Beware of the Leaven

In terms of modern Bible versions, is it okay to subtract certain passages from scripture, as long they are not erased completely? My pastor’s analogy to this philosophy goes something like this:

So, by this viewpoint, it would be okay if you were in the ocean and a shark decides to bite off only a few toes and fingers and a chunk here and there, as long as he leaves most of the rest of you relatively intact?  Sorry, I’m not okay with that philosophy.

Do the scholars think multiple fingers are redundant?  That we really don’t need them all?  If God says something multiple times, I think I need to know it and read it repeatedly.  Anything less is a deficiency!  Just as I would feel without all my fingers!

This is a big issue to the KJV debate, so it begs discussing. What do you think? Can we remove God’s words here and there, as long as no major doctrine is affected?  The implication to this argument, is that God inspired the fundamental doctrines, but NOT the “words.”  I don’t know about you, but I believe God is very specific in scripture as to the fact that it’s His *words* that are inspired and preserved:  “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35)  Doctrines are expressed in words, and with altered or deleted words every doctrine is “affected,” and more up for debate that it was otherwise.  Acts 8:37 is an example of this, as is 1 John 5:7. God says Himself, that “every word is pure“…and warns us against adding to or subtracting from His words. (Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:5-6, and Rev. 22:18-19)

What does God say about leaven?

My new approach to all of life’s questions, thanks to the final authority found in God’s word, is to check everything out via the Book. And as it turns out, a scriptural study of leaven stands us in excellent stead for this discussion. Did you know that every single Biblical reference to leaven is negative?  Check them out. References to leaven in the NT refer to doctrinal heresy, evil, sin, hypocrisy, unbelief, and wickedness. If you follow the trail of leaven throughout the NT, you will see that each one speaks of “contamination”and the pervasiveness of sin and evil – how a small amount of leaven spreads quickly and affects the “whole lump of dough”. 

According to Matthew 16:12, leaven as a corrupting agent is a type of heretical doctrine:

“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.”

The Apostle Paul made it clear that “one rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel” writing in Gal. 5:9, that, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” To imply that any text is acceptable so long as one can find the desired doctrine somewhere within is not scriptural.

In the Old Testament as well, leaven represents evil. Leaven was forbidden in all offerings made by fire (Leviticus 2:11; 6:17), because it symbolized the pervasiveness of evil, and thus was inappropriate to use in offerings which typified the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. The Israelites were also forbidden to eat leavened bread for seven days at the time of Passover. Not only that, God forbid them from having any leaven in their homes (Exodus 12:15, 19) or in their land (Exodus 13:7; Deuteronomy 16:4). Can you imagine? The Israelites took this very seriously, searching their homes, purging out every tiny remnant of leaven.

But let’s look specifically at the Parable of the Leaven today in Matthew 13:33.

The Parable of the Leaven

“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.”

At first glance, this almost seems as if leaven is a good thing, but we know from every single other reference to leaven in the entire Bible, that it is a corrupting agent, one we are to beware in no uncertain terms. So we apply 2 Tim. 2:15 , “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” and we study this puzzle out.

Jesus is using a woman for an example. Perhaps He even gestured to one in a nearby courtyard, mixing up a batch of bread dough. Anyone that has baked bread from scratch knows that yeast (leaven) is a very important ingredient. Bread made without yeast would be very flat and hard. So we add yeast to our dough, and let it rise in a warm place…and through the process of fermentation, our bread dough rises and is soon ready to bake.

At this point, we need to realize that this passage is interpreted two ways. 

  1. Some believe that the leaven here represents the gospel, and the bread, the world. This would mean that the church is the leaven working inside the world, the bread, and its influence spreads throughout the world.
  2. Another way to understand this parable, is that the world is spreading into the church. This picture of ‘leaven taken by a woman and hidden in the meal’ indicates a mixture of evil within the good. The leaven symbolizes evil that penetrates the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 11:12 tells us that “from the days of John the Baptis until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

I believe a thorough study of scripture will support the second view quite authoritatively. I believe this parable is a warning to Christians about the pervasiveness of evil spreading like leaven in the church. Keep with me here, it will become very obvious as we peel back the layers.

