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.
- 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.
- 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)
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?”