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What the Bible says about Parable of the Old and New Wineskins
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 9:14-15

The bridegroom's friends would not think of fasting while he was with them. For them, it was a time of festivity and rejoicing—mourning was not appropriate. When the bridegroom left them, their festivities would end, and the proper time for fasting and sorrow would begin.

While Christ, the Bridegroom, was with His disciples, it was a time for joy. Expressing grief by fasting would have been inappropriate at that time. In addition, since Jesus was with them, they had no need to draw closer to Him through fasting. After Christ died, the disciples fasted when appropriate.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Cloth and Wineskins

Matthew 9:14-17

The new wine represents the inner aspects of a Christian life, and the new cloth pictures outward conduct and conversation. A person's behavior reflects his commitment, seen in the illustration of attaching new cloth to old clothing. The old clothing—our sinful, selfish life—cannot be mended but must be replaced. The new cloth is a righteous life. The Pharisees' ritual fasting was an old garment for which a new piece of cloth was useless.

It is untenable to attach Christ's doctrine to the old corrupt doctrines of this world's religions. The righteous system Christ came to establish cannot be forced into an old system. To attempt to force His teachings into the ways of Judaism, Protestantism, Catholicism, or any other of this world's religions causes confusion. Christ is warning against syncretism of beliefs; it simply does not work (Matthew 24:4-5, 24; Romans 6:5-6; 16:17-18; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:14; 5:6-11; I Timothy 6:3-5; Hebrews 13:9).

Our Savior teaches that life cannot be a mixture of two opposite principles. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We cannot trust in our own works for salvation in Christ, nor follow the world and God. His new way must completely replace our old worldly ways so that we walk in newness of life.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Cloth and Wineskins

Matthew 9:16

Jesus' illustration derives from a well-known fact: No one with a reasonable amount of experience in mending clothes would waste a piece of new cloth to repair an old garment. If new cloth is used to patch an old garment, and the patch becomes wet, it shrinks as it dries and puts strain on the old garment. The tear becomes worse than it was.

Jesus is showing that His "new" doctrines do not match the old rites of the Pharisees, which required a lot of fasting. If His "new" doctrines were attached to their old ones, it would distort the truth. Christ is preaching against syncretism, the mixing of beliefs. We must completely replace the old human way of life with the new godly way of life (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9-10). Because God's "new" way is righteous and spiritually strong, it cannot be combined with the "old" wicked and weak human way of life. They are incompatible.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Cloth and Wineskins

Luke 5:36-39

The new wine represents the truth of God, while the old wine represents the traditions of the culture that we have been born into. These traditions have produced the prejudices that we do not want to get rid of whenever the new wine comes. We are the vessel, and if we do not have the willingness to change, then we will be "burst"—the old wineskin by the new wine. A process of destruction begins to take place unless we too become new.

Jesus understood the principle that was working against Him in His own life. He was coming with the good news that was really new to these people, and what did they do? They hated it so much that they rejected not only the message, but they also rejected and put the Messenger to death.

This lesson is in the Book so that we will understand how powerful the impulse to reject the truth of God is within us. This impulse makes us feel comfortable with the old and unwilling to face up to the new. We rationalize, "Oh, it doesn't matter. It won't affect me," which is, in a sense, gambling with the laws of God. As Paul shows in Romans 1-3, we cannot gamble against the laws of God and win. We will lose every time.

So, why not face up to it? That is Jesus' point. Why not pay the price? Why not accept the truth of God? Why not repent and live?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 2)

Luke 5:36-39

While these examples are valuable in their own right, they do not stand on their own. If we were to begin here, it would be like coming in on the last part of a conversation; without understanding what led up to this, our comprehension will be spotty at best. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all put this parable at the end of a fairly lengthy, yet identical, record of Christ's actions and the Pharisees' objections (Matthew 9:1-17; Mark 2:1-22; Luke 5:17-39). His words here, then, are the summation and capstone of a much longer interaction.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine

Luke 5:39

Concluding His parable of new wine in old wineskins, Jesus laments what might be human nature's most perverse paradox: "No one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better'" (Luke 5:39). When it comes to physical matters, human nature is all too ready to accept the new. However, in spiritual matters, like Peter's dog returning to its vomit (II Peter 2:22), it all too readily turns away from the new. Rather than accept the plain truth of the gospel of God's Kingdom upon hearing it preached, all too many return to the false doctrines Satan taught the first man, Adam (I Corinthians 15:45-48). Adam and his family have believed those same old lies ever since. Human nature deceives too many into believing, "The old is better."

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Three)

Luke 5:39

On the physical level, a finely aged wine is obviously preferable to a new wine. One year at the Feast of Tabernacles, I had the rare opportunity to sample a Bordeaux bottled in the late 1970s or early 80s. Suffice it to say that the wine's depth and complexity of flavors would put to profound shame anything bottled recently.

