“And he spake also a parable unto them: No man rendeth a piece from a new garment and putteth it upon an old garment; else he will rend the new, and also the piece from the new will not agree with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old wine-skins; else the new wine will burst the skins, and itself will be spilled, and the skins will perish. But new wine must be put into fresh wine-skins. And no man having drunk old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is good (Luke 5:36-39).”
In this parable the Lord is explaining to his hearers (and us the readers) of an important principle of the New Testament.
The important principle raised here pertains to the difference between the old covenant and the new. In the context we learn that Jesus and his disciples were feasting at the residence of Levi, whom Jesus had just called to follow him.
The Pharisees and scribes observed the event (what were they doing there anyway? Were they invited too? Not likely) and grumbled about Jesus and His disciples. “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30)?”
In response, the Lord said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).”
Unwilling to back off, the Lord’s detractors tried to raise a different point of contention, this time with the Jewish custom of fasting. “And they said unto him, The disciples of John fast often, and make supplications; likewise also the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink (v. 33).”
The Lord patiently corrected their way of thinking.
“And Jesus said unto them, Can ye make the sons of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then will they fast in those days (Luke 5:34-35).”
To emphasise this truth, Jesus told the parable we have just read about the old and new garment; the old and new wine-skins.
The old and the new covenants are distinctive and cannot be allowed to mix together. Moses was the mediator of the old covenant; but Jesus the Son of God is the Mediator of the new covenant.
“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second (Heb 8:6-7).”
This new covenant is superior to the old made with the children of Israel at Sinai.
“For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; For they continued not in my covenant, And I regarded them not, saith the Lord (Heb 8:8-9).”
Paul uses the covenant relationship of marriage to clearly help us who live on this side of the cross to understand the difference between the old and the new.
“Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth? For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God (Rom 7:1-4).”
Let this fact sink in: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead…”
The old must not be allowed to alloy with the new. Today it remains pervasive in the religious scene to find so many people insisting on keeping the Ten Commandments, using mechanical instruments of music in worship, the wearing of special garments, etc.
These things ought not to be. We are commanded to worship God in spirit and truth (Mat 4:24). This must mean that we are to worship God not only in sincerity but according to His word (cf. John 17:17).
The new covenant, effected by the blood of Jesus Christ, is the only covenant in effect now. “For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth (Heb 9:16-17).”
We cannot return to the abolished “law of commandments contained in ordinances (Eph 2:15) to learn how we can approach God and worship Him acceptably. We cannot mix the two covenants together, choosing from each elements that meet our fancy while disregarding the rest.
If anyone desires to return to the old law as justification for how we worship today, let that person be aware of the warning from the apostle:
“Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law (Gal 5:3).” In other words, we are not at liberty to pick and choose. If we would use mechanical musical instruments and other old covenant practices. we are then obligated to offer animal sacrifices, visit Jerusalem three times yearly to keep the feasts, etc.