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Newsletter #37

Pesach in the New Covenant

The Communities of the Twelve Tribes will be closing their cafés and bakeries for what is called “The Feast of Pesach [Passover] and the Days of Unleavened Bread.” (The week of April 24-29, 2016.) This festival presents a metaphor that uncovers the long-lost identity of what this modern world calls “the Church.”

There are many verses in the Bible that are very little known since they can hardly be applied to any contemporary Christian lifestyle. One such passage to “blow the dust off” is 1 Corinthians 5:6-8,

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 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.

Verse 8 shows that the first church was actually commanded to “keep the feast” that was given to old Israel to keep.

If you could travel back to the first century, you would most likely not recognize a member of the early church, or you might ask what many people ask us: “Are you Jews?” The answer, most likely, would go something like this: “Well, our people come from many different cultures, races, and religious backgrounds, but we cherish the traditions given to Israel (feasts, Sabbaths, etc.)”1 or, “We are the Commonwealth of New Israel!”2 or, “Our twelve tribes earnestly serve God day and night for the hope of the promises made to old Israel.”3

So, back to 1 Corinthians 5:6-8… The Apostle Paul told them to keep the feast, but he begins with a curious statement: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough, therefore, purge out the old leaven…” There is an old Jewish tradition at this time of year to clean out all the dusty corners of the house, but there is more to this time than just spring cleaning. “Purge out the old leaven” actually refers to keeping corruption out — not of the physical house, but of the spiritual house: the “lump of dough.” In these metaphors of leaven and the lump, first spoken of by Messiah4 and then the Apostle Paul,5 the loaf represented the body of believers. According to Paul, they are supposed to be an unleavened loaf.

This gives us insight into the Feast of Unleavened Bread. All that the Law stipulates is to “remove the leaven from your houses” and to “eat unleavened bread for seven days.”6 But whenever leaven is mentioned in the New Testament, both by Messiah and by the Apostle Paul, it speaks of something spiritual rather than physical. Mark 8:14-16 tells a story:

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.

He told them about how they didn’t need to be anxious about food, since the Father provided for them, but this leaven was something spiritual. Matthew 16:12 shows that he was referring to the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

So, what do the teachings of any group (such as the Pharisees) have to do with leaven as a metaphor? It has to do with their effect on the other part of the metaphor — the lump of dough. The lump of dough is a culture — a live culture that must be protected. If, once all the ingredients have been kneaded in, it starts to get puffed up, it is the work of leaven.

Leaven is a modifying influence that changes the whole mass. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”7 So that culture must be kept in an atmosphere that will prevent the growth of leaven. This is either the hot oven where it gets baked or, if it is not the time for baking, a very cold place. Lukewarm is the optimal temperature for the growth of leaven.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelations 3:15-16)

When leaven is activated in the lump it expels a gas that is trapped within the dough, causing separation between the dough particles, revealing the lukewarm atmosphere. Likewise, in the first-century church, when their once fervent love for one another began to grow cold, they became susceptible to negative thoughts about each other that caused separation and alienation. Rather than speaking the truth in love to each other, they began sowing discord, resulting in divisions.

Today there are more than 45,000 denominations in Christianity, increasing at the rate of 2.4 new denominations per day.8 People avoid getting “too close for comfort,” not having the courage to be honest with one another about the sin in their lives. It all began with tolerating a little leaven, and now it has leavened the whole lump. The words of the Apostle Paul left no room for the possibility that a part of the loaf could remain unleavened, and neither does nature.

Perhaps it bothers you (as it bothered us) that what this world calls “the Church” bears no resemblance to the description of the church in Acts 2:42-44 and 4:32-35. One Christian historian wrote, “Between the years AD 100 and AD 500, the Christian Church changed almost beyond recognition.”9

What this Feast Means to Us

Let me tell you now about an amazing phenomenon that is emerging in these very days. It is a brand new culture. You see, each member of the Body of Messiah can also be considered a part of that “unleavened lump” (according to 1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Each person is a grain of wheat with great potential to become part of the loaf, but three other ingredients are necessary. First of all, the wheat berries need to be crushed under the tribulum (where the word tribulation comes from), a heavily weighted sledge with sharp stones embedded in its underside that is dragged over the wheat to separate the wheat kernels from the chaff.

Then it must be threshed — tossed up in the air so that the wind blows away the chaff (the part that has no weight). Then it must be ground between the millstones and sifted and placed into a container. All these metaphors describe what happens in the true church — a place of testing, threshing, and being ground together into one container. But still, the flour cannot hold together as a loaf, but will only slip through the baker’s fingers. So next come the other ingredients…

Water — Ephesians 5:26 speaks of the water of the Word that comes from the Holy Spirit. There’s a difference between the logos, which is the written Word and the rhema, which is the living Word of the Holy Spirit, which produces obedience. The written word has been recorded in the Scriptures for thousands of years, yet there has not been an unleavened loaf on the earth since the first century. The living Word is required to maintain an unleavened loaf.

