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Consider Bible teaching about leaven:
Matthew 26:17 – Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper at the Passover Feast of Unleavened Bread. So He instituted the Lord’s Supper with unleavened bread. This is good reason for us to use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper, but there is much more. (Mark 14:1,12; Luke 22:1,7)
Exodus 12:8,15,19 – At the Passover people ate unleavened bread for seven days. All leaven must be removed from their houses; anyone who ate leavened bread was to be cut off from Israel.
Exodus 12:20 – You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.
Exodus 13:7 – …no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters.
The fact the bread was unleavened was not an accident or a human tradition. God repeatedly stated an absolute requirement that use of leaven of any kind anywhere in their homes was forbidden. Obviously God considered this very important. To understand why, consider…
[Exodus 12:18; 13:3,6; 23:15; 34:18; Leviticus 23:6; Numbers 9:11; 28:17; Deuteronomy 16:3,4,8,16; Joshua 5:11; 2 Chron. 8:13; 30:13,21; 35:17; Ezra 6:22; Ezekiel 45:21; Acts 12:3; 20:6.]
Like the Passover, the Lord's Supper is a memorial filled with symbolic meaning. What symbolism is there in leaven? In the Passover the unleavened bread signified that the people left Egypt on short notice so they had no time for the bread to rise. More important, however…
Amos 4:5 – Amos compared the transgressions of Israel to a sacrifice with leaven.
Luke 12:1; Matthew 16:6-12 – Jesus compared the hypocrisy and false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees to leaven. (Mark 8:15)
Galatians 5:9 – In describing the false teachers who hindered the Galatians from obeying the truth, Paul said, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
1 Corinthians 5:6-8 – Describing the sin in the Corinthian church, Paul said, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” So we must purge out the old leaven and become truly unleavened. We must keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, not with the leaven of malice and wickedness.
A little leaven in dough spreads and influences the whole lump. This is the way the way sin spreads among people. So leaven often symbolizes the influence of sin. [Hosea 7:4]
1 Corinthians 5:7 – Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Just as no leaven was allowed when the Passover lamb was sacrificed and eaten, so Jesus is our sinless Passover sacrifice.
1 John 3:5 – He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
Hebrews 7:26 – He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. [1 Peter 2:22]
So we use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper because Jesus used unleavened bread in instituting the Lord’s Supper. But the symbolism goes much deeper. Leaven is a common symbol for sin, but we are remembering Jesus, who was the sinless Passover lamb, sacrificed for us.
Then the Scriptures teach that we too must become unleavened by repenting of our sins and having our sins forgiven by the blood of the sinless son of God.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2018
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.