A little leaven

by Mike Ratliff

1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, “ When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.
5 And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:1-12 (NASB) 

The Church in our time did not descend suddenly into the level of apostasy we see all around us now. No, it actually began many generations ago when Christian leaders who compromised God’s Truth were tolerated or not dealt with through Church discipline as instructed in God’s Word. With each compromise comes a bit more heart hardening and a dullness of Spirit in their churches so that eventually true Biblical discernment becomes rare. Those who have not compromised are the minority while those who are walking in spiritual darkness view them as divisive, self-righteous, and judgmental. Why? These with discernment stand firm and rebuke those who teach what is not Biblical as if it is the truth while teaching against Biblical truth as if it is false. 

In our time, the visible Church has become nearly overrun with the compromise of becoming one with our culture. It is relativistic and pluralistic and, therefore, anti-Sola Scriptura. This must be so because the ones leading the charge into apostasy know very well that God’s Word does not teach what they hold to and, in fact, condemns it. I grew up as a Southern Baptist and it breaks my heart to witness now as many SBC leaders do all they can to deny that Baptists have any roots in the Protestant Reformation and at the same time, work behind the scenes to normalize relations between the SBC and the Roman Catholic Church. Rick Warren, a SBC pastor, has been making statements recently that the Pope is “the Pope” of all Christians and has his church, Saddleback Valley, actually participate in Roman Catholic ministries. My Grandfather Ratliff was a Southern Baptist Pastor and I assure you that he would not have put up with any of this. He ministered with no fear of men and if this sort of stuff was going on in his time, there would have been fire and brimstone coming those leader’s way from his pulpit. He would have organized like minded pastors in the Convention and those “leaders” doing this would no longer have those positions.

Paul warned both the Corinthian and Galatian churches against compromise like this.

1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:1-7 (NASB) 

The boasting referred to by Paul is actually laid out very clearly in the first 4 chapters of 1 Corinthians. Many in that church were causing divisions in the local body by attacking the teaching of some teachers like Paul while elevating the teaching of others like Apollos. Some were refusing to submit to the Apostolic authority of Paul. Then in chapter 5 Paul reveals that their sin of boasting has blinded them to the egregious sin of sexual immorality being tolerated within their local body. Their boasting is the leaven, which has leavened the whole lump. Leaven in the Bible is not yeast, but a small lump of fermented dough. A small lump of it was added to unleavened dough. The fermented dough would leaven the whole lump or loaf. When used in an analogy like Paul’s here it is referring to the evil influence of sin in the body of Christ. It is a sin to do what they were doing because it is nothing but a work of the flesh and based in pride rather than in Christian humility. Their lack of repentance from this has leavened them. Their hearts have become hard and they are in spiritual darkness, therefore, they have no or little discernment. Paul commands them to cleanse out the old leaven, that is, repent. Those who do repent of this prove their authenticity. Those who do not or refuse to do so prove that they are not of the unleavened of Christ.

1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Galatians 5:1-9 (NASB) 

The churches in the region of Galatia were under attack from judiazers. Some were compromising their faith by attempting to become justified by keeping the Mosaic Law even though they were primarily Gentiles. To do this is to not obey the truth. Paul tells them that God is the one who called them to freedom in Christ and He has not called them to submit again to a yoke of slavery. To believe and submit to this heresy is to become leavened with sin. A little sin here and a little compromise there seems to be nothing. Teaching that people can be saved without Jesus seems so harmless when one still preaches the Gospel, right? However, this little lump of leaven is placed in the lump of unleavened dough of God’s people. This little leaven will soon influence the whole lump and because of that spiritual blindness increases, hearts become hard and the next compromise is a lot easier for our enemy because discernment is non-existent.

