Statement of Fundamental Beliefs -
THE DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
The Passover Connection
The Bible presents the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread as two distinct festivals (Leviticus 23:5-6), yet they are also deeply intertwined in their meaning. Together they picture justification-the first step in God's great plan of salvation.
Two factors are necessary for us to be justified-for us to have our sins blotted out and to be made innocent before God. First, we require God's grace, which is given through God the Father's gift of His only begotten Son, who died in our stead and paid sin's penalty on our behalf (John 3:16; Romans 3:24-25). Second, we must respond to God's grace with faith and repentance (Romans 5:1-2; Acts 3:19). Repentance-a turning away from sin and a turning toward God-flows from faith.
During their first Passover, ancient Israel understood that it had been exempted from death, as the Lord passed through Egypt that night. Only those under the blood of the lamb were spared. Yet God also taught the Israelites a crucial lesson-that they were not spared from death to remain slaves in Egypt, just as a Christian is not to remain a slave of sin! Immediately following the events of the Passover the Israelites began leaving Egypt. Their exodus from the land took seven days, culminating with their crossing the Red Sea on the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The Passover reminds us that God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He extends His grace, but we must respond to it. Are we to continue in sin? God forbid! Rather we must turn our back on sin and surrender our life and will to God (Romans 6:1-4). We must "purge out" sin from our lives, and must replace malice and wickedness with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). This replacing our human nature with God's divine nature can only occur through Christ in us (Galatians 2:20; 2 Peter 1:3-4). We must be overcomers (Romans 12:21; 1 John 2:12-17; 4:4) as God gives us the victory through faith (1 John 5:4-5; 1 Corinthians 15:57).
This is the meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During its seven days, we avoid leaven, which Scripture uses as a symbol of sin (1 Corinthians 5:8), and we eat unleavened bread as a symbol of Christ-the bread of life.
Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread teach Christians about God's grace-and about our response to that grace.
What Is Leavening?
Scripture commands that for the seven days of the Festival, we are to avoid leavening and are to consume unleavened bread. What exactly is leavening? The Hebrew word is mechametz, which refers to the fermentation process in bread dough that causes it to rise. Yeast spores give off carbon dioxide in the fermentation process, and tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide cause the bread to puff up.
The leavened bread made in ancient times was like what we now call sourdough bread. Today, many make bread using packaged dry yeast, rather than starter dough from their last batch of bread. Yet in either case, the same process occurs: yeast spores digest sugar and give off carbon dioxide. Nowadays, baking powder and baking soda are also used to leaven breads. As a result of a chemical reaction, they also give off carbon dioxide causing the dough to rise, replicating the action of the yeast spores.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, described the spiritual significance of leavening. In 1 Corinthians 5, he rebuked the church for allowing a member engaged in scandalous immoral conduct to remain among the congregation. Paul described the Corinthians as spiritually puffed up, proud of what they considered their love and tolerance toward the sinner, when they should rather have had an attitude of grief about such sin. In his rebuke, Paul explained lessons that Christians should derive from Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Leavening, Paul told the Corinthians, represents malice and wickedness, while unleavened bread represents sincerity and truth. Because sin spreads and permeates, just like physical leaven, Christians must learn the lesson of purging out the spiritual leaven. During the Days of Unleavened Bread, physical leavening is used to represent sin-and Christians are reminded of the need to remove sin from-and keep it out of-their lives.
The Christian life is to be one in which attitudes and behaviors springing from malice and wickedness are completely avoided. Rather, sincerity and truth should be hallmarks of a true Christian's response to God.
The Bread of Life
The seven Days of Unleavened Bread are just that-they are not just the days of avoiding leavened bread. Removing leaven from our dwellings beforehand, and avoiding it during festival, is only part of the story. This festival shows not just what Christians should avoid, but also what positive steps we should take. The Days of Unleavened Bread reveal our part in God's plan of salvation!
What does the unleavened bread we eat during these seven days represent? The Apostle Paul likens it to sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8), but the John 6 account of Jesus' teaching gives us deeper insight. Just before Passover (John 6:4), Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 men, along with the women and children present. Afterward, He left the crowd and crossed the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. When some of those who had been present for that miracle later found Him there, He used the opportunity to teach them a vital spiritual truth.
Speaking in the synagogue in Capernaum (v. 59), probably on the first Day of Unleavened Bread, He explained that He was the true bread of life that had come from Heaven. Eternal life, He explained, comes not from physical sustenance but from spiritual sustenance. Christ emphasized that He had come not to do His own will or to pursue His own ways, but to carry out perfectly the will of the Father who had sent Him. He stressed that His followers must "feed on" Him (v. 57)-live by His words and example-so that they would abide in Him and He would abide in them.
The Days of Unleavened Bread should remind us not only of removing sin from our lives, but also of our need to feed on Christ-the bread of life. We are to let Him truly live His life in us day by day (Galatians 2:20)!
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