The parable says this, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”

At first read through, it appears that we are to believe that the Kingdom of heaven is like leaven…but if you study the parable of the sower, or the parable of the mustard seed, among others, you would see that they begin the same way…yet Jesus wasn’t saying that the kingdom was the sower but rather the result of his sowing, or that the kingdom was the mustard seed, but the result of the seed sown. So what is He saying here about the leaven? Again we must continue digging, with the whole picture of the parable in mind…we see a woman, taking leaven, and hiding it in three measures of meal.

So we’ve talked about the leaven, let’s talk about the meal…

Romans 11:16, “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.”

The “lump” here is referring to dough, to God’s people, being holy. In this parable, the measures of meal are referring to “flour”. Wheat flour, if you go by the Greek commentaries on this passage. Jesus explained elsewhere that tares in the wheat represent the children of the wicked, whereas the good seed, the wheat, is a picture of the children of kingdom. (Matthew 13:38). In Matthew 3:12, John the Baptist uses wheat to picture believers when he teaches that Jesus would one day “gather His wheat (the righteous) into the garner (barn); but he will burn up the chaff (the wicked) with unquenchable fire.” (additions mine in parentheses)

In John 6:35, Jesus says,  “I am the bread of life.”

1 Corinthians 10:17 says, “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread...”

So when we see the terms wheat, flour, bread, and hence, meal, they refer to believers in Jesus.

If leaven symbolizes evil and wheat refers to Christians, then the lesson of the parable is that evil is able to penetrate the kingdom of heaven and corrupt it.

The world is penetrating the church with its bad influence and Jesus is telling us to watch out for this.

*Hidden* in the meal…

Notice next, that the woman “hid” the leaven in the meal. Here we see secrecy…can we say that God would hide his gospel from the world? Rather the opposite…

The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:9, “for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” The apostles were there for the whole world to see. There was nothing secretive or hidden about the gospel.

Again, in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Paul says, 

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 

Wow, pretty self-explanatory. Satan, the deceiver, is the one blinding and hiding the gospel from the world. How does he do this? Study the scriptures on leaven and you soon see.

The influence of the church works as the city in Matthew 5:14, “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Jesus is our light, illuminating the darkness.

By this, I’d say it’s fairly obvious that it is not the church that is hiding in the world. Or the gospel that is being hidden in the meal. Rather it is the world entering secretly into the church.

We are warned of this in the Bible.  In Jude 1:4, we see,

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In 2 Peter 2:1, we read again,

“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.”

Our conclusion must be that this is the leaven that is hidden in the meal, the pervasive and secret influence of the false teachers and of the world in the church. And that is what Jesus is warning us about in this parable.  

(Other NT references on leaven for you to check out: Matthew 16:6, 11, 12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 13:21; 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 8; Galatians 5:9)

In conclusion…

Leaven works only in one kind of environment.  A lukewarm environment. If you put bread dough in a cold place, the leaven will not do anything. If you put it in a hot place, again, nothing happens. You have to provide the leaven the lukewarm condition required for the dough to rise.

In this sense again, the church cannot be the leaven. The church must be either hot or cold, as Jesus says in Revelation 3:16, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

2 Thessalonians 2:3 warns us that in the end times, there will come a “great falling away” of God’s people, not a great revival. We have to realize that nothing else but “a falling away” is an option as the leavening agent of evil gets progressively worse in the church. The question is, are we alert to it, and what are we as individuals to do about it?

Biblically, the corrupting agent of leaven is to bread what fermentation is to wine. Neither were permitted in the communion elements which pictured Christ’s perfect body and blood.

And we, as Christ’s followers, need to follow 1 Cor. 5:7-8, 

“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.” 

Luke 18:18 breaks my heart. “…Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

Was Erasmus in a hurry?

Who is this Erasmus that taught William Tyndale, influenced Martin Luther, and printed a Greek New Testament that was consulted by the KJV translators, and later was given the name Textus Receptus?

A proverb in Erasmus’ day claimed, 

“Whatever is ingenious, scholarly, and wisely written, is termed erasmic, that is, unerring and perfect.”

Erasmus has been said to be “the intellectual father of the Reformation.” From his Textus Receptus the fruit of the Reformation spread around the world, in the form of such Bibles as the German Luther, French Olivetan, Italian Diodati, Spanish Valera, and the English King James Bible.

Was it mere coincidence, that Erasmus’ first edition was printed the very year that Luther posted his 95 theses?

