What is the meaning of the parable of new and old wine?

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Luke 5:36-38

In Luke 5, Jesus was asked about the freedoms that accompanied the work of Christ. They said for example, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink? (v. 33).

Jesus answered, “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.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Luke 5:36-38).

The old and the new

The examples mentioned in Luke 5 illustrate the difference between the genius of the old and new economies, and the danger of mixing up the one with the other. As in the one case made-up, “the rent is made worse,” and in the other, “the new wine is spilled,” so by a combination of ritualism of the old with the spiritual freedom of the new economy, both are spoiled and ruined.

In the above passage the “new wine” points to the teachings of Jesus in its evangelical newness and power in contrast to the traditions of Judaism. The “wine-skins” represent people who accept Christ’s doctrines. Jesus saw that the pharisees and scribes were fixed on holding on to their old understanding of the Law. They were blinded by their own traditions, customs, rituals, biases, and racism. The large collection of the Talmud, represented the teaching of these religious leaders.

The disciples versus the religious leaders

Christ would not entrust His new fresh truths to these blind and prejudiced teachers of the old school. It would indeed be like pouring new wine into old, rotten, worn-out wine-containers. The new wine must be poured into new wine-skins. Therefore, His doctrines should not be given to religious leaders in Israel who are chained by their own dead traditions. Instead, it should be given to new honest truth seekers who would happily accept His teaching. And then they would give the pure undefiled truths to other truth seekers.

These honest people were the disciples of Jesus who were simple men unlearned in the schools of the Pharisees. For these faithful, Jesus prayed to God saying, “I thank thee because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25).

Openness and patience

People should not unreasonably adhere to old traditions just because it was held for generations and reject reform. People should learn to challenge their cherished views and positions by thus says the Lord. They should be willing to drop their man-made customs and hold to the pure unadulterated truths of the Bible.

Also, change takes patience and understanding especially to the hasty reformers who may hurt the unlearned weaker brethren (Romans 14:1; 1 Corinthians 8:11). Christians should not use the gospel liberties to do something when that liberty endangers the salvation of someone else. Nothing should be done that will cause the blood of Christ to be shed in vain for a precious child of God.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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