Matthew 9:16-17

16 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.

17 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.”

Most of my commentaries say these verses are a warning that the dispensation of law and the dispensation of grace cannot be mixed. This cannot be right. Years later, Paul makes it very clear that he was the messenger of the dispensation of grace and that his message was a mystery up until that time. And Christ, in the very next chapter of Matthew, sends His 12 apostles out with these instructions: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Matthew 10:5-7). So He certainly isn’t referring to the Church as the Body of Christ—a group that none of His listeners had never heard of and couldn’t possibly know would ever exist.

Morgan and Pentecost do make good cases that Christ, in these verses, is warning not to force the kingdom He is offering onto the old system of the Pharisees or on the superseded message of John the Baptist.

Thus the King said in effect to these questioning men [the disciples of John], Do not attempt to measure this new thing by that old thing. The old was right as long as it lased; but this is new. There are new motives, new forces, new impulses coming into play; and you must not try to place the new within the narrow limits of the old. It is Christ’s clear declaration that the new covenant [with Israel — the kingdom] which He had come to initiate, demanded new methods of expression; the purple of royalty, instead of the sackcloth of sorrow; the laughter of triumph, instead of the weeping of defeat. — Morgan, page 93.

To the Pharisees He said one cannot make an old garment acceptable by superimposing something new on it. And to John’s disciples He said that what He was offering could not be superimposed on Pharisaism so as to reform it. What He offered also could not be contained in the old system. Rather, what He was introducing had to be entirely separated from the old. The incident closed with Christ’s words that if men would taste His wine, that is, if they would accept what He was offering them [the kingdom], they would not want the old. However, the Pharisees, having tasted the old, were satisfied with it; they had no desire for what He was offering them. — Pentecost, page 157.

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