Friday, May 16, 2014

Unleavened Bread or leaven in the Lord’s Supper?

Some Christians raise the question, whether we should us leavened or unleavened bread in the remembrance meeting? The Scriptures are silent about it; there is no direct verse that we can point to. The word used is αρτοs (ARTOS) which means, ‘bread,’ or ‘loaf’ made with wheat. The word for anything unleavened is αζυµοs (AZUMOS) as in Mat. 26:17, Mark 14:1, 12, Luke 22:1, 7, Acts 12:3, 20:6, 1 Corinthians 5:7 and 8. Of course the bread used by our Lord in instituting the Lord’s Supper was unleavened. But, the Holy Spirit did not use αζυµοs (AZUMOS) in connection with the Lord’s Supper, but he used αρτοs (ARTOS). Therefore, the Holy Spirit left it for us to decide about the bread to be leavened or unleavened. It is not a doctrinal issue. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for unleavened bread is MATSTSAH, which means ‘anything squeezed together,’ and is used in Genesis 19:3, Exodus 12:8, 15, 17, 18, 20, 13:6, 17. The Hebrew word for bread is LECHEM, which means food, bread, or sustenance and we see it in Genesis 3:19, 14:18, 18:5, 21:14. The ‘shew bread’ that was set before God is LECHEM PANIM as we read in Exodus 25:30, 35:13, 39:36. In Hebrew PANIM means ‘face,’ or ‘presence.’ In this case, it stands for the presence of God. (The corresponding Greek expression is αρτοι τησ προθεσεωs (ARTOI TES PROTHESEOS), meaning ‘loaves of setting out,’ as in Matthew 12:4, Mark 2:26, and Luke 6:4. Another Greek expression is, προθεσιs των αρτων (PROTHESIS TON ARTON), meaning ‘setting forth of the loaves,’ as in Hebrews 9:2. Both are in connection with ARTOS and not with AZUMOS.) From these, we could say that the Hebrew word LECHEM could be leavened or unleavened bread. Again in Leviticus 23:17 when the two loaves are presented on the 50th day from the day of bringing the sheaf of the wave-offering, the Hebrew word used for loaf is LECHEM. This sheaf is the first fruit of their harvest and it was waved on the day after the Sabbath that is the first day of the week – the day of resurrection. Fifty days from then is again another first-day of the week, we call it the Day of Pentecost. It was the day the Jew and the Gentiles were brought together and presented as the body of Christ. Both the Jews and Gentiles are corrupted and are leavened, but accepted as Christians in the Beloved, because Christ - the first-fruit from the dead - was waived before God fifty days before that.. Not only that, there is a specific Hebrew word for leavened bread and that is CHAMETS as we read in Exodus 12:15, 13:3, 7, 23:18 and it is not used for ‘shew bread.’ The use of LECHEM in Hebrew and αρτοs (ARTOS) in Greek for the ‘shew bread’ in Old and New Testaments tell us that there is no doctrinal basis for insisting upon leavened or unleavened bread at the Lord’s Supper.

CH Mackintosh once wrote: “The feast in 1 Corinthians 5:8, is the antitype of the feast of unleavened bread which, as we learn from Exodus 12, was based upon, and inseparably connected with the Passover, The blood stained lintel was not to be separated from the unleavened bread –peace and purity-safety and sanctity, must always go together. It would be a strange application, we should rather say- to refer it to the matter of having bread without yeast, or unfermented wine at the Lord’s Supper. We believe, dear friends, the feast refers to the whole of our Christian life in this world. It should, from first to last, be a feast of unleavened bread, based on the great fact that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”- a life of personal holiness flowing out of accomplished redemption, known and supplied by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

What is the significance of unleavened bread?
The Bible tells us that the Israelites were to eat only unleavened bread every year during Passover as a commemoration of the Exodus from Egyptian bondage. Since the children of Israel left Egypt hastily, they did not have time for the bread to rise, so it was made on that very first Passover without leaven, also known as yeast. In describing this bread and why it was eaten, the Bible informs us of the following: "Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt" (Deuteronomy 16:3). Further commands regarding the eating of unleavened bread are found in Exodus 12:8, 29:2; and Numbers 9:11. To this day, in Jewish homes, the Passover celebration includes unleavened bread.

According to the Hebrew lexicon, the term "unleavened bread" is derived from the word matzoh, which means "bread or cake without leaven." The lexicon also states that matzohis in turn derived from a word which means "to drain out or suck." In referring to this second Hebrew word, the lexicon states, "In the sense of greedily devouring for sweetness." So it is quite possible that unleavened bread, while it may have been heavy and flat, may also have been sweet to the taste.

In the Bible, leaven is almost always symbolic of sin. Like leaven which permeates the whole lump of dough, sin will spread in a person, a church or a nation, eventually overwhelming and bringing its participants into its bondage and eventually to death. Romans 6:23tell us that “the wages of sin is death,” which is God's judgment for sin, and this is the reason that Christ died—to provide a way out of this judgment for sin if man will repent of his sins, accept Christ as his Passover sacrifice, and have his heart changed so that he can conform his life to what God commands.

Whenever a little bit of sin in a person or a church is permitted, overlooked, and compromised, it works much like leaven in bread. It will eventually leaven the whole lump, affecting the whole church or the whole world (Galatians 5:9). This permitted sin will lead to other sins and will eventually draw a person or church completely outside of the will of our Father, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. According to 1 Corinthians 5:8 our entire life is to be a festival of joy to the Lord and it is to be celebrated not with the old leaven of sin, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness. As we rejoice in Christ, we must have no evil thoughts in our hearts toward others. From this we see the apostle Paul was not speaking about literal leaven, such as the yeast that is used in making bread, but rather he was using leaven in a spiritual sense to describe the manner in which sin defiles that with which comes into contact. We are to live our lives with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 

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