The love of God that was poured out at Pentecost demanded of the disciples a total abandonment of their lives to the One who totally abandoned His life for them. This love created a community in Jerusalem, and it will always take a community to contain it.
Our Master told a parable about the days to come when the new wine of His Spirit would be poured into the hearts of a people. He made it clear that the new wine must be put into new wineskins, since the old wineskin (the religious system of Judaism) was old, dry, stiff, and brittle. It could not contain the active new wine.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, “The old is good enough.” (Luke 5:37-39)
Knowing that most would prefer the old wine to the new, Jesus did something miraculous at the wedding in Cana that was prophetic of what would happen when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. After the old wine had run out, He turned water into new wine, which the master of the feast proclaimed to be better than the old wine.1
The fresh revelation from God that Jesus Christ brought to Israel in the first century, and that He passed on to the apostles such as Peter and John, could not be contained within the religion of Judaism. This is why the Holy Spirit created a new home for Himself 2 on the Day of Pentecost — a new wineskin that could be filled with the new wine, the Spirit of love poured out into the hearts of the believers.3
The love of God that was poured out into their hearts at Pentecost demanded a total abandonment of their lives to the One who totally abandoned His life for them. This is what their first love for Him was.4 This love created a community in Jerusalem and it would always take a community to contain it. As long as the believers maintained their first love, being filled with the Spirit (the new wine), the community flourished. Meeting the many demands of love kept their wineskin fresh and supple. This made it possible for them to continue to receive revelation from the Holy Spirit through the apostles’ teachings. The purpose of this new wine filling the new wineskin was to establish a united twelve-tribed spiritual nation that would produce the fruit of the Kingdom.5 Isaiah prophesied that this twelve-tribed Israel would be restored to be a light to the nations and to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.6 Jesus told His disciples that when this gospel of the kingdom was proclaimed to all the nations as a living demonstration of His love and unity, the end of the age would come.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
Yet when Jesus spoke this, its fulfillment was over 1900 years away. We know this because the end of the age didn’t come before the first church lost its first love and its lampstand was removed.7 It could no longer be the witness of Matthew 24:14. It was destroyed not from without, but from within.8 The vibrant life that had resulted from the new wine filling the new wineskin gradually became a divided institution, dried and cracked, rigid and brittle — an old wineskin unable to hold the new wine of revelation ever again. And once this first new wineskin became dry and parched, the old wine began to taste better and better to them, even as it does to this day.9
But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, thousands of dissatisfied young people left the stale traditions of organized religion, hoping to find the love of Jesus, a love that was real, that would not fail, that would not disappoint. The multitudes of young people in the Jesus Movement wanted something new — the new wine of a new wineskin.
But what is the fruit after 30 years? Haven’t the harbingers of the Jesus Movement, Calvary Chapel, and its offshoot the Vineyard, led their followers through a revolving door, back to the same old form and traditions they left thirty years ago? They went from sitting on the floor in a circle playing guitars, worshipping outside the confines of church buildings, and ministering on beaches and in coffeehouses to sitting silently in the pews once again looking at the preacher and the back of everyone else’s heads.
So was this Movement really a result of new wine being poured into new wineskins? If Jesus was truly revealing Himself to them, would He have led them to become just another denomination, as it seems Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard became so soon after they started in the ’60s?
When the hippie movement of the ’60s failed, the hippies went back to their old roots. They are now the established, successful ones in the mainstream of American business and society, having become the very thing they once hated. Just as the hippies found themselves turning into “hippie-crits,” so the Jesus freaks became what they had first rejected — religious hypocrites.
Is it even possible that a new wineskin can be restored in this day to receive new wine from heaven? Can something old be reborn? What will it take? It will take something new — a people truly willing to do God’s will (new wineskin) and the Holy Spirit (new wine). And how would anyone recognize this restoration if it happened? It would be evident by its fruit. It would produce the same life from the same essence as what was begun at Pentecost. It would remain soft and pliable, not become hard and crusty. We who write this paper believe that this restoration is taking place in our midst. It has been thirty years since we began to form and receive the new wine, and we are very encouraged to see our children taking on our hearts, being filled with that same new wine. A distinct culture is forming that fills us with hope.
Just as Jesus prophetically demonstrated at the wedding in Cana, the best wine will be poured into the new wineskins in the last days,10 and it will not fail. All who are not content with the flat religious ritual of the old wineskin will taste and see that the new wine is better.11 The master of the feast tasted it before making a hasty judgment. In the same way, no one should make hasty judgments in favor of the old religion — the old comfortable religion of Judaism or Christianity. One should withhold judgment until the nature of the new is tested and made clear.12 Only when the new wine in the new wineskin has had time to develop its own unique character can its worth be estimated. But in the last days this restoration will come about quickly — the new wine and wineskin will not grow old before it accomplishes its purpose.13
Most will continue to say the old is better. But as this demonstration of the Kingdom becomes more visible and grows to full stature, there will be no valid reason for people to say the old is better, no room for the dogmatism that says that no wine is fit to drink until it is old. This is only a tradition of men. Old traditions will be left behind by those who thirst for the new wine.