Some Christians believe that only fermented wine can be used in the Lord’s supper. It’s not merely that they prefer wine over grape juice in the celebration of the Eucharist, but that they believe that any celebration of the Lord’s supper that uses grape juice instead of wine is invalid in God’s sight. They believe those who do not use fermented wine in the Lord’s supper do not really partake of the Eucharist and that God is displeased with them.
The main argument for this view is that fermented wine was what was used during the Lord’s supper from the beginning of church history and it was not until the invention of grape juice in the nineteenth century that Christians began to use it instead of wine due to Prohibition. They argue that since the wine Jesus drank at the Lord’s supper could result in intoxication if enough of it was consumed, the wine we use at the Lord’s supper must likewise be alcoholic.
But we must keep in mind that the only difference between wine and grape juice is that grape juice is unfermented while wine is fermented. The process of turning grapes into grape juice which is not alcoholic involves heating it to kill the bacteria in grape juice to prevent the process of fermentation. The only real difference between the two is that in one the bacteria has been killed while the bacteria in the other has not been killed leading to fermentation. One results in drunkenness when consumed in a large enough quantity while the other does not.
The Lord’s supper is not invalidated by the use of grape juice because it is still “the fruit of the vine” (Matt 26:29) and the product of the crushing of grapes. The lack of fermentation does not disqualify it from being the fruit of the vine. Both wine and grape juice are visually indistinguishable from each other. As the fruit of the vine, it maintains the symbolism of picturing the blood of Christ.
I believe the real reason so many people are opposed to the use of grape juice in the Lord’s supper is not so much because of their fidelity to Scripture, but because they believe unfermented grape juice endangers the real or spiritual presence of Christ in the cup. If Jesus is really present in the wine of the Lord’s supper, the lack of fermentation might prevent him from being there since the wine of the first Lord’s supper was fermented. On the other hand, we should not use water in the Lord’s supper as the Mormons do because water could never represent the blood of Christ and is not the fruit of the vine as grape juice is.