New? Or Improved?

The Parable Of The New Cloth On The Old Garment

Matthew 9:16-17

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Replace, Not Improve

Jesus begins the parable by creating the metaphor that He, His teachings, and His kingdom are like a patch of unshrunk cloth. The traditions (like fasting) that the Pharisees have created surrrounding the law are like an old garment that is tearing apart. Jesus did not come to repair this old garment. He is not interested in joining the old system of righteousness based on external rule-following that is riddled with tears of hypocrisy. He came to provide personal and relational harmony between God and man.

Jesus did not come to mend here and there.  No, He came to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). if Jesus’ teachings were merely a patch to the old system, they would only make its tears worse, and become even less . These old ways do not adequately reflect living the goodness of Christ. Therefore they need to be replaced. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). A new approach is required for that to take place.

If one is to follow Jesus’s teachings, he must set aside his old garments of righteousness measured by “religious” practice, and put on the new robes of Christ’s righteousness measured by loving others. It will not work to use some of Jesus’s teachings to patch up a person’s righteousness. He must embrace the whole of who Christ is and what He commands.

New wineRighteous Through Faith Or Law?

In the same way that no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, neither do people put new wine into old wineskins. This is because new, unfermented wine will expand and burst the inflexible old wineskins. The result is that the new wine spills and is wasted and the old wineskin is ruined. New wine must be put into fresh wineskins, if both are to be preserved.

The new wine is Jesus and the kingdom life He offers us. The old wine is the performance-based hypocrisy based on legalism as promoted by the Pharisees. As Paul described it, the “righteousness of faith” versus the “righteousness of the law.”. The fresh wineskins are disciples whose hearts and minds are ready to follow Jesus and His teachings. The old wineskins are those seeking to manufacture righteousness by externally following the Law and the traditions built up around the Law.

One of the main points of both parables is that Jesus and His teachings are incompatible with the tired, worn-out, stale way of life that the Pharisees imposed.

One Or The Other — Not A Combination Of The Two

Just as no one can serve two masters, the new wine of Christ cannot be put into the old wineskins of religious practice.  Either we continue to be old wineskins that hold the tasteless, legalistic, and hypocritical wine of performance and perfection. Or we become new and fresh wineskins in Christ that are filled with the vibrant wine of His righteousness that leads us to unconditionally and serve others.

We will not and cannot experience the righteousness of Christ or His kingdom, if we remain an old wineskin. We must be made new. To receive the new wine of Christ, we must become fresh wineskins.

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