The rampant apostasy of the visible Church in our time is the product of it becoming leavened by a continual attack of a little leaven here and little there resulting in compromises until it is as if no one has any discernment. God’s Word is preached and it is as Lot’s Sons-in-law who heard his entreats and warning to flee Sodom, but it seemed to them that he was jesting. Jeremiah preached the truth to King Jehoiakim through a scroll of judgment. When Jehudi read it to the Jehoiakim, the king cut off the parts already read with a knife and cast them into the fire (Jeremiah 36). This is what those who reject God’s Truth are actually doing. They will retort with human philosophy that that is only opinion. They reject the truth saying that it cannot be the truth because they do not believe it. What does this say? Doesn’t it say that they are the basis of truth in their own minds? They are spiritually blind and hard of heart. They see everything from the perspective of Man instead of from God’s perspective. They elevate Man in sovereignty over God. They have become completely leavened.

I pray that all reading this will prayerfully examine themselves. Ask God to seek out and expose the leaven within. Plead with God that He will grant repentance then turn and become cleansed from the leaven proving your authenticity and that you have been made unleavened through the blood of the Lamb.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “A little leaven

  1. Mike, well said.
    I’ve been reading lately events such as Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, moving to the Greek Orthodox religion, or all the hype even from Al Mohler and many others about The Benedict Option.

    As you wrote….none of this is new….it was happening during the time of Moses and the Prophets, the time of Christ and in the early church.

    In our lives it began in earnest in the 1800’s, but if you look closely you see the deists and compromising Faith’s back to the time of Adams and Jefferson. After Darwin it began in earnest, reached a contemporary high point when Greshem Machen, split to found the OPC, btw Christianity and Liberalism is a great read.

    The issues today are deeply rooted.

    Very hard to dialogue on the subject though, since everyone on whatever side they are on acknowledges there is a problem…and they think they have the “truth” as you put it. Some spin it as “new” truth some as “old” truth. I anticipate seeing much more over the next year about the Reformation being over or that we are in the midst of a new and “better” Reformation.

    Another problem is that much of what they say actually sounds good and they even justify much of it back to the Bible. But very rarely do they link back to sound doctrine founded in the whole of scripture.

    When is the last time you heard anyone in the modern church refer to the Westminster Confession or the Catechisms, or the Reformed ones? Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalist are at one time used those essential documents. Today, we just let them sit on dusty shelves, or honored statements of faith, even sometimes calling them as essential, but we merrily march on following the latest “popular” Pastors and Authors.

    Much more can be said but this grown a little long.
    On my own blog I try to focus first and almost always on just the Bible, backing it up when useful, with reference to an old lady Baptist Pastor John Gill, who wrote in a different time, and the Confessions and Catechisms when they speak clearly. As I read the Bible more and more it becomes most clear in what it says. Trouble is we don’t want to obey all of it. Just what we like or our ideology allows. Funny how that works. http://justwalkingtogether.blogspot.com/

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  2. I see all that stuff you mentioned almost on a daily basis. One thing that really disturbs me is the bias against the confessions and catechisms. Those who hold those biases claim that it is the Word alone where we should get our Truth, and they are right, but they are ignorant of the fact that the the confessions and catechisms are not additions to God’s Word nor do they take away from God’s Word, no, they are teaching tools that godly men put together to train up God’s people into His truth. Some who hold those biases hate Reformation Theology and that is another matter entirely. I have Machen’s book and I have quoted from it quite a bit. It is quite sad, but not surprising, that once Machen was gone that wolves have come in and watered down the solid foundation of the OPC by running off and trying to claim that Dr. Gordon Clark was a Hyper-Calvinist when he wasn’t.

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  3. Another excellent article Mr. Ratliff! I wish the things you are saying in articles such as this would be preached in pulpits around the world, but sadly they are not. As you mentioned, the SBC seems to running headlong into apostasy, joining the ranks of the PCUSA, the ELCA, the UCC, and the Episcopal church. When I read of these denominations not only condoning homosexuality, but ordaining non-celibate homosexuals; or, allowing pagan Sophia worship and wiccan groaning rituals to be performed in their sanctuaries; or, their far left leaning social activism and ecumenism, it just breaks my heart and I don’t understand how they can just toss God out of the window and turn to these demonic heresies.

    If the Apostles or the early church fathers were to see the church as it is today, they would be shocked.

    Thank you for the articles you write, keep fighting the good fight.

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