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The Church vs. the Church

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When it comes to the difficulties faced by the Church, it has to be admitted that we are frequently our own worst enemy; the other football team walked off the field, and three plays later, we scored. That kind of thing.

The Text:

“Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9:17).

The Lord is plainly teaching us that there needs to be some kind of parity between what is being contained and what is containing. The new wine of the new Israel could not be contained by the old wineskin of the old Israel. However much we might want it to be different, God advances His kingdom by bursting and breaking things. This will have obvious applications when I get to my third talk, on conservatism. But bring this down to a local, pastoral level. What wise pastor wants the Spirit to come in to burst and break things? Well, we do and we don’t—that is the problem before us.


Let us not talk about the visible Church. I have made a vow never to talk about the visible or invisible Church while visiting this wonderful conference and this wonderful place.  Steve mails my tapes to people who take it wrong. But we do need to talk about the institutional Church.

  • New wine and wineskins
  • Fire and fireplace mantle
  • Love and truth
  • Future and Past, as ERH would have it.

Open Palm:

As pastors and elders, hold your churches before the Lord in an open palm, and not in a clutched fist. God can take your church and do things with it either way, but in the former scenario, your fingers don’t get broken.

Roll With It:

Reawaken your inner Baptist; those guys know something about this. You might not want to. We know, and can prove from the Westminster Confession that wine needs to be in containers, and we have a high view of those containers, whether there is any wine in them or not.

What names have been given to the people on whom the Spirit came? Catholics, Waldensians, Methodists, Puritans, evangelicals, Lutherans, Calvinists, and others. What names remain stitched on the side after the wine is gone? The same actually . . .

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