What is the meaning of, “no one puts new wine into old wineskins”?

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New Wine and Old Wineskins

Jesus mentioned the parable of putting “new wine into old wineskins” when the disciples of John came to Him, saying,

“Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:14-17 also Mark 2:18-22).

In ancient days, wine was kept in wineskins, which were skins of sheep or goats with the skin of the legs sewn up, and the neck serving as a mouth of the bottle. “Old bottles” would have lost their original flexibility and become dry and tough, if used the skins will be destroyed and the wine is lost. This condition represented the state of Jews at Jesus’ time.

The Meaning of the Parable

In this parable, the “new wine” represents the living truth of God at work in the hearts of people. The phrase “new wine” stands for wine which fermentation have not begun its work, or in which the work has been begun but not completed. Jesus’ radical teachings could not be in harmony with the unreasonable man-made traditions of Judaism. Any attempt to keep Christianity within the dead forms of Judaism and unite the two by forcing Christianity to be reconciled to Jewish traditions would not be successful.

Jesus taught that the values of the kingdom of heaven once adopted by people would lead to change in the lives. It will blossom into transformation away from the old traditions and growth into the likeness of Christ (Matthew 5:2). By the use of this figure Christ attempted to make clear to the disciples of John the Baptist the uselessness of trying to intertwine the good news of the kingdom of heaven with the worn-out religious practices of Jewish tradition.

The attempt to unite the new with the old would result in destruction to both. The gospel wine is destroyed and the bottles of Judaism would be spoiled and not fit anymore for use. The representation of the gospel by “new wine” and its work by the process of fermentation is likened in core to the parable of the “leaven” but stresses a different outcome (Matthew 13:33).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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