One indicator that the Word is living is what is says in 1 John 2:20, that the early church had one anointing that taught them all things. However, it is also true that leaven cannot be activated until moisture is added. In Christianity today you can find over 45,000 different ways to interpret the Scriptures (45,000 different denominations, each with its own “orthodoxy”). So the work of leaven which separates and divides is very evident, although it has an impressive external facade — it is “puffed up” like a fully leavened loaf. The only validating evidence that the living Word of the Holy Spirit is present is that it produces obedience and one unleavened lump.

The next ingredients is the oil (the anointing of the Apostles, 1 John 2:20, producing the “one heart and one way” of Acts 2:42-44 and 4:32). They all have the same teachings, even down to the traditions which were passed on by the Apostles.10 In “the Way of Yahweh” there is one heart and one way to do everything. As the old song goes, “This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth…” There was a way they wore their clothes, covered or refrained from covering their heads,11 and gathered for worship.12 They were even instructed not to associate with anyone who didn’t keep the traditions or was divisive, much less a “doctrinal disagreement.”13 Why such high and strict standards? They weren’t looking for mere outward compliance or uniformity (which impresses the world), but they were striving to preserve a live culture.

Yahshua said He would take the kingdom away from the Jews and give it to a nation bearing the fruit of it.14 A nation is distinct because of its culture, which distinguishes it. God’s holy, set-apart people had to be visibly distinguishable, primarily by John 13:34 and 17:23, but also the traditions (which one could easily dismiss or ignore) were real indicators of the inward reality of one heart and one way.15

Then finally there is the salt. Salt kills leaven. If someone has “salt within himself,”16 he will be wise and cautious. A people who are able to judge themselves in this way will bring savor to the earth. Salt is a preserving agent. His people, in preserving this brand new culture through prudence and self-judgment, will be “the salt of the earth.”17 Yet if salt loses its savor, it is worthless.18 Modern table salt, stripped of all its nutritive minerals, is reduced to poison. Today doctors prescribe a low-salt diet, in direct contradiction to Messiah’s words in Mark 9:50 — “Salt is good.” When someone has lost the characteristics of prudence and self-judgment, it is said that he has “lost his salt.”

Now, when all these ingredients are in the container (the common life of Acts 2:44 and 4:32) and are kneaded and handled by the Baker, something “magical” happens. It’s amazing when we go through the whole physical process to bake an unleavened loaf for our communion meal. When the flour, salt, water, and oil are first placed in the bowl, in correct proportion, it doesn’t seem as if it can absorb all that water and oil. But once mixed thoroughly (it takes time) it becomes one cohesive mass. What has happened is that the gluten, which was always in the wheat with the potential to be activated, has now been activated, and that is the “glue” that holds it all together.

But now that we have a true living culture, it has the potential to be corrupted by the leaven which has moisture to work in and corrupt the whole mass. People in the outside world don’t understand how we can say, “Don’t associate with fellow members of our community who don’t keep our traditions.” They don’t understand why we don’t let our children listen to the world’s music or read books that we’ve not written or approved, or send them to public school or college. Christians can’t understand because they are fully leavened. Leaven is a modifying influence. If another culture is able to influence ours, it would change and become like theirs (as the early church took on the holidays of the pagans — a historical fact — and now imitates the fashions, music, and cultures of the world). So we, in the restoration of the unleavened loaf, have to be watchful and purge any little bit of leaven.

People have told us, “You people are different. You really have something.” They can’t articulate it but they’re seeing a contrasting culture — in contrast to the world and its religions. This is a fulfillment of Malachi 3:18, “Then you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between those who claim to serve God and those who truly serve Him.” This must be a visible distinction.

Another thing people often tell us is, “Whatever happens, please don’t change.” If it happened in the first century, it could happen again to us. So we must keep this culture healthy and protect it from any modifying influence. “A little leaven will leaven [modify] the whole lump.” This could only be true of a people who are by nature, as 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “truly unleavened.”

Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are a time to remember the One who made us clean, and then keep the leaven out!

Notes

  1. Colossians 2:16
  2. Ephesians 2:12
  3. Acts 26:7
  4. Luke 13:21
  5. 1 Corinthians 5:7
  6. Exodus 12:15
  7. 1 Corinthians 5:6
  8.  http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/documents/StatusOfGlobalMission.pdf
  9. Tony Lane, The Lion Book of Christian Thought (Lion Publishing Company, Batavia, Illinois, 1984), page 8.
  10. 1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15
  11.  1 Corinthians 11:5-7
  12.  1 Corinthians 14:26
  13. 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10;  1 Corinthians 1:10
  14. Matthew 21:43
  15. Jeremiah 32:39; Acts 4:32
  16. Mark 9:50
  17. Matthew 5:13
  18. Luke 14:33-35