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WINE IN NEW WINE SKINS
With the Spring rains,
new fulness can flow down the old channels, and make things sing.
There was however ONE Spring which would come ONLY ONCE.
The time of its flow is NOW.
Matthew 9:16 records words of Christ concerning things old and new, in a specialised way.
one, He says, proverbially it seems, puts new cloth on old clothes, lest
the patch pulls away;
"NOR," He continued, "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."
What evoked this imagery ? this highly practical imagery!
John the Baptist's disciples were in a quandary. They - and, unlikely company! - the Pharisees often fasted; but Jesus' disciples had no such practice. That is, it may occur, but it was not an habitual thing. It was not at all routine. It was not a distinguishing mark of the life.
What was Jesus' answer ? This: that His disciples were like friends of the bridegroom, filled with rejoicing, their happy hearts celebrating the day of His advent and miraculous power and undimmable knowledge, which none could put in the shade. WHEN He left, THEN would be their time for fasting.
In other words, there was an intrinsic happiness about the One whose Sermon on the Mount recounted in wonderful precision, brevity and power (Matthew 5-7), the triumphant aura of living with the Son of God in the flesh, among you as a friend. There would come rigours enough as the world teased and tested, including His own crucifixion, but nothing could hide the joy. Even the crucifixion would be followed by a resurrection so absolute that they would actually rejoice after the whole travesty of justice and triumph of power was over (as in John 16's pronouncements by Christ, and the fact seen in Acts 4).
HE HAD COME. He was THERE! No longer was it a matter of waiting. It had happened.
this brings up the useful consideration of the new and the old wine in
Christ's figure, His mini-parable or proverbial imagery.
THE NEW AND THE OLD COVENANT
Often have we considered this topic, and hence this is not a review but an application (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 13, for example).
Here we merely note these things:
As to them, they delve into former or imaginary mysteries, symbolisms when the reality has come, the singularity is dominant in sacrifice and mediator, the worship is of ONE GOD, ALONE, neither an idol nor manipulable but ONLY LORD, and no author of papal pretensions (cf. SMR pp. 1042ff.).
There would however be no question of waylaying the word of God, rendering it null and void, merely of fulfilling its preparatory symbolisms in consummatory realities (as in Hebrews 8-10, and Isaiah 66:18ff., 65:13-15, 62:1-3, 60).
Jesus confirmed, ratified and required this understanding, as reported in Matthew 5:17-20. So intense indeed was and is the power of the very word of God to mankind, that any thought of actually aborting it, annulling it or denouncing it is as far as the East from the West. Quite the contrary, He did NOT come to DESTROY the law and the prophets, but to FULFIL. That is what He said, and if you are a Christian, it is best to believe the One whom you call LORD! (cf. Luke 6:46).
Moreover, so vast was this, His emphasis on the very fact that the unchanging God (Malachi 3:6) did not equivocate, attenuate or malign His own word, that those who taught and DID the least of the commandments would be called great in the kingdom of heaven, while those who did not do so, but rather broke the provisions, would be least. (Cf. SMR pp. 1176ff.).
by theology, anyone should mean the thoughts of men about the thoughts
of God, then this is not theology: it is divine diction.
THE NEW WINE
The old wine is NOT without a sense of His presence (as often in the Psalms such as 23, 21, 17), and not without a sense of personal assurance of salvation (as in Psalm 17), and certainly NOT without the reality of rest in the Lord (as in Psalm 37:7), one which could nevertheless be voided by rebellion of those with form but not faith (as in Deuteronomy 29:19ff.), even by a whole category of persons (as in Psalm 95, by implication cf. I Corinthians 10!).
No, it is unwise to ignore what the Bible teaches in favour of some 'theology' on the base definition used above.
then IS the new wine more than the old ? It is
b) the presence of fulfilment, of consummation instead of preparation, completion in place of initiation, in that Christ had not only come, but would die and actually pay the ransom, instituting His international church in place of the national theocracy, but as we see, with the SAME stress on the scripture to run it, and the emphasis on His Spirit in the believer: something also found before most specifically, but now having
It did not mean that man was no longer a created being, and so could forget about creation procedures (as in Exodus 20:8-11, Ezekiel 17); for this was specifically FOUNDED NOT on something said at some time, but on the FACT of creation and its mode.
the new Sunday day of rest would commemorate for REST, NOT the creation
(which required it), but the SALVATION, the RESURRECTION in particular,
and rest would be in approaching resurrection on the Lord's return. The
scene was advancing, the scenario significantly and indeed substantially
progressing to its evocative and wonderful end. We are looking not down
the barrel of peril, but down the avenue of wonder.
Symbolism yields to reality, but where the reality is regeneration, and covenant, then it remains, and new symbols are applicable as without cessation of His word, they were first placed.
The symbols themselves however could now be for all, not merely males, and would involve the washing which HIS blood obtained, not the blood of mankind (which would flow in circumcision), in its seal. Blood is the ground of the action of the water! HIS! (Ephesians 1:7).
NEW BUT NOT NOVEL
It is not a NEW GOD, but a new covenant with which we are dealing.
let us summarily look at some of the relationships of the new wine to the
There is the same precision,
depiction of man the sinner,
sacrifice, now fulfilled ONCE
for the former merely symbolic many,
there is a NEW priest, instead of the many old ones.
He is God, not mere man (John 8:58).
