1.3 Proposition 3: The Problem of "Mingling"
Going back to the original quotation: “I do not believe that He mingled them together, for that would be pouring new wine in old wineskins and making spiritual adulterers of those He was expecting to obey His words. I don't think we ever see a time in the Bible when two contradictory laws are being taught at the same time.
This proposition can be analyzed into the following premises:
Jesus’ revealing NT teachings applicable to us today before the cross would:
- constitute “mingling” two laws together,
- create a situation of “spiritual adultery,” and
- constitute pouring new wine in old wineskins.
Jesus would not do these things.
Jesus did not reveal NT teaching applicable to us today before the cross.
Generally, we agree with the minor premise. Let us examine the validity of the three assumptions of the major premise.
A mingling of the laws
If Jesus taught any doctrine applicable to His New Kingdom while the Law of Moses was still in force, would this cause two laws to be “mingled together?” Consider Acts 7. Is this a mingling of Old Testament with New? Perhaps, depending on the definition of “mingling.” The point is that we have been given a command to “rightfully divide” or to “handle aright” the word of God (II Timothy 2:15). As long as the average reader is able to discern the difference, as surely is the case in Acts 7, then the Lord cannot be accused of so mingling the laws together that we have no ability to tell the one from the other. No one argues that certain passages, such as John 3:16 and John 6 apply to us today. However, when confronted with this, those claiming MML&J to be OT have admitted the applicability, but have called such passages “prophecy.” However, they have the very same problem in “rightfully dividing” to determine what is their “prophecy” as we do in determining the difference between Jesus’ OT and NT teachings. We will go into more detail on the “prophecy” argument later.
Would Jesus teaching things applicable to ourselves today while the Law of Moses was still in effect cause Jesus or the Jews to commit “spiritual adultery?” First, let us say that this term is rather inflammatory and we need to be objective about it. If, in fact, we have no way of determining which of Jesus’ teachings are OT and which are NT, then this term might apply. However, the arguments given above show that this is not the case.
The issue of binding new laws while the OT law is still in effect is a valid concern. It seems clear that Jesus did say things new that the hearers then would have to respond to (i.e. figuratively “eat my flesh and drink my blood” from John 6). The big question is: would obedience to this violate the OT law? Clearly, Jesus commanded his disciples: “Follow me.” Their response can hardly be considered a violation of OT law. If the objection of Jesus giving commands in addition to the OT while on this earth is to hold up, then it must apply to all of the commands that Jesus gave. One might say: “well it is obvious that this was just to those that Jesus was addressing.” That makes the point perfectly: the context has been established by the Holy Spirit in order to enable us to rightfully divide these things today.
There has always been “law” even from the very beginning. If there were no law, then there would be no sin. Romans 4:15 says “because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” There was some kind of law that the patriarchs were under before the Sinai law was given. Thus, while Moses and Israel were under what we call the “Patriarchal Law,” Moses gave Israel additional instructions to keep the Passover (Exodus 12). His instructions were to be obeyed right then while the Patriarchal Law was still in effect. Was Moses forcing a situation of “spiritual adultery” here? It is obvious that this statute was to be carried on and incorporated into the coming Sinai covenant. It was not “prophesied.” The OT shows that it was obeyed immediately. So, if Moses was a prophet and could enjoin a new statute while one law was still in effect, then the “prophet like unto Moses” (Deuteronomy 18:15f), could do the same. If not, why not?
So, what would constitute “spiritual adultery”? In the pre-Sinai situation, were not the Israelites under Patriarchal Law and at the same time also responsible to God’s directions through Moses? Some try to solve this by saying that Moses was a patriarchal prophet. This does not change the fact that his instructions applied to Israel who did not yet have their new codified law. They were still subject to Patriarchal Law and Moses’ instructions would be the basis for what they would always keep, even after Sinai. What Moses commanded in Exodus 12 was not a new addition to Patriarchal Law that would be discarded once the new law was given at Sinai. His instructions became part of the Sinai law. Israelites would be right in saying “We keep the Passover because Moses commanded it before they left Egypt” in that they would still be respecting the authority of God through Moses. They did not have the mentality that “we can only keep what was delivered at Sinai because it was delivered at Sinai.” They recognized that certain things that Moses taught were uniquely their instructions from God because it applied to them, even though it was delivered before Sinai. They did not reason that whatever Moses instructed before Sinai cannot apply. Their Passover feast would be forever practiced because of what happened in Egypt before Sinai. Israel was a nation in development.
