Patches, Broken Bottles, and Something Better


This was an article that I had written and was published in December 2006 in “Family Encourager.” I hope you enjoy it.

Our Lord Jesus was a master teacher and preacher. He never tried to be eloquent, or impressive. Instead, his taught with the most profound things utter simplicity and proclaimed the most wondrous mysteries of the gospel by ordinary things, common pictures, stories, and events, familiar to all who heard him. All who would be useful to the souls of men as teachers and preachers of the gospel ought to strive to imitate the Master. Our object ought never be to impress our hearers, but to instruct them.

As our Savior used common, earthly things to teach important gospel truths and spiritual principles, he also used familiar, parables and proverbial sayings to illustrate and enforce his doctrine. We see this clearly in our text tonight (Luke 5:36-39). Two of the parabolic sayings here used by our Lord are also recorded in Matthew 9:16-17 and Mark 2:21-22.

Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit to include a proverb (v. 39) omitted by both Matthew and Mark. And he was also inspired to give us one additional detail. Both Matthew and Mark tell us that these parables were spoken in response to the cavilings of the Pharisees about the fact that our Lord’s disciples did not fast.Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that John the Baptist’s disciples were also involved in this dispute with our Master (v. 33).

This is an important fact. It exemplifies the fact that true believers are, at times and for various reasons, led astray and fall into grievous errors of doctrine and practice. I make no attempt to excuse or justify these things. Yet, we must not ignore them. As John’s disciples here united with the Pharisees in trying to retain the traditions and customs  of the Pharisees and in trying to mix the gospel of Christ with Judaism, Peter once caused a terrible division in the early church by compromising with those legalists from Jerusalem who tried to bring the Gentiles under the yoke of the law.

  • The very best of God’s saints in this world are still just fickle, sinful flesh.
  • It is the responsibility of God’s servants to faithfully instruct his people in sound doctrine, that they be not tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.

Let me point out one more thing before we look at our text. This, too, is very important. If we are to interpret our Master’s words properly, we must look at the context in which they are found.

Our Savior gave these parabolic sayings in response to the dispute raised by the Pharisees and John’s disciples over the fact that his disciples did not fast, like them. Notice the reason he gives for this in verses 34 and 35.

“And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” ~ Luke 5:34-35

The Scribes and Pharisees would have been perfectly content for the Lord Jesus to have simply established another sect of Judaism. That would not have bothered them. But Christ did not come to repair Judaism. He came to kill it. The Pharisees fasted, and very properly so. Their religion was as dead as they were. It was proper for them to behave like men and women in mourning. Our Lord’s disciples had been brought into the marriage feast. Fasting would have been totally out of order for them. With those things in mind, let’s look at Luke 5:36-39.

“Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 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: 36-39.

These verses are intended to teach us one thing. It is a fact about which we are warned incessantly in Holy Scripture. — Any mixture of merit and mercy, law and grace, of flesh and spirit, is fatal.

I.                    The first thing our Lord shows us here is that PATCHWORK RELIGION IS ****ING TO THE SOULS OF MEN (v. 36).

Christ is not patch. He is an entirely new Suit. His righteousness cannot be patched onto your righteousness. If you try to patch your old garment of self-righteousness with the new cloth of Christ’s imputed righteousness, the two will never agree and the gaping hole in your ragged garment will only be made worse. Now, let me briefly explain what this parable means.

A.     Righteousness is often compared to a garment, or a robe, in the Word of God, and very properly so.

  • “The Garments of Salvation” (Isa. 61:10)
  • “White Robes”

1.   A robe is used to cover our nakedness and our shame.

2.   A robe is an ornament to beautify.

3.   Robes are used for warmth.

4.   Robes often imply royalty.

5.   We must be robed in the righteousness of Christ alone, or we will perish under the wrath of God (Rom. 9:31-10:4).

B.     The old garment in this parable refers to that garment of righteousness which all men and women attempt to stitch together for themselves.

The Pharisees thought they were holy because of what they did. They thought God would accept them because of their works and religious practices. We are all just like them, by nature. We are all self-righteous Pharisees. We all vainly imagine that we can, by something we do, make ourselves righteous before God. We do not deny that we need God’s help and assistance. We just deny that we need him to do everything for us. We deny that we are really depraved, spiritually dead, and corrupt at heart. Self-righteousness is a very old garment.

1.   It is as old as Adam. — Fig Leaves!

2.   It needs mending. — “Filthy Rags”

3.   But it cannot be mended!

The Lord Jesus did not come here to patch us up, but to make us new.

C.        If we would be saved, we must throw away our old garments. — We must be robed in the righteousness of Christ alone.

