by John Leitch
The law requires all Bible-believing people to eat unleavened bread for seven days once a year (Lev 23:6). Christ did not come to abolish the law (Matt 5:17–18) so this is still required of us today. This bread is called the bread of sincerity and truth (1Cor 5:8), but is also called the bread of affliction (Deut 16:3). This can be seen in Acts 2:37–38. The people, once they were sincere and understood truth, were greatly afflicted. The people were cut to the heart. They realized that the way they were living was not the way of peace and happiness, but the way of death. Christ referred to the ordinary person as already dead (Luke 9:60). This affliction comes from our conscience but can also come from other people if we voice or act on this truth.
In the Bible the Greek word for unleavened (bread) is azumos (Strong’s Concordance number 106) used 9 times in the New Testament, and the Greek word for ordinary leavened bread is artos (Strong’s 740) used at least 72 times. In the “last supper” accounts in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:19, Jesus took bread (artos), blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples. Christ also compared Himself to leavened bread (artos) in John 6:35 where He called Himself the “bread of life”. Why did Christ repeatedly compare Himself to artos (leavened bread)?
As humans, we all have been deceived into accepting a leavening that allows Satan to influence us but few people realize the Bible also speaks of a good type of leavening (Lev 7:13; 23:17; Matt. 13:33). This article’s purpose is to show that the bread which Christ offered to His disciples was a different kind of bread, opposite to the unleavened type. This bread that represented Himself was a bread that brought comfort, not affliction, and hope of eternal life, not fear that death was a certainty because of sin. In eating unleavened bread each year, we gain a knowledge and appreciation for the new type offered by the Father (John 6:32–33). I shall show how the Bible uses the bread-making process to demonstrate how fulfillment of God’s plan will be achieved.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul draws a parallel between the spiritual growth of a Christian and the bread making process. Paul points out that the death of Christ has cleansed us of the old leaven (1Cor 5:7) and given us the opportunity of a new beginning. The idea is to get back to the basic pure ingredients (sincerity and truth) and to start again. The point most people miss is in the bread-making procedure; the first thing you do to a new batch of dough is to mix in the leaven starter.
Bread, throughout most of history, was made by a process that is known as “sour dough”. A small amount of leavened dough from the previous batch is mixed into the new batch. The pioneers used this method to make their bread. Sometimes the starter could live on (it contains a living organism) for many years. If people thought their neighbour had better tasting bread, they would request a piece of that neighbour’s starter. The starter contains life and under its influence would reproduce (with the proper conditions and time) a product identical to the original loaf the starter came from (if the ingredients were the same).
Another problem people had in the old days was the care that had to be taken to ensure that the starter would remain alive and active. The bread maker realized if the starter was not kept in a good environment, the life in the living bread (the starter), was in danger of dying. If the all-important starter died, due to the baker’s negligence in the care that was taken of the starter, big trouble would be the result! The bread would be lifeless and flat. The process would never complete itself, and the bread would remain in an unfinished state. The bread would not rise with that delightful texture and taste that we have all grown to love.
The Corinthian congregation had many problems. One man was living with his father’s wife, and many others had become arrogant and puffed up. Many congregations today have problems also. But what is the source of these problems, and why do they seem to spread if left alone? The Bible does give answers to these questions.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12, NIV).
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1Pet 5:8, NIV)
“He threw him into the abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended” (Rev 20:3).
The Bible compares the influence of Satan to that of leaven. The Corinthian man’s immoral lifestyle and the people’s arrogant puffed-up attitude would spread if not resisted and purged out. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1Cor 5:6).
The problem was not the people in the Corinthian congregation, it was their behavior and this behavior was simply a symptom of Satan’s leavening. To separate this leavening effect from their person, the offending parties must first ask God to help to remove it and (this is their part) create such a hostile environment that the unwanted leavening will die out (James 4:7). To accomplish this a person must fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl 12:13) We have to ferociously attack every evil thought and make it obedient to Christ (2Cor 10:5). If this hostile-toward-evil atmosphere is maintained, Satan will not be able to start his leaven working again. The mind of a commandment-keeping person is a hostile environment to Satan’s leavening but very fertile ground indeed to the “living bread”, which is Christ (John 6:51).
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Matt 11:12, NASB). Paul compares God’s people to soldiers who have to fight until the time of their death but not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:10–18, Rev 2:26). To make the Kingdom of God your goal is not for the pacifist. Sometimes people knowingly or unknowingly create ideal conditions for the offensive leaven to grow and refuse to create the hostile environment that will cause it to die out. These are the people who must be put outside the camp (to use Old Testament terminology). These people, once their behavior has changed for the better, should be welcomed back (2Cor 2:6–7). This is very similar to leprosy. The problem is not with the people. It is the disease that is in them that caused them to be segregated.
