LUKE - CHAPTER 5
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
5:1. “And it came to
pass, that as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by
the Lake of Gennesaret.”
Gennesaret is the Greek name
for Chinnereth, meaning a harp. It is also another name for the Sea of
Galilee. As has been noted, Galilee is always associated with the believing
remnant, so it isn’t surprising that the people there were anxious to hear the
word of God.
5:2. “And saw two
ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were
washing their nets.”
Ships in Scripture are symbols
of churches: either local, or the Church universal, and the fitness of the
symbol is the more apparent when we remember that the sea represents the world
of unconverted humanity. The ship, sailing over the sea, on it but not a part
of it, demonstrates that believers, individually and as a corporate body, are
in the world, but not of it.
The number two is the number
of testimony, so in this present context the emphasis is upon the need of
individual believers, and local churches to be witnesses for Christ. There is
something radically wrong with the believer or the church that is not a
witness for Him.
These two ships may represent
both Israel and the Church; and the fact that they were anchored close to
shore, or drawn up on the beach, but not engaged in fishing because the
fishermen had gone out of them, points very clearly to the truth that then
Israel, and today the Church, are spiritually in the same state. In the days
of Christ, almost the end of the Jewish age, Israel’s testimony had ceased.
She was, as it were, lying on the beach, not fishing. And today, almost the
end of the Church age, it is the same with the Church. She too, lies up on
the beach (outwardly separate from the world), but not fishing for men’s
The fishermen very obviously
represent both evangelists, and individual believers. Their having gone out
of the ship, points to the truth that today, it is not only the evangelist who
has departed from the Church, but also the spirit of evangelism.
They were busy, however,
washing their nets, and so is it also today in the Church. Those who should
be fishing for souls, are instead busy “washing their nets.” They are reading
books, listening to tapes, attending seminars, etc., for ever learning how
to evangelize, but never actually doing it.
Is it any wonder that these
“fishermen” have to give the same report as those literal fishermen long ago,
“We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing.” Sad to say, honesty
should compel us to omit the first half of the confession. We have not toiled
at all, never mind all night. Small wonder that our assemblies are dying.
The fact that fishing was
normally done at night would remind us that this is the time to “fish.” In
the world it is spiritually night time. But the night is almost ended. There
is little time left to fish. The appearance of the Lord as the Morning Star
is imminent, but as the appearance of the literal morning star heralds the
near approach of dawn, so will the Lord’s return to rapture His Church,
declare the imminence of His return as the Sun of righteousness just seven
years later to set up His millennial kingdom.
5:3. “And he entered
into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust
out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the
The ship He entered may
represent the believing remnant of Israel, which became the nucleus of the
Church; the other left lying on the beach, the apostate mass of the nation.
The special significance
attached to it’s being Simon’s ship, should be noted, for Simon means
hearkening, which speaks of obedience. Obedience is a prerequisite of the
Lord’s presence and blessing.
The request to “thrust out a
little from the land,” is also replete with spiritual instruction. We have
noted in other studies that the earth is the symbol of genuine confession of
faith; the land, of false profession; and the ground, of total indifference to
spiritual things. The command therefore, to thrust out from the land,
translates into the command to be separate from all false profession. There
must be reality about the man who would do business with and for God. A mere
outward form of religion is as abominable to God today as was that of the Jews
in the days of Christ.
Simon wasn’t compelled to
obey. The Lord will not compel any man to obey Him. If we are to render Him
service, it must be of our own volition, but he who refuses that obedience
robs himself of reward at the Bema.
In His sitting down, and
teaching the people out of the ship, we may learn the lesson that as the Lord
used that ship, so will He use the individual or the local church of which it
is the symbol. Since sitting is symbolic of rest, we may learn the further
lesson that the Lord finds rest wherever He finds obedience, whether in an
individual or a church.
5:4. “Now when he had
left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your
nets for a draught.”