The only way guilty sinners can come to God is the blood and righteousness of Christ alone. So long as you imagine that you have done or can do something, so long as you put something of your own to the righteousness of Christ, you are sewing new cloth to your old rags. We must count all our righteousness dung, if we would be robed in Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:1-10). Nothing else will answer the demands of God’s holy law. Nothing else will silence the torments of a screaming conscience.

II.                 In verses37-38, our Savior teaches us that ONLY THOSE SINNERS WHO ARE BORN OF GOD, ONLY THOSE WHO ARE NEW CREATURES IN CHRIST CAN HOLD THE NEW WINE OF THE GOSPEL.

Remember, in this parable, our Savior is dealing with the life and death issues of the gospel. At the time he walked the earth, men made bottles from animal skins in which they put their wine. As the wine fermented over time, the wineskins would stretch. No one with good sense would put new wine into an old bottle, because when the wine fermented, it would stretch the bottle to the point of bursting the bottle. The new wine had to be put into new bottles.

A.        What is this new wine?

The new wine is the gospel of Christ. It is doctrine of Christ’s person as God-man Mediator and the doctrine of his substitutionary atoning work to pay our debt to law and justice by shedding his blood and establishing a righteousness by which God is just to justify the ungodly.

This gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), for therein is the righteousness of God revealed. The gospel invades our hearts and minds in the power of the Holy Spirit and reveals to us how God can be just to justify the ungodly through the righteousness of Christ. It is by the preaching of the gospel that God sets sinners free by his almighty grace. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life” (John 6:63).

This new wine is “new” not because it is recent, but because it is new to us all when we first hear it. By nature, we know nothing of salvation by real grace. By nature, we know nothing of the true Christ and His righteousness imputed as the only ground of salvation. All we know by nature is Adam’s fig-leaf religion. This gospel is the product of that eternal covenant of grace made before the foundation of the world. It is the same gospel that Abel believed. It is the same gospel that Noah, Abraham, Moses, and all the Old Testament believers believed. But when we first hear this message, it is new to each of us, and if we believe it savingly by the power of God the Holy Spirit in the new birth, we give evidence of being new creatures in Christ. The new wine is the gospel of Christ.

  • Like wine, the gospel refreshes a man
  • Like wine, the gospel comforts and rejoices the heart.

B.        What are the old bottles?

The old bottles represent lost, unregenerate men and women. If you try to pour free grace into free will bottles, you’ll bust the bottle. Unregenerate men and women simply have no ability to see, understand, relish, or rejoice in the gospel of Christ. The new wine of grace does not agree with the carnal lusts of men in natural religion.

The point our Lord is making here is this: You cannot pour this new wine (the gospel and its doctrines) into an old bottle (one who is yet without life and grace). Lost, unregenerate men and women may hear the gospel and even tell themselves and others that they believe it, but it does not become a part of them like that new wine becomes a part of that bottle as it expands. When that new wine is poured into that new bottle, the wine and the bottle become part of each other; they really become one. A person who is yet without Christ cannot receive the, embrace, and believe the gospel, not really. He might be able to articulate the doctrines of the gospel and say he agrees with them all, but he has no grace in his soul, no oneness with Christ. The old bottle will burst in time.

C.     “New wine must be put into new bottles.”

These “new bottles” represent sinners who are born again by God the Holy Spirit, those who are the called, called by grace, and have been made new creatures in Christ. Being born of God, they have a new hearts, a new will, a new spirit, and new principles of light, life, love, faith, and holiness, implanted in them. They are now made partakers of the divine nature. As such, new eyes with which they see, new ears with which they hear, new feet with which to walk to and in Christ. They have new hands to handle him and with which to serve him. They have a new life. Christ lives in them and they live in Christ.

“It is to these that the love of God is manifested and shed abroad in their hearts; by these, the Gospel of Christ is truly received and valued, and these enjoy the spiritual blessings of it; and so both the doctrine of the Gospel, and the grace of God, are preserved entire, and these persons saved in the day of Christ.”  — John Gill

III.               Now, look at verse 39. — IF EVER YOU DRINK THE OLD WINE OF COVENANT LOVE, FULL REDEMPTION, AND FREE GRACE, YOU WILL HAVE NO TASTE FOR NEW THINGS.

A.     I suppose this statement might be to natural men, who having drunk the old wine of their carnal lusts and pleasures, do not desire the new wine of the Gospel.

  • Irreligious
  • Religious

B.     However, this last verse seems to me to be a point of deliberate contrast.

Our Lord is here giving us the reason why his disciples did not give into the practices of the Pharisees. They had drunk of the old wine of the gospel (Jer. 6:16).

Thus says the LORD:
“ Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ~ Jeremiah 6:16.

Come, drink this old wine…

  • Everlasting Love!
  • Everlasting Covenant!
  • Everlasting Redemption!
  • Everlasting Forgiveness!
  • Everlasting Life!  §
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