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What the Bible says about Sin as Leaven
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:11-13

God asks the questions to impress them on their minds, allowing Adam and Eve to convict themselves with thoughtful and honest answers. Honest, yes, and very revealing. Both cast a measure of blame away from themselves. They plainly believe that they are not to blame and should not bear full responsibility for their transgressions.

Thus began mankind's practice of self-justification in defense of sin. But neither Satan nor anyone else made them sin. Nobody twisted their arms. Notice how the sin of self-justification intensifies the original sin. By attempting to dodge responsibility, claiming that circumstances made them sin, they compounded their sin by lying.

Adam's sin is particularly egregious, blaming God's gift to him, Eve, whom he had held in such high regard just moments before. In a somewhat roundabout manner, he is blaming God, essentially saying, “God, if you hadn't given me this woman, I wouldn't have sinned!”

Similarly, Eve says, “If You hadn't allowed that Serpent into the Garden, I wouldn't have sinned.” Today, we might say that it is in our genes to sin; that we grew up in a bad neighborhood; that our parents failed to teach us; or that our father or mother was a drug addict or alcoholic. Some of those circumstances may be true, but they do not make us sin.

God is teaching us that, regarding sin, circumstances offer us little assistance when under God's judgment. Should a situation that invites sin arise, it is our responsibility to exercise faith and control ourselves, remaining in alignment with God's righteousness. When he told his audience that he had done something wrong, comedian Flip Wilson claimed, “The Devil made me do it!” and everybody laughed. But that, too, is simply a backhanded way of blaming God, as He created the angelic being who became the Devil.

We can reach a couple of brief conclusions from our evaluation of Adam and Eve's experience:

First, if we do not honestly and fully accept responsibility for our sins before God, we will surely reap their grim effects. Sin's fruit, regardless of the circumstances in which it is committed, is always the same. When sin occurs in the course of history makes no difference. Adam's and Eve's sins occurred at the outset of mankind's history, and they are still affecting us. Not every sin has this level of power, but the potential exists. Besides the death of the sinner, like leaven, sin's effect is to spread from its initial point of origin.

Second, as shown by Adam's and Eve's excuses, self-justification tends to blind us to God's goodness, His gifts, because it intensifies what originally occurred. In our haste to absolve ourselves, we forget things that God has provided us: life itself, a mind that can gather information, the ability to reason, the ability to remember, and a spirit that, not only makes us human, but confers the potential to be like God. Adam's blaming of God for His gift of Eve reveals his horrendous ingratitude for what he had been given.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)

Exodus 12:19

People frequently joke about having eaten something leavened during the Days of Unleavened Bread. However, notice how serious this is to God. At the very least, "cut off" means to be excommunicated from camp, and at its most extreme it implies being put to death! Could it be that we do not take sin and holiness as seriously as God does?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001

Leviticus 2:11

Jesus warns us in Luke 12:1 about leaven: "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Throughout Matthew 23, Jesus lists a multitude of Pharisaical sins that could be grouped as legalistic externalism.

In Matthew 16:6, Jesus warns of the leaven of the Sadducees. The Sadducees' sins are not listed, but elsewhere we find they at least denied the supernatural and the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:8). Jesus also warns of the leaven of Herod (Mark 8:15). Herod was involved in a great deal of lying in his political wheeling and dealing, abusing the power of his office, adultery, and general all-around worldliness.

Paul commands in I Corinthians 5:7-8:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Thus, in the New Testament leaven signifies wickedness and malice in contrast to sincerity and truth.

All of our offerings to God are mixed with some measure of sin. Has He made allowance for this in His instructions for the offerings? Yes.

No grain offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the LORD made by fire. As for the offering of the firstfruits, you shall offer them to the LORD, but they shall not be burned on the altar for a sweet aroma. (Leviticus 2:11-12)

Leviticus 23:17, 20 clarifies this:

You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD. . . . The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.

This Pentecost offering is a meal offering. The loaves represent Christians accepted before God because of Jesus Christ. However, because the loaves contained leaven, symbolizing the reality of sin in our lives, they are waved before God and accepted but not burned on the altar, recognizing the presence of that sin.

Romans 7:14-20 makes a powerful statement on this:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

No matter how much oil—the Holy Spirit—is poured out on us, it cannot completely counteract the corrupting effect of the leaven. We can control the flesh sufficiently so sin does not rule us, but sin is ever with us, and as long as we have human nature, that cannot be changed.

The only solution is that we must be changed—totally—and that is in our future, according to I Corinthians 15:50-52:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Three): The Meal Offering

Joshua 7:1-5

One man's sin! There were no accomplices. Nobody even saw him do it, yet Israel's army became paralyzed with fear. Joshua faltered and became confused. The whole nation was affected. Thirty-six men died. Thirty-six women became widows. And how many children no longer had a father?

One might say that the sin was somewhat atoned for. When they found out what Achan had done, Achan and his family (who were innocent of the deed) were put to death. When God saw it, however, He analyzed the sin according to different standards. He was dealing with His people, and He wanted to make sure that a witness was made—so that there would be information for those of His church in the end time.

God takes a personal interest in His people. Things happen out in the world, and He seems to do nothing. But when things happen within His church, He is concerned for the well-being of His people, and He takes action.

What we see here is a clear beginning of "the body" analogy that later becomes so important to the church in the New Testament. He shows us plainly that sin has a natural leavening effect. It increases; it will not just lie there and die. Corrections must be made to ensure that it does not spread, affecting others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Every Action Has a Reaction

Romans 3:23

Sin is universal, and perhaps this is one reason why the term is so frequently ignored. So many are sinning so frequently that it is a way of life! It has become acceptable because everybody is doing it!

Sin is not like a disease that some contract and others escape. Some may self-righteously think they are better than others because of outward appearance - living by sight - but we have all been soiled by it. "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). Perfection is gone. Because of sin, we have all come short of the glory of God.

The phrase in Romans 5:12, "And thus death spread to all men" can be translated into more modern English as, "When death entered the race, it went throughout." It means death indiscriminately affected all because all sinned. It almost seems as though sin is like an amoebic blob whose tentacles reach out to encompass all in its path, absorbing and sweeping everything to its death.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does

1 Corinthians 5:6

Just as a little leaven in bread quickly spreads completely through the dough, one "little" sin affects our whole being. As James points out, if we break one commandment, we are guilty of breaking the whole law. One sin begets another unless the chain is broken through repentance.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread

James 1:12-16

James 1:12-16 lists the steps leading to sin, beginning with temptation. People rarely stop at just one sin, however, and it is often not long before they add another and another to the chain. Jeremiah describes this course of sin in his day—the same process that is likely to occur in anyone's life: "'And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth. For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,' says the LORD" (Jeremiah 9:3). This is a major reason why God uses leaven to symbolize sin. As leaven spreads and does its work in flour, so sin spreads and corrupts the lives of all it touches.

For example, a tragic sequence of events begins in Genesis 37 with one sin whose impact reverberates to this day! Jacob's favoritism (respect of persons) for Joseph irritated his brothers. Their irritation grew to jealousy and flared into hatred. They conspired to commit murder, sold Joseph into slavery, and deceived Jacob to hide their complicity and guilt. What happened to their relationship with their father after this? Did they live in fear that one of the brothers would "squeal" on the others? Did they ever feel guilty for the pain they brought upon Jacob? Did their actions honor him? Did these events intensify his over-protectiveness of Benjamin and, in reality, make things worse for them than when Joseph was with them? Sin produces more sin unless someone stops it by repenting.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 




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