The Feast of Unleavened Bread

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The Feast of Unleavened Bread

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Why did ancient Israel observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

“… For seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:3 Deuteronomy 16:3You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shall you eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for you came forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

“Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt’ ” (Exodus 13:7-8 Exodus 13:7-8 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven seen with you in all your quarters. 8 And you shall show your son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did to me when I came forth out of Egypt.
American King James Version×
, NIV).
What instruction did Paul give Christians in regard to this festival?

“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” (1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×
).

Paul did not treat these festivals as outdated Jewish traditions. He considered them essential observances for God’s called and chosen people in all ages and cultures. He understood their relationship to Christ’s role in God’s master plan.

Paul commanded the Corinthian Christians—mostly gentiles (non-Israelites)—to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. His instructions show that Christians from non-Jewish communities and cultures kept the Days of Unleavened Bread. Setting an example for all Christians today, these Jews and non-Jews observed these days in accordance with God’s laws.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the second of God’s annual festivals, represents the second step in God’s plan for our redemption. Its main focus is on Christ as our Deliverer, our Savior. Therefore it is a thoroughly Christian festival.

That is why Paul compares a Christian’s deliverance from sin through the sacrifice and assistance of Christ to Israel’s deliverance from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea (which probably occurred on the final day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread). He writes: “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers [ancient Israel] were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 Moreover, brothers, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×
).

After we are justified by Christ’s sacrifice at the time of baptism, we must be led out of sin and into a righteous pattern of life just as Israel was led out of its bondage during the same Days of Unleavened Bread. This festival represents the work of the living, resurrected Christ directly leading and assisting us in overcoming sin.

Paul explained: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9-10 Romans 5:9-10 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
American King James Version×
).

Paul later expressed the same basic thought in different words: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
American King James Version×
). He also explained: “… God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:27-29 Colossians 1:27-29 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which works in me mightily.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Did Paul explain the spiritual lesson behind our observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 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” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 6 Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×
).

One purpose for the Feast of Unleavened Bread is to remind us that, after we accept Christ’s sacrifice at the time of baptism, we must allow God’s Spirit to help us grow up into Christ spiritually (Ephesians 4:15 Ephesians 4:15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
American King James Version×
; compare Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×
). Leavened bread represents the wrong motives (malice) and sin (wickedness) that may still reside in our thinking. Unleavened bread represents having our hearts filled with sincere motives—an eagerness to apply the pure truth revealed in God’s Word.

Jesus earlier made the same point to His disciples. He told them, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1 Luke 12:1In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, so that they stepped one on another, he began to say to his disciples first of all, Beware you of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
American King James Version×
). He also compared leaven to the false doctrines taught by many of the religious leaders of the day (Matthew 16:6-12 Matthew 16:6-12 6 Then Jesus said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said to them, O you of little faith, why reason you among yourselves, because you have brought no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up? 11 How is it that you do not understand that I spoke it not to you concerning bread, that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
American King James Version×
). They, like many false teachers today, substituted their own ideas and traditions for God’s commandments (Matthew 15:3-9 Matthew 15:3-9 3 But he answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; 6 And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
American King James Version×
).

Those who accept Christ as their Passover—as the New Covenant Lamb of God—have their sins covered by His sacrifice, providing they sincerely repent of their wickedness and malicious motives so they can begin conforming their lives to the truth as it is revealed in God’s Word.

Therefore, just as God delivered ancient Israel from literal slavery, God’s second step in His plan of salvation is freeing repentant Christians from spiritual slavery to wickedness (Romans 6:17-19 Romans 6:17-19 17 But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness.
American King James Version×
).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates Christians being miraculously delivered from this spiritual bondage of sin just as surely as God delivered the ancient Israelites from their Egyptian bondage. It reminds us that our deliverance from sin and our salvation are available only through a personal relationship with Christ, the “Lamb of God” who took on Himself the penalty for our sins (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 9 For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
American King James Version×
; John 1:36 John 1:36And looking on Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!
American King James Version×
). As our High Priest, He actively helps us, if we really are His servants, to put the leaven of sin out of our lives so we may become spiritually unleavened (Hebrews 3:1 Hebrews 3:1Why, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
American King James Version×
; Hebrews 10:19-23 Hebrews 10:19-23 19 Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
American King James Version×
; 1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×
).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates Jesus’ role in helping us remove spiritual leaven including malice, wickedness and hypocrisy from our character and in replacing those evil qualities with godly obedience, love and truth.

Therefore, “seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 Hebrews 4:14-16 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×
). He leads and assists us in resisting even the temptations of sin.

Christ is actively perfecting God’s own nature in His servants (Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
American King James Version×
; 2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
American King James Version×
). That is why Paul told Christians, “Therefore let us keep the feast [of Unleavened Bread] …” (1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×
).