Martin Luther on Leaven…

A few days ago, we explored the scriptural warnings on leaven and how leaven, biblically, acts as an agent of corruption, symbolic of sin, and likened to false doctrines in the church. Many people I talk to concerning the issue of Bible versions, believe that as long as no fundamental doctrine is affected in the Bible, then certain missing doctrines,  such as Acts 8:27 or 1 John 5:7, don’t really cause a problem.

I’d like to say that if God had wanted to, He could have written a brief 2-3 page letter to the world, a Divine gospel tract, outlining the plan of salvation, and leaving it at that. Why did He write a whole Book? Why does He put such emphasis on every word in that Book? All the fundamental doctrines can be found in a gospel tract, or the Apostle’s Creed, but that doesn’t make them into Bibles! 

In the same way, to allow “some” leaven (false doctrine) in the word is to “leaven the whole lump”.  God, the Author of the Bible, had a reason for putting every word, even to jots and tittles, in His holy Book, just as He many times repeated Himself in scripture to emphasize the importance of what He wanted us to understand. To add or subtract from His words is a serious offense, as we see in Revelation 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2, and Proverbs 30:5-6.  

Today, in Galatians 5, we see the Apostle Paul making it clear that “one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel”. Think of it this way, if you were trying to sell a barrel of apples, would you put all the rotten ones on top? No, you would be less obvious, more deceptive , and mix them up in the barrel.

While studying the various warnings about “leaven” in the New Testament, I came to Galatians 5, where Paul is valiantly expounding on justification by faith alone, and the dangers of trying to add anything to Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. I came across this gem of Martin Luther’s. He had this to say in regards to Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”:

Paul’s concern for them meant nothing to some of the Galatians. Many had disowned him as their teacher and gone over to the false apostles. No doubt the false apostles took every occasion to defame Paul as a stubborn and contemptuous fellow who thought nothing of disrupting the unity of the churches for no other reason than his selfish pride and jealousy.

Others of the Galatians perhaps saw no harm in deviating a trifle from the doctrine of justification and faith. When they noticed that Paul made so much ado about a matter that seemed of no particular importance to them they raised their eyebrows and thought within themselves: “What if we did deviate a little from the doctrine of Paul? What if we are a little to blame? He ought to overlook the whole matter, and not make such an issue out of it, lest the unity of the churches be disturbed.” To this Paul replies: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”

Our opponents record the same complaints about us. They put us down as contentious, ill-tempered faultfinders. But these are the crafty passes of the devil, with which he seeks to overthrow our faith. We answer with Paul: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”

Small faults grow into big faults. To tolerate a trifling error inevitably leads to crass heresy. The doctrine of the Bible is not ours to take or to allow liberties with. We have no right to change even a tittle of it. When it comes to life we are ready to do, to suffer, to forgive anything our opponents demand as long as faith and doctrine remain pure and uncorrupt. The Apostle James says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” This passage supports us over against our critics who claim that we disregard all charity to the great injury of the churches. We protest we desire nothing more than peace with all men. If they would only permit us to keep our doctrine of faith! The pure doctrine takes precedence before charity, apostles, or an angel from heaven.

Let others praise charity and concord to the skies; we magnify the authority of the Word and faith. Charity may be neglected at times without peril, but not the Word and faith. Charity suffers all things, it gives in. Faith suffers nothing; it never yields. Charity is often deceived but is never put out because it lies nothing to lose; it continues to do well even to the ungrateful. When it comes to faith and salvation in the midst of lies and errors that parade as truth and deceive many, charity has no voice or vote. Let us not be influenced by the popular cry for charity and unity. If we do not love God and His Word what difference does it make if we love anything at all?” (all bold and italics added for emphasis)

The issue of which Bible to use, is to me, of paramount importance…for it is by His Word, the Lord Jesus Christ–the word in the flesh and on the page, that we are changed from the inside out.

We may be able to still find “fundamental doctrine” in other places in the new Bible versions, but pardon my lack of finesse here: finding a dollar bill in a trash can does not make the trash can into a bank. You wouldn’t find today’s scholars recommending we use the Jehovah Witness’s NWT, which is based on the same manuscripts (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) as the rest of the modern Bible versions–because “it attacks the Deity of Christ”. Well, to that, we say, the Jehovah Witness Bible gives the same “doctrinal statement” on the Deity of Christ in John 1:18 as does the NASB, among others.

Any “being” who is as subtle as the Devil (Gen. 3:1) is not going to eradicate any “fundamental doctrine” completely…he is going to go by the “little leaven” principle, which eventually leavens the WHOLE  lump. (Gal. 5:9)

I’ll give a few examples of this in another post.

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