Friday, January 11, 2008

Leaven and Scabbed Sheep

This morning I found a great Christian blog called "A Little Leaven" which is dedicated to exposing the "leaven" of errors and heresies attacking the church today. The photos, blog posts and explanations shared at the site demonstrate how vital it is for true Christians to be involved with exposing heresies out there while remaining faithful to true Christian doctrine. Doing so helps us to heed the call in Jude's epistle - our need to throughly investigate and expose the damaging lies which are harmful to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and to exhort adherence to the "faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

The blog is described in this way:

- A Museum of Idolatry -
This Is What Happens When the Church Fails to Remain Faithful to the Correct Preaching and Teaching of God's Word

Next, in the "Welcome to Our Museum" message we read:

We'd like to thank you for stopping by our Museum of Idolatry. In less than a year we've collected more than 350 exhibits and our collection grows daily. Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed so that you can be notified of new exhibits.

If this is your first visit or if you haven't already done so, please grab your favorite beverage and spend some time wandering through our exhibit archives. We recommend starting on the "Jesus Junk Wing". Afterwards, if you have the stomach for it, be sure to visit our collection of Christian Erotica.

This Week's Featured Archive Exhibit: Blazing Saddles Bible Study

The "Jesus junk" list contains items that are just plain silly, all the way to items that are insulting and blasphemous. There are many, many items that I had never seen before. Where are these things being sold? Online?

But the "Christian" erotica is most disturbing. Thankfully, they didn't have pictures of the awful blasphemous sex toys being sold at that well-known sex orgy "festival" which was held in San Fransicko. However, be forewarned that what you read and see there is highly offensive.

The name of the blog inspired me to read what the Bible says about "leaven." The term "leaven" occurs 23 times in 20 verses.

Here are just a few Bible verses from the list:

1Cr 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

1Cr 5:7 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.

1Cr 5:8 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.

According to the Blue Letter Bible Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words - Leaven (Noun and Verb):

Being bred of corruption and spreading through the mass of that in which it is mixed, and therefore symbolizing the pervasive character of evil, "leaven" was utterly inconsistent in offerings which typified the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ.

In the Old Testament, "leaven" was forbidden in all offerings to the Lord by fire, Lev 2:11; 6:17.

In the OT "leaven" is not used in a metaphorical sense.

In the NT it is used (a) metaphorically (1) of corrupt doctrine, Mat 13:33; Luk 13:21, of error as mixed with the truth (there is no valid reason for regarding the symbol here differently from its application elsewhere in the NT); Mat 16:6,11; Mar 8:15

"Leaven" (yeast) was used as a symbol for sin -
1Cr 5:6-8

Matthew Henry's commentary:

IV. He hints the danger of contagion from this example: Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? The bad example of a man in rank and reputation is very mischievous, spreads the contagion far and wide. It did so, probably, in this very church and case: see 2 Co. 12:21. They could not be ignorant of this. The experience of the whole world was for it; one scabbed sheep infects a whole flock. A little leaven will quickly spread the ferment through a great lump. Note, Concern for their purity and preservation should engage Christian churches to remove gross and scandalous sinners.

During a Bible study on Psalm 23, I learned a lot about the harm that even just one sheep with the disease of "scab" can wreck upon an entire flock of sheep:

Keller (author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23) goes on to discuss and describe the irritating and highly contagious disease called "scab," which is common to sheep the world over. He mentions how sheep tend to rub heads together in a friendly, affectionate manner. However, when one has the "scab," this terrible disease spreads easily from one to the other.

Keller writes:

In the Old Testament when it was declared that the sacrificial lambs should be without blemish, the thought uppermost in the writer's mind was that the animal should be free of scab. In a very real and direct sense scab is significant of contamination, of sin, of evil.

Again as with flies, the only effective antidote is to apply linseed oil, sulphur and other chemicals that can control this disease. In many sheep-rearing countries dips are built and the entire flock is put through the dip. Each animal is completely submerged in the solution until its entire body is soaked. The most difficult part to do is the head. The head has to be plunged under repeatedly to ensure that scab there will be controlled. Some sheep-men take great care to treat the head by hand.

[S]o I know precisely what David meant when he wrote, "Thou anointest my head with oil." Again it was the only antidote for scab. [Keller adds that an old remedy is olive oil, sulphur and spices.]

In the Christian life, most of our contamination by the world, by sin, by that which would defile and disease us spiritually comes through our minds. It is a case of mind meeting mind to transmit ideas, concepts and attitudes which may be damaging.

Often it is when we "get our heads together" with someone else who may not necessarily have the mind of Christ, that we come away imbued with concepts that are not Christian.

Our thoughts, our ideas, our emotions, our choices, our impulses, drives and desires are all shaped and molded through the exposure of our minds to other people's minds. In our modern era of mass communication, the danger of the "mass mind" grows increasingly grave. Young people in particular, whose minds are so malleable, find themselves being molded under the subtle pressures and impacts made on them by television, radio, magazines, newspapers, [Christine adds: the internet!] and fellow classmates, to say nothing of their parents and teachers.

Often the mass media which are largely responsible for shaping our minds are in the control of men whose characters are not Christlike: who in some cases are actually anti-Christian.

One cannot be exposed to such contacts without coming away contaminated. The thought patterns of people are becoming increasingly abhorrent. Today we find more tendency to violence, hatred, prejudice, greed, cynicism and increasing disrespect for that which is noble, fine, pure or beautiful.