As the reader has most likely noticed by now, the leaven in the starter closely resembles the effect on a human from a spiritual source. The difference being, as humans, we all have had the wrong leaven (or starter) added to our person, which produces the kind of mind seen in Romans 8:7. This leaven, if not purged out, will take over our entire being (1Cor 5:6–7).
Spiritual leavening cannot exist in a hostile environment. It is possible by deliberate action or by neglect, to drive out spiritual leaven (good or bad).
“Resist the devil and he will flee…” (James 4:7)
“Do not quench the (Holy) Spirit…” (1Thes 5:19)
A person, when they understand how bread was made throughout much of history, can see the similarity between de-leavening and baptism.
Baptism represents the death of the old person who was full of malice and wickedness (1Cor 5:8). The average person, with their focus mainly on the concerns of how they can make it in this competitive world, views the laws of God as foolishness. This is the very person whom we put to death through baptism. Although baptism symbolizes death, we must not remain dead, flat and lifeless. The Christian must rise in the newness of life (Rom 6:4–5; Col 3:9–10).
De-leavening also represents death because leaven is a living organism that will multiply and by removing it, you take the life out of the host substance. (In this case, the influence that caused the old person to be full of wickedness and malice). When this old leaven is removed, all that is left is the basic pure ingredients—sincerity and truth. Although these are good, they are of little use without a force to spring them into action.
Being sincere and knowing all truth is not enough. A person needs a life-giving force (like the leaven starter in the sour-dough bread), to give them the power to obey God’s laws (Rom 2:13): feed the hungry, visit the sick, watch over the fatherless, etc., etc. Nature hates a vacuum. If a person remains in an unleavened state for an extended period of time, the old leaven will return seven times stronger (Matt 12:43–45).
The lesson of Christ being the new leaven starter is shown when a statement which Christ made is put together with one of His parables. Luke 17:21 demonstrates that because Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God, the term “Kingdom of God” and “Messiah” are interchangeable. Christ stated that the Kingdom of God (Himself) was in their midst. Once this is understood, the parable of the Kingdom being like leaven that was mixed into the three measures of meal (Matt 13:33) comes to light. One measure for Jew and Greek, one for male and female, and one for slave and free (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”, Gal 3:28). It can be seen now that Christ will be mixed throughout all mankind (“In Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”, 1Cor 15:22). Christ will leaven all those who do not create an atmosphere to repel Him. The property of leaven is to change or assimilate to its own nature the meal or dough with which it is mixed.
I realize this is opposite to what many have believed over the years. I suspect many critics will say; “There is no such thing as new leaven.” To respond to this statement, I ask a simple question; “Why is the old covenant called ‘the old covenant’?” The answer is obvious. In calling the covenant “old”, it implies that there is, or will be, a new covenant. If there was no new leaven, 1 Corinthians 5:7 would simply say “throw out all leaven…”; Paul, by calling the leaven “old”, implies there will be new leaven to replace it. Critics also point to Christ giving bread (artos, Strong’s 740), to the two men in Luke 24:30, and say that it would be against the law to have leavened bread because it was the Days of Unleavened Bread. Although feeding on Christ’s body is continuous (1Cor 11:26), there are periods of time when the physical symbols are not partaken of (during Unleavened Bread and Atonement) for obvious reasons. If one examines this account closely, it nowhere states that the men ate it. This is a one-time supernatural event. Christ also presented many things that were unlawful to eat to Peter and told him to eat them (Acts 10:12–14), but he refused. Things are not always as they first appear. Was Christ teaching a lesson here?
When unleavened bread is meant, a different Greek word is used: azumos (Strong’s 106). If Luke wanted the reader to understand the bread to be unleavened, why did he not use the word for unleavened? The word azumos is used in nine other places in the New Testament where the writer wanted to stress that fact. If the bread was truly unleavened, what possible motive would Luke and all the other writers recording “the last supper” have, in using a word with its primary meaning opposite to that which they witnessed? Leavened is opposite to unleavened. Keeping this in mind, was Christ offering the men the old leaven that must be purged out, or the new leaven that must be stirred up and provided with a good environment so it can grow? Individually (speaking about reality not symbolism) there is no restricted time on the calendar when a person is forbidden to partake of Christ, the “living bread”. We are to do that continually. The two men had been in a position for approximately four days to be cleansed of the old leaven because of the death of Yeshua, the Passover lamb (1Cor 5:7).
Without the new leaven, a person would be like a sincere carpenter who knows all the truth about the building codes by memory, and has the know-how to use them, but as of yet has done nothing. All his knowledge is of little value if he does not come to life, pick up a hammer, and do something. James explains this principle of a lifeless state of no action as dead faith (James 2:26).