Curiously, though, in this parable, the new wine is the one that is to be preferred! This may seem incongruous at first, until we remember what these things represent. The new wine of Christ's sacrifice, of the New Covenant, and of God's Spirit being poured out on us is infinitely more valuable than anything before conversion. Whether the old wine represents physical abundance or the headiness of what Babylon entices us with constantly, nothing can be compared to the new wine—if we have God's Spirit.

However, because we are still human, and the old man still remains in us to some degree, at times the old wine seems better. The old wine seems more gratifying to the senses. Before conversion, we certainly had no interest in this new wine because the old wine suited us just fine, even if it was making us miserable. Even after conversion, we sometimes reach for the old wine.

When we are under that influence, we do not find the new wine appealing because we are hooked on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16). It requires spiritual sobriety to recognize the true blessing of the new wine, but we cannot do that easily—if at all—when the old wine is on our palate. It is only in abstaining from the old wine that we can truly appreciate the uniqueness and superiority of the new.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine

Hebrews 8:8

The word "new" is translated from the Greek word kaine. This is interesting because, while it does mean "new" in terms of time, the emphasis in the use of the word, when compared to something of the same kind, in this case, covenants, is on quality - not time. Hence, the emphasis in the use of kaine is on this covenant being better rather than being newer.

In Jesus' Parable of the Old and New Wineskins, kaine also appears. Using this understanding of kaine, the difference between the wineskins is not necessarily age (though that is implied) but quality. One wineskin is dried and cracked, while the other is supple and resilient. Though it may also be newer, it is decidedly better.

Putting this into a modern context, we can make a comparison between a 1910 automobile and a 1995 automobile. The 1995 automobile is a continuation of the same general kind as the 1910 automobile. Both have the same necessary parts: engine, wheels, steering wheel, seats, transmission, brakes, lights, and a nut behind the wheel. But the 1995 model has made the 1910 model obsolete as a viable mode of transportation.

So it is in the comparison between the Old Covenant and the New. Both have the same necessary parts, so that they may be considered of the same "kind," but the New Covenant is so much better and has so much more going for it that it has made the Old one obsolete.

Is there a difference between a testament and a covenant? The word "testament" does not even appear in English translations of the Old Testament, but it appears thirteen times in the New Testament. The Greek word is quite interesting because it does not even mean "covenant" as we think of it. In fact, researchers have been able to find only one usage outside of the Bible—in classical Greek—in which this word is used in the same way that the English and the Hebrew words are. The Greek word is diatheke, and it is the equivalent of our English word "testament" or "will"—not "covenant."

A covenant is an agreement between two parties. The emphasis in on the words "agreement" and "parties." However, a diatheke is a testament or will. As in English, it is a unilateral—a one-sided—declaration of the disposition of property that a person makes in anticipation of his death. Before we die, we usually draw up a declaration of what we want done with our property, and most people do not consult with the people they want to leave their possessions to. It is usually a private matter.

Paul used this singular word—diatheke—where two different words normally would have been used. The interesting thing is that the Greeks have a word for a covenant, suntheke, "a bilateral agreement," but the apostle did not use it.

The use of diatheke—which seemingly does not fit—has given the translators great difficulty trying to determine when Paul meant "covenant" and when he meant "will" or "testament." Why did he even do this when he could have used suntheke? The overall reason is encouraging. Paul wanted to emphasize how much God has done unilaterally—that is, that He took upon Himself to do without consulting with others involved in the covenant—to tip the scales drastically in our favor for the purpose of our keeping the covenant and making it into His Kingdom.

For instance, "God so loved the world that He gave" Jesus Christ in our stead! It was a completely voluntary act on His part. God gives us grace and forgives our sins, and we are justified on the basis of that sacrifice and on the declaration of our faith and repentance. God gives us access to Him in prayer, again based on the work of Jesus Christ. God gives us the very faith that saves. God gives us His Spirit, which is a down-payment of eternal life and empowers us to keep His laws. God gives us gifts, by that same Spirit, to serve Him and the church. He promises never to give us a trial that is too great—which translates into His giving personal attention to each of His children! He promises never to forsake us and to complete the work that He has begun in us.

Some of these unilateral gifts—in a very limited form—appear in the Old Covenant. But it is no wonder that Paul wanted to emphasize better rather than "new." The Old Covenant (because of what God has unilaterally done) is but a pale shadow of the New in terms of what God is working out. It is nothing more than a pale shadow of the promises and the hope derived by those who understand the New Covenant's terms.

To the unconverted who study the Bible, these terms are so enticing that it lures them into concluding that the believer need do nothing. Some will go that far! They will declare that Jesus has done it all for us. They can read the terms, but they reach the wrong conclusion. It leads them to say such things as, "There is no law," and "You don't have to keep the Sabbath. It's just ceremonial." However, the truth is that the covenant is so one-sided, so much to our benefit, that it leaves us without excuse for failure to keep the terms—and those terms include lawkeeping.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Ten)


 




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