Our “New Wine” Reformation Heritage
“No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for
the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the
skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed.
But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved”
(Matthew 9:16-17 ESV).
This parable is a practical example of taking good care of household items.
Patching an old garment with unshrunk cloth would make no sense—as soon as you would wash it, the patch would shrink and you would be worse off than you were before. Putting new wine (which is still expanding) into stiff old wineskins would only result in a wasteful mess.
What was Jesus’ point with this parable?
The religion practiced by the self-righteous Pharisees was an old wineskin. “Follow our rules, be as holy as we claim to be, and God will reward you” was their message. This old wineskin was all works and pride, but the new wine that Jesus brought was the opposite. It was confession of sin, and trust in Christ for forgiveness of that sin. Jesus’ point was that works and grace are incompatible. You can’t “patch up” a religion of works. You can’t pour the Gospel of grace into a heart that claims its own righteousness. It’s one or the other, as St. Paul makes plain: “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6).Read More »Our “New Wine” Reformation Heritage