The Feast Days are just a general outline showing the nation of Israel (today the church) the steps each individual must go through for salvation. Each individual, after going through the Holy Days a number of times, should know what it takes to be accepted into God’s Kingdom. People are warned to count the cost (Luke 14:27–32) before embarking on their own personal spiritual journey. The bread and the wine did not replace the Passover Lamb because killing the lamb is the law and Christ did not come to abolish even the smallest letter of the law (Matt 5:18). When the priesthood and temple return, the Passover Lamb will again be sacrificed. The sacrifices will be returning (Ezk 46:1–24; Ps 51:17–19; Zech 14:20–21). The bread and wine was also very much a part of the Old Testament as can be seen in Genesis 14:18. Melchizedek (who many believe to be Jesus Christ) offered bread and wine to Abraham the father of the faithful just as Christ many years later offered bread and wine to the faithful disciples, only this time the meaning is explained and recorded in the Bible. The Passover Lamb represents Christ but more importantly, so do the bread and wine (Matt 26:26–28). When the two are examined it can be seen that the lamb fits into the yearly lesson (everyone young and old alike eats it) but the wine and bread is more serious and personal. The wine and bread marks the start of the more important individual’s spiritual journey. This is similar to the national practice of throwing out breadcrumbs once a year, as compared to the individual’s ongoing parallel practice of repentance and turning from evil. Both throwing out crumbs and repentance are putting out leaven, as is eating the lamb and taking the wine and bread are both feeding on the Passover sacrifice. The only difference between them is that one is a national observance that takes place once a year on a given date and the other is an individual observance (or as a group of believers) that can start at anytime. A person does not have to wait for any calendar date to repent or start feeding on the Passover sacrifice. Once this personal process is started it is continuous, not once a year. The law still requires us to keep the annual Holy Days as a symbolic example to all people, so they will learn that someday God expects them (when they are ready) to start on their own individual journey towards the Kingdom of God. Paul goes to great lengths to warn the people of the seriousness of the wine and bread (1Cor 11:27–30). Once a person puts their hand to the plow (starts their personal journey towards the Kingdom) they must not look back (Luke 9:62).
The unleavened state (“the empty house”, Matt 12:43–45; or our symbolic dead bodies under the baptismal waters) is a very short period of a Christian’s development (only about seven days in the general plan revealed by the biblical Feast Days), so they can be renewed with the leavening (starter), which is Christ, that has come directly from God the Father. Christ is the living bread (with life in it), which came down from the Father (John 6:32–35). With this in mind, the question must be asked: how did Christianity get so far off track as to think Christ is represented by the unleavened bread? Unleavened bread has no life (leavening) in it. It is dead, flat and unable to reproduce itself. This is entirely opposite to the leavened type, which has no limitations on its increase. The deception has come from the same place as other false Christian doctrines, i.e. the Roman Catholic Church. This church has been deceived into believing Christ is represented by unleavened bread, and passed this idea on through all of its spin-off churches throughout the world. The unleavened wafer that they believe represents Christ’s body, is a major tenet of the Catholic Church. This doctrine goes hand in hand with the image of the dead Christ on a cross that is hung around their necks. Could Satan’s message be any clearer about the One he tried to wipe out as a child?
Many people see the seriousness of purging out the old leaven so it will not grow and engulf their whole person, but are totally blind to the effect which the new leaven will have on them. We as Christians must ask for this earnest of God’s spirit (2Cor 5:5, KJV), so it will cause a leavening effect that will bring life to our being in the same way the small amount of sour dough brings life to the unleavened batch of new dough. After all, that was one of the main reasons Christ came to mankind (John 10:10). Christ is the “bread of life” (John 6:48).
This writer finds much comfort in knowing that the new leaven will act in a similar way as the old. It will be a process that will never stop until it is complete. The end result (if a hostile environment is not created to repulse it), will be a person in the very image of God. We are in the process of being transformed (2Cor 3:18). This has been God’s will from the beginning (Gen 1:26). This, of course, can only come about with the fulfillment of the new covenant (Jer 31:31–34; Heb 8:8–13).
In summary, just as there are two ways to mark the death of the Messiah (the first way is the Jewish Passover and the second the Catholic Good Friday) there also seems to be two ways to partake of the bread and wine. The Jews, through history, have used leavened bread and the Catholics have used unleavened bread. The Jews have, by the most part, never understood the significance of the Passover Lamb or the bread and wine.
The Catholic method always has unleavened bread and must be supervised by an official representing that organization. The organization, as everyone knows, traces its roots back to Rome.
The Jewish method always has leavened bread, and is often partaken of at the start of each weekly Sabbath. This serious observance can be partaken of as a group, or privately as a family in their own home and requires no “official” from a religious party to oversee the observance. Jewish people’s roots, if traced back over the centuries, go back to Jerusalem and the temple.
The reader must determine what best typifies Christ, unleavened bread that cannot reproduce, or the leavened bread that has no limitations on its increase. If you answered leavened, the Bible does seem to agree. The bread is called artos.