There is no question that the
teaching He had just given from the ship was the Gospel, but here He turns to
speak to Simon who, it seems, had already been led to the Lord by his brother
Andrew, see Jn 1:40-42. The Lord will be no man’s Debtor. Simon, having made
his ship available to the Lord, was to have his reward. Nothing done for Him
will go unrewarded, even to a cup of cold water given another believer for His
sake, Mt 10:42.
The launching out into the
deep speaks symbolically of still further separation, not only from false
profession, but from the things of the world in general. The man who would be
blessed must occupy a similar position spiritually.
The great draught of fishes
represents men won to Christ through the Gospel, and points possibly to the
multitudinous conversions which followed the preaching of the Gospel
immediately after the day of Pentecost. In the present context, however, it
may speak rather of the reward of obedient service, reminding us that
obedience is the proper expression of love for Christ; and relative to the
recompense of that obedience, it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear
heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath
prepared for them that love Him.”
5:5. “And Simon
answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken
nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
That fruitless night’s fishing
apart from the Lord’s direction, points to the character of much of the
“fishing” done today. There is much human activity connected with the gospel,
but it is a busyness lacking the direction of the Holy Spirit. Organizations
and committees have usurped His prerogative, with the result that His power is
absent, hence the fruitlessness of the “fishing.” There are many professions,
but few genuine converts as evidenced by transformed lives.
The fruitless night’s fishing
may have been recorded to encourage those who may have had the same experience
spiritually, i.e., little or nothing to show for much effort in the Gospel,
for in the present context it seems that the great draught of fishes
represents, not as usually, converts, but rather, the reward of the believer’s
sowing. God holds us responsible for the sowing, not for the results. The
fact that the great draught of fishes here seems primarily to represent
reward, doesn’t, however, exclude the fact that it may be also a figure of the
multitudes who will trust the Savior during this present Church age.
5:6. “And when they
had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net
Since this phenomenal catch
was made, not at night (the usual time for fishing), but apparently in the
morning, the picture may be of what will be revealed “in the morning,” i.e.,
when we are home in heaven. We will see then, not the small result of our
personal “fishing,” but the “great multitude” gathered in as a result of the
“fishing” done world-wide during the “night” of Christ’s absence, i.e., the
whole Church age.
5:7. “And they
beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should
come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they
began to sink.”
The other ship which had lain
idle on the beach appears to represent the Jewish testimony which has “lain
idle on the beach” as it were, during the two thousand years of the Church
age.” When the Church’s “fishing” is finished, as it will be at the Rapture,
Israel’s will begin again, and both “ships” will be filled.
5:8. “When Simon Peter
saw it, he fell down at Jesus” knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a
sinful man, O Lord.”
The miracle impressed Peter
with the fact that he stood in the presence of God, and it brought an
awareness that He Who knew where the fish were in the lake, knew also all that
was in Peter. The realization impressed him with his own unworthiness, his
cry “Depart from me,” expressing
not his wish to have the Lord depart from him, but his confession that in
himself he was unfit for that Holy Presence. It would be well if we had the
same awareness of personal unworthiness, for it would banish all pride, and
create awareness of the extent of our indebtedness to the love that led the
Lord out to Calvary to die for our sins, so that we might be clothed in His
perfect righteousness, and thus fitted for His presence eternally.
Significantly, Peter became
the Apostle to the Jews, as Paul was to the Gentiles. His falling at Jesus’
knees therefore, may point, not only to the penitent attitude of the remnant
that will be saved in the Tribulation, but also to the attitude that becomes
all of us, as it is written, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all
those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we
have done that which was our duty to do,” 17:10. .
5:9. “For he was
astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which
they had taken:”
Their astonishment may well be
a foreshadowing of the astonishment with which we will greet the coming
revelation of the great multitude of the redeemed, a great multitude which no
man could number. The impossibility of numbering the vast multitude that will
ultimately stand in heaven, is the perfect antidote for the discouragement
that may beset us in these closing days of the age as we see, not the bulk of
the harvest, but as it were, the gleanings - the one here, and another there,
responding to the Gospel.
