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Subtitle: Another Look At Why Fermented Wine Is Not Appropriate For A Communion Service

In a previous article on the subject ( I overlooked a point that I believe should forever settle this issue.

In reiterating God's commands to the children of Israel prior to their entering the land of Canaan, Moses said the following:

"And He humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you recognize and personally know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" Deut. 8:3 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified, emphasis mine).

Everything God says to us is vitally important and when properly considered, His Word always says what it means and means what it says. But if we are not very careful, at times we will not be able to "see the forest for the trees"! Sentence structure or a larger context can tend to obscure important details. And I believe this principle applies to a statement Moses made concerning "the days of unleavened bread" Israel was to observe after Passover.

"Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. [20] Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread" Exodus 12:19-20 (KJV, emphasis mine).

The Hebrew word translated "nothing" is lo', Strong’s #3808--(emphasis mine).
lo',  lo; or low', lo; or loh, lo; (Deut. 3:11), a primitive particle; not (the simple or abstract negation); by implication no; often used with other particles (as follows) :- × before, + or else, ere, + except, ig [-norant], much, less, nay, neither, never, no ([-ne], -r, [-thing]), (× as though..., [can-], for) not (out of), of nought, otherwise, out of, + surely, + as truly as, + of a truth, + verily, for want, + whether, without.

In other words, nothing means "no thing" and is all inclusive. In this specific case it is a prohibition against ingesting anything  leavened during those seven days. But what does "leavened" mean? Again, we consult Strong's Concordance:

The Hebrew word translated "leavened" is chametz , Strong’s #2557 (emphasis mine).
chametz,  khaw-mates'; from Hebrew 2556 (chamets); ferment, (figurative) extortion :- leaven, leavened (bread).

chamets, Strong’s #2556 (emphasis mine).
chamets,  khaw-mates'; a primitive root; to be pungent; i.e. in taste (sour, i.e. literal fermented, or figurative harsh), in color (dazzling) :- cruel (man), dyed, be grieved, leavened.

First of all let us consider the leavened bread. That they were prohibited from eating such bread is beyond dispute. The leavening agent causes fermentation, the bread dough becomes light and fluffy because of the carbon dioxide produced and then the heat of baking kills the active agent. There will be no taste of yeast or other leavening agent when the bread is properly baked. But even though the leaven--the active bacteria--is killed by the baking process, such bread is still said to be leavened and is thus prohibited. Why? Because fermentation is a process of corruption/decomposition and the Lord's body (pictured by the bread of communion) saw no corruption! For the children of Israel (or communicants today) to use leavened bread would be unthinkable because it is an unfit symbol for the sinless perfection of the Lord's body. And as far as I know there is no disagreement about this particular aspect of the Lord's Supper among Christian brethren today.

But there continues to be a dispute about the exact nature of what was in "the cup" the Lord used at His last Passover celebration. Was it alcoholic wine or grape juice? Based upon the prohibition God gave to Israel against eating anything leavened, it had to be the pure juice of the grape! Because alcoholic wine is leavened for the same reason fluffy bread is leavened. Both have undergone fermentation. And rest assurred Jesus Christ knew the difference because as Jehovah God,  He issued the original command through Moses.

One of the arguments to justify alcoholic wine says it was Jewish tradition to use it at Passover and the Lord would not have broken with that tradition. To this I must reply, "Oh, really?"  Please consider the following:

"Now there gathered together to [Jesus] the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, [2] For they had seen that some of His disciples ate with common hands, that is, unwashed [with hands defiled and unhallowed, because they had not given them a ceremonial washing]— [3] For the Pharisees and all of the Jews do not eat unless [merely for ceremonial reasons] they wash their hands [diligently up to the elbow] with clenched fist, adhering [carefully and faithfully] to the tradition of [practices and customs handed down to them by] their forefathers [to be observed]. [4] And [when they come] from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions [oral, man-made laws handed down to them, which they observe faithfully and diligently, such as], the washing of cups and wooden pitchers and widemouthed jugs and utensils of copper and beds— [5] And the Pharisees and scribes kept asking [Jesus], Why do Your disciples not order their way of living according to the tradition handed down by the forefathers [to be observed], but eat with hands unwashed and ceremonially not purified? [6] But He said to them, Excellently and truly [so that there will be no room for blame] did Isaiah prophesy of you, the pretenders and hypocrites, as it stands written: These people [constantly] honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far distant from Me.
    [7] In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines the commandments and precepts of men" Mark 7:1-7 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified, emphasis mine).

The fact is that the Lord often "butted heads" with the religious establishment concerning their traditions and  intentionally violated them. By that time the Law of Moses bore little resemblance to the original because Rabbinic tradition had added so much to it. They literally reinterpreted God's commands to suit themselves.

And the prohibition against eating anything leavened is a perfect example of such reinterpretation. As originally given, it was intended to ban all food and drink that had been obtained through fermentation. This would include all alcoholic beverages, all leavened breads, as well as all leavened milk products such as cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, etc. But at some point in Israel's history, the Rabbis reasoned that alcoholic beverages obtained from certain grains was actually the thing prohibited. And to this day--as far as I have been able to determine--observant Jews will not drink beer or whiskey during Passover because they are chametz. They are absolutely correct in considering them to be leavened beverages and thus, prohibited during Passover and the days of unleavened bread. Yet the Rabbis strained out a gnat and swallowed the camel (Matt.23:24) by allowing fermented wine! They had absolutely no clue as to the "why" of God's prohibition and decided it applied to what was being fermented rather than fermentation itself.

The symbolism of the Passover lamb and all food/drink consumed during that time each year was the sinless and uncorrupted body and blood of their Messiah. Fermentation is undeniably a process of corruption and decomposition--therefore, to use alcoholic wine as a symbol of the precious blood of Christ is, according to the Scriptures we have considered, patently erroneous.

But some argue that Passover occurs during the time of the year when fresh grape juice is not available. To answer that question we only have to point out that "reconstituted" grape juice was used. Raisins are simply dehydrated grapes and juice can be obtained in a matter of minutes by soaking them in boiling water. I tried it myself and the resultant liquid is quite comparable in taste to fresh juice. And "raisin wine" obtained by this method has been used at Passover by certain conservative sects within Judaism.

To try to argue that the alcohol produced during fermentation of wine kills the leaven present and renders the resultant liquid pure and fit for use in the communion service, totally misses the point. If that were the case, then the Jews are wrong in prohibiting beer and whiskey! The same principle would be true for the "leavened bread," because the heat of baking kills any leavening agent present. No, when carefully considered, the prohibition is not against eating leaven per se--but eating that which has been leavened. It is a scientific fact that leaven is swallowed with nearly every mouthful we eat and cannot be avoided because the air we breathe is filled with yeast spores--so that cannot possibly be the reason for the prohibition. Foodstuffs which have been allowed to ferment due to the subsequent action of leaven upon them is the key to understanding this principle. Leaven will eventually corrupt, but until fermentation actually takes place the food or drink is not leavened.

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