Listen:  101 Question 6

Let’s read Matthew 9:14-17, “Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.  No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.  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.”

At this point, John the Baptist was in prison.  Those who followed him were taught to follow the Lord Jesus.  They probably understood that John was the forerunner of Christ, but they had a hard time understanding why the disciples of Christ did not fast, as was the custom among the Jewish people.  The self-righteous Pharisee prayed in Luke 18:12, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”  Since fasting was so common, why did the Lord’s disciple neglect this great custom?

The Lord answered with the illustration of a wedding.  Would it be proper for the friends of the bridegroom to fast and mourn in the presence of the bridegroom?  Certainly not; this was a time for joy and celebration.  Christ, of course is the bridegroom and while He was here, there was no reason for His disciples to fast.  The day would come when the bridegroom would no longer be with them physically, and that would be the proper time for fasting.  The Lord never demanded fasting from us, but He certainly shows His approval of it for those who wait for the bridegroom’s return.

The Lord goes on to show how that John’s work marked the end of one dispensation and the beginning of another.  The dispensation of the law was drawing to close, and a new dispensation would soon begin.  This is illustrated in Hebrews 8:13 which says, “…A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”  In Ephesians 3:2, the Apostle Paul calls this new dispensation, the one in which we now live as the “dispensation of the grace of God.”  These two dispensations have their purpose, but they are not to be mingled together.  The dispensation of the law has passed; we live now in the dispensation of grace.  As an example, the Lord spoke of not patching an old garment with new material, or not to put new wine into old bottles.  These things just do not belong together, even as law and grace do not mix.  The Apostle Paul assures us in Romans 6:15 that, “…we are not under the law, but under grace…”  (101.6)