5:10. “And so was also
James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And
Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
James is another form of
Jacob, and means he will take by the heel: supplanter; John means
Jehovah is gracious giver; and Zebedee means endowed of Jehovah.
Taking by the heel speaks of supremacy; and the meanings of John and Zebedee
combine to emphasize the truth that it is God Who enables His servants; while
their being partners with Simon, meaning hearkening, and speaking of
obedience, adds the further truth that he who would enjoy the privilege of
serving must be obedient.
Connected with the assurance
to Simon that he was henceforth to be a fisher of men, may be the reminder
that all who are willing to display the obedience implied in the meaning of
his name, can enjoy the same high privilege of leading others to the Savior.
5:11. “And when they
had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.”
Literal fishing was thereafter
followed by spiritual, and it is instructive to note that in preparation for
that fishing “they forsook all, and followed him.” He who would be successful
in that spiritual “fishing” must likewise forsake the things of this world,
and must likewise follow Christ, that is, obey Him. This doesn’t necessarily
require us to give up our jobs (only a few are called to do so), but it does
mean that the things of God must have first place in our lives.
5:12. “And it came to
pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing
Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou
canst make me clean.”
Leprosy is the outstanding
symbol of sin, and it is to be remembered that in connection with the
cleansing of the leper mentioned in Le 13:13, the Divine command was that the
man who was completely covered was to be pronounced clean, whereas the man who
was only partially leprous was to be declared unclean. The spiritual lesson
being taught in this is that only he who is willing to confess that he has no
righteousness whatsoever, will be saved. He who believes that he has some
righteousness, will not. This man was “full of leprosy.” He portrays the man
willing to confess himself a sinner without one shred of righteousness, and as
we might expect, the Lord healed him. His faith is declared in his expressed
conviction that the Lord could heal him if only He would.
5:13. “And he put
forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And
immediately the leprosy departed from him.”
The Lord’s compassion is
demonstrated in that touch. No one else would have touched a leper.
Evangelism divorced from compassion for sinners is evangelism in name only,
and is a mere religious exercise of little value.
5:14. “And he charged
him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy
cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them (the
I cannot understand why the
Lord should have forbidden the man to tell how and by whom he had been cured,
unless it was His knowledge that the telling of it as recorded in Mk 1:45
would bring such crowds as would make it impossible for Him to appear openly
in the city. It is also difficult to understand how the man could have
avoided telling how he had been healed, since the change would be dramatically
apparent to all who knew him, and a practical lesson to be learned from the
remarkable change is that since his healing is a typological portrait of
conversion, it would be well if others saw in us such changed lives as would
not even require the verbal confession of conversion.
5:15. “But so much the
more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to
hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.”
There was no limit to Christ’s
healing power. As many as came were healed. It is the same with sin.
Christ’s death is adequate to atone for all men’s sins, but only those who
come to Him in faith will be cleansed.
5:16. “And he withdrew
himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”
Effective prayer requires
separation from the world. The spiritual realm into which conversion
introduces the believer, is to the worldling a wilderness, but it is in that
very place that faith thrives, for it is there that God nourishes spiritual
life with manna, and water from the smitten rock, the former being a type of
the written Word in its ability to nurture the new life; the latter, to
cleanse and refresh the believer. It is instructive to note that redeemed
Israel was brought into the wilderness, as were Moses, Elijah, John the
Baptist, and others who performed great exploits for God. It is only as we
see the world as a spiritual wilderness that we can enjoy communion with God,
and prosper spiritually.
If the Lord needed to pray,
how much more do we! And a practical lesson to be learnt from His going into
the wilderness to pray, is that effective prayer requires a place of quietness
away from everything that would distract.
5:17. “And it came to
pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and
doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee,
and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal
In spite of the power,
relatively few were healed, and so has it always been. There are few converts
amongst the world’s religious leaders, for mere religion is the implacable foe
of faith, and of God’s redeemed people.
