Three Stumbling Blocks

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When it appears that the Holy Spirit has begun to create new wine in the church, why do Christian leaders sometimes fail to drink it?

Let us begin by acknowledging that sometimes it is because they are courageous and insightful. Athanasius was against the world, and the new wine of Arianism was actually stump water with clever marketing. The same kind of thing could be said of all the slick hype over ministry in a postmodern matrix, whatever that is supposed to mean.

But let us assume for a moment that the Holy Spirit really has begun to work in a significant way, and that entrenched religious authorities oppose that work. What are some of the reasons given in Scripture for why they might want to do this? Three basic motivations come to mind:


Jesus was opposed because of envy, a reality that even Pilate could see (Matt. 27:18; Mk. 15:10). When Paul preached in Antioch, things were going great until the local authorities saw the large multitude that showed up to hear Paul preach the next week. So they were filled with envy (Acts 13:45). The same thing happened in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5). This is a human problem — not only were Jewish leaders afflicted with it, so were Christian preachers (Phil. 1:15). When someone teaches or preaches with authority, and not like the scribes, there have been times when the scribes haven’t taken it too well. Sometimes the new wine can’t get into the old wineskin, not because of the old wine, but because the skin is stuffed full of learned scribes, writing treatises on what it was like back in the glory days, back before we drank all the old wine.


in John 12:42, we are told that many of the rulers (leaders, teachers, etc) believed in Jesus. But they did not admit this publicly because they were cowed by a powerful, conservative faction within the church. They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (v. 43). The establishment always knows how to defend itself, and how to intimidate that large group of men in the middle, men who can follow the argument, so long as following it doesn’t lead to any unpleasant consequences. So men remain quiet at presbytery, lamenting the injustice being done, but unwilling to stand.


and for a few too many, the ministry is an indoor job with no heavy lifting. Jesus spoke of the hireling who flees (Jn. 10: 12-13), and one of the prophets spoke of shepherds who feed only themselves. Sometimes these men are insightful enough to see their main chance might lie in going with a new reforming movement, but usually this mentality likes the quiet the status quo provides, a quiet in which a man may butter his bread, and not have to read any books.

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