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Old and new garments and wineskins

Jan 09, 2014

In Luke 5:36-39 Jesus told another parable:

36 And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough’.”

It is plain that the garments and wineskins illustrate the same truth. That is, they provide a double witness. Being positioned immediately after Jesus’ statement about the bridegroom also gives us the main clue as to the meaning of this parable.

The coming of the bridegroom is obviously a messianic statement, where Jesus claims to be that prophetic Bridegroom. John was a friend of the Bridegroom, that is, an attendant and supporter of the Bridegroom. Luke is the photographer, offering pictures to Theophilus, the potential customer.

The parable tells us that the Messiah had come with new truth, or advanced truth, which would tear or break the old forms of temple practice that had been established by Moses under the Old Covenant. In other words, one cannot merely add Jesus to the Old Covenant, as Christian Zionism tends to do.

The “garment” in question is the glorified body, which had been promised from the beginning. It comes through the progression of feast days, culminating with the feast of Tabernacles. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16,

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

These individual temples of God collectively form the prophetic Temple which Paul describes in Ephesians 2:20-22,

20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

In that sense, each of us (as “temples”) are just “living stones” in the prophetic Temple. 1 Peter 2:5 says,

5 You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Our bodies are the new temples that God intends to inhabit and clothe with new “garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10). The Hebrew word for “salvation” that is used here is yasha, the root word Yeshua, or Jesus. In other words, Isaiah prophesied that His people would be clothed with Jesus Christ, as Paul says in Romans 13:14,

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

Again, he says in Galatians 3:27,

27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Under the Old Covenant, the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon were the places God indwelt in those days. God clothed Himself with those temples at that time, while the people remained outside. But with the coming of the messianic Bridegroom, a change took place. God no longer indwelt temples made of wood and stone, but now He dwells in a greater temple of human flesh.

In this arrangement, the new temples are indwelt and also clothed with Jesus Christ. The parable of the old and new garment shows that God has no intention of patching up the Old Covenant with new cloth of the New Covenant, for this would harm both covenants. Likewise, He has no intention of again filling a temple in Jerusalem, made of wood and stone, with the new wine of the New Covenant, as Christian Zionists generally believe.

The New Covenant has replaced the Old (Hebrews 8:6, 7, 13). The New Temple of Ephesians 2:20-22 has replaced the old temple in Jerusalem, as Jeremiah 7:14 tells us. In Hebrews 8:2 it is called “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” Hebrews 9:11 calls it a “more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation.”

The old priesthood of Levi has been replaced by a new priestly order—that of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:12, 23, 24). Animal sacrifices, which were types and shadows, have been replaced by the real and perfect Lamb of God (Hebrews 9:12-14). Whereas the priests sanctified the temple vessels with blood from animals, the heavenly vessels are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 9:23, 24 says,

23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

The book of Hebrews explains in detail how the worship under the Old Covenant had changed with the coming of the New Covenant. These radical changes were disputed in the first century in the two main factions of the early church. The Judaizers in Jerusalem tried to put new patches on the old garment of temple worship, while the Apostle Paul led those who insisted upon bringing forth an entirely new garment by which believers might be clothed with Jesus Christ.

This is the true “Replacement Theology” that is foreshadowed in parables in Luke 5:36-39 and taught plainly in the book of Hebrews. Yet Replacement Theology (as a church doctrine) had a flaw which the Christian Zionists were able to exploit in their attempt to convince the church to look for the reinstatement of Old Covenant worship in the Age to come. This flaw was in the idea that the Jews were replaced by the church as the new “chosen people.”

The Jews were not replaced by anyone. What happened was that there were two kinds of Jew, not only in the first century but also in the days of Jeremiah and throughout the entire history of Israel and Judah. Jeremiah 24:2 pictures them as good figs and evil figs, because the fig tree was the symbol of Judah. The good figs were those who submitted to the divine court ruling when God sold Judah and Jerusalem into the hands of the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 24:5, 6, 7). The evil figs were those who not only refused to repent but also refused to submit to the judgment of God (Jeremiah 24:8, 9, 10).

The same distinction between “figs” carried over into the first century. Most of the “figs” in those days chafed at Rome and refused to submit to the divine judgment, by which God had sold them as slaves to the four beast empires. Rome was the fourth beast empire that God had chosen to have the Dominion Mandate. Every time the rebellious figs revolted under false messiahs who had promised them deliverance, Rome’s power was increased, and the oppression increased, even as Jeremiah warned them.