5:18. “And, behold,
men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means
to bring him in, and to lay him before him.”
The paralytic is a type of
every sinner. As he was without power, so are they. But others cared enough
to bring him to the Savior. Do we care enough about others even to bring them
to a meeting where they can hear the Gospel? Those who brought the palsied
man took trouble. What trouble do we take to lead others to Christ? Do we
even pray for unsaved family, friends, neighbors, and others? A searching
question we all ought to ask ourselves is, What do I do personally to lead
others to the Lord Jesus Christ? Did I, for example, even give a tract to
5:19. “And when they
could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude,
they went upon the house top, and let him down through the tiling with his
couch into the midst before Jesus.”
No obstacle was too great.
They would permit nothing to hinder their bringing the man to the Lord Jesus
Christ. How different with many of us! Our lack of concern, and equal lack
of faith, magnify mere molehills into mountains, so that we credit the enemy
with a power he doesn’t possess, as did the faithless spies sent to
reconnoiter Canaan in Nu 13, where they said, “We were in our own sight as
grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight,” verse 33. They left God out of
the picture, and so all too often do we.
5:20. “And when he saw
their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
We tend to be occupied with
the physical rather than the spiritual, but the spiritual must come first.
What profit would there have been for the man had the Lord merely healed his
body! Yet that is what constitutes a very large part of the ministry of the
professing church today. She caters to the physical, and almost totally
disregards men’s spiritual needs.
The faith of the man’s friends
tends sometimes to overshadow his own, but it is to be remembered that his
faith was as great as theirs.
5:21. “And the scribes
and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh
blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
Religion was then, and still
is the great foe of faith. These religious leaders failed to see that One who
had such power to heal as was demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ, was God
manifest in flesh. But blind leaders of the blind that they were, they failed
to see this truth, and by their worldly reasoning made the Lord a blasphemer,
the very charge on which they ultimately had Him crucified. As James has
written concerning the world’s wisdom, “This wisdom descendeth not from above,
but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas 3:15).
5:22. “But when Jesus
perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your
Wise in their own religious
conceit, they failed to understood that He Who stood in their midst was He Who
discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.
5:23. “Whether is
easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?”
Clearly it was easier to say,
“Thy sins be forgiven thee,” for there would be no way of knowing whether they
had been forgiven. To say, “Rise up and walk,” was more difficult, for it
could be seen immediately whether the man had been healed.
For them the one was as
impossible as the other, but for Him the one was as easy as the other, and yet
there was a difference. By His inherent power as God, He could say,
Rise up and walk, but it was only in anticipation of His own atoning death on
the cross that He could say, Thy sins are forgiven thee. Apart from that
sin-atoning death, even He could not remit sin.
The stubborn unbelief of the
Jewish leaders was demonstrated in that even when confronted with the Lord’s
power to heal the man physically, they refused to believe that He had the
power also to forgive sin, even though the physical miracle was proof of His
power to work also the one that was spiritual.
5:24. “But that ye may
know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he saith unto
the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go
into thine house.”
In this miracle which they
could see, they should have seen the proof of what the Lord claimed to have
done, but which they couldn’t see: He had remitted the man’s sins. His doing
what they had believed to be impossible, ought to have convinced them that He
was the Son of God, but the blind unbelief of the self-hardened heart will
accept no evidence: it will not believe, as the Lord Himself declared, “If
they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though
one rose from the dead” (16:31). Israel’s refusal to believe in the Lord’s
resurrection, confirms His words.
We should note, incidentally,
that it is here on earth that the Lord has power to forgive sin. Once the
sinner has left earth all hope of forgiveness is gone for ever.
5:25. “And immediately
he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his
own house, glorifying God.”
In his carrying that upon
which he had formerly been carried, we may see an oblique declaration of a
truth relative to conversion. In our unsaved state all of us were carried
along by the dictates of the old nature. 1 Cor 12:2 declares that we were
carried into idolatry, and Eph 4:14 asserts that we were “carried about with
every wind of doctrine.” As believers, we are delivered from that control.
