What is the difference between new wine and old wine in the Bible? Why does Jesus talk about the new wine and the old wine?
The Old Wine
When the Bible speaks about old wine, it may be referring to the Old Covenant teachings and the new wine, the New Covenant. The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling about the fact that John the Baptist’s disciples fasted but Jesus’ disciples ate and drank (Luke 5:33) and so Jesus tells them “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days” (Luke 5:34-35). What was Jesus trying to tell them? He gives them a parable right after this, probably to clarify what He had just told them, saying “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old” (Luke 5:36). Then He says “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:37-38). Jesus point was that “no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good’” (Luke 5:39). The old could have been the ministry of John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets. Does the Old Covenant represent the old wine and Jesus’ new and better covenant represent the new wine? The Old Covenant will not fit into the mold of the New Covenant because they are not the same and like putting new wine in old wineskins, it’s going to keep expanding (by fermentation) and burst the old wineskins.
The New Wine
During the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came over the believers, they began to speak in other languages and those who heard them speak in other people’s language they accused the believers being drunk, saying “These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13). It was an insult to be sure. Today, non-believers are still insulting believers by accusing them of being under some influence. Yes, we are under the influence…of the Holy Spirit and that is the new wine of the new age of grace that Jesus paid for with His own blood. It shouldn’t surprise us that people don’t understand it because naturally people will believe that after tasting the old wine, the new is not better for they will say “The old is good” (Luke 5:39). Remember who Jesus was talking too. He was interacting with the scribes and the Pharisees who were still living in and under the Old Covenant and thought “The old is good” and this new is undesirable. This is why Jesus used the parable of trying to put on a new patch onto an old garment. The new patch will shrink and pull away the threads from the already stretched garment that’s older. The new and the old cannot go together. In the same way, old wineskins cannot take the stretching that new wine will cause because it will burst the old wineskins and thus, they are not compatible with one another so the Old Covenant is not compatible with the new and better covenant brought about by Jesus Christ.
The differences between the Old and the New Covenant is given in Hebrews 8:6 where it says “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” You cannot fit the old covenant of animal sacrifices into the new because Jesus’ perfect and once-and-for-all sacrifice voids or nullifies the need for the Old Covenant sacrifices. Those only covered sin but Jesus shed blood takes away sins and does so forever. This is what Jesus meant at the last Passover Meal He had with the disciples before He went to the cross, saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20) and as such, “Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant” (Heb 7:22). This was long ago prophesied and repeated for emphasis by the author of Hebrews when he wrote that “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah” (Heb 8:8) It is “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear” (Heb 8:13) because of “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb 12:24). How is it better than the blood of Abel? Remember Able was a keeper of sheep (Gen 4:2) and made blood sacrifices so Jesus’ sacrifice is infinitely more superior than Able’s (or animal sacrifices) for it doesn’t have to be repeated over and over again.
The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be fit into the Old Testament’s Mosaic Law and covenantal sacrificial systems because these are insufficient to take away sins. This explains Jesus’ statement that “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” (Matt 9:17). Just as “new wine is for fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22b) the New Covenant is for new converts and those who have repented and trusted in Christ and have not trusted in their own righteousness by the deeds or works of the law like the scribes and the Pharisees did. They cannot be saved by the old wine. There is only one way to be saved and that is through Jesus Christ and Him alone (Acts 4:12) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2nd Cor 5:17).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.