However, KJV critics love to claim that Erasmus was a “devoted Roman Catholic”, and that his Greek Text was “hastily” thrown together. Let’s explore these accusations.

Background of Erasmus

Born in 1466, Desiderius Erasmus spent his life surrounded by God’s words, before dying in 1536 at the age of 70, in a time when the average span of a man’s life was approximately 35-40 years.

Erasmus’ father was a priest who earned their living by copying manuscripts. For six years, Erasmus attended the Gerard Groote’s School of the Brethren of the Common Life, a group which made their living by the copying of manuscripts. However, both of his parents fell victim to the plague while Erasmus was still in his younger years. As a result, he and his brother were shipped off to a Roman Catholic monastery, having no say in the matter. Rather than fall in line by being a “good Roman Catholic”, Erasmus refused to keep vigils, never hesitated to eat meat on Fridays, and though ordained, chose never to function as a priest  He was a constant critic of the Pope and the papal monarchy. In his writings, he composed a tract, “Against the Barbarians” which was directed against the overt wickedness of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church criticized his works for his refusal to use Jerome’s Latin translation, a translation that he said was inaccurate. 

In his pursuit of pure manuscript lines, Erasmus detected that the Greek text had been corrupted as early as the fourth century. 

Lastly, in 1559, twenty-three years after his death, Pope Paul IV put Erasmus’ writings on the “Index” of books, forbidden to be read by Roman Catholics.

Was Erasmus in a hurry?

One of the common charges against the Textus Receptus underlying the King James Bible is that Erasmus threw it together “in great haste”. 

The reality is that Erasmus was surrounded by Bible manuscripts from his childhood in the 1460’s–and his Greek Text was published in 1516. This is over 40 years.

“The preparation had taken years” Durant p. 283

“Through all these struggling years he had been patiently labouring at his New Testament…” Froude, The Life and Letters, p. 119

In 1505, eleven years prior to completing his Greek Text, Erasmus wrote to a friend,

“I shall sit down to Holy Scripture with my whole heart, and devote the rest of my life to it…All these three years I have been working entirely at Greek, and have not been playing with it”  Froude, The Life and Letters, p. 87

The following is from Erasmus’ dedication to his Greek New Testament,

“I perceive that teaching, which is our salvation, was to be had in a much purer and more lively form if sought at the fountainhead and drawn from the actual sources than from pools and runnels. And so I have revised the whole new Testament against the standard of the Greek originals…” —The Collected Works of Erasmus, 3:222-223, Epistle 384

Consider that Erasmus had access to the most manuscripts in his time of anyone. In his time, Rome had the greatest collection of Bible manuscripts the world over…Rome built majestic libraries to house them. After this was all completed, Erasmus came and spent years studying the manuscripts. It is said that he was “devouring the libraries.” “Comparing two codices…for the more correct reading of some intricate passage” was his passion. (Durant, p. 275, Mangan, pp. 275, 91)

Was it Divinly appointed that Erasmus should have “devoured the libraries”, considering  the French besiegement of Rome in 1527 when the libraries were demolished, and hundreds of manuscripts lost and destroyed?

Erasmus’ good friends Angelo Colocci and Jacopo Sadoleti both had priceless treasures of rare books and manuscripts and lost everything. But Erasmus had already studied, and notated and soaked them up.

“It may be easily guessed how large a part of the usefulness of my work would have been lacking if my learned friends had not supplied me with manuscripts.” Mangan, p. 241

Erasmus wrote that he spent all his time in great libraries, devouring all the books he could find, moving constantly, after he had exhausted them in each city. Erasmus wrote to a friend, very early in his career,

“I am comparing Greek MSS. I am determined to devote myself to undiscovered copies of the epistles, which I burn to handle.” Froude, The Life and Letters, p.63, note 2

 He wrote that he had acquired so many manuscripts that he needed two assistants to help carry them and plenty of time to “arrange them”. (Froude, The Life and Letters, pp. 55, 57-58, 54)

By the age of 40, Erasmus was the world’s leading authority on the Greek language and the Greek New Testament. He was hired to teach Greek at Cambridge University…after already declining invitations to many professorships in Europe. (Durant, p. 275)

Interestingly, Erasmus’ own manuscript collection was so large and valuable that it was seized by customs when he left England to go to the Continent to finalize the Greek NT in 1514. He protested saying “they had stolen the labors of his life.” And the manuscripts were returned in a few days. (Froude, The Life and Letters, p.169) 

Yet false claims abound by modern scholarship, that Erasmus only had a few Greek manuscripts at his disposal.