His being told to return to
his house (or family), reminds us that our testimony is also to be first to
those of our own families.
5:26. “And they were
all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have
seen strange things today.”
The linking together of their
glorifying God, and their being filled with fear (awe), reminds us that only
those who stand in awe of God can glorify Him, for the sinner who isn’t led to
fear God will not be saved, nor will the saint who doesn’t fear God obey Him,
and it is by obedience that we glorify Him.
The things they had seen that
day were strange indeed. No one else had ever been able to forgive sins or
enable a paralytic to walk.
5:27. “And after these
things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt
of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.”
The publicans were
tax-collectors, rich by dishonesty, and hated by their fellow Jews, both for
being the agents of the Romans, and also for their dishonest practices
relative to tax collection.
Levi means joined, and
reminds us that in obeying Christ’s call and joining himself to Christ, this
man was severing his ties with Rome, and in forsaking his occupation, was
making himself poor in the things of this world, but rich in those of the
world to come - a foolish choice in man’s eyes, but a wise one in God’s. Each
believer is called upon to make the same choice. He is a wise man who
emulates Levi. This former publican, incidentally, is Matthew, the author of
the first Gospel. What change conversion had wrought in his life.
5:28. “And he
left all, rose up, and followed him.”
His obedience was immediate,
as was that of Abraham and other great men of faith. Since blessing attends
obedience, it is folly to be tardy in yielding that obedience. Each moment of
delay deprives us of blessing.
Nor was his disassociation
from former things partial: he left all. God deals in absolutes, and
expects us to do so too. All must be yielded to His control, for anything
less than total obedience is nothing less than disobedience.
Its being said that he “rose
up,” speaks of activity, reminding us that obedience is no mere passive
thing. It calls for the exercise of all our faculties. True Christianity
doesn’t consist of mere passive refraining from evil: there must be also the
active doing of good.
It is to be noted that the
Lord’s call of Levi, while an act of His own sovereignty, left with Levi the
free will choice of whether he would obey. So is it with God’s call of
sinners in the Gospel. God will not compel the obedience of either saint or
sinner. To have any value obedience must be voluntary.
5:29. “And Levi made
him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans
and of others that sat down with them.”
The Lord was the guest of
honor at that feast, indicating that from henceforth He was to be Lord of
Its being in his own house,
and his having obviously invited many of his former associates, declares the
truth that this new convert was anxious that they too should be introduced to
this Jesus whom he, Levi, had made Lord of his life. It reminds us too, that
testimony is to begin at home. This is always the Biblical pattern, e.g., the
Gospel was first preached in Jerusalem, then in Samaria, and then throughout
the rest of the world. It was the same with the former demoniac of Gadara:
his testimony was to begin at home, see Lk 8:39, and from there it went to the
whole city, and then to Decapolis, the ten city region, see Mk 5:20.
5:30. “But their
scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat
and drink with publicans and sinners?”
Mere religion is always the
bitter antagonist of faith. The history of the Church is the chronicle of the
bloody persecution she has suffered either directly at the hand of the great
apostate travesty posing as the true church, or incited by that same godless
5:31. “And Jesus
answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they
that are sick.”
Occupation with their religion
had blinded the Jewish leaders to their own spiritual need, and so, unaware
that they were sick, they saw no need of a physician. So is it with all who
are trusting in religion to take them to heaven.
5:32. “I came not to
call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
The truly righteous, having
repented already, had no further need to repent; and the self-righteous, in
their blindness saw no need of repentance, leaving then, those willing to
confess themselves sinners, as the only ones to whom He could minister. He
who will not admit that he is a sinner, cannot be saved.
5:33. “And they said
unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and
likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?”
