Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The book of Matthew often joins things together which apparently have no connection. We see this at the end of chapter fifteen and the beginning of chapter sixteen. Why does 16:1 say that the Lord Jesus was tempted? What is the connection between this and the end of chapter fifteen? The last thing covered in chapter fifteen is the corporate eating. Four thousand men, apart from women and children, were fed by seven loaves and a few small fishes. It seems that 16:1-12 has nothing to do with chapter fifteen. However, when we probe into the depth of the doctrine revealed in Matthew, we see that there is a connection.
When it comes to the matter of eating, we must be careful not to eat any leaven. In 16:1-12 what is crucial is not the temptation presented by the Pharisees and Sadducees, but the leaven. Hidden within this temptation of the Lord Jesus, there was leaven. Yeast is a leavening agent, used in making bread. What we see, however, is not the leaven, but the bread. When we eat bread, we may not realize that we are also eating leaven, for leaven is hidden in the bread and thus is invisible. Although no one could see the leaven hidden in the temptation presented by the Pharisees and Sadducees, it was nonetheless concealed within it.
As we have seen, chapter fifteen deals with the matter of eating. From 15:1 through 16:12, Matthew’s record is very much concerned with eating. Eating unclean things may defile us (15:1-20). What we need is not the outward washing, but the inward eating. Eating is the way to partake of Christ (15:21-28), and eating causes Gentile dogs to become children of God, even proper men. By eating we feed on the unlimited and inexhaustibly rich supply of Christ (15:32-39). Matthew 15 concludes with the record of corporate eating. However, we must beware of eating leaven (16:5-12), especially the religious leaven hidden within religious people, such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees were the ancient fundamentalists, and the Sadducees were the ancient modernists. I am thankful that the Bible mentions them both. In today’s religion there are also fundamentalists and modernists. The first group, the fundamentalists, have sound, scriptural beliefs. The second group, the Sadducees, deny what the Bible says.
In Matthew 16 Christ was present as bread, but the religious ones had hidden, damaging leaven. To repeat, Christ was the bread, and with the religious people, both the ancient fundamentalists and modernists, there was leaven. In the subtlety of religion, leaven tries to creep into the bread. Remember the parable of the leaven (13:33). Christ is the fine flour to feed God’s people for God’s satisfaction. But the woman, the apostate Roman Catholic Church, took leaven and hid it in the fine flour. Apparently leaven makes fine flour easier to take in; actually, it produces corruption. In chapter fifteen we see the bread available not only for Gentile dogs, but also for the men in the wilderness. In chapter sixteen the Lord warned His disciples and seemed to be saying to them, “Take care regarding your eating. It is right to eat Me, but you must beware of religious leaven.” At the Lord’s time there were the Pharisees and Sadducees, and today there still are Pharisees and Sadducees. These religious people, whether they are fundamentalists or modernists, have some secret, hidden leaven.
Now we can see the connection between chapters fifteen and sixteen. We can see the reason Matthew speaks of leaven immediately after the record of corporate eating. Be careful. As you are enjoying the corporate eating, it is easy for leaven to secretly creep in. Eventually, leaven did creep into the church. The church was not very careful about this, and not too long after the day of Pentecost leaven came in. The bread on which the church had been feeding became completely leavened. Thus, the Lord’s word in 16:6 and 11 was not only a warning, but also a prophecy.
By the end of chapter fifteen, the disciples were helped to realize that the Lord Jesus had come to be bread to the children of God. Firstly, the heathen were dirty dogs, but after eating Christ they had been regenerated and caused to become children of God, proper men to enjoy Christ in a corporate way. When all this was made clear to the disciples, they must have been happy. However, then the Lord seemed to say, “It is good to eat Me and to enjoy the corporate eating. But there are religious people who in the name of God, under the cloak of worshipping God, and presumably for the purpose of glorifying God, will bring in leaven. They will be utilized by the enemy to secretly bring in some damaging and corrupting thing. You must beware of this.”
The Lord Jesus came as bread to be taken in by sinners so that they may be regenerated to be the children of God and transformed into the proper men to feed on Christ corporately. Although this is wonderful, there is the danger of religious leaven that comes from religious people. In Christianity religious people are highly respected. But I speak of them in a negative way because I realize that the religious ones always have some leaven. Under the cloak of religion, they bring in certain matters that corrupt and damage the things of God. Therefore, we must learn to beware of leaven as we are enjoying Christ as our heavenly bread.
This leaven always comes from religion, from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Mark 8:15 speaks also of the leaven of Herod. Matthew does not mention this type of leaven because his purpose is to show that in feeding on Christ there is the danger of taking in something religious. Anything religious may have leaven in it. The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees was their teaching (16:12). None of the Pharisees taught in a way that would obviously damage people. If they did this, no one would listen to them. The same was true of the Sadducees. If they did not give people the impression that their teaching would help them, no one would listen to them. The principle is the same today. In today’s Christendom there is teaching upon teaching. Every teaching appears to help people. No one will ever tell you that the teaching he is about to give you may damage you or lead you astray. On the contrary, everyone with a certain teaching pretends that his teaching is good and helpful. This is the reason people like teachings. But we need to realize that leaven may often be concealed under the cloak of religious teachings.
Christ is the bread of heaven sent by God and from God. Leaven, however, is something sent by Satan and from Satan. Thus, God sent bread, and God’s enemy sent leaven. God is endeavoring to put Christ into His people, and the enemy is working to put in leaven as God’s children are taking in Christ. This principle is evident in today’s Catholicism. Take the example of Christmas. The birth of Christ and the incarnation of Christ are the fine flour as food to us. But Christmas is leaven. The birth of Christ is pure. How pure it is that God has been incarnated! But consider how defiled and corrupt is the practice of Christmas today. There are even such things as Christmas dancing parties. What leaven there is in this matter of Christmas! Christmas is so full of leaven that it is difficult to find any fine flour at all.
We may apply this principle to nearly everything in today’s Christendom. For example, there is nothing wrong with being a servant of God. But why should people use the title Reverend? To call yourself Reverend is to bring in leaven. It is also leaven to use denominational names, such as Lutheran and Baptist. All these titles are leaven.
Furthermore, it is pure to sing praise to the Lord, but to have a soloist is to add leaven. Although we enjoy the corporate eating of Jesus, we need to beware of hidden, religious leaven. Even some of the dear saints in the Lord’s recovery may wonder what is wrong with having a soloist in the meeting. Oh, how we must beware of every kind of leaven! It is not easy to discern that leaven is hidden in the bread.
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