In the Bible, God used leaven as a type, picture, or
representation of hypocrisy and sin, and of the sort of things that would have
an evil influence on the hearts and minds of His people. When Jesus warned his disciples of the evil
influence of hypocrisy He said, in Matthew 16:6, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the
Sadducees.” When by Jesus’ authority the Apostle Paul
urged the Corinthian church to purge from themselves the sexually immoral man,
he wrote in 1Corinthians 5:6-8,
6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7Purge out therefore the old leaven,
that ye may be a new lump, as ye are
For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8Therefore 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.
Our communion with God and each other, that blessed,
spiritually intimate, united walk with our Lord and worship of His Majesty, is to
be maintained with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, neither of which were consistent with the immorality the Corinthians
were tolerating. Paul reasons, “ye are unleavened,” or, in other words, they
are to be, they ought to be. According to Paul in Colossians 1:24 the church,
in a spiritual sense, is the Lord’s body.
Little wonder, then, that the church must make every effort to protect
its members against sin’s influence by addressing sin and by disciplining, when
necessary, those who openly and unrepentantly walk disorderly! We are
to be the unleavened Body of Christ!
Leaven, in the Bible, represents something that our
Lord is not. Just as God required the
sacrificial lamb and offerings of Old Covenant times to be “without blemish” (Exodus 12:1-5; Leviticus
chapters 1-4) and just as these pictured the Lamb of God, the Messiah, yet
future to them, so it was with the true Lamb of God that would take away the
sin of the world. For Jesus to be an
adequate sacrifice and be our atoning Savior, He had to have lived a perfect,
sinless, unblemished life...and He did (Hebrews 4:15)! Furthermore, we know that in His death, our
Lord’s body was not left to decay. In
keeping with Divine prophesy, and in proof of His deity, He triumphantly came
forth from the tomb in a perfect, glorified state, completely void of any decay
(Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:27).
The bread that is to be used in the Lord’s Supper must
aptly represent the body of Christ, just as the Lord intended. In reference to the loaf He took when
instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “This (that which he took) is my body” (Matthew 26:26; Mark
14:22; Luke 22:19; and 1Corinthians 11:24).
The Apostle Paul referred to the use of a singular, blessed (sanctified),
loaf of bread, shared commonly by the
assembled church in the Lord’s Supper, as “the communion of (our joint participation in)
the Body of
Christ.” It’s use shows forth our unity in Christ’s
body (1Corinthians 10:16,17).
Leavening and fermentation which involves the active
work of yeast, however, is essentially a process of decay. Understanding this, and knowing what leaven
represents in the Bible, how could anyone reasonably justify using, as that
which would represent the body of our Lord, bread that has, as part of its
makeup, that which represents the evil influence of wickedness, the existence
of sin, and the process of decay? The
use of unleavened bread most appropriately represents and reminds us of how Christ’s
life and body were and of what He truly is today. It also declares what we are, and what we ever
strive to be….His spiritual, united body, the church… purified by God’s saving
grace through Christ (John 17:21; 1Corinthians 1:10; 5:8), and the product of
God’s infinite wisdom (Ephesians 3:10).
Ultimately, though, if we determine to keep our
Lord’s commandment, “This do…,” and then carefully consider what Jesus did when he instituted this
memorial feast, we do not need to guess about what Jesus did. We don’t need to base
our conclusion about the kind of bread Jesus wants us to use to represent His
body in communion upon our own human reasoning.
A casual reading of scripture verses leading up to Jesus’ institution of
the Lord’s Supper indicates that Jesus
took this bread just as He and His disciples were completing their observance
of the Passover meal in accordance with Old Testament law (Matthew 26:1-2,
17-25). God’s law for the observance of
the Passover required that they not eat leavened bread or drink a leavened
(fermented) drink because they were not to have any leaven (yeast) in their
houses at all (Exodus 12:15; 19:20)!! While
what was unleavened could have included oil or salt (Leviticus 2:4,13,15), there
could have been no involvement of yeast. We know that in order to be our perfect,
sinless sacrifice, Jesus kept that law (Matthew 5:17-18; Galatians 4:4). Therefore, we know that Christ, “our Passover” lamb (1Corinthians 5:7),
used unleavened bread (and unfermented fruit of the vine) to represent Himself when
He established the Lord’s Supper. We
know that when He said, “This do…,” He was telling them to observe this memorial just as He had shown
them. We know that this, of necessity,
would have included the use of unleavened bread.
It is sobering to consider the significance of the
multitude of things God required of his people under that the old law…all
because of Jesus… in view of what He would
eventually do. Those Old Testament observances have been nailed to the
cross (Colossians 2:14), but serve for our learning today (Romans 15:4). Our
interest is not in keeping an obsolete law, only keeping Jesus’ command. Our
concern with what the Old Law required is limited in this regard to what Jesus
meant when he said “this do.” While Old Testament memorials have since passed, and other memorials
erected by men have fallen, we are privileged to participate in observing what
today stands as the world’s oldest, living memorial…. all because of Jesus, in
memory and honor of what he has done. As long as we keep this feast just as Jesus
intended for us to, without the effects of any change from what He did, then we
know we are keeping this memorial alive and that it remains truly His.
At Claiborne Church of Christ, we believe it is important
and necessary that we consistently follow Jesus’ specific instructions and
example just as He and the Apostle Paul delivered them to us (1Corinthians 11:1-2,
23-27). Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my
commandments” (John 14:15) and Paul indicates that if we partake of the Lord’s
Supper in an unworthy manner, we will be guilty of the body and blood of the
Lord. We believe this is true whether we
have our minds in the wrong place or in any way digress from the method,
structure, or emblems Jesus chose to remind us of Him.