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Bread and Wine

November 29, 2008

This is an excerpt from a sermon preached on Psalm 104. Here’s what I said about this issue five years ago:

Psalm 104:14-15 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate– bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.

Two things are mentioned specifically in verse 15 that God provides for man. Wine which gladdens man’s heart, and bread which sustains man’s heart. Bread and wine. Sustenance and gladness. Life and Joy. I don’t want to spend too much time on this point, but I feel I must linger for a while and make you grapple with this neglected truth. God provides wine for man to gladden his heart. Now of course this gift of God, like all gifts of God, can be abused. And in our culture it is horribly abused and so it is right that the church preach loud and long against the sin of drunkenness. But—the teetotaler who thinks that wine is evil, that wine is the devil’s drink, has a flawed theology of creation and providence. And no matter how noble the moral crusade against drunkenness may be, we must not sacrifice truth at its altar.

John Piper, although I know that he himself never takes a drink, nevertheless wrote this, “Whenever happy confidence in the sovereign power of God for our own lives and the lives of others grows weak, legalism creeps in. We inevitably try to compensate for loss of dynamic faith by increased moral resolve and the addition of man-made regulations….[But] It seems beyond doubt that God hates legalism as much as He hates alcoholism. And I believe it is a literal understatement that legalism has brought more people to eternal ruin than alcohol has, though the devastations of alcohol are huge.”

And when we read of God providing bread and wine in Ps 104:15, we can’t help but think of the Lord’s Supper. Why did Jesus serve wine at the Last Supper? Was it merely because the color of wine would bring to mind his blood? Perhaps. But could it also be that Jesus wanted to say to us not only “I am your bread, I am your sustenance, I am your life” but also “I am your wine, I am your gladness, I am your joy?” The church always used wine in communion until the temperance movement of the 19th century. Maybe by following their lead we’ve actually lost something in the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper? I’ll just sow that thought in your minds for now and let it germinate and see what happens. I feel strongly enough about it to teach it to you, but not strongly enough about it to force it upon you in a communion service, until my suggestion commends itself to your conscience.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2008 1:50 pm

    Excellent post!

    Bread and wine…body and blood. He said “do this” in rememberance of me. Whe He says do something…we ought do it.

    If people have a problem with wine, alcoholism or just don’t care for it, well, grape juice is fine (I think).

    But wine ought be offered, for that is what our Lord offered.

    More importantly (I think) we ought remember that it is Himself that He gives to us in that gracious meal. He wanted us to have something tangible that we could see, feel, taste and ingest…of Himself…that we might have assurance of the His forgiveness, and love. So that we would not have to start to fall back into our own doing, or our own feelings about it, or anything at all that we conjur up.

    I believe that is why He instituted His Supper. Assurance.

  2. December 12, 2008 6:46 pm

    thanks for this post, man – it’s probably the shortest, clear and succinct explanation for this that I’ve ever heard – I keep forgetting about Psalms 104, I always just use Deuteronomy 14:23-26 – awesome

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