The Parable Of The Leaven #4
Matthew 13:33


The fourth parable in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is contained in only one verse. It is commonly called "the parable of the leaven." This is another of the parables that Jesus gave from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. He gave four parables from this location to a large crowd on the shore and then He entered a house where He gave three more parables with His disciples as the audience. He set forth, in parable form, the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, the mysteries of the present age, and He revealed there would be many evil forces and powers working against people in the kingdom in the age that began with our Lord's first coming and that will end with His second coming.

Jesus spoke these parables to the multitude in fulfillment of Asaph's prophecy in Psalm 78:2. ďI will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old.Ē

The parables He spoke contained things God had kept secret from the foundation of the world. Jesus would now make known the features of the kingdom as it would be in the time period between His first advent and the second.

As mentioned, this is the fourth of these parables. It is contained in one verse, Matthew 13:33. ďAnother parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened."

This parable is a warning that the true doctrine of the church that is represented by the meal would be corrupted internally by false doctrine called leaven. In the parable the woman portrays the forces of evil who, in a very sly way, hid the leaven in the meal offering. The woman is not the Church, as such. She is the woman, Jezebel, who is identified in Revelation 2:20. She calls herself a prophetess and will teach the servants of God unholy principles in an attempt to subvert the kingdom.

Of all the Lordís teachings, perhaps none have been more misunderstood than this one. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."

The general idea among Christians is that the woman here represents the Church. The three measures of meal represent the world; the leaven, the gospel; and as the result of this, the whole world will eventually be converted. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nowhere is that taught in scripture. If that is the correct interpretation then the world should be almost completely leavened by the gospel and almost entirely Christian by now. It is not!

A well known Christian minister and writer wrote this: ďIf I were convinced that this is the true meaning of this parable I would be greatly tempted to throw away my Bible and to give up the ministry. If this is the correct interpretation then Jesus Christ was mistaken. For here we are, two thousand years after the time our Lord told this story, and there are outstanding, increasingly significant signs, from day to day almost, which indicate that we are nearing the time which our Lord at the end of this series of parables called the "close of the age."

After nearly twenty centuries of gospel preaching there are more unbelievers in the world today than there were when Christ sent the apostles out to evangelize the nations.

There is no scripture that teaches the whole world will be converted before the second coming of the Lord.

If this is not the case, then what are the actual facts? It is common knowledge that there never has been a time in all of history when there was more hatred, more crime, more violence, more injustice, more wickedness and more evil among mankind than there is today. The persecution of Christians has spread far more widely in this century than in any other time including the first century.

The so called civilized world is more pagan today than it ever was in the days of the Apostle Paul. In the twentieth century, a materialistic philosophy called Communism, which recognizes absolutely no God, grew from just a handful of men to spread over more than half the earth. At that time, more than a billion people were under the control of this system.

In a recent poll taken in our own so-called Christian country, half of the people couldnít name even one of the Gospels. In that same poll, the birth of Christ as an important event in history rated fourteenth on the list.

If we are to accept the common interpretation of this parable, Christ must have failed or else something has gone desperately wrong with His program. Jesus did not interpret this parable to His disciples because He evidently expected them to understand the meaning.

In order for us to understand this parable, let's begin with the meal. The woman and the leaven both did something to the three measures of meal so it is the central thing in this story.

What does the meal represent? The meal may be seen as the Church itself, the fellowship of true Christians. The church in itís true form is simple and faithful to God alone, looking to the scriptures for itís leading. That is the meaning of the three measures of meal. That is what our Lord introduced into the world by bringing the gospel, the seed mentioned in the first parable that was sown in the hearts of men, which entitled men to share in the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ.

When the leaven, the doctrine put forth by Satan, came in, some men became puffed up and followed manís teaching instead of Godís Word. Non-believers came in and professed to be Christians and the whole church was corrupted.

This is not what the Gospel does when it enters the human heart. The gospel produces the opposite effect. The meal, then, pictures the true church, the kingdom here on earth.

