Life-Study of Matthew

Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0332-4
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 28 of 72 Section 1 of 3





This message is the continuation of the previous message on 9:9-17.

C. Not Putting a Patch of Unshrunk Cloth
on an Old Garment

In 9:16 the Lord continues with something even finer, sweeter, and more intimate. He says, “Now no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for that which fills it up pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.” The Greek word translated “unshrunk” is agnaphos, formed with a, which means not, and gnapto, which means to card or comb wool; hence, to dress or full the cloth. Thus, the word means uncarded, unfulled, unfinished, unshrunk, untreated. The unshrunk cloth signifies Christ from His incarnation to His crucifixion as a piece of new cloth, untreated, unfinished; whereas the new garment in Luke 5:36 signifies Christ, after being treated in His crucifixion, as a new robe. (The Greek word for “new” in Luke 5:36 is kainos, the same as the word for “fresh” in Matthew 9:17.) Christ was firstly the unshrunk cloth for making a new garment, and then through His death and resurrection He was made a new garment to cover us as our righteousness before God that we might be justified by God and acceptable to Him (Luke 15:22; Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9). A patch of unshrunk cloth put on an old garment pulls away from the garment by its shrinking strength, thus making the tear worse. To do this means to imitate what Christ did in His human life on earth. This is what today’s modernists are attempting. They only imitate Jesus’ human deeds to improve their behavior; they do not believe in the crucified Jesus as their Redeemer or the resurrected Christ as their new garment to cover them as their righteousness before God.

The old garment in verse 16 signifies man’s good behavior, good deeds, and religious practices by his old natural life. The Lord Jesus was very wise. In verse 16 He did not say, “You disciples of John must realize that your garments are torn and full of holes. By fasting you are actually cutting a piece of unshrunk cloth and using it to patch the holes in your garments.” Instead of saying this directly, the Lord Jesus indicated to the disciples of John that they did not have a perfect garment. He indicated that their garments had holes and that by fasting they were trying to patch the holes. No human being could utter such a word as that spoken by the Lord Jesus in verse 16. His wise word is full of meaning, rebuke, revelation, and instruction. The Lord was saying to the disciples of John, “Why do you ask Me about fasting? Your fasting is a way of patching your torn garment. By your fasting, you show that you realize that you have holes in your garments that need to be mended. Your teacher, John, introduced you all to Me. Now you are utilizing Me to patch your holes. This means that you are cutting a piece from My unshrunk cloth to mend the holes in your garments. But My cloth is full of shrinking power. Don’t put any part of it on your old torn garments. If you do, the hole will become larger.”

The account in Luke 5:36 is somewhat different from that in Matthew 9:16. Luke 5:36 says, “No man tears a patch from a new garment and puts it on an old.” Notice that Matthew says “cloth” and that Luke says “garment.” The Lord Jesus likened Himself to a piece of unshrunk cloth. This points to what He was between His incarnation and His crucifixion. During this period of time He was unshrunk cloth, new cloth that had never been fulled or dealt with. Through His death and resurrection this new cloth was dealt with and was made a new garment. The Lord’s intention was to give Himself to us not as a piece of unshrunk cloth, but as a complete, finished garment that we might put on as our righteousness to be justified before God. After His death and resurrection, He was made the finished garment for us to put on so that we may attend His wedding. Thus, He is not only the Bridegroom, but also our wedding garment that qualifies us to attend His wedding feast.

Why did the Lord Jesus, after telling us that He is the Bridegroom, go on to speak of the new cloth, the new garment? We must look deeper to discern His meaning. The Lord tells us that the Bridegroom is with us. But look at yourself—do you deserve His presence? Do you think that your real condition in the eyes of God is worthy of the presence of the Bridegroom? We must all answer, “No.” All we have and all we are does not deserve the Lord’s presence. To enjoy the Lord’s presence we need certain qualifications; we need to be in a certain condition, in a certain situation. What we are by birth, what we are naturally, whatever we can do, and whatever we have, do not qualify us to be in the presence of the Bridegroom. The Bridegroom is Christ, and Christ is God Himself. Suppose God appeared to you today. Could you just sit there? He is the holy God, the righteous God, and such a One is the Bridegroom. Recall the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The prodigal son came home. The father undoubtedly loved him deeply, but the son’s condition was utterly unfit for the presence of the father. Therefore, the father immediately told his servant to take the best robe and to put it on him, thus making him fit for his presence. Our Bridegroom is God Himself. How may we, poor sinners, enjoy the presence of the heavenly King? We must remember the context of these verses in Matthew 9: the Lord Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners. We are “tax collectors” and sinners. We are not qualified; we need something to cover us that we may sit in the presence of the Lord. This is why, after the Lord spoke of Himself as the Bridegroom, He told us that we need to be clothed in a new garment. When we put on the new garment, we are worthy of His presence. When the prodigal son was clothed with the best robe, he could immediately stand in the presence of his honored father. The best robe qualified him to enjoy the father’s presence. We as sinners and “tax collectors” need to be clothed in a new garment that we may be worthy of the Bridegroom’s presence.

I do not like to present mere teachings and doctrines—I prefer the practice, the experience. Let me check with you: Since Christ became the new garment after His resurrection, how then may we put Him on? Galatians 3:27 says, “As many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” We must put on Christ, and the way to put Him on is to be baptized into Him. Now we must see how we may be baptized into Christ. We have seen that after His resurrection Christ became a new garment, but the Bible also tells us that after His resurrection He was made a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). If Christ were not the Spirit, how could we be baptized into Him? By being crucified, buried, and resurrected, Christ was made a life-giving pneuma, a life-giving breath, the living air. As the breath, it is so easy for Him to get into us, and as the air, it is so easy for us to get into Him. Christ in resurrection was made a Spirit. This life-giving Spirit is the all-inclusive One. In this Spirit is all that Christ is and all He has accomplished. This all-inclusive Spirit is the all-inclusive Christ Himself, and this Christ as the Spirit is the new garment for us to wear. Hence, even the garment is the Spirit. We were baptized into Christ as the Spirit—it is thus that we put on Christ. Christ is the pneuma, the all-inclusive Spirit. When we are baptized into Him, we put Him on. Immediately He as the Spirit becomes our clothing, our covering, and we are qualified. Therefore, the new garment which we must put on is Christ Himself as the all-inclusive Spirit.

This is the meaning of the Lord’s word in 28:19, “Go therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The reality of the name is in the Spirit. To baptize people into the name means to baptize them into the Spirit, who is Christ as the all-inclusive pneuma. Christ became incarnated, He lived on earth, He was crucified and accomplished redemption, and He was resurrected. After everything was finished, He became the all-inclusive pneuma in His resurrection. Incarnation is included in this pneuma; crucifixion and redemption are included in this pneuma; resurrection, the power of His resurrection, and the life of the resurrection are all included in this pneuma. When we were baptized into Him, we were baptized into this pneuma. When we were baptized into Him, we put Him on. We must put on Christ as the new garment, and this new garment is the all-inclusive Spirit. Christ is no longer the untreated cloth; He is now the finished garment. In this finished garment we have redemption, resurrection power, and all the elements of the divine Person. This new garment is not just a piece of clothing, but the divine pneuma, the all-inclusive Spirit, including Christ’s incarnation, His crucifixion, His redemptive work, His resurrection, and His resurrection power. Now He is the finished garment for us to put on. Hallelujah, we can put on such a Christ!

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