The NT counterpart of OT
fasting is the renunciation of fleshly lust, and abandonment of the pursuit of
worldly pleasure, but as the OT literal sacrifices have been superseded by the
better sacrifice of Christ, so has literal fasting been replaced by the better
reality it represented. Fasting is not for the Church age. Types and shadows
have all been and done away with in Christ.
5:34. “And he said
unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the
bridegroom is with them?”
5:35. “But the days
will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall
they fast in those days.”
Until the Lord’s death all
believers were saved according to OT order, i.e., their faith anticipated His
atoning death, but it wasn’t until Pentecost that believers were indwelt by
the Holy Spirit. And following the death of Stephen, and the conversion of
Gentiles, another change occurred: while the Jewish converts continued to
worship according to the Levitical ritual in addition to keeping the two
Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the Gentile converts
were not required to observe the Levitical ritual, see Ac 15:1-31; 21:20-26.
Until the conversion of Cornelius nearly eight years after Pentecost, there is
no record of any Gentile conversions, so that for those years the Jewish
ritual (including fasting) was followed, the Lord’s disciples being
temporarily exempt because He was still present with them as the heavenly
Bridegroom. Following His death they too would fast, but only until AD 70,
when the Jewish order of worship ceased, the destruction of the Temple making
such worship impossible.
It is to be noted that that
dual order was established because the kingdom was still being offered to
Israel, and in the Millennium the worship of Jew and Gentile alike will again
be according to the Levitical order. The separate order which God ordained
for the Gentile believers was because He foreknew that Israel’s unbelief would
result in the postponement of the kingdom offer; and following the end of
Jewish autonomy in AD 70 the Jewish order for believing Jews was set aside,
and the Gentile order of worship became the norm for the whole Church.
The Lord’s referring to
Himself as a Bridegroom may be meant to remind us that He foreknew His
rejection by Israel, as He foreknew also that He would be the Bridegroom of
the Christian Church. Since His presence is synonymous with joy, fasting,
which is the sign of sorrow and mourning, would therefore be totally
inappropriate in His presence.
The fasting which would follow
His return to heaven was for Jewish converts only, and only until AD 70. It
was never imposed on Gentile believers, for as noted already, the symbols of
the OT age have given place to better spiritual realities. Occupation with
their Lord’s business during His absence, would preclude His servants’ being
occupied with the pleasures of a doomed world needing to be warned of coming
5:36. “And he spake
also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old;
if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken
out of the new agreeth not with the old.”
Clearly, the Lord is here
speaking of the new dispensation of grace that would replace the old one of
law, and emphasizing that as new cloth isn’t used to patch an old garment,
neither was the new age of grace a thing to be superimposed on the old garment
of the law. The old was to be done away with completely. They were totally
incompatible. There was no similarity between them, and the inferiority of
the system of law is declared in its being likened to the old garment.
5:37. “And no man
putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles,
and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.”
5:38. “But new wine
must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.”
Wine is the Biblical symbol of
joy, and this second parable sets forth the joyous nature of the age of grace
in contrast with the cold joyless formality of law. The joy of grace can’t be
bottled up within the framework of law, for law, as the yardstick which
measures the requirements of God’s holiness, can never do anything except
confront man with his shortcoming, leaving him always with consciousness of
guilt. Grace is very different. It brings the believer the assurance, peace,
and joy of sin forgiven, of all debt paid, the glad assurance that, “There is
therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” Ro 8:1. As
is written again, “... the law entered that the offense might abound. But
where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,” Ro 5:20.
The reference to the fact that
the new wine would burst the old wineskins, reminds us also that grace
overflows the boundaries of Judaism to embrace also the Gentiles. (“Bottles”
here refers to wine-skins).
5:39. “No man also
having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is
This sets forth another aspect
of grace. It would be rejected by those who believe that man must have some
part in procuring his own salvation, failing to realize that this is an
impossibility, and that eternal life becomes the possession only of the man
willing to receive it as God’s gift. The preference for the “old wine” of
law-keeping is widespread. Only the few are willing to receive eternal life
in the only way God makes it available: as His priceless gift, apart from