Cortright's Homepage


1 Corinthians 5:7
   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:

    An understanding of leaven as it was used in the Bible lands and times is important to understanding this verse as well as many others in the Word of God.  In the Bible lands and times they made a round flat bread that looked something like a pancake.  This bread was made from freshly ground wheat flour and water.  The freshly ground flour had some rising properties and would make a flavorful, light bread.  In order to be free from the daily task of grinding wheat, the Bible lands housewife would take the time to grind enough flour to last several days.  However, flour that was not freshly ground would not rise as well.  Leavening was necessary to make the bread light after the second day.

   Leaven is a thin dough.  It was made by taking a two or three gallon crock and filling it with wheat flour and water.  The mouth of the crock was tied with a white linen cloth.  Then the crock was set outside during the daylight hours for eleven days to ferment.

   Whenever bread was to be made from wheat ground days earlier, two or three spoonfuls of leaven were added to the center of the bread.   The leaven would aid in the rising of the bread and make it light and flavorful.  Only a very small amount of leaven was needed.  The leaven would work from the inside out and spread throughout the whole "lump" or loaf of bread.

   Leaven in itself is neither negative or positive.  Two aspects of leaven are important to understand.  First,
a small amount of leaven spreads to the entire loaf of bread.  Second, it takes time (eleven days) to make the leaven.

Matthew 13:33
   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.

   In this verse leaven is used in a positive way.  The Word of God regarding the kingdom of heaven which Jesus Christ spoke would work like leaven from the inside out and spread throughout all Israel just as leaven spreads throughout the whole loaf of bread.  

Matthew 16:6-12
   Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
   And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
   Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
   Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
   Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
   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.

   Here leaven is used in a negative way to represent the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  The doctrine spoken by them would also work like leaven from the inside out and spread throughout all Israel.  We must be concerned and diligent in our rightly dividing of God's Word.  We want the positive Word of God to spread like leaven throughout the whole world.  We do not want to spread the false doctrines of men.

Galatians 5:7-9
   Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
   This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
   A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

   Paul taught the Gentile believers in Galatia about the grace of God.  After he left them, legalistic believers visited them and taught them that they must keep the law of the old testament in order to be saved.  This false doctrine of legalism began to affect the entire church at Galatia from within as leaven spreads throughout the whole loaf of bread.  Even a small amount of legalism can be very damaging.  "Yes, salvation is by grace; but you still need to do just a little work to be right before God."  NO! NO! NO!  Your standing before God as a son or daughter is by grace and is absolutely not dependent upon anything you do or do not do.

Romans 11:6
  And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

     We want the truth of God's Word regarding the great mystery of this Administration of Grace to spread and work within the lives of believers.  A little doctrine of works will leaven the whole lump.  If what we have, we have by grace; then it is NO MORE OF WORKS!  We must be continuously vigilant to recognize doctrines of men that would rob us of all we have received in Christ Jesus. 

1 Corinthians 5:8
   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.

   In Corinth believers were surrounded by all the negative behaviors they had before they believed God's Word.  Some in the church were continuing to do the same sinful things they did before they were saved.  Rather than reproving this sinful behavior, the church was allowing it to continue.  They even expressed pride in the fact that they allowed the behavior.  Paul encouraged the believers to get rid of their wicked behavior calling it leaven.    By tolerating the negative behavior of some believers, the whole church was being corrupted.  Salvation is not of works; but we do not want to use grace as a license to sin.  We want to live a godly life in thanksgiving because of the grace of God given to us.  Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers that they should rid themselves of wickedness and malice and replace it with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Romans 6:1-2

   What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
   God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

   We do not want the negatives of our past to flourish and spread like leaven in the life that we now have available to us.  Instead, we want to live an unleavened life of sincerity and truth.

    Just as the Apostle Paul described the putting away of wickedness and malice as the putting away of leaven, so the children of Israel were given the Feast of Unleavened Bread to remember that they had put away the malice and wickedness of their life as slaves in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 16:3
   Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.

Exodus 12:8
   And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

   The unleavened bread of the feast is called here "bread of affliction."  Leaven was a desirable ingredient in bread but it took time to make.  To eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs represented the affliction and bitter life of bondage the children of Israel experienced as slaves in Egypt.  It represented doing without abundance.

Exodus 12:33-34
   And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
   And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.

Exodus 12:39
   And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.

    Leaven took eleven days to prepare.  The children of Israel left Egypt in haste.  They did not have time to prepare leaven.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread emphasized the haste of their departure from Egypt.  It represented God's deliverance from a bitter life of affliction.  It represented a putting away of malice and wickedness.  It represented God's great deliverance.

   By understanding the properties of leaven and how God uses it as an illustration in His Word we gain a greater understanding of God's deliverance and the importance of spreading the rightly divided Word of God.

Michael & Christine Cortright's Fellowship Homepage
© Copyright February 2005  Michael Cortright