Wineskins and Patches

One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team.”  ― A.W. Tozer

One of the missions fulfilled by Jesus while He was on earth 2000 years ago was to begin to prepare those who would listen for the new covenant that He was about to initiate.  The religious establishment of His day had developed an entire culture and society around the religiosity they had built to help them retain power and perpetuate the system.  They had turned the old covenant into a self-serving social industry.  Those who appeared to subvert this established order had to be put in their place, put out of the system, or put to death.  They tried often to put Jesus in His place, as we find in Luke 5:33-39: 

 “And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.”  And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?  But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”  And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  And 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.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

Jesus was addressing the need for new thinking and new understandings in this discourse with the religionists.  He was warning of the radical shift that would come with the new covenant, using the analogies of new patches on old garments and new wine in old wineskins.  In that day, wine was sometimes fermented in wineskins, bags made from new leather to carry wine.  New wine would expand as it fermented, so it had to be put into new leather skins.  These skins would stretch with the expansion but not burst.  Old wine could be poured into old wineskins because the fermentation process was complete.  If the winemaker poured new wine into old wineskins, already stretched to capacity, the expansion of the wine would tear the skins and the wine would be lost.

His illustration was in response to the rebuke from the religionists of His day.  They were focused upon technical aspects of legalism – old wineskins – while Jesus was preparing the world for the new wine of the new covenant. Jesus was pointing out new thinking will be needed if we are to live in the new covenant.

This change of thinking never happened for the religionists.  Eventually, they put Jesus to death so He would not disrupt their old covenant-based system of rules and controls.  That, of course, opened the way for the new covenant to emerge as our God’s way of relating to people.  It made possible the imparting of the Holy Spirit to inhabit the church as a group and as individuals.  Even when the new covenant was in full view, the religionists and many of the people did not want to make the change.  Jesus warned of this reluctance to embrace the new covenant: “But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

How many adherents to the Christian church today are more like the religionists than like new covenant disciples?  They are invested in a religious system of expectations, requirements, layers of separations between the people and their God.  It is an entire culture and society built upon religiosity to help perpetuate the system. The new wine of the Spirit of God would likely burst their old wine skins.  For them, there is no wish for the new, for the old wine suits them.  For them, the old is good enough.

Live conscious of the perfect, life-giving and never ending covenant of God’s approval and favor that Jesus died to give you”  Joseph Prince

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