“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:37-39 NKJ)
Matthew, Mark and Luke each describe the parable Jesus told concerning new wine and old wineskins (See Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22). But only Luke reports the caution Jesus gave about those who resist anything new, and none of our popular English translations clarify for us a crucial distinction Jesus made concerning what “new” means.
When Jesus spoke of “new” wine, He used the Greek word, “neos”, which describes something young or new in time, but not new in nature. Your Honda Accord runs out of gas and is no longer running, so you need some new gas.
When Jesus spoke of “new” wineskins, He did not use the word, “neos”. He used the word, “kainos”, which describes something new in kind or nature, better than the old, or “new and improved”. On the way to buy gas for your Honda, you pass the dealership and see the new Honda Accord hybrid. You make the trade and now have more power and better mileage with both gasoline and electric power.
“Kainos” is the word Jesus used to describe the new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20). Paul used “kainos” in calling born-again Christians new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). The risen Lord has declared He is continually making all things “kainos” – new and improved! (Revelation 21:5)
This dramatic contrast Jesus made between “kainos” and “neos” in His wineskin parable must be understood before we can correctly understand the parable.
The new wine represents God and the wonderful things that come from God: His presence, His love, His revelation of truth, His Spirit and power. Jesus was new wine. He was new in time – God’s truth and grace coming to the earth in a way greater than ever before – the fulfillment of the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). But Jesus was not an improvement of God because God has never in all eternity needed improvement. We didn’t need improved God. We just needed more God!
The wineskins, on the other hand, represent the religious practices and structure of God’s people – how we seek to relate to God and receive all He offers. The wineskins of the Pharisees, and even of John the Baptist, could not contain the new wine of Jesus. The covenant of law would be replaced by the new and improved covenant of grace. The temple in Jerusalem would be replaced by the new and improved spiritual house of living stones: people born of the Spirit who would carry the new wine of Jesus into the whole world (1 Peter 2:4-10; Mark 16:15).
That which was true when Jesus taught this parable is still true today. God wants us to receive more and more of His new wine: more of His presence, more truth, more love, more power, more transformation, and more fruit (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:17-20; 2 Corinthians 3:18; John 15:1-8). That is what revival really is – more God – and we desperately need more God.
But if we want more of the unchanging God, we must keep changing. We must on an ongoing basis remain willing to become new and improved wineskins and embrace new ministry opportunities, structures and methods – even, dare I say it, new and improved understanding as to what God’s scriptures really teach us.
Not every change proposed to God’s people will be from God, but stagnation is never from God. For examples in church history of new wine that required new and improved wineskins, study the Reformation, the First and Second Great Awakenings, the birth of the Salvation Army and the Welsh, Azusa Street and Hebrides revivals. In every case, there were those who rejected and opposed change, just like Jesus predicted, and others who wonderfully received and shared the new wine God wanted to pour out.
New wineskins I have personally observed in our Kingsport region over the last twenty-four years include the Walk to Emmaus, the Jesus Video Project, Hope Haven, Hope House, Celebrate Recovery, Terrific Tuesday (an outreach to children in the Cloud community), Kairos prison ministry, international outreaches to Estonia and Sudan, the Hawkins County prayer network against drugs, the First Baptist medical clinic, and most recently, Oasis ministry for women and Shades of Grace, a storefront congregation of the homeless and marginalized. All have allowed wonderful new wine from God to flow.
A brand new wineskin in our area is The Church Mobilization Network of Sullivan and Hawkins County, which hopes to network the resources of our churches, businesses and agencies in identifying and helping those who are truly in need. In harmony with that, and with Oasis and Shades of Grace, is the challenge put forth by Pastor Marvin Cameron at the recent National Day of Prayer gathering in Kingsport – to find new and improved ways we can lift up the poor and powerless of our community while preserving their dignity and worth. It is a “kainos” wineskin that is long overdue.
My friends, let’s all become new and improved wineskins, perhaps by joining some of the wineskins listed above, and receive all the new wine God has for us.
God bless you, and God bless our community.