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Friday, April 10, 2015

The Communion Controversy: Fermented or Unfermented.

There are many intramural debates within Apostolic Pentecostalism. Among them is the Communion Controversy--specifically fermented versus unfermented grape juice. There are many other aspect of communion that are debated within Christendom, but the chemical condition of the grape juice seems to be the preferred issue of dispute for Apostolics. Of all the points of contention for Apostolics, whether or not grape juice is fermented during communion ought to be near the bottom of the list. 

I know that this post is going to enrage or disappoint the activists from both sides of the aisle. And I have personal friends on both sides. In fact, I once was a strong advocate for unfermented juice only. I no longer am. I will be shot at from both sides. I will be accused of straddling the fence. I will be accused of compromise. But I really have come to believe that the bible does not provide a prescription for the chemical condition of the communion cup. I dogmatically insist on scriptural ambivalence.

With that being said, in a later blog I will recommend a book of a friend of mine that argues for fermented wine and he does an excellent job of presenting his case. There are also excellent books from the unfermented camp as well. 

I will list a few reasons why I reject dogmatism from both sides and insist on Christian liberty. Then I will state what I consider to be ideal.

REASONS:

1. The New Testament writers conspicuously avoid using any one of the three Greek words for wine (gleukos, oinos and oxos). If Jesus had used any one of these three words for wine at the last supper, instead of "fruit of the vine," there wouldn't be a debate. The phrase "fruit of the vine" grammatically allows for the entire chemical range of juice from fresh squeezed to naturally fermented. It is never to early to call juice from the grape "fruit of the vine," and it is never to late to call juice from the grape "fruit of the vine."

2. Paul allows for a person--because of conscience--to never drink wine (Romans 14:21). The bible allows for total abstinence. However, Paul also allows that a person can drink wine with faith (Romans 14:22). Whether one obstains or participates in drinking wine, it must come from a place of faith (Romans 14:23). But Paul does allow for absolute abstinence. This must include communion. So, do we insist that a person who cannot drink fermented wine because of conscience and faith  cannot participate in the blood of Christ? Or do we correctly conclude that unfermented grape juice also fits Jesus' prescription for "fruit of the vine?" It must be the latter. The same must apply to the reverse proposition. We must not allow the thing that is designed to make the body one divide the body.

THE IDEAL:

Ideally, if I were pastoring, I would juice grapes on Friday and serve them on Sunday. It resonates with me to follow the crucifixion-resurrection model for communion. I am certainly not saying this is  Scripturally commanded, I just like the imagery. I think fresh squeezed juice is ideal. I don't like the idea of store bought wine or Welches.

CONCLUSION: This should provide a nice conversation starter should anyone chose to comment. As always, all feedback is welcome.