THE MEANING OF "NEW"
Here we have four things, and with each of them the single, unchanging word "new" is used. In the Greek, however, there are three different words used for this one English word. The word "new" as related to new cloth means "untreated" or "unfinished." One version for this passage translates the word "new" as "unshrunk." It is cloth which has never been dealt with, which has never been worked upon. This is the meaning of the word "new" in relation to the new cloth. The word "new" as related to the new garment and the new wineskin, however, means new in nature. In essence and in nature the garment and the wineskin are new. Lastly, the word "new" referring to the new wine means new in relation to time. This is wine which has just recently been made. In summary, the new cloth is cloth which is untreated and unfinished; the new garment and the new wineskin are materials which are essentially new in nature; and the new wine is something which has just been freshly brought forth. All these things are full of meaning.
THE NEW GARMENT
Why did the Lord Jesus, after telling us that He is the Bridegroom, go on to speak of these four new things—the new cloth, the new garment, the new wine and the new wineskin? 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. You see, 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, does not qualify us to be in the presence of the Bridegroom. We must realize that the Bridegroom is Christ, and Christ is God Himself. Suppose that today God appeared to you. Could you just sit there? He is the Holy God, He is the righteous God; such a One is the Bridegroom. Do you remember the story in Luke 15? The prodigal son came home. The father undoubtedly loved him deeply, but the son’s condition was utterly unbefitting to the presence of the father. Therefore, the father immediately told his servant to take the best robe and put it on him, thus to fit him for his presence. Our Bridegroom is God Himself. How may we, poor sinners, enjoy the presence of the heavenly King? You must remember the context of these verses in Matthew 9: the Lord Jesus was eating with sinners and publicans. We are the sinners and the publicans. 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 publicans do need to be clothed in a new garment that we may be worthy of the Bridegroom’s presence. But this is not all.
(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)