Gospel News · September - December 2014

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Jesus in Jn. 3:8 become no less enigmatic,
but all the same ever more true to our
observed experience: “wind blows where it
wills, and you hear its sound, but do not
know from where it comes and where it goes.
So is every one that is born of the Spirit”.
Israel’s wilderness journey was along paths
and routes totally unknown to them: “You
have not passed this way before” (Josh. 3:4).
And so with us who, like Abraham, obediently
go forth towards a land we do not really
know, without any clearly defined highway
there stretching before our eyes. But we are
led on this way with great resistance on our
part; because we are so conservative. The
divine leading seems at times more a
dragging of us, kicking and screaming. It is
God’s grace and indefatigable desire to save
us which overcomes the resistance of our
native conservatism. Sadly, many believers
have tried to have the best of both worlds-
the exciting life of being led by the Spirit,
and yet encasing this supposed way of life
within a conservatism which they justify as
‘defending the Truth’. A mistaken assumption
is often made - that conservatism is next to
Godliness, a required form of spirituality; the
way we used to do things must be right. Of
course, the basic truths of Christ cannot
change. But I’m not talking about those
things.
“The old is better”
The fact is, we must change. And radically so.
The life in Christ is a path of radical, daily
transformation. The Lord recognized the
basic conservatism of human nature when He
noted that "No man also having drunk old
wine immediately desires new: for he says
[deep within himself], The old is better" (Lk.
5:39). The Lord taught this in the context of
engagement with John’s disciples, who
thought that the old ways of the Mosaic law
could be mixed with some form of belief in
Christ. He likened such a position to putting
new wine into old wineskins; or taking a
piece of new cloth to patch up a torn old
garment. The stress in Mt. 9:16 may be on "a
piece". Taking parts of Christ's teachings was
the temptation being given into by John's
disciples. The torn old garment had to be
thrown away and the new one totally
accepted and publically worn. Yet the Lord
recognizes our conservatism, and His
patience with us is proof of that. “No man…
immediately desires new” appears to be a
concession to the weakness of John's disci-
ples, and to our weakness. The Lord accepted
that they would not make the change imme-
diately. There was indeed a changeover
period between the Lord's death and the
destruction of the temple in AD70, and the
early church struggled with issues like
circumcision, fellowship with Gentiles etc.
They were struggling to totally reject the old
and accept the new. And in human lives today
the Lord recognizes that the total change of
life will not come immediately - because we
are essentially conservative.
To get a piece out of a new garment, that
new garment would be spoiled; the old one
likewise would be rent further. "New" cloth
refers to cloth which hasn't yet been washed
(cp. baptism); on first washing of the new
garment, it would shrink, and thus make a
tear. The tragic waste envisioned here is like
the new wine running away on the ground
from the old burst bottles. Likewise the old
wineskins would've had to have the old wine
poured out from them to have this new wine
put into them. Mixing the old life and the
new covenant, a bit of the one here and a bit
of the other there, results in this tragic
wastage all around.
The Mosaic system is described as an old
garment in Heb. 1:11; it "shall perish" uses
the same Greek word as in 5:37, where the
bottles "perish". The new garment is that of
Christ's imputed righteousness (Rev. 19:8; Mt.
22:11). Agnaphos is a combination of the
negative article a, with knapto, meaning, "to
card"”. It therefore refers to an uncombed or
unfinished material. This suggests that the
New Covenant is an unfinished work; God's
work in us is on-going and may take
apparently unstable turns and changes - e.g.
prophecy is often conditional; the intended
Editorial | We Must Change