The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. II, p. 498, says,

“It is an exaggeration to maintain, as some do, that Erasmus only used the Greek manuscripts that he had found in the library of the Basle Dominicans for his edition.”

“He himself protested against accusations of this sort, in his dedicatory letter to Leo X. And it seems undeniable that he used notes, at any rate, which he had made on the manuscripts that he had seen in England…”

If Erasmus were alive today, he would find that he had managed to match almost all of the over 5,200 Greek manuscripts and wisely ignore the other 44 corrupt ones. How’s that for statistically impossible? God’s hand was on Erasmus for the preservation of His holy words. The Cambridge History of the Bible affirms this, regarding the Greek NT of Erasmus:

“It corresponds to the manuscript tradition which in fact prevailed in the Greek Church; and not until the end of the nineteenth century were editions proposed that differed [Westcott and Hort] other than on points of detail” (vol. 2, p. 499)

Quotes by Erasmus for us to ponder…

“Heresy does not arise among the laity who have the scriptures in the vernacular, but among the doctors.” (Bainton, p. 203)

“The Spirit teaches, not Aristotle; grace, not reasoning; inspiration, not the syllogism.” (Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. III, p. 82)

“I advised divines to leave scholastic subtleties and study Scriptures…I wish there could be an end of scholastic subtleties, or, if not an end, that they could be thrust into a second place, and Christ be taught plainly and simply. The reading of the Bible…will have this effect. Doctrines are taught now which have no affinity with Christ and only darken our eyes” (Froude, The Life and Letters, pp. 356, 187)

“He upbraided the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Doctors of the Law, while he sedulously protected the unlearned multitude. For what else does, ‘Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees’ mean but ‘Woe to you wise ones’? But he seems to have been wonderfully delighted with children, women and fishermen…” (Mangan, p. 310)

And lastly, I love this one: “Just bring the two little fishes.”

“Do not assume that you are a great doctor of whose wisdom the people should not be deprived. Just see what you have at home and bring that to the Lord. He will bless it and give it back to you to distribute. The people will then receive more benefit than if some superstitious Pharisee, some arrogant philosopher, some eloquent orator should come with a carefully prepared discourse…If some pompous doctor comes announcing that he has more to deliver than time will permit and mysteries to expound which will be over the heads of his audience, they will go away hungry. Just bring the two little fishes. Bring them to Jesus. Nothing which he has not touched will be of any avail.” (Bainton, p. 144)

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The above informantion is minor compared to how much more I could share here in defense of Erasmus’ great qualifications and vast resources enabling him to be used of God in his compilation of  the Greek New Testament, the Textus Receptus.  Isn’t  his-story amazing?

Beware of practicing a “Social Gospel”…

My friend Michelle just emailed me this info and I asked her if I could share it here on the blog. She is my go-to girl for keeping up with current events we Christians need to be concerned about.

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I just listened to Worldview Weekend with Brannon Howse, today’s radio broadcast was excellent.  Brannon is a great watchman on the wall of the world from a Christian perspective, just as it says in Isaiah 21:6,

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

His information is about the false preachers who are, some of the time, very popular.  Christian or not, we are so busy we rarely stop to sort out what is right or wrong.  We get caught up in what is popular without thinking.  Yet, we need to stick with what the Bible says and we don’t need all of the extra books to make it understandable.  We also don’t need the “bling-bling” to make the Bible or church more attractive.  The following verses remind us not to be friends with the world.  The radio broadcaster here lets us know that we aren’t to help the gospel out using worldly means, but to learn our Bibles, and in so doing, we’re able to deal with the world…conforming more to godliness and less to the world.

James 4:4 
Ye adulterers and the adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 

1 John 2:15-16
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Are we dumbing down the gospel?  Are we with the “seeker sensitive” movement?  Are we affiliated with the Emergent Church?  Is preaching about sin, repentance, or the cross happening in our services?

Are our consciences seared?

1 Timothy 4:1-2
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;

Here is a quote from the broadcast:

“Contextualization as practiced (preached) by the false church is not preaching the Biblical gospel that transforms people living in the culture, but the preaching of a social gospel by the people who are transformed by the culture.”   –Brannon Howse

Listen to the broadcast here.  

