, six months in advance of the Passover. Lacking pasteurization, any 'fruit of the vine' being drunk was wine. 

We have refused to accept the demands of those who claim that grape juice should be used instead of wine because use of alcoholic beverages is wrong. If we would agree to such a legalistic demand, we would be allowing false teachers to add to God's law. Scripture warns against the abuse of alcohol, but just as clearly permits its use.

Wait for it ... we're setting up a 'that would be legalism' argument.

Scripture specifies that Jesus used bread and fruit of the vine as the elements of the Lord's Supper, but it does not insist that we use the exact form he used. Since Jesus used unleavened bread at the Passover, we use unleavened bread similar to, but not identical with, the Passover bread. Some Christian churches use leavened bread. 

In the Old Testament laws regulating the use of wine, such as the law of the Nazarite in Numbers 6:3, all products of the grape are dealt with as a unit, regardless of the percentage of alcohol they contain. We should not, therefore, be too dogmatic about the percentage of alcohol that "fruit of the vine" must contain in the Lord's Supper. 

Non Sequitur.

By this logic we could use grape jelly on toast. If grapes are dealt with as a unit, and we insist on drinking, well jelly is a liquid. We shouldn't be too dogmatic about it.

Many people who have a problem with alcohol abuse say that receiving wine at the Lord's Supper does not contribute to their problem. The quantity of wine can be small, and it can be diluted with water is it often was in ancient times and it sometimes has been done in the Lord's Supper. These solutions preserve the symbolic unity of all who attend the Lord's Supper.

"Symbolic unity"?

If, however, certain communicants are convinced they cannot use any alcohol, we do not have to refuse them, since Scripture does not specify that wine must be used.

And there's your 'that would be legalism' ...