In Matthew 9:14-17, Jesus refused to mix the new wine (teaching) He brought with the toxic stuff the Pharisees were dispensing. Whether it was His teaching on fasting or some other issue, He wasn’t going to try to fit His teaching and ministry in with theirs (as perhaps the disciples of John were attempting to do). In a much misunderstood metaphor, Jesus said His new wine belonged in new wineskins rather than in old ones.
Many commentators offer something to the effect that the expansion caused by the fermentation of the new wine (grape juice), would burst the already brittle old wineskins but not the newer ones. The truth is, the amount of carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation would be sufficient, both in terms of volume and expansive pressure, to burst any kind of wineskin. No, the point isn’t about the elasticity of the new wineskins—it’s about the protection the new skins offered from fermentation.
The old wineskins would have residue inside them containing bacteria which would trigger the fermentation process and lead to the bursting of the skin. The new skin, would not only be clean but treated so the juice inside would stay fresh rather than ferment. Jesus used this metaphor to defend His actions—He wasn’t going to allow the new wine/life He brought be ruined by putting it in the bacteria-ladened, old wineskins of the Pharisees (see Matthew 16:6).
The application for us is that we need to guard the new life that Jesus gives us (John 3). This is a serious matter that affects us greatly. We’ve all seen people new in Christ overflowing with enthusiasm and passion. Time passes and something happens. Where there was once faith, there is no skepticism; where there was once hope, there is no pessimism; and where there was once love, there is no apathy. They may still be sitting on the premises, but they’re no longer standing on the promises. To the degree that this affects any of us, it affects us all!
What can we do to keep our faith fresh?
The second chapter of Acts is a great place to look for an answer to this question because of the circumstances involved there. Three thousand people had said “no” to sin and “yes” to Jesus through repentance and baptism and had received new life (v. 41). We’re told they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” (v. 42). They were practicing discipleship, community, celebration and worship. This was how they kept the wine new and how we keep our faith fresh.
Having said that. let me be quick to add that we must not look at these as a list of things to do—it is a list of things we are to be. We are to be disciples who practice community, celebrate life and worship God. Engaging in these things will renew our identity just as tucking your child into bed renews you parentally or going out on a date with your spouse renews you as husband and wife.