Jesus said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
This passage is probably used every time a new denomination springs forth. And there is truth that a group or assembly who refuses to adapt to any changing strategies of the Holy Spirit (who is not bound to obey our human traditions however much we may prefer them) has become “an old wineskin” incapable of containing “the new wine” of a new, fresh move of God. Yet every “new wineskin” denomination that has sprung forth seems completely incapable of recognizing that they too can rather quickly become an “old wineskin” just like the “old wineskin” they broke away from!
The usual pattern of “new wineskin” denominations seems to be centered around a certain method, doctrine or practice. The “old wineskin” cannot condone or receive this method, doctrine or practice. When this “new” thing is just someone’s “private interpretation” (an understanding gleaned apart from the work of the Holy Spirit), it is right for the “old wineskin” to remain in its old thing (right, at least, to the extent that the “old wineskin” is really operating in a valid, if perhaps outdated, expression of God!) But when this “new” doctrine or practice is really a restoration of an original method, doctrine or practice of the Way of following Christ as revealed and instigated by the Holy Spirit (as the teachings of Jesus Christ and of many a reformist and restorationist have been), to refuse to obey this “new” method, doctrine or practice is to begin or pursue further the process of becoming an old wineskin that cannot contain a “new” work of God’s Holy Spirit.
But the issue can be even more subtle than this. Take the denominations which have built themselves upon the practice of Bible study. In and of itself, there is nothing particularly wrong with a Bible study. But when the practice of Bible study becomes the only or customary way around which we gather, Christ is no longer the center. The Bible study is. The same is true of “praise and worship.” If the way we “praise and worship” becomes the center of our customs, then we are following the traditions of men and not the Head Christ Jesus. A teaching ministry, concerts, evangelistic crusades, rituals or any other thing that becomes the tradition and centralizing custom of a group can each be in direct conflict with the Headship of Christ over our group – and the group is well on its way to being an old wineskin. Any “church” which wishes to overcome the Nicolaitan errors of “pastor”-clergy and sectarian denominationalism and be a genuine wineskin must not only set aside human tradition, they must forsake and abandon these sins as well. The task before such a group is to both overcome the addiction to old wine as well as to detox from the addiction to the poisonous counterfeit that was added to the old wine. A Herculean task, to be sure!
In this age of apostasy and lawlessness where our every thought and attitude toward assembly has been soaked in “church” error to one degree or another or in one way or another, it is essential to seek the Lord about all aspects of how He would have us come together. The “church” (except where it devolved into Nicolaitan, divisive or other sins) did not teach us error per se – that is, there is nothing particularly wrong with gathering as a group to talk about the Lord, there is nothing particularly wrong with studying the Scriptures, there is nothing particularly wrong with sharing a meal with other brothers in Christ, indeed these are all “good” things in and of themselves – but the “church” taught us that we did not need the Headship of Christ over these good things, that they could just come about on their own and still bring us together as the bride and body of Christ. These “good” things, when done because of and according to the will of the people, cannot build His ekklesia – only Christ builds His ekklesia and that according to His often-hidden wisdom. We cannot simply bring all the “necessary ingredients” into the same place at the same time and expect the eternal work of God to be accomplished – especially wherever we add in any contaminants of our flesh! Only as the Master calls for each ingredient – and there indeed may be only two or three “ingredients” (people) at any one time – will His work of building His ekklesia proceed in our midst.
There is no substitute for the Headship of Christ if we are to experience the fresh work of the Holy Spirit now among the people of Christ and be the “new wineskin” that contains the “new wine” of a “new” work of God. The work is only new from our perspective and is really a very old work – as old as the death and resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit subsequent to those events, even older if we recognize that this work was completed before the foundation of the world – or else it is a counterfeit work.
Those who have imbibed old wine – and especially those who are still ensnared under subtle strains of the “church” paradigm – face a daunting task if they would be a “new wineskin.” They must set aside all they think they know and surrender to God afresh and anew their knowledge of the “old wine” (whether that’s a practice, a doctrine, a method, whatever) and allow the Lord to mold them and shape them, literally rebuilding them, into a “new wineskin.” Failure to submit completely to this process only guarantees that the “old wineskin” will be bypassed as the “new wine” goes forth in purity and power.
Let he who has ears hear.
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