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Luke 5:39  (King James Version)
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<< Luke 5:38   Luke 6:1 >>


Luke 5:39

Our responsibility is to step out in faith, trusting Him, yielding to His truths taught to us. We do this by putting it to work in our lives, but it is not always easily done. What we are, what we have become since birth, is deeply entrenched in our character, and our nature does not cede control easily. Notice the example of Israel: "And the LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!'" (Exodus 32:9). "Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people" (Exodus 33:3). "But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction" (Jeremiah 17:23).

This theme runs throughout the Bible. When Hebrews 4:1-2 says that the Israelites failed in the wilderness because "the word which they heard . . . [was not] mixed with faith," Paul is referring to this principle. They simply would not yield their mind to admit that He was right. They seized upon their own opinions, observing them rather than what God commanded. Each individual Israelite may not have actually gone through the process of rejecting each command, but simply keeping their habitual attitudes and conduct produced the same end. Their actions and attitudes, then, like the basketball players who never "buy" the coach's system, spoke for them, revealing what they, in their heart of hearts, really believed.

In Luke 5:39, Jesus uses an illustration to help us understand this rejection syndrome. He teaches that man has a natural resistance to the things of God. A wider and equally true application is that we humans almost immediately resist anything different from what we believe at the time. This is both good and bad. The important thing is whether we honestly consider and appraise behaviors and ideas before rejecting them.

Are our minds honest enough that, when hearing God's Word truthfully expounded, we will consciously and promptly take action to change when wrong? The Israelites appear to have had an automatic negative reaction to God's Word. They definitely did not have a childlike, submissive attitude! The Bible records that their conduct never changed, nor did their attitudes. In the game of life, they kept right on doing things as they always had, so they died in the wilderness. They left Egypt, but Egypt never left them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)



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 5:37-39

This section describes the principle, or law, of inertia. Inertia is the tendency to remain in a fixed position or condition. If matter is in motion, its tendency is to remain in motion. It will move in the direction it is presently traveling unless some external force impels it in another direction. If matter is motionless, its tendency is to remain motionless unless an external force impels it into motion.

Jesus is saying that the same tendency exists regarding the things of God—the acceptance of truth and acting upon it. People have a strong tendency to hold fast to what they feel secure with.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)



Luke 5:36-39

The parable is a series of contrasts between new and old. It contains new and old clothing, new and old wineskins, and new and old wine. Christ's being taken away makes the “newness” possible, and once that “newness” is available, it is wholly incompatible with the old.

Jesus begins with an example of old and new garments: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.” In Scripture, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, garments or clothing are common symbols of righteousness. After Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to cover themselves with something they made with their own hands (Genesis 3:7). Instead, God gave them tunics made of skin (verse 21), requiring the life of an animal, representing the Lamb of God giving His life to cover sin.

Matthew 22:1-13 contains the Parable of the Wedding Garment, whose lesson is that inappropriate clothing will keep a person out of a wedding feast. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” The Pharisees had a righteousness, but Jesus asserts that our righteousness must exceed theirs (Matthew 5:20), meaning that we need to have His righteousness imputed to us, which becomes our new covering, our new garment. As we become one with Him and submit to taking on His image, we have a righteousness that does not come from our works but from God's work in us.

Thus, we have a contrast between man's righteousness and the righteousness of Christ. But, just as it makes no sense to tear off a piece from a new garment to patch an old one, so is it also a futile exercise to try to keep our own righteousness intact and use a little bit of Christ's righteousness to cover a flaw here and there. The two coverings are incompatible—we have to choose one or the other.

The conclusion is that, if a new garment is available, we would be foolish to use it to mend an old, defective one. Because Jesus was taken away, His righteousness is available to us, so we need to discard any thought that our own is suitable. Instead, we must put on His righteousness and be conformed to it so that it fits and covers us appropriately. Clearly, works are involved and required on our part, but without the covering and involvement of Christ, those works would continue to be as filthy rags.

To understand the new and the old, it is important to realize that the “old” could have many applications. It is not just the Old Covenant. In fact, the Pharisees in Jesus' audience did not actually represent the Old Covenant. The system of beliefs and practices that developed into Judaism is not the same thing as the Old Covenant. Certainly, Judaism makes use of the writings of Moses and the prophets, but it also leans heavily on the traditions of Jewish scholars and is infused with Greek philosophy.

The Pharisees, then, were not actually living by the Old Covenant! God intended that covenant to prepare His people for the coming of the Messiah. Everything in the holiness code, the sacrifices, and so forth was intended to point to Christ. Since the Pharisees could not recognize the Object of the Covenant, what they were practicing was not what the pre-incarnate Christ delivered to Moses. They had gotten far off course.

Therefore, the “old” elements in this parable could be any system of belief aside from what became available through Christ.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine



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 5:39

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



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 5:36-39

The context for the Parable of the Cloth and the Wineskins begins in Luke 5:17, when a paralyzed man is brought to Christ. He recognizes the faith involved and tells him that his sins are forgiven (verses 18-20), a statement that the scribes and the Pharisees, of course, consider blasphemous (verse 21). They rightly understand that only God takes away sin, but they would not consider that the Man who was forgiving sin was God. In verses 22-25, Jesus gives proof that He had been given the power to forgive sins: The man had taken up his bed and was walking home.

After this incident, Jesus calls Levi, or Matthew, the tax collector (Luke 5:27), who becomes a disciple and subsequently prepares a feast in honor of Jesus (verses 28-29). In verse 30, the scribes and Pharisees object to His mingling with tax collectors and other sinners, but Jesus responds, “Those who are well don't need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” [New English Translation (NET)].

At this point, many translations insert a subheading about fasting, but the story continues. The Pharisees point out that John the Baptist's disciples made prayer and fasting a regular part of their lives, and they slip in the fact that their disciples did that as well (Luke 5:33). Then they contrast that with Christ's disciples, observing that they have a great penchant for eating and drinking. They imply that His disciples cannot really be serious about a holy life when all they do is have a good time, and in their minds, this reflects poorly on the Teacher. We know this because in Luke 7:34, Jesus quotes the Pharisees as saying that He—the Son of God—is a glutton and winebibber.

Jesus counters that it would be just as inappropriate for His disciples to fast at that time as it would be for the wedding party to fast when the bridegroom is with them (Luke 5:34-35). In other words, Christ's presence should be a cause for joy. Psalm 16:11 (NET) says, “I experience absolute joy in Your presence; You always give Me sheer delight.” Yes, Jesus was also a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief, but there was every reason for His disciples to be cheerful when they were in His presence. They had no need to draw closer to God through fasting because He was with them.

His example is clear enough on its own, except that a well-known Messianic prophecy speaks of Israel's God as her Bridegroom (Isaiah 62:5). He was already on the Pharisees' bad list for telling a man that his sins were forgiven, and now He follows that up by referring to Himself as the Bridegroom!

Luke 5:35 is pivotal when it comes to understanding the parable that follows: “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” We know how that played out. He was “taken away” first through His crucifixion and then later through His ascension. Jesus being “taken away,” however, resulted in a tremendous blessing.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine



Luke 5:33-39

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




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 5:39:

Matthew :
Mark :
Luke 5:36-39
Luke 5:39
Luke 5:39
John 2:1-10

 

<< Luke 5:38   Luke 6:1 >>



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