What did Jesus mean, when He said '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 9:17 ). Common sense tells us, especially if you know anything about the power of yeast, that if you put un-fermented wine into an old, used wine-skin, you might have problems when the 'fresh' wine starts to ferment! Aside from the elemental and physical connotations of this statement; the immediate context of Jesus' words, above, immediately following a parallel simile, seem almost to be a random statement, and somewhat out of place, but when understood in terms of the covenantal and historical contexts of the change that was about to be fully and finally revealed ( within that generation-Mathew 24:34, I Corinthians 15:51 & 52 ), the 'old garment' and 'old wine-skin' that were about to be replaced was the old, or 'first' covenant ( Hebrews 8:7 & 8 ).
Paul, in Galatians 3:3, wrote, 'Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?' Apparently the Church in Galatia was having trouble with the Judaizers at that time and were being told that they must keep the whole law ( of Moses? ) in order to please God. Paul had laboriously made the point, though, that since they had received the Spirit of Christ, who was the end of the law; they must not seek to return to the useless ( dead ) works of the flesh.
In today's Christian 'world', we seem to be facing much the same problem. Though everyone out there who claims the name of Christ, unlike those first-century Jews, but like the Judaizers of Paul's experience, acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, they do not, for whatever reason, believe that the Purpose for which He died has been accomplished or fulfilled. Apparently, the Purpose for which He died was only to make salvation available to His people! Wait a minute; Scripture ( Matthew 1:21 ) says that 'He will save His people from their sins'! Something isn't right here!
Old wine, new wineskins?
Paul wrote that 'Therefore, if anyone [ is ] in Christ, [ he is ] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new'. Most Christians know this passage by heart, but is it truly realized in their lives? Sure, if you ask them what it means to be a new creation, they will probably give you a more or less accurate biblical definition, at least, according to their interpretation, but are they really acting like a new creation? Are they acting as if the creation HAS been made new, as if the death ( of Adam ) HAS been defeated? No; until Christ returns, they say, the creation will continue as it has since the beginning ( II Peter 3:4 ), and will only then be actually new, since the old will be burned up in a great conflagration!
Clearly, something is wrong in this picture! If Jesus did not return as He said He would, in the first century, making 'all things new' ( Revelation 21:5 ), then what else did He promise that hasn't come true?
Can we truly say, with any conviction or veracity, that this earth has been renewed? Well, to be honest, 'NO'! This world, the terra firma that we inhabit is the same old earth it's always been and always will be! It may be in God's Master Plan for this planet we call earth to one day wind down, and in its relation to the Sun, possibly even burn up, but is this what Scripture prophesies? Far from it! As a covenant book about a covenant people, Scripture speaks of a Day to come when God would renew His Covenant with His people, working a change within them, 'burning the hell out of'em', so to speak, and making them ( us ) a fit vessel for His dwelling-place, the New Temple!
Because, as some say, Jesus has not yet made all things new, we must wait until He returns to
experience the fullness of this newness! As we have discussed before, the correct covenantal,
historical and grammatical understanding of the 'world' of which Scripture speaks is not ( necessarily ) the world with which we are familiar. When most Christians, for instance, read that 'God so loved the world' ( John 3:16 ); they tend to think globally ( not necessarily wrong ), rather than covenantally, as was universally understood at the time of writing.
In many ways, the problems that we face in this Life come to a head when we try to place new wine into old wineskins! When we understand that Our Heavenly Father placed Himself ( Wine-John 15 ) into ( made ) New Wineskins, how can we think of trying to use old wineskins for a New Purpose?!
Charles Haddon Shank