Grace and faith: The perfect lifegiving match


Matthew 9:17a “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins.”

Some things just go together. Peanut butter goes with jelly. Bacon is an excellent side for eggs. Jack and Jill make a nice couple. Celebration occurs with weddings. But there are other things that should not be mixed. Jesus uses a common first-century analogy to answer a question and to explain an important shift in religious paradigm.

Many years ago when I first started quilting I realized that it’s important to wash all of the pieces of cotton fabric before you stitch them together. If you only wash some of the pieces and not others, the squares will not shrink uniformly when put into the washing machine. This will cause the seams to stretch, which will ruin the beauty of the quilt. Jesus used a similar example to explain an important spiritual truth.

His lesson started with a question. Some of John the Baptist’s disciples noticed that Jesus’ disciples didn’t follow the religious discipline of fasting as they and the Pharisees did. They came to Jesus and inquired why this was so. Jesus explained that a bridegroom’s attendants don’t fast during the wedding because it is a wonderful day of celebration. Fasting (usually associated with mourning) and celebration don’t go together. But if the bridegroom were to be taken away, then this would be the time to fast and mourn.

At this time Jesus’ disciples had full access to their Master, so there was no need to fast. But the day was coming when Jesus would be physically removed from them. This would be the time for them to fast and mourn.

Using this question as a teaching moment, Jesus continued the theme of things that go together and those that don’t. “No one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment,” He explained, “otherwise the patch would pull away from the garment and make the tear worse.” “Likewise, people do not put new wine in old wineskins because the old wineskin would burst and everything would be ruined.”

Jesus’ point was that John the Baptist, a prophet born during the Old Covenant paradigm of Jewish law and rules, was the messenger pointing to the New Covenant paradigm of grace found in Jesus. Adherence to strict levitical laws involving animal sacrifice and worship to gain acceptance by God would now be replaced by a better way.

Jesus did not come to patch up the old religious garment of the Law. While the Law pointed the people of Israel to their need for a Savior, the blood of lambs and goats could never take away sins. Instead Jesus came to provide a new garment of grace through His coming death and resurrection. Thus, the Old Covenant of law (the old wineskin) and the New Covenant of Grace (the new wine) could never be mixed together. The Old had to go, so the New could come.

Today many people who have accepted Christ as Savior still try to mix the old and the new together. We receive salvation by grace. It is not by works of our own righteousness, but according to God’s mercy that He saves us. Yet many who say they believe this also think they must work hard doing good things to please God.

The truth is that when we receive Jesus as Savior He gives us a new heart, one that desires God, and fills us with the Holy Spirit so we have the power to live God’s way. While on this earth we are not yet perfected, but our sins are forgiven and our transformation is done by God Himself as we rely on Him.

Some things go together, but some things do not. Today we find peace with God by grace through faith alone. Grace and faith: this is the perfect and life-giving match!



Sandra Sheridan is a midwest wife and mother of five. She shares her letters to her children with our readers. Visit her at

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