The  New  Wine

Paul Wong


“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. . . . And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:1, 4 – 6)

Most of us are familiar with the historic event that happened in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.  The one hundred and twenty disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  At first they were speaking with other tongues “glosalalia” which is an unintelligible spiritual language that is used for prayer (1 Cor. 14:2).  Later these same disciples were given the spiritual gift of speaking in human languages “dialektos” (Acts 2:6, 8)


“So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine.” But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:12-15)


Two groups of observers were present at the scene.  The first group consisted of people who “were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"  The second group were mockers who said, "They are full of new wine.”


What is New Wine?


The original Greek word used for “new wine” is “gleukos” which means “unfermented grape juice.”  Some argue that if “new wine” is not intoxicating then why did the mockers say, "They are full of new wine?”  Does it not show that the disciples’ behavior looked like drunkards?  My answer is “No, it may not.”  The act of mocking is to treat others with scorn or contempt.  Mockers do not speak the truth or describe people accurately, but often use sarcastic language to ridicule others.  They mocked the disciples for “speaking with tongues” not because they behaved like drunkards.  The apostle Peter’s remark gives us a clue as to the disciples’ behavior.  He said, “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.”  The third hour is nine o’clock in the morning.  Nobody ever gets drunk so early in the morning. The apostle Paul wrote:  “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.” (1 Thess. 5:7) 


The Hebrew word for “new wine” is “tirosh” (Jud. 9:13).  The Bible refers to fresh grapes as the “new wine”.  “As the new wine is found in the cluster, . . .” (Isa. 65:8)  We know that only fresh grapes that have not been detached from the stem is called a cluster.  The “new wine” is still in the “threshing floor and the winepress” (Hos. 9:2)  “And your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Pro. 3:10; Joel 2:24) 


The process of wine-making in biblical times consists of first crushing the fresh grapes in a winepress to obtain its juice called “must”.  At this early stage the Bible calls it “new wine” which is called “tirosh”  in Hebrew and “gleukos” in Greek.  It is unfermented grape juice which is not intoxicating.  Nobody gets drunk with the “new wine”  (Acts 2:13-15).  In order to make the “new wine” – “gleukos” into wine there must be fermentation. A vigorous wine yeast is an essential ingredient for producing sound wine. Without yeast, fermentation cannot take place.  While it is possible to permit a natural fermentation to occur through the activity of wild yeast found on the fruit, it is preferable to use a specially prepared yeast starter culture.


The priests were forbidden by God to drink “wine or intoxicating drink.” (Lev. 10:8-9)  “New wine” is pure grape juice before fermentation therefore the priests could drink them.  The Israelites were commanded to bring their tithes that included  “new wine” to the priests to be kept in the storehouse (Neh. 10:37-39; 13:5,12; Deut. 18:4-5).  In the New Covenant the bishop or elder is “not given to wine” (1 Tim. 3:3). 



New Wine in the Passover and Holy Communion


Whilst the children of Israel were permitted to drink wine the priests were strictly forbidden to do so (Lev. 10:8-9).  There have been a controversy concerning whether grape juice or wine was used by our Lord Jesus Christ during the Passover or Holy Communion.  The controversy can easily be resolved by understanding these truths.


Our Lord Jesus Christ was the “High Priest over the House of God” officiating the Passover and Holy Communion service (Heb. 8:1-2; 9:11; 10:19-21).  He could not have used wine otherwise He would have broken God’s laws for the priest (Lev. 10:8-9).  The truth is that our Lord Jesus Christ had used “fruit of the vine” (grape juice) which is the “new wine” for the Passover and the Holy Communion.


God had commanded the Children of Israel to keep the Passover and Feast of the Unleavened Bread “throughout your generations.  You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.  Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses.  For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. . . . For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger or native of the land.  You shall eat nothing leavened; in al your habitations you shall eat unleavened bread.” (Ex. 12:14-20)  Since wine contains yeast which is a form of leaven it could not be used in the Passover.  In modern times the Jews that do not believe in the Messiah do not strictly follow this law.  We should not take them as examples. The correct drink for keeping the Passover and the Holy Communion that is approved by God is the “new wine” which is the “fruit of the vine” or grape juice.  This is clearly taught in the Holy Bible.