Finally, the people revolted from 66-73 A.D., blaming the Romans for their oppression, when in fact, they could have enjoyed far more freedom (as did the other nations under Rome’s rule) if they had taken heed to the prophecies of Jeremiah and Daniel. Rome was, of course, a beast nation, so one should not expect Rome to act according to Christian values. But Rome’s oppression was part of the divine judgment for Judah’s lawlessness.

In the first century, the people wanted a military messiah to lead an army against Rome, as so many others had done, claiming to be the messiah. Jesus, however, came as the Prince of Peace and even made friends with Roman soldiers.

The people then had to make a choice. Their leaders convinced most of them to reject this peaceful Messiah in favor of their well-established concept of a militant messiah. In rejecting Him, they also crucified Him (Acts 7:52; 1 Thessalonians 2:15).

Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ was the true Passover Lamb and the Sacrifice for sin. A true believer is one who accepts Him as the Sacrifice for sin, not one who regards Him merely as a prophet or a good man or even as the Son of God. The essence of the gospel is that His death as the true Sacrifice paid for the sin of the world, and His resurrection is what gives us life as well.

In the law of sacrifice, men were allowed to sacrifice outside of the tabernacle or temple, but they were required to bring the blood to the sanctuary in order to make it applicable in covering their sin. If a man did not do this, he remained guilty of sin and was to be “cut off from among his people” (Leviticus 17:8, 9). Thus, Jesus Christ was crucified “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:12, 13), which in itself was lawful—but only those who recognized His death as a Sacrifice could sprinkle His blood upon the altars of their hearts for the remission of sin.

Those who did not follow the law of sacrifice were “cut off.” Those who believed the gospel of Christ were obedient to the law. Those who rejected Christ were disobedient and were cut off. In other words, the “evil figs” were cut off.

In the sight of God, the good figs remained as God’s chosen ones. They did not replace the evil figs; they were always the good figs of Judah. If I cut off my arm, can it be said that the rest of my body replaced my arm? Of course not. Neither can it be said properly that the good figs—who later became known as the church—replaced the evil figs, even though the evil figs were in the majority.

The good figs were then persecuted and dispersed among the nations (Acts 8:1). The evil figs remained under the Old Covenant and were judged by Moses and Jeremiah, in whom they put their trust and yet did not believe. The dispersed good figs (who were “chosen”) were joined by many Greek, Romans, ex-Israelites of the dispersion, and other ethnic groups according to the prophecy of Isaiah 56:8.

No one is part of this “true church” apart from faith in Jesus Christ. No one can “join” the true church by signing a membership card of some organization on earth. To be part of the true church, one must follow the laws of sacrifice and apply the blood of the true Sacrifice to the altars of their hearts. This law, Moses said, applies not only to genealogical Israelites but also to “the aliens who sojourn among them” (Leviticus 17:8).

In other words, all men equally are required to have faith in Jesus Christ, and by this are they justified before God. By this are their names “enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).

When we understand the flaw in the church doctrine of Replacement Theology, we may then correct that flaw. Many things were indeed replaced, including the entire method and location of worship; however, it is not accurate to say that the church replaced the Jews. Instead, we should recognize that the good figs of Judah were always the true church, for they were the true believers from the beginning. To them were added many other believers from foreign lands. Together, unified by a common faith, they constituted what came to be called “the church,” but technically, from the church has always been Judah in the eyes of God. By faith, foreigners joined the true church—i.e., Judah.

This is what Paul meant in Romans 2:28, 29, when he wrote,

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise [“Judah,” that is, his claim to be of Judah] is not from men, but from God.

Judah means “praise.” God’s praise is not based on the outward form of circumcision, which is the sign of the Old Covenant, but rather upon the heart circumcision. Neither is one’s claim of being a “Jew” (literally, Judah) based upon men’s definitions or understanding of this term, but rather by the way God sees it.

In conclusion, Jesus’ parable in Luke 5 foreshadows the great conflict between the two groups of figs. We interpret Jesus’ words in the way that Luke did when he wrote his second treatise, the Book of Acts. There we see the outworking of this parable in terms of Paul’s conflict, not only with the Jews themselves, but also with the Judaizing Christians who wanted to patch the Old Covenant with the cloth of the New Covenant. Likewise, these misinformed believers wanted to put new wine into old wineskins, as if the Spirit of God was yet to return the old temple in Jerusalem, contrary to Jeremiah 7:14.

Unfortunately, those who had drunk too deeply of the old wine were content with the old manner of temple worship, saying, “the old is good enough.”


This is part 20 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Luke


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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