The Importance of Wineskins

        Wine connoisseurs prefer to use special glass stemware. The wine is held up to light, examined, swirled, smelled and finally tasted. Why don’t they use cheap plastic cups such as are found in motel rooms? Although nothing would have changed about the wine, its enjoyment would clearly be diminished. The difference is the container. Both wine and wineskin are important. “No one”, said Jesus, “pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”[1] Wineskins, like wine glasses, are important because of their relationship to the wine.

 

If we were to compare the new wine to our new lives in Christ, the wineskin could parallel the outward, organized expressions of our faith — what we do as God’s people when we come together (ecclesiology). Just as it was not fitting to pour new wine into an old wineskin, is it possible that some twenty-first century church practices may be also inappropriate — even harmful — to the new wine of our lives together in Christ? A careful study of wineskins is critical to insure that the wine is enjoyed to its fullest.

 

We are convinced the best wineskin for the wine of the New Covenant is the practice of the early church. Who knew better than the original apostles how best to set up and order churches? The Twelve were personally trained by our Lord Jesus. The church practices we advocate are those of His apostles, as found exclusively on the pages of the New Testament. Our concern is not that today’s church has added to those original traditions. The problem is that the present-day church is often doing the exact opposite of the New Testament example. In our opinion, this is much like drinking wine from a plastic motel room cup.

 

We advocate orthodox, historic, classic Christianity poured into the wineskin of New Testament church practice as established by the apostles and revealed in the Scriptures. Our goal is to be Christ honoring and thoroughly biblical in every area of church life. We promote the scriptural wineskin of celebrating the Lord’s Supper as a fellowship meal, participatory worship, elders who lead with the servant love of Christ, government by elder led congregational consensus, relatively small congregations and the vital importance of regularly teaching people to observe all that Jesus commanded. Our emphasis on smaller, simple, relational, family integrated churches is coupled with careful attention to order and organization.

 

Easily found in the trash are empty wine bottles — even those in perfect condition.  Since wine bottles exist for the sake of the wine, after the wine is gone the bottle is considered worthless. The new wine that all true churches have is life breathed out by the Holy Spirit. We as God’s family are to have living relationships with God and with each other as led by the Spirit. Jesus said that his disciples will be known by their love. We are to be involved in each other’s lives. There is to be confession of sin and restoration. So committed to each other were the Jerusalem believers that they were willing to give up their personal possessions for each other; theirs was an abiding love, true commitment. The wine is invested love, intertwined lives. It is washing each other’s feet. These are matters of the heart. Those who lack new wine in Jesus are wasting time studying wineskins. Even the most perfect wine bottle will never produce any wine. Without the wine the bottle belongs in the trash.  However, the wineskin takes on vital importance to those who genuinely do have new life in Christ, just as Jesus said. This study of early church practice is merely a stepping stone to better position us to be all Christ wants us to be as His body of people. May the Lord be pleased to grant all His people an ever deeper knowledge of Himself and His Bride and greater effectiveness in our service to Him.

—    Steve Atkerson

Revised 04/24/14



[1] Mark 2:22