And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him,
Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus
said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with
them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will
come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those
days. No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that
filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new
wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the
bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. (Mark 2:18-22 KJV)
Fasting is not a common practice in our culture; but, at the turn of the era the practice was
common among the Jews. Food was foregone in order to pray and meditate. It was most
commonly one of the means of grieving and mourning. The abstinence from food was either
from sunrise to sundown, or for an elongated period of time as Jesus did in the wilderness.
Water was usually taken during the longer periods of fasting.
Both the disciples of John the Baptizer, and of the Pharisees fasted on a regular basis.
However, Jesus’ disciples, at this time, did not.
When asked why His disciples did not observe this practice, Jesus used illutrations to point
out that the practice would be inappropriate.
Will the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is still with them? The obvious answer is no.
As long as he is still there the feast continues. Why? There is no reason to fast until the
bridegroom is gone. For much the same reason, Jesus’ disciples did not fast because He was
still with them. However, the time was coming when He would be gone, and His disciples
Do you place a patch of a new piece of cloth on an old garment? No. If you did, the patch
would shrink when the garment was washed and rip a new hole in the garment. It would be
inappropriate. So would Jesus’ discples fasting now.
Do you place new wine in an old wineskin? No. The pressure exerted by new wine as it ages
would burst an old wineskin. New wine needs the elasticity of new skins. It would be
inappropriate. So would Jesus’ disciples fasting now.
Many take the words of Jesus in reference to new cloth and old cloth, and new wineskins and
old wineskins, as a reference to the old testament. However, there is nothing in the context
which would indicate Jesus had any reference to the relation of the Old and New Testaments.
He merely uses illustrations which show the inappropriateness of the present action of His
The relation between the Old and New Testaments is dealt with elsewhere in the New
The illustrations Jesus uses here can just as aptly illustrate the relation between the Old and
New Testament. To use the Old Testament in New Testament times is like trying to patch an
old garment with new cloth, or like putting new wine into old wineskins – it just won’t work.
The greatest problem in the religious world today is a misunderstanding of the relation
between the Old and New Testaments.
Religious people rightly have been taught that all of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, are
the word of God. They rightly have been taught that all of the Bible, Old and New Testaments,
are inspired scripture, word-for-word. From this they have, however, incorrectly concluded
that we are to obey the Old Testament and the New Testament equally.
The Bible needs to be rightly divided. There needs to be the recognition that there are Three
Dispensations, Two Covenants, and One Message.
The Three Dispensations are the three ways God has revealed His will to man. His existence
is revealed in nature: but, His will is revealed by means of words, dreams and visions. In the
beginning God revealed His will to the patriarchs, or the heads of the families; men such as
Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Beginning with Moses and ending with Malachi
(or more properly John the Baptist), God chose men known as prophets to reveal His will to
man in the Old Testament. Then, in Jesus Christ, the final and complete revelation of the will
of God to man was made to the apostles and prophets of the New Testament.
The first dispensation of the will of God to the patriarchs is known as the Patriarchal
Dispensation. The second dispensation of the will of God to the prophets is known as the
Prophetic Dispensation, or Mosaic Dispensation. The third dispensation of the will of God to
the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ is known as the Present Dispensation, or Christian
Dispensation, or Gospel Dispensation.
While it is true that in each period it is the perfectly inspired will of Gf God which was
delivered, it is also true that it is the perfectly inspired will of God for that time and place. The
will of God, as revealed in each period, varied as to the precise obedience for that period. For
example, the call of Abraham to go to the promised land was not applicable to the nation of
Judah when they were in the Babylonian Captivity. Each period’s revelation superseded the
period before it.
The written record of the Bible is divided into Two Covenants: the Old Testament (Covenant)
and the New Testament (Covenant). The Prophetic Dispensation was the beginning of the
written record. The events of the Patriarchal Dispensation were recorded by Moses, in the
first book of Moses commonly called Genesis.
The Old Testtament consists of thiry-nine books in the English Bible: Genesis through
Malachi. Whether it is the Five Books of Moses (the Pentateuch, the Torah, the Law), the
Twelve Books of Israel’s History, the Five Books of Poetry (the Wisdom Literature, the
Haiographa), the Five Books of the Major Prophets, or the Twelve Books of the Minor
Prophets, they are all part of the Old Testament.
Some times people are confused by New Testaments with the Psalms and/or Proverbs,
thinking that these two books of poetry are a part of the New Testament. However, they are
The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books: Matthew through Revelation. Whether
the Four Gospels (the Four Witnesses), the one Book of the History of the Church, the
Fourteen Epistles of Paul (the Letters of Paul, the Pauline Epistles), the Five General Epistles
(the Catholic Epistles, the Minor Epistles), or the one Book of the Apocalypse (the Book of
Prophecy), they are all a part of the New Testament.
The One Message of the Bible is the salvation that is to be found in Jesus Christ. Everything
in the Bible points to this one pre-eminent fact. This One Message supersedes all else. That is
why the revelation of the Christian Dispensation, the written will of the New Testament, is the
law for us today.
Much of the error in the religious world is a combination of the Old Testament and the New.
The clergy system is based upon the priesthood of the Old Testament, not the New
Testament. Instrumental music is based upon the Old Testament, not the New Testament.
The denominational organization is based upon the Old Testament, not the New Testament.
Premillennialism is based upon the Old Testament, not the New Testament. Etc., etc.
What needs to be realized is that the Law, the Old Testament, has been fulfilled, and replaced
by the New Testament, the law of grace and truth. In face, most of the New Testament deals
with this difficulty. From Acts chapter 15, the Letter to the Romans, the First and Second
Letters to the Corinthians, the Letter to the Galatians, the Letter to the Ephesians, the Letter
to the Colossians, the Treatise to the Hebrews, etc., the New Testament writers deal with the
relation of the Old Testament to the Christian Dispensation.
Peruse these passages: John 1:17; Matthew 17:1-9; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11,12;
Romans 5:18-21; Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Galatians 3:6-4:11; Galatians 4:21-31;
Galatians 5:1-12; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:13-23; the entire Book of Hebrews.