This is precisely the opposite of what Scripture teaches us. In Philippians 4:8 we are instructed emphatically in this matter, "...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things"! Here again, the only possible, practical path to attaining such a mind free of the world's contamination is to be conscious daily, hourly of the purging presence of God's Holy Spirit, applying Himself to my mind.

Keeping what I have already shared in this post in mind, I'd like to add some quotes from John MacArthur's book, "The Truth War" -

False teachers aren't necessarily even that obvious. They don't wear badges identifying themselves as apostates. They usually try hard not to stand out as enemies of truth. They pretend devotion to Christ and demand tolerance from Christ's followers.

Been there...done that! I have certainly had my share of false converts "demand tolerance" from me. However, such "tolerance" would require accepting their heretical ideas for the sake of "can't we all just get along?"


We must not take our cues from people who are perfectly happy to compromise the truth wherever possible "for harmony's sake." Friendly dialogue may sound affable and pleasant. But neither Christ nor the apostles ever confronted serious, soul-destroying error by building collegial relationships with false teachers.

You see, it's not "just a little thing" people! Defending the truth in a world of errors disguised as "Christianity" is essential in the truth war!


Because Gnosticism constantly mutated and metamorphosed and spawned new errors, Gnostic thought was like a persistent virus attacking Biblical Christianity for many centuries. As a matter of fact, Gnosticism was never totally and thoroughly exterminated. Some of the most ancient expressions of Gnostic error are experiencing a powerful comeback in the current generation.

We are supposed to respond to a pseudo-Christian teacher who denies the core truths of Christian doctrine: "Do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds."


John evidently applied that principle in his own practice too. Iranaeus (who was born shortly after John died and was personally acquainted with people who had sat under John's teaching) records that John once refused to enter a public bathhouse in Ephesus when he learned Cerinthus (a Gnostic who insisted that Jesus' deity was an illusion) was inside. So much did John love the truth and hate falsehood that he refused any kind of fellowship (or even casual association) with the peddlers of gnostic notions.

Now, it is extremely important to realize that we are discussing those who profess to be Christians; not skeptics, agnostics, atheists, those of other religions. What this teaches us is that those who borrow truth from Scripture here and there - but then poison it with outright lies are even more damaging than non-believers. Why? Because just like the gnostics of the early days of Christianity, they are guilty of satanic truth twisting (a modern-day example are "The Da Vinci Code" adherents) and are heretics who are undermining the very foundation of true faith!

The caution for our present time is that if those who spread such lies are not opposed and clearly refuted with the plain truth of God's Word, then those who need to know proper, sound doctrine could easily be led astray by postmodern, creeping apostasy.

Yet, it has been my experience, (unfortunately), that many of my Christian friends and acquaintances actually seem more distressed about believers who think the Truth War is still worth fighting than about the dangers of false doctrine.

Why is that?

I think that it has a lot to do with what MacArthur states in chapter 5 "Heresy's Subtlety":

The more aggressively something is marketed to Christians as the latest, greatest novelty, the less likely most evangelicals are to examine it critically. After all, who wants to be constantly derided as a gatekeeper for orthodoxy in a postmodern culture? Defending the faith is a role very few seem to want anymore.

Have you experienced derision because you are involved in "earnestly contending for the faith" as Jude exhorts in his epistle? I know that I have.

MacArthur certainly tells it like it is, magnificently in these concluding paragraphs in chapter 4:

Their complaint has become a familiar refrain: "Why don't you just lighten up? Why don't you ease off the campaign to refute doctrines you disagree with? Why must you constantly critique what other Christians are teaching? After all, we all believe in the same Jesus."

My answer? No we don't believe in the same Jesus!

MacArthur goes on:

But Scripture clearly and repeatedly warns us that no everyone who claims to believe in Jesus really does. Jesus Himself said many would claim to know Him who actually do not (Matthew 7;22-23). Satan and his ministers have always masqueraded as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15). We are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). After all, this has been his strategy from the very start.

So it is the very height of folly (and disobedience) for Christians in the current generation to decide all of a sudden that in the name of "love" we ought to sweep aside every aberrant idea about the gospel and unconditionally embrace everyone who claims to be a Christian. To do that would be to concede the whole battle for truth to the enemy.

We must continue the fight.

In this postmodern world, the clear voices of true biblical discernment are few. In fact, many are improperly labeled as "heresy hunters" or pesky whistle-blowers.

Where are the Berean-type believers of today? Such believers used to be commended. Not anymore! Today, many are labeled negatively for standing up for truth. Perhaps that is why there aren't enough believers willing to be ostracized for careful scrutinizing and discernment? In Acts 17:11, we are told how important it is for believers to "search[ed] the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."

MacArthur provides a detailed history of the heresies that spawned up through those who followed errant doctrines. He shares that spiritual chaos results from false teachers when the church becomes weary of the conflict and ceases to fight against it. In the closing paragraphs of Chapter 5, MacArthur writes:

One of the main lessons of Jude's epistle is that Christians must never cease fighting. We cannot pretend error is no longer worth battling in our generation. We should not imagine that the enemy has finally shifted into retreat mode. The war against the truth goes on continuously, unrelentingly, on multiple fronts - and it always has.

Jude takes a condensed, fish-eye view of all history, starting from the beginning of time. He shows that the Truth War has been a perpetual reality ever since sin first entered the universe. The long struggle between truth and falsehood is one of the central themes of all history.

We all would do well to remember the effects of even just a little bit of leaven.

We all would do well to remember the effects of even just one scabbed sheep.

Most important of all, remember that God uses faithful warriors for the truth as His instruments to preserve the gospel for each succeeding generation.

Jud 1:3
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

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