New Covenant Teachings on the New Wine


“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Lk. 5:37-38)

During the time of our Lord Jesus Christ’s first advent there were no glass bottles as we have today. New wine (grape juice) was poured into wineskins. Wine skins were actually the skins of sheep and goats that were sewn together except at the neck, which served as the neck of the container. The skins were filled, and the neck then sewn closed. Since there was no refrigeration, the grape juice would ferment, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide, which would cause the new skins to expand. Old skins would not work, since they had already been stretched and were no longer elastic. If grape juice were to be put in old wineskins, the expanding carbon dioxide would rupture the wineskins. The wine would run out and be lost and the wineskins would be ruined.

New Wine in the New Covenant

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jer. 31:31-34; ref. Heb. 8:7-13)

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." (Mt. 16:26-29)

New Wine symbolizes the New Spirit

“Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine.’ But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.  For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.  And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:13-18)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezek. 36:26-27)

New Life in the New Covenant

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:4-6)

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (Jn. 6:63)


“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:9-11)


New Wine symbolizes the New Nature


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

The “new creation” which is translated “new creature” in the Old King James Bible is the new person who is in Christ Jesus.  The term “new nature” refers to the spiritual transformation that occurs within the inner man when a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and enthrones Him to be the Lord of his life.  The Christian is now a “new man” as opposed to the “old man” that he was before he became a Christian.  The “old man” is still present in the new life and expresses himself in corrupt deeds such as lying, cheating, greed, hatred and other vices.  The “new man”, to be godly and effective, must have a new nature like the “new wine” filling the “new wineskin”.  In other words, the new nature must be cultivated or nurtured by spiritual decisiveness to grow in Christ.  We must never revert to the old sinful nature which is the “old wineskin”.  The message of the “new wine in the new wineskin” is the message of supreme hope: the Spirit of God can accomplish a life-changing transformation of all who will only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.



New Wine of Messianic Judaism and Christianity

The “new wine in the old wineskin” parable is illustrative of Messianic Judaism and Christianity in the Old Covenant setting.  Although not compatible yet they are not contradictory to one another.  Some truths are cultural -- these are limited to a culture or a period of time.  Some truths are trans-cultural -- these may be carried from one culture to another or from one time frame to another. Some truths are super-cultural -- these are universal and timeless truths that apply to all cultures and all time. The super-cultural truth such as the keeping of the Ten Commandments is given to mankind and have been in effect in the Old as well as the New Covenants. The truth of the Seventh Day Sabbath was given by God at the time of Creation. It had been observed in Judaism, continued by the original Messianic Jews in the Early Church and is still in effect in Christianity today. It will also be observed in the New Heavens and the New Earth. 

Many of the cultural truths of Judaism are not in effect in Christianity.  One such example is the animal sacrificial system.  Jesus Christ’s atonement and supreme sacrifice -- His death on the cross -- is for mankind and for all time. It does away with the Old Testament sacrificial system. The sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament was only a prefiguration of the real sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  An example of a trans-cultural truth in Judaism is the family structure. The husband is the spiritual head of his wife and children must be obedient to their parents.  It is God's plan for all cultures of all time, regardless of whether people practice it or not.  An example of a super-cultural truth is the doctrine of the salvation and atonement for sin through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood. 

The “old wineskin” of Judaism could not contain the new truth and the new life that God gave us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  The “new wineskin” of Christianity was needed to contain the new truth of God’s plan of salvation as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ.


A Sermon based on this Article was preached by Paul Wong
to a Congregation in Houston, Texas on March 9, 2002
For comments please write first to: [email protected]

May God bless you.

Updated on 01/13/04


Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in Houston.
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