Like Button

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Old Cloth and New Wineskins

The parable of the wineskins is not new to us. We all know it. (Is it actually a parable?) "No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined." (Luke 5:37) The saying is found in Luke's Gospel as well as Matthew's (Matt 9:17) and Mark's (Mark 2:22).

In context (Matt 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39), the disciples of John the Baptist were asking why it was that the Pharisees fasted and the disciples of John fasted, but Jesus's disciples did not. Jesus's original response was, "You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?" (Luke 5:34)
Then He went into the explanation of new patches on old cloth and new wine in old wineskins. What did He mean?

Several places I've read suggest something like "Organized religious structures are reticent to change with the times." These types go on to argue that we need to change with the times and that trying to stuff "that old time religion" down the throats of new people is pointless. You'll "burst the bag". Is that what Jesus meant? Was Jesus telling His church, "You have to change with the times"? We certainly are hearing this call today from many corners.

I would think that it would be manifestly clear that this is not the case. Jesus wasn't saying, "Change with the times." He was saying, "Times have changed." No, not just "times" -- the one true religion as God sees it. And not actually "changed". More like "corrected" or "clarified". Why do I say that? It was Jesus's explanation: the "Bridegroom" had come. He was there. This was new. Everything would change. Everything would realign to the truth that had always been the case. The Messiah, the Lamb of God, had come.

With the arrival of Jesus, things have changed. We see this in His "Sermon on the Mount" when He says (repeatedly), "You have heard it said ... but I tell you." (Matt 5:17-38) We see this in the very next event after the wineskins comment, when the disciples ate grain on the Sabbath and Jesus informed the Pharisees, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27-28) We see this in Paul's day on the issue of circumcision, where the real circumcision in view is the circumcision of the heart, not some body part (Col 2:11-12). We see this in Jesus's fulfillment of the sacrificial system, so that the Lamb of God has come to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). It is the contrast of old and new covenant. The old was with Israel; the new is with all who come to Him. And the conditions are changed. The Old Testament saints were saved by faith in the future Messiah. After this, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ who came.

This is not Jesus telling the church "You need to change with the times." This is Jesus telling the world, "Now that I'm here, things have changed. Don't try to fit your 'work hard to be saved' mentality onto what I'm doing. This is a new covenant, a new thing. Planned from the beginning of time, this doesn't fit your old thinking. It's time for something new -- salvation by grace through faith and the works that accompany rather then cause it." Just like in us, "The old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Cor 5:17) It isn't, in the end, a change in the plan; it is a change in the expression. Since Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6) and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), the truth doesn't change either. The parables of the new cloths on old and new wine in old wineskins were not calls to change the truth; they were calls to align our behavior with the truth, where the coming of the Bridegroom marked the long-awaited correction to mistaken ideas and their resultant attitudes and behaviors.

No comments: