A LITTLE LEAVEN
The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians said, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Gal 5:9). When we first read of leaven in the Bible we see that the Jews were to put away leaven out of their houses when observing the Lord’s Passover. In fact it was so serious that we read, “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.” (Exodus 12:15). We see that in the Bible leaven represents sin. This is why we observe the Lord’s Supper with unleavened bread as it represents our Lord’s sinless body and we use unleavened wine which represents His sinless blood.
Jesus verifies what I say for he warned of the leaven of the Pharisees. He spoke on more than one occasion warning of leaven, but not the leaven of bread. Here are his words. “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt 16:6) and then when his disciples thought that he spoke of the leaven of bread we then read “How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Matt 16:11-12). So here we see that false doctrine is likened unto leaven. And then we read of another occasion where Jesus “began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1). One of the definitions of hypocrisy is “the acting of a stage player”. So now we see that worship and religious activity that is not done from the heart is likened unto leaven. In another place Jesus warned of the leaven of Herod, and Herod was not a righteous man (See Mark 8:15). The Apostle Paul said that self-glorying and malice and wickedness were likened unto leaven. “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1st Corinthians 5:6-8). So hypocrisy and false doctrine is represented by leaven and truth and sincerity is said to be without leaven. And what is truth one might ask? Well Jesus answered that question for us in His high priestly prayer to His Father when he said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17). The word of God, that is the Bible, is where we find truth. Now you wouldn’t want to add any leaven to that would you? Would you be so brave as to add to it the commandments of men?
I have quoted these scriptures to establish a foundation of what leaven represents in the Bible. There is an interesting passage in the kingdom of heaven parables that Jesus gave. They are seen in Matthew’s gospel, chapter thirteen. In that chapter we read these words in the 33rd verse. “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” What could be meant by these words? Does leaven represent what it does in other places in the Bible or something different here? Even the learned John Gill wrote, “The word ‘leaven’ is everywhere else used in a bad sense; and either designs immorality, as malice and wickedness, or false doctrine, such as that of the Pharisees and Sadducees: but here it seems to be taken in a good sense, and the Gospel to be compared unto it.” As much as we admire John Gill’s commentaries we feel that he has made an error with his comments concerning this verse. Notice his words “everywhere else” it is “used in a bad sense” but here “it seems” otherwise. It only seemed that way to him. We believe that it is still as always in that it represents evil. Let us examine the parables of Matthew chapter thirteen a little more closely.
Let me ask this question. Does the “kingdom of heaven” represent the saved in heaven or something else? Well, in that same chapter of Matthew we read, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30). Not just a few tares but enough to be gathered into bundles. For those who may not know, a tare is a false wheat. It looks like wheat but has a black grain. Now look down at verse 47-48 of the same chapter. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.” So in both of these cases we see the kingdom of heaven with tares that an enemy had planted with the wheat together and a net that had gathered both good and bad. Notice in verse 41 that Jesus said that his angels would gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and do iniquity. So we see that the kingdom of heaven does not represent the saved who are in heaven but professing Christendom here on earth during this present age in which we are now living which began at the preaching of John the Baptist. “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12). What kind of kingdom could suffer violence and the violent take it by force other than one on earth? This is not the coming millennial kingdom because this one had suffered violence since the days of John the Baptist.
At the beginning of chapter thirteen of Matthew Jesus started speaking in parables. It begins with the parable of the sower who sowed seed. The seed fell on four types of ground. Jesus said that the seed was the word of the kingdom. On the stony ground it even sprang up but withered away. Where it fell among thorns it also sprang up but was choked. Only one type of ground of the four ever produced any fruit. It was only the seed that fell on good ground that produced any fruit. But the Bible teaches that there is none good, no not one (Romans 3:12). “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:2-3). Jesus himself said the same. “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18). Now back to our parable about the seed that fell on the good ground. Jesus later explained that the good ground is “he that heareth the word, and understandeth it” (Matthew 13:23). But again the Bible says that there is none that understandeth. Paul said, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” (Romans 3:11). So who understands? Well the Bible tells us who understands. It’s not the one who is smarter than everyone else. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,” (Luke 24:45). You see dear reader the ground had to be prepared by the Holy Spirit in order that the seed which fell on it would produce any fruit. It is all a work of God. Men repent and believe the gospel because of a work that God Himself does. Paul said that “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6). He wrote to the Corinthians and asked them “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1st Corinthians 4:7). It is God that makes the difference, not you. It is all of grace and “not of works, lest any man should boast.” And this is important to see when considering that “the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Oh dear reader I am about to present a sobering picture of today’s professing Christendom. I do not think this represents the bride of Christ because I read where the bride has made herself ready but it represents the sad state of professing Christendom.
So what has happened? Well, it started very early. Paul warned of it over and over. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:29). And what was this doctrine that they would bring in? Paul in his epistle to the Galatians wrote, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21). And then in that same epistle he wrote, “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” (Galatians 3:21). You see dear reader there is no commandment given that can be obeyed which will produce life. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians stated that we were all dead in trespasses and sins and that it was God who quickened us. Our repentance and faith which we must have in order to be truly saved are the results of Holy Spirit quickening. A man who is spiritually blind must be given the ability to see before he can see the glorious light of the gospel. A man who is spiritually deaf must be given the ability to hear before he can hear the good news of the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation but Paul did not stop there when he said that. He said, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Romans 1:16). Spiritually dead men cannot embrace the gospel in saving faith without the quickening power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us now return to Jesus’ parable of the woman hiding leaven in three measures of meal. I would like to draw your attention to a few points of interest. Leaven is hidden by this woman in the meal. If leaven represented the gospel then why would it be hidden? The Gospel is to be proclaimed and shouted from the housetops. Jesus said, “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27). But we see in the parable of the leaven that the woman hid this leaven in the meal. Paul spoke of false brethren who “came in privily” in order “that they might bring us into bondage.” (Gal 2:4). The word “privily” means secretly or by stealth. Peter says the same thing when he wrote, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” (2nd Peter 2:1). So we can see that it makes no sense to make the action of secretly hiding leaven in three measures of meal to represent the preaching of the Gospel and that it would grow and grow until it filled the earth. What the parable teaches is that the three measures of meal have had leaven inserted and that meal will eventually become completely leavened. So what could the three measures of meal represent? It is always best to let scripture interpret scripture. Where is the first place in the Bible that three measures of meal are spoken of? It is in Genesis 18:6 where Abraham told Sarah to quickly make ready “three measures of fine meal.” And what was it for? It was to feed three men, one being the LORD himself. It was what the Lord himself ate. The three measures of meal represent the pure unleavened Gospel of God. It is the food of God, without leaven. But this woman has secretly hidden leaven in the pure Gospel. She has by stealth inserted the commandments of men into the Gospel. Things to do in order to be saved. Commandments to keep and days to observe that are not to be found anywhere in the Gospel. Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote, "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." (Galatians 4:10-11). I fear many Baptist have fallen into a similar trap. Do you really think walking an aisle, or shaking a preacher’s hand or raising your hand or saying a sinner’s prayer can create life? In my own experience I did come to the front in a church service but it was the results of being brought under conviction by the Holy Spirit and shut up with no place to turn but the completed work of Jesus Christ as my substitute.
So, who is this woman that did this awful thing? Well, the bride of Christ is a woman, but I do not think this woman is the bride of Christ. As has already been pointed out the bride hath “made herself ready” for the marriage and it was granted to her to be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8). However, there is another woman mentioned in the Book of Revelation and nothing good is said of her. It says that “the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Rev 17:2). That would be spiritual fornication. She “was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (Rev 17:4). She had come so far in her heresy that she was “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev 17:6) through her inquisition. One thing we are sure of is that the woman in Jesus’ parable concerning the leaven was pretending to be Christian. We know that because she is hiding the leaven in the three measures of meal and the kingdom of heaven is likened unto to this. Make no mistake, she is part of professing Christendom. She has mixed works and the commandments of men to be kept into the pure Gospel meal.
How far will it all go? Well the Lord says, “Till the whole was leavened.” (Matthew 13:33). Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1st Timothy 4:1-3). And again he wrote, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” … “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2nd Timothy 3:1 & 5). They would be religious but worldly and lost. They would think that they are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” and not know that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17). Because they were this way the Lord Jesus said, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” I do realize that was written to a local church that did exist in John’s day but it was the last church mentioned and we are in the last times. However the woman in Jesus’ parable is in a far more perilous condition than even this church mentioned in Revelation. The Laodicean church was lukewarm and Christ was not even in it. We see him standing on the outside but he did stand at the door and knock. But the woman in Jesus’ parable had purposely and secretly introduced false doctrine into the Gospel and this action would eventually pollute all of professing Christendom. No wonder Jesus said, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). And again he said, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:22-23).
A brief explanation of the parable of the mustard seed is probably in order here. "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." (Matthew 13:31-32). A mustard seed is a herb and may be as large as a small tree but is more like a bush from what I have found. But this herb though it is greatest among herbs became a tree. It morphed into something large enough that birds (translated fowls in verse 4) came and lodged there. Not just lighted but lodged which means according to Strong's "to camp down," "haunt" or "to remain". Back in verse 19 Jesus explained that the fowls of verse 4 were the "wicked one." In the Revelation we see Babylon as a place for every unclean and hateful bird. In Ezekiel we see that the Assyrian was like a great cedar whose height was exalted above all trees and the fowls of heaven made their nests there. Then in the book of Daniel we see that it was Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom of Babylon that was compared to a great tree "and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof." So when we compare this parable with scripture and in its context we get the same picture we do with the leaven.
Dear reader we are in perilous times as Paul said would come. Men would be religious yet deny the power of God. The God of the Bible has the power to save. He had the power to apprehend Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and convert him from being a hater of the truth to one of the greatest preachers of it. This is why Jesus said, "Ye must BE born again." (John 3:7). Not get but be because it is passive. The believer is born of God. I ask the reader to please read Romans 8:28 through 9:24. Do you ever hear that passage of scripture preached? And if not, then why? Have you ever heard sovereign election taught? If not, then why? Has this passage ever been preached? "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." (Romans 9:15-18). The passages I have just referenced speak of the God of the Bible who has absolute power to save all that He has chosen in Christ before the world began. But men will not preach them nor will they deal with them. The reason sovereign grace is not preached or taught in most churches today is because it is not compatible with the leaven that has been introduced and has now permeated most of professing Christendom.
Revelation 18:4 "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726