As a developing nation, the “spiritual adultery” principle did not apply to Israel due to the special circumstances that required time to establish national identity and law. Israel’s new Passover command in Exodus 12 was unique, but not yet part of a fully developed national law for Israel. Yet, Israel was already under Patriarchal Law. By giving them this instruction, was He putting them under two laws at once? Or, were these temporary instructions that belonged to the Patriarchal Law and would be discarded at Sinai? If, after Sinai, an Israelite kept the Passover because Moses commanded it in Egypt, would they be putting themselves under Patriarchal Law and Mosaic Law at the same time? If an Israelite, after Sinai, kept the Passover because it was commanded when they were in Egypt, would they be committing “spiritual adultery” by keeping “Patriarchal Law” and “Mosaic-Sinai law?” We cannot see that it would be spiritual adultery. If it is argued that the Passover was entirely “prophetic,” it would only establish that things were kept because pre-Sinai “prophecies” have binding authority. The children of Israel would always keep the Passover feast because of what happened and what was commanded before Sinai. In like manner, since Jesus was “a prophet like unto Moses,” His miracles established His right to command just like Moses’ signs established his right to command. Everyone agrees that Jesus had the right to forgive sins while on this earth. Who among us will limit Jesus’ authority not only to interpret the OT law but also to fulfill and extend some of its principles to apply to ourselves today?
Pouring new wine into old wineskins
The proposition being conveyed by this argument is as follows:
Jesus taught against pouring new wine into old wineskins, which was figurative of something in the context of Matthew 9:14-17.
If Jesus were to teach anything that applies to us today then he would be pouring new wine into old wineskins.
Jesus did not teach anything that applies to us prior to the cross.
In this case, we agree with the major premise. However, the minor premise is false and therefore the conclusion does not follow. Let us here examine the passage and context of the “new wine/old wine-skins” reference.
"Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" And 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 pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved" (Matthew 9:14-17 NKJV).
The question Jesus is addressing is: "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" Something new was happening right then. What? Jesus’ disciples were not now fasting. Why? The bridegroom was now with them. It was now time to be happy, not sad and fasting.
Illustration #1: The unshrunk cloth. Fasting while Jesus was present would be as inappropriate as putting a new, unshrunk piece of cloth on an old garment. It is counter-productive. It was a new and exciting thing to have the bridegroom present with them. If they tried to attach this new experience to the old garment of Judaism and fast through this blessed experience, it would be counter-productive. Would the Jews think it appropriate to fast before or during a wedding? The figure here is clear.
Illustration #2: The Wineskins. Fasting while the bridegroom was present would be out of place. It would be like putting new wine in old wineskins. The new wine would burst out. The old wineskin was no longer elastic enough to expand with the new wine. The joy of having the bridegroom present was like new wine. The excitement of having Jesus present would burst out of the old form of fasting. The context is not about differences in the Old and New Testaments. It is not about Jesus pouring the NT into the OT system.
Here are J.W. McGarvey’s comments on this passage.
[Question about Fasting, 14-17 (Mark ii. 18-22; Luke v. 33-39.)
14. the disciples of John.-The fact that the question about fasting was propounded by the disciples of John should not be overlooked. It shows that the question was not intended as a captious objection, but as an honest inquiry: for although the disciples of John were not, as yet, identical with those of Jesus, we can not class them among the enemies of Jesus. Fasting twice in the week was regarded by the Pharisees as a mark of superior piety (Luke xviii. 12), and the disciples of John seem to have agreed in this matter with the Pharisees. Indeed, John himself practiced what may be regarded as a continual fast, eating only locusts and wild honey, and this was well calculated to impress his disciples with great respect for fasting. It appeared to them, therefore, as a serious defect in the religious life of Jesus and his disciples, that they paid no respect to the regular fast days. The feast at Matthew's house, which occurred on a fast day (see note on Mark ii. 18), very naturally brought the matter up for consideration, because it shocked the sensibility of the objectors.
15-17. Jesus said unto them.--- Jesus reduces the objection to an absurdity by three arguments from analogy. First, he refers to the wedding customs of the day, and demands, "Can the children of the bridechamber"--that is, the invited guests at a wedding-"-- mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?" While he remained with his disciples, they were enjoying a wedding feast, and it would be absurd if they were mourning. But when he should leave them they would fast, because that would be a time of sorrow. Secondly, he draws an argument from the absurdity of putting a patch of new (properly rendered unfulled) cloth on an old garment. The unfulled piece, never having been shrunk, would shrink the first time it got wet, and would tear open the rent still wider. Thirdly, it would be equally absurd to put new wine into old bottles. The bottles being made of goat skins, an old one had little strength and no elasticity, and therefore the fermentation of new wine would burst it. The argument drawn from these two examples is not, as some have supposed, that it would be absurd to patch the old Jewish garment with the unfulled cloth of the gospel, or to put the new wine of the gospel into the old Jewish bottles; for the question at issue was not one concerning the proper relation of the gospel dispensation to the Jewish law, but one concerning the propriety of fasting on a certain occasion. Moreover, in Luke's report of this answer we find the additional argument, "No man, having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new; for he says the old is better." (Luke v. 39.) To carry out the interpretation just named, would make Jesus here argue that the old dispensation was better than the new. But the argument is the same as in the first example. It shows that it would have been absurdly inappropriate to the occasion for his disciples to fast, as much so as to mourn at a wedding, to patch an old garment with unfulled cloth, or to put new wine into old bottles. The arguments not only vindicated his disciples, but taught John's disciples that fasting has value only when it is demanded by a suitable occasion].