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I also want to add that we need to be careful that in our “lukewarmness” (ie–willingness to let the world creep in to our Christianity) we aren’t falling into a form of practical atheism. Is God “personal” to you? Do you feel He speaks straight to you when you read your Bible? Do you feel deeply accountable to Him for every action? Do you believe that He keeps His promises? Do you believe that His words are relevant to your life?

God is a jealous God, and He expects us to “keep His words“.

When you seek Him as you read the Bible, be ready for His sword to pierce through your preconceived notions about godliness and about His character. Isaiah 29:13 is such a verse,

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men…

 

Does Your Heart Long for the Truth?

My heart standeth in awe of Thy word… Psalm 119:161

This Psalm sums it up. The God of the King James Bible has overtaken my world, become my white knight, captured my focus and fully engaged my soul. My whole life, I’ve longed to have a heart as inclined to God and His words as my mind and intellect have been. As a child, I struggled with the idea that  “believing”–a mental faith if you will, in a historical event that somehow granted me eternal life if I but believed–albeit in a detached fashion,  that Jesus had died for my sins…was any different than the warning in James 2:19,

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

My daughter, feeling the same struggles as I did in those years, says in her testimony that she tried to feed her soul with her NIV, in vain and almost gave up the faith! It wasn’t until she received a KJV Bible that her heart quickened and responded to its purity and truth. This is from a girl who has loved the Lord, and out of obedience to Him (not anything I was requiring)  dedicated the first of every day to reading His word. But it wasn’t changing her life. She wasn’t growing in her faith. Now she reads for over an hour every morning at 6 am.  She has a stack of index cards with favorite scriptures she goes over every night before bed, writing them in her heart. The joy and peace in this 13 year old’s life is spilling over onto our entire family…

God was there for me also, all along, calling to me, but I didn’t understand the pertinence of the scriptures I was reading. The Bible seemed flat, my response to it “rote”. Reading it was something good Christians did. Keeping busy in the church helped me feel that I had “fruit” in my life.

Then two years ago, unbeknownst to me until recently, several KJV believers started to pray for me and mine. Tears are flowing as I type this…I was once so blind, thinking all manner of presumptous thoughts towards the King James Version, and people who loved it. I was the queen of skepticism, having been weaned on the common assumption that having an assortment of Bible versions from which to “choose” or “compare” was a good thing! I accepted without a second thought, the false claims of advertisers that the KJV was outdated, archaic and hard to understand.

Meanwhile I went with the flow, a bit confused at all the conflicting scripture passages in the various versions, but accepting other people’s expertise rather than thinking twice, and taking responsibility to do my own research. It bothered me to hear spiritual leaders correct the Bible, and point out so called errors, but as I said before, my inclination was to trust their judgment and go my merry way.

When all the red flares in my path finally lined up and got my full attention, the research materials were dumped in my lap, thousands of pages of them, and dvds galore–as if God had been bombarded by the saints’ prayers long enough already! I am soooo glad He never gave up on me, that His mercy is truly everlasting.

One of the overarching testaments to the KJV advocate is their scripture saturated approach to this debate. “What saith the scriptures?” “What does God say in His book?” is the underlying theme of everything they teach. How can you argue with God? You can’t if you have His words as your Final Authority.

In stark contrast, as a dear friend of mine put it so well:

The character of the opposition [to the KJV] becomes evident in only a few exchanges – no scripture, no mention of God, no mention of how Satan works, no spiritual perspective, no fear of God before their eyes (Rom. 3:18).

If you don’t know what this looks like, go listen in on a textual criticism class at your local Bible college. Or pick up James R. White’s The King James Only Controversy. I’ve experienced both. It’s a cold, detached, mathematical method, no awe for God as the Divine Author of scripture. No scriptural basis for their conjectures. Labeling and misrepresenting of people who don’t fall in line. And absolutely no love lost for the 99% of manuscripts forming the basis of the KJV Bible.

love to talk about what God has done now, in my life, in preserving His living and life-changing words perfectly throughout history, and about all the relevant scriptures I’m discovering, with anyone who will listen, even the naysayers. Even when they revile me and ridicule my stand, and take me to task for things they don’t yet understand.

My head knew all along that there was life to be found in God’s words. Now, at long last, my heart does too.