There is a NEW SACRIFICE which He makes of Himself,
there is a new INTIMACY with the Saviour direct, since God came to earth, God manifest in the flesh;
there is a new structure of the church, but not a novel one, since God is the same.
There is the same stress on justice (sin must be paid for);
on mercy (God will do it to those receiving it according to covenantal mercies, by faith)
on judgment (there is no escape, God is not forgetful, but deliberately 'forgets' what is borne in judgment on Christ);
and there is the same
propositional presentation of what God gives and requires;
while there is a wonderful amplification of many things.
Thus there is a glorious emphasis on assurance of eternal life
(see Christian Assurance, in A Spiritual Potpourri),
and a personal presence unforgetful, inimitable,
of the One greater than Moses (as in Hebrews 4),
who was not too great to humble Himself to the format of man
for the function of celestial love,
in its sacrificial splendour,
its direct broadcast through eyes and mouths of His life to man,
He the very eternal life itself (I John 1:1-4).
The new wine is deep in the heart of the wonder of the manifestation of the word of God in flesh, and His enduring presence in that love and greatness which He displayed on earth, as I John 1 so evocatively reveals! It is not that things are removed and strictured, but that structures are fulfilled in the personal presence of God in a way which having been as visible as flesh, moves in the invisible realms of the human spirit with a new directness, more obvious protection, more abundantly announced in provisions and available power.
Thus there is NO MORE mere
symbols remain, but the major matters are now realised,
and the realisation is such that the Sydney Olympics are as a puddle to the ocean.
Indeed, there is this delicious
and entrancing fact that THIS covenant is THE ultimate, that the LAMB who
slain and the LORD who is resurrected, the sacrificial sovereign who mastered
fate with the purity of power and the power of His purity, has this declared
This world, any creation, this name or that, it is all the same for this world or for "the world to come" (Philippians 2:10, Ephesians 1:21): He who created with His Father all things (Col. 1), and who as such is God (Isaiah 45:12, 46:10, 44:6, 45:21, 44:24, Colossians 1:15ff.) has accomplished the work and has an intrinsic and extrinsic pre-eminence. His work avails whether in this world or the next (Colossians 1:19ff.), and no other gospel or plan or name is tolerated, while this leads on to eternity. He who created time, timeless in eternity, is now for all time to receive glory with the Father (Hebrews 13:20-21), sacrifice of the everlasting covenant, the same today, yesterday and for ever (Hebrews 13:8, Romans 8:38-39).
This is new, but not novel; for it was foreshadowed as we have seen in Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, and it is now in force. The presence of school holidays, for all that, can ravish with joys, however well understood was their (eventual) coming; and the presence of the Lamb fills with "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (I Peter 1). HE has been SEEN (II Peter 1:16-18), and His reality has been known (I John 1:1-4), eternal life has been revealed in His wonder and glory. This is the new wine.
Foretold ? Yes, it is still the same type of liquid. Foreknown ? Yes the wineskins are still skins. But the gleams and beauties of this new thing can only be understood as glorious before, glorious now, but now with a glory which surpasses (II Cor. 3:8-10). Spring has become Summer, and though it be hot, yet it is glorious!
There is more newness.
Priests are replaced in their highly specialised roles in the Temple of stone, with believers with their entrusted gifts (I Cor. 12-14, Romans 12) in the living temple of living stones; but there is no licence, for the word of God now, rules as ever before, and those who ignore this are being intoxicated not with splendour, but with presumption. It is not a question of ANY outpouring, but of His,
THAT is the other side of the incarnation: it is that of the LORD. He did not show His face for scorn, or His back for smiters, so that some interloper should arise to despise His work, or alter it in one particle. (Cf. Biblical Blessings 9, Christ the Pinnacle.)
But what more ?
Internationalisation is now the formula, a royal priesthood of believers is a mode,
a Gospel expressly to be sent to all,
now replaces the inclusion of converts into the national religion;
and vision and wonder would be poured out on a believing people,
till the end came,
and that now was final, sure and steadfast.
It was all truncated and explained.
NOW when the GOSPEL had reached the nations, all, then the Lord is to return
(Matthew 24:14). This finale awaits like a landing from the final leg of a vast flight!
There is no more to come, but HE! and His coming is not for suffering, but for triumph.
And that coming. It is near (Answers to Questions Ch. 5), but more than that ?
Time when ? This was expressly messianically hidden (Acts 1),
but indications were messianically made manifest (Matthew 24).
To His own, these would be reassuring and stimulating (Luke 21:24),
while to those still asleep, it would end in anything but a yawn (Matthew 24:22ff.).
The covenant was the same but new;
plans consummated; presence showered in splendour,
the ends of the Age coming into their final overdrive
as we race towards of the line of the ceremony (as in Acts 2:17ff.).
Then comes the marriage feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19),
which completes the pilgrim phase,
and commences the advent in splendour of the King, who will rule,
till all hypocrisy being over, all rebellion terminated (Revelation 20),
the very heavens and earth disappear like morning mist (Revelation 20:11),
and heaven itself in its full panoply of glory is all that remains for life eternal (Revelation 22:5).The new wine needed new wineskins; it is still wine: but what a wine is this!
This is short, but Scoop of the Universe 51 puts many of these things in more detail.
For those interested, this is to be regarded as a companion chapter. Other references above such as Appendix 1, 2, 3 in Biblical Blessings and Barbs, Arrows and Balms 13 also complete the picture in some aspects.