Now let's look at the leaven. The leaven represents a breaking away from divinely ordered fellowship with God and other believers and the corrupting influence of apostasy, and this false doctrine, or corrupting influence, has infiltrated and imitated the true church until itís difficult to separate the truth from the falsehoods. The church may appear to have grown like leaven appears to make the meal grow, but the end result is that the false doctrine doesnít convert one sinner or make the church grow. The leaven does not make any more meal, it just causes an unnatural expansion of what is already there.

The disciples could easily recognize why the woman was hiding the leaven in the meal since all through the Old Testament leaven is used as a symbol of evil.

In the New Testament leaven is mentioned several times, each time in conjunction with something bad. Never, ever, in the Scriptures does leaven symbolize something good; it is always a type of something evil.

Jesus frequently spoke of that leaven. He said to His disciples, in Luke 12:1. "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.Ē

Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you are not. Claiming a status before God which you don't actually possess is hypocrisy. When the outward appearance is one of being religious but inwardly there is the same old evil nature, that is hypocrisy. The Pharisees believed that God would be pleased if the externals of your life are right. Your heart can be filled with all kinds of hatred and lust, but as long as you maintain outward appearances you are acceptable before God. This is why Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites. Thatís why He called their actions ďthe leaven of the Pharisees.Ē

Then Jesus spoke of the leaven of the Sadducees. They tried to see everything from manís point of view. That is rationalism, the leaven of the Sadducees. It is the idea that life consists only of what you can taste and see and touch and smell and hear and think about, that there is nothing beyond that, no life after death, no resurrection, no angels. Men have rejected the fact that the Word of God gives us truth that we could never have known if He had not told it to us. It comes from God and therefore it is superior to anything and everything available in our universities or anything that man can find out for himself. Rationalism, the leaven of the Sadducees, has come into the church.

He also spoke of the leaven of the Herodians, the followers of King Herod. Their leaven was materialism. They taught that the things that were to be sought in life were power and wealth. If you have those, then you have the secret to this life. There are a lot of people in the world today who are following the philosophy of the Herodians, believing that what makes life worthwhile is the possession of things. Jesus says that philosophy is evil, that it is not the way you measure the true value of a life.

The world in general, and also many Christians, actually believe that the important things in life are to have a fine home and many other luxuries. They build their lives around their jobs and finances and are upset if those donít produce the ability to have these things.

The apostle Paul speaks of leaven in connection with legalism. The Judaizers were trying to put the newly saved Galatian Christians back under the Law, under a set of rules by which to live, and expecting that they would have the power to obey simply by their own effort. Paul told the Galatians they were free from the Law and he warned them not to put themselves back under the Law, to stand fast in their belief that salvation was by faith plus nothing. Galatians 5:1. ďStand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.Ē He also warned them not to have any part of the teaching of the Judaizers with this warning; Galatians 5:9. ďA little leaven leavens the whole lump.Ē

The professing church has been trying to live on the basis of the leavened meal for centuries and it has never been successful. Every effort by man to satisfy God by obeying manís rules, even if the obedience is sincere, is doomed to failure before it starts.

You can trace this pattern down through history and see how leaven has been working. The very ones who were responsible to keep God's house free from it -- the leaders, the pastors, the elders, the teachers within the church -- are responsible for allowing these conditions to come in and to prevail. Each time they have done so they have negated their fellowship with God.

The truth of the gospel
is that Christ has came to set us free from that.
God has made provision
to cleanse us from the stain of this leaven.
By simply admitting our faults to God
and accepting the forgiveness of God
we can be cleansed and set free.
When we receive the forgiveness of God,
the grace of God frees us to be at one with Him.
This is the most precious thing in the world
in God's sight.

Now we come to the symbol of the woman. There are two elements here, the fellowship of God's people and the introduction of the evil into the fellowship which corrupts it.

Again I want to quote from one of my favorite writers:

ďIn the parable the "Woman" hid the leaven in the meal. The Lord, however, did not commit His Gospel into the hands of women of whom there were none among the Twelve, nor among the Seventy which He commissioned and sent forth.

Scofield has the note that, "A woman, in the bad ethical sense, always symbolizes something out of place religiously" (Revelation 2:20).

