Matthew 16:5-12 ESV
“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, ‘We brought no bread.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?
“’Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
I looked up the word “leaven,” and I got a surprise. The definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary said, “Something that modifies or lightens.” I had never thought of leaven in that way before. But that fits perfectly!
For, I also looked at the word “leaven” in a Greek Interlinear. And, it said that it is figurative for “the spreading influence of what is typically concealed;” “a symbol of the spreading nature of evil.”
So, this leaven is a word that is used to symbolize the spreading influence of evil, but an evil which is hidden from sight, so this is speaking of deception. But this evil and this deception, which are being spread, lighten and modify what they touch (influence). And leaven is something you put in bread, and bread is symbolic for the Word of God. So, this is about lightening and modifying the Word of God for evil purposes and in order to deceive. Wow!
What’s the Issue?
So, what was it about the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus took issue with? What was his main issue with them? For one, it was their hypocrisy. They were making a show of righteousness on the outside while they were engaged in all manner of evil behind closed doors. But their evil wasn’t hidden from Jesus, for he can see behind closed doors.
They also taught much that was of human flesh and not of God, of their own minds, and not of the mind of God. A lot of it was legalism and/or human traditions. They taught much in the way of distortions of truth. They either added to the Scriptures what was of man, or they took away from the Scriptures what they disagreed with. And they tried to force or manipulate or coerce others into compliance to their particular doctrines.
Jesus had some strong words of rebuke for the scribes and the Pharisees (see Matthew 23). They preach, but do not practice what they preach. They put people under loads of man-made rules. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. They like to be regarded as important and exalted.
This one is very telling to today: They shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. They don’t enter heaven themselves and they don’t allow others to go in. So, they make disciples after themselves in their own image and they end up making them twice as much children of hell as themselves.
They follow legalistic rules, but they neglect justice and mercy. They appear righteous on the outside, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Outwardly they appear good and righteous, but inside they are full of all kinds of uncleanness, hypocrisy, and lawlessness.
Application to Today
Man-made religion can be either legalistic or it can be liberal in nature. The focus either way is on the flesh and not on God, on self and not on Jesus. It is man-made faith and a walk of faith ruled by man and not by God. Those who teach it distort and modify the Scriptures to prove their case.
In both cases, those who abide by either legalism or libertinism are hypocrites for they do not live the faith that they profess, for they both profess faith in the one true God and in Jesus Christ, God the Son. They both profess to believe the Scriptures. But they both distort the Scriptures.
The legalists add all kinds of rules that are not of God, not of the Scriptures, which they impose on their people, and thus they put heavy burdens on them. But the liberals who teach an altered and modified cheapened form of the true gospel of Christ promise their people freedom from sin while they leave them still in bondage to sin and headed to hell.
Those who are teaching the cheap grace gospel (not true biblical grace) claim they are free, but they are still in bondage. They claim they no longer follow legalistic rules, but they have their own set of rules they follow, which they try to enforce, and they try to shame those who do not comply.
And there is much pride either way, for they are both convinced that their way is the right or the only way, and either way there is much that is done for performance, to look good to others, to persuade, to make a show, to attract people to what they are offering by appealing to the flesh.
And neither legalism nor libertinism (liberalism) leads to eternal life with God, for they are both of the flesh, not of the Spirit of God. For they do not practice the faith they claim to possess. So, they are not leading people to genuine faith in Jesus Christ but to man-made religion, which is empty.
The Biggest Threat
The biggest threat right now to the truth, though, is the cheap grace gospel which has convinced people in large numbers that they are saved from their sins and that heaven is their eternal destiny, but they do not require repentance (forsaking our sins) and obedience to Christ and submission to him as Lord (owner-master) of their lives.
So, what they are telling them gives them free license to continue in deliberate, habitual, and premeditated sin against the Lord, for they are telling them that their sins are forgiven and so what they do from this moment forward will not affect their eternal security.
But that’s a lie. If we read the New Testament and the words of Jesus and the teachings of the apostles in context, and we pray for understanding, and we seek the truth, we won’t be able to miss what the Scriptures teach. For, they teach that we must repent, obey, and submit.
If we do not, and if we continue to make sin our practice, and righteousness is not what we practice, but may be what is faked (in some cases), and if we do not obey our Lord, we do not have the hope of eternal life with God, but we will die in our sins.
So, don’t listen to the teachings of those who are leading you to ignore much of the teachings of the New Testament and who are pulling Scriptures out of their context and who are distorting the word of truth. Don’t be deceived by the lies that tell you your sins don’t matter. They do!
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; Eph 4:1-16; Jn 6:44; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2]
An Original Work / August 29, 2018
Your bond is broken
With your Lord and Savior
And, your testimony is
Separate from Him.
Your words not matching
Your actions today.
Repent of your sin and
Bow down and pray.
Live what you testify
In truth always.
Purity’s lacking in
Your life and witness,
For you profess one thing,
But other you do.
Not moral, spiritual.
Still of the flesh.
Not living in truth to
What you confess.
Lying about it
Puts you in a mess.
Living a lie is your practice,
‘tis true of you.
Masquerade righteousness –
None of it true.
Your heart is not given
To your Lord God.
Because of how you live,
You are a fraud.
Turn from your sin and
Give your life to God.