The Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins is in Matthew 9:16–17, Mark 2:21–22, and Luke 5:36–39. Jesus told this parable to teach the incompatibility of mixing old religious rituals with new faith in Christ.
This guide gives you a complete summary of the Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins, including the verses in Scripture, the ascribed meanings (there are two), and lessons that can be applied to the Christian life.
Note: This parable is also referred to as the Parable of the Unshrunkend Cloth on an Old Garment, New Cloth on Old Garment (or Coat), or simply the Parable of the Cloth and Wineskins. Some Bible translations use the word coat instead of garment and unshrunken instead of new.
Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins In Scripture
Matthew 9:16–17 – Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins
“No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch would tear away from the garment, and a worse hole is made. Neither do people put new wine into old wineskins, or else the skins would burst, and the wine be spilled, and the skins ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Mark 2:21–22 – Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins
“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, or else the patch shrinks and the new tears away from the old, and a worse hole is made. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the skins, and the wine pours out, and the skins will be destroyed; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins.”
Luke 5:36–39 – Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins
He also told a parable to them. “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old garment, or else he will tear the new, and also the piece from the new will not match the old. No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else 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, and both are preserved. No man having drunk old wine immediately desires new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ”
Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins Meaning
This parable means there is an inherent incompatibility between the Old Covenant of worship that is defined by external rules and spiritual practices (old cloth) and the New Covenant of worship that comes by way of Jesus (new wineskins). You cannot mix old religious rituals with new faith in Christ.
However, this double parable also has another interpretation that has nothing to do with the Covenants which we will explain below. But most expositors and commentators agree upon the meaning above as the best explanation.
For reference, the Gospel of Matthew reads:
Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples don’t fast?” Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch would tear away from the garment, and a worse hole is made. Neither do people put new wine into old wineskins, or else the skins would burst, and the wine be spilled, and the skins ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”Matthew 9:14–17
Most scholars agree that the Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins is supposed to teach that the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are incompatible. In other words, Judaism is incompatible with Christianity.
In this interpretation, the New Cloth and New Wine represent the Gospel of Jesus Christ (God’s New Covenant of Grace through faith in Christ) while the Old Cloth and Old Wineskins represent the legalistic traditions of Judaism (God’s Old Covenant through Mosaic Law). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies and there is no longer a need to continue the old rituals.
With this view, Jesus is illustrating in the parable that these two Covenants are incompatible because the New Covenant of Grace would be wasted if it was serving as just a patch for the Old Covenant of legalistic traditions. The Church must be a new system altogether and separated from the old institutions of the Law. Jesus cannot be added to a works-based religion because they would tear each other apart.
Some scholars believe that the parable has nothing to do with the Old and New Covenants because the preceding text mentions fasting and feasting, and says nothing about the Old Law or New Covenant of Grace. However, they do agree that Jesus is teaching the underlying principle of incompatibility.
In this interpretation, Jesus is simply referring to Himself in the here and now as the Bridegroom while being present in the world. As a response, it was time for joy and celebration which was to be accompanied by feasting. But when He was taken away, then it would be the appropriate time for sorrow which is accompanied by fasting.
Fasting and celebration, just like feasting and sorrow, are contradictory behaviors when performed together; making them incompatible. The illustrations Jesus used of the new (unshrunk) cloth being added to an old garment and the new wine being put into old wineskins were analogies for the significance of this contradiction.
Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins Lessons
Jesus Is the Way to God
The major lesson of this parable is that Jesus is the only way to God the Father. He is the new wine (or cloth) that brings joy and eternal freedom to those who believe in Him. Jesus came to establish a New Covenant with mankind based on grace and faith, not on the law and works. As Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”
You Cannot Mix the Old and New Covenants
As explained in the parable, you cannot join old garments with new cloth or old wineskins with new wine. Doing so will destroy them both. Similarly, the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ is incompatible with the self-righteousness of obeying the law to work your way to Heaven. If we try to patch up our old garments (being fully bound by the Law) with the new cloth (faith in Jesus), we will end up tearing both.
We cannot combine faith and works as the only means of salvation. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.”
A Person’s Behavior Reflects Their Commitment to Christ
A person who is committed to Christ behaves in a way that demonstrates a good understanding of the New Covenant and Old Covenant (faith and works). They do not follow the Law as a means of salvation, fear, or obligation to work their way to Heaven, but as a way of expressing their love and gratitude to God for His grace.
In other words, a person who understands the lessons from this parable is one who lives by the spirit of the Law, not by the letter of the Law. They honor God with their whole being, not just with their outward actions.
The Law Is Still Important
In the parable, the old wine and the old wineskins are not useless or worthless. Old wine is still kept best in old wineskins. Similarly, the Old Covenant of the Law has its place and purpose in God’s plan for salvation. We should not discard or despise the Law, but honor it for its contribution to the story of redemption.
There Is Proper Way for Fasting and Feasting
Whether you fast or feast as a Christian, the most important thing is to do it with the right attitude and motive. Fasting should not be done out of pride or legalism, but out of humility and love for God. Feasting should not be done out of greed or gluttony (exploiting God’s grace), but out of gratitude and generosity. Both fasting and feasting should be done with prayer and worship, seeking God’s will and glory in all things.
Read More Parables In the Bible
The Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins is just one of many parables in the Bible. Use the links below to explore more of Jesus’ parables, their meanings, and life lessons.
- Parables In Matthew
- Parables In Mark
- Parables In Luke
- All Jesus Parables
- Parables About the Kingdom of God & Heaven
- Parable of the Divided Kingdom
- Parable of the Lamp on a Lamp Stand
- Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins
- Parable of the Speck and the Log
- Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders
Summary of the Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins
We hope you enjoyed this summary of the Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins.
As you discovered, the Parable of the New Cloth and New Wineskins appears in three Scriptures: Matthew 9:16–17, Mark 2:21–22, and Luke 5:36–39. The has two probable meanings: the first being implicit about the Old Covenant of the Law (old cloth) as incompatible with the New Covenant of Grace (new wineskins), and the second being explicit as time for joy and celebration while Jesus was in the world which was to be accompanied by feasting. The life lessons include Jesus being the only way to Heaven, you cannot mix the Old and New Covenants, a person’s behavior reflects their commitment to Christ, and there is a proper way for fasting and feasting that honors God.
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