It is somewhat significant that women have had much to do with the founding of false religious cults like Christian Science, Theosophy, Spiritism, Unity, Seventh Day Adventism, etc. Then, has not the modern church been somewhat feminized? Whether by women, personally, or as a woman symbolizing an apostate church, souls have been corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ, and the whole system of revealed truth has been vitiated (corrupted) by her.Ē

Now notice what the woman did in the parable, she hid the leaven in the meal. If the leaven in the parable represents something good, why hide it? False doctrine was brought into the early Church by false brethren. (Galatians 2:4). Jude speaks of those who crept in unawares to corrupt the saints (Jude 4:5).

The woman acted dishonestly. She hid a foreign element in the meal secretly. The apostate church works subtly in subverting the true word of God. Whenever a woman is used symbolically in scripture it always means that some thing, or some religious authority is either out of place or doing what is contrary to itís relationship with God.

When Jesus gave these parables, He was looking down the centuries to follow, seeking the thing most precious to God about the work which He Himself has begun among mankind. This is the fellowship of God with His people, the family of God. Jesus surely longed for the oneness of the body of Christ, with all the members sharing the love and forgiveness of the Father, which He had paid such a terrible price to secure.

How sad it must have made Christ to see that wonderful fellowship usurped by these evil principles that were introduced by the leaders of the church, those who had the right and the authority to preserve that fellowship.

Surely Satan had a hand in this. Those who God charges with the responsibility of maintaining the fellowship of His people allowed the hypocrisy, the rituals, the materialism, and the immorality to come in. When these things come into a church they destroy the fellowship of God's people.

Our Lord, in His infinite wisdom, saw what would happen in the church in this age of grace. He told plainly what the course would be and showed us the very things which destroy and corrupt the fellowship of Godís people. He warns us very clearly against allowing that leaven to come into our fellowship. His words in this parable are addressed especially to those in authority and leadership in the church. Nothing but the teaching of the Word of truth will rid the church of this leaven and restore manís fellowship with God.

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y which He commissioned and sent forth.

Scofield has the note that, "A woman, in the bad ethical sense, always symbolizes something out of place religiously" (Revelation 2:20).

It is somewhat significant that women have had much to do with the founding of false religious cults like Christian Science, Theosophy, Spiritism, Unity, Seventh Day Adventism, etc. Then, has not the modern church been somewhat feminized? Whether by women, personally, or as a woman symbolizing an apostate church, souls have been corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ, and the whole system of revealed truth has been vitiated (corrupted) by her.Ē

Now notice what the woman did in the parable, she hid the leaven in the meal. If the leaven in the parable represents something good, why hide it? False doctrine was brought into the early Church by false brethren. (Galatians 2:4). Jude speaks of those who crept in unawares to corrupt the saints (Jude 4:5).

The woman acted dishonestly. She hid a foreign element in the meal secretly. The apostate church works subtly in subverting the true word of God. Whenever a woman is used symbolically in scripture it always means that some thing, or some religious authority is either out of place or doing what is contrary to itís relationship with God.

When Jesus gave these parables, He was looking down the centuries to follow, seeking the thing most precious to God about the work which He Himself has begun among mankind. This is the fellowship of God with His people, the family of God. Jesus surely longed for the oneness of the body of Christ, with all the members sharing the love and forgiveness of the Father, which He had paid such a terrible price to secure.

How sad it must have made Christ to see that wonderful fellowship usurped by these evil principles that were introduced by the leaders of the church, those who had the right and the authority to preserve that fellowship.

Surely Satan had a hand in this. Those who God charges with the responsibility of maintaining the fellowship of His people allowed the hypocrisy, the rituals, the materialism, and the immorality to come in. When these things come into a church they destroy the fellowship of God's people.

Our Lord, in His infinite wisdom, saw what would happen in the church in this age of grace. He told plainly what the course would be and showed us the very things which destroy and corrupt the fellowship of Godís people. He warns us very clearly against allowing that leaven to come into our fellowship. His words in this parable are addressed especially to those in authority and leadership in the church. Nothing but the teaching of the Word of truth will rid the church of this leaven and restore manís fellowship with God.

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