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Parable of the Wineskins Spiritual Lessons

The Parable of the Wineskins (sometimes known as the Parable of the New Wine in Old Wineskins) is a confusing one. It doesn’t help that the term wineskin and the historic winemaking process aren’t well known today. But we’re going to cut through the confusion and get to the heart of this parable and what it means for each of us today.

The Parable of New Wine in Old Wineskins is included in three of the Gospels, Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:37-38. You can find it HERE.

Parable of the Wineskins - Spiritual Life Lessons

Parable of the Wineskins Summary

In the Parable of the Wineskins summary, the Pharisees and the Scribes criticized Jesus’ disciples for not fasting and praying the way John the Baptist’s followers did when John was imprisoned.

Jesus answered them by saying that new wine must be poured into new wineskins. If new wine is poured into old wineskins, the old wineskins will break.

Parable of the New Wine in Old Wineskins Meaning

What is the Parable of the Wineskins meaning? Before we dive right into the meaning of the New Wine in Old Wineskins Parable, it’s important to understand more of the context. I’m not a winemaking expert, so we’re only going to cover enough to know what Jesus was talking about with the wineskins.

What are wineskins?

Before wine was bottled, it was literally stored in vessels created from the skin of various animals – think of a leather pouch. Thus, the term wineskins. Some translations of the Bible use the term bottles and some use the term wineskins. The meaning of the parable is the same for whichever term is used.

Why does new wine burst old wineskins?

Wineskins wear out over time and become prone to breakage. They decay, rot, and become brittle. Again, imagine leather that wears out and gets brittle with use over time. Therefore, with the weight and pressure of fresh wine being added, the old wineskins were likely to crack, split, or break, allowing all the wine to be lost.

What do the old wineskins represent

The old wineskins represent the Scribes and Pharisees. These were the seasoned religious folks who were accustomed to following religious traditions. They were schooled in religious tradition and were mature (and rigid) in their faith. Maturity is not to imply that they were always correct in their faith practices.

What do the new wineskins represent

In contrast to the old wineskins, Jesus’ apostles (and many of us) represent the new wineskins. These are fresh sinners, taken from all walks of life with little religious education or tradition. As new believers, we slowly build our faith and learn the traditions over time. It’s a gradual process that cannot be learned all at once and cannot be rushed.

What does the new wine represent?

The new wine represents God’s love and the Gospel message. This is the message of salvation that Jesus brought to the world at the time He spoke this parable and the same message He has for us today. 

What does the old wine represent?

The Parable of the Wineskins ends with Luke 5:39, which says: And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’

The old wine represented the original Jewish religious tradition. Those who were fully indoctrinated with the ‘old ways’ were resistant to Jesus’ message. They wanted to keep doing things the way they had always done, meaning, the old ways are better.

Parable of New Wine in Old Wineskins Meaning

Finally, with more context and better understanding, let’s get back to the Parable of the Wineskins Meaning!

The Pharisees’ original complaint was that Jesus’ followers weren’t fasting as John the Baptist’s followers did. Jesus’ followers were still immature in their faith at that point. Spiritual maturity takes time to develop and Jesus’ disciples couldn’t be expected to become mature in faith quickly. Fasting is a more mature Christian practice that His disciples would not have understood or benefited from at that point in their journey. It’s a journey that can’t be rushed – for them or for us today.

The heart of the parable meaning is that God’s message (the Gospel) and love are offered to all, and those who accept His message and His invitation to follow Him will gradually grow in their faith. These new wineskins will be able to accept the new wine and the wine will be safely stored.

Conversely, those who are so rigid in their old traditions, can’t accept Jesus’ message. The new wine broke through their hardened wineskins and the message was lost. The Gospel message contradicted their hardened ways and could not be retained.  

Parable of the Wineskins Life Lessons

Jesus told the Parable of the Wineskins when John the Baptist’s followers were fasting on behalf of John’s imprisonment. The Pharisees and Scribes were criticizing Jesus because His followers weren’t fasting like John the Baptist’s were. Jesus used the Parable of the Wineskins to point out that the Scribes and Pharisees were missing His message because they were too set in their old ways. However, there are several life lessons that specifically speak to us today. Let’s take a look:

1. Christianity is a journey

Jesus’ disciples were young in their faith. They had been following Him for less than three years. They doubted. They fell back into sin. They didn’t have backgrounds in religious study. Jesus understood that the development of faith and religious conviction happens gradually. He knows people need time to develop spiritual maturity to benefit from fasting and other advanced practices. Our walk with Christ is a journey that can’t be rushed.

2. Show grace to yourself and others

Just as Jesus gave grace to His disciples while they learned and grew in their faith, He gives us that same grace. He knows we need time to mature and develop. He knows we’ll slip up sometimes. In the same way that Jesus gives us grace, we should extend that grace to ourselves and others. When we slip up, instead of beating ourselves up, just get back on the path and start walking forward again. When people you know slip up, offer them the grace of forgiveness as they navigate their own journey.

3. Never stop searching

Whether you’re still a doubter or a lifelong Christian, the journey never ends! A relationship with God develops over time. It happens by taking one step at a time for the rest of our days. The beauty of this journey is there’s never an end! There’s always more to learn about God, there’s always room to deepen our relationship with Him, and there are endless ways we can put His will for our lives in place. 

As our relationship with God grows, new doors of communication and understanding will open. As our faith matures, we find it easier to commit to God’s will, which means we may choose paths that we would have never imagined we would take. As we keep taking steps with the Lord, He changes our perspective, which leads us to change our priorities and our choices. Enjoy the journey and never stop seeking Him!

4. Be a new wineskin

A ‘new wineskin’ (believer) is open to Jesus’ message. Jesus spent the last three years of His life spreading His message. That message has lasted for over two thousand years and has spread across the globe.

Today, Christians debate some of the messages and take very different approaches even though we’re all Christians. As one example, are we supposed to simply love each other (sinners) and let God be the judge or does loving one another require us to call out sinners with genuine righteous judgment over concern for their salvation? 

The Bible is God’s Word and the New Testament was written with the benefit of having God among us, as Jesus in human form. We grow in faith and maturity as we spend time reading God’s Word. Pray for discernment on topics that don’t seem clear. Ask Jesus to guide you as you grow in understanding of His Word.

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The Parable of the New Wine in Old Wineskins is included in Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5.  Following is the Parable of the Wineskins in Luke 5:37-39.

37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”


Find the Parable of the Wineskins (or the Parable of the New Wine in Old Wineskins) Commentaries at Bible Study Tools.com. They include free and paid versions. For this article, I referred to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary, and John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible (which provided the clearest understanding of this parable).

This post may contain affiliate links. This is my full disclosure.

More Parables!

Do you love the parables as much as I do? You may enjoy reading life lessons on these others (listed below), these activities for adults and children, or this list of Parables and Meanings. More parable lessons are underway. See them all HERE!

Do you love journaling? Does writing down your personal reflections help you process your thoughts more fully? Perhaps these Christian writing journals will be helpful as you reflect on the life lessons of the parables.

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