God's Plan for Salvation
Everyone Has a Part to Play
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In a few weeks, the spring Holy Days will begin. Baptized members will take part in the Passover service, where unleavened bread and wine will be taken as symbols of Jesus Christ’s body that was sacrificed for our sins. This will be followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a biblical Festival that all—baptized or not—will take part in, symbolizing the need to remove sin from our lives.
You probably recognize these fundamental teachings, but have you ever considered more deeply the meanings behind them, and what—if any—role we play?
First and foremost, we must understand that salvation—the opportunity to have eternal life in the Kingdom of God—is a gift from God. It’s not something we can earn by obeying any set of laws perfectly. The apostle Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
In other words, if we were somehow able to obey God’s law perfectly, we might have something to brag about. But the reality is, the only human being who has ever been able to live a life of perfect obedience was Jesus Christ. For the rest of humanity, we rely in faith on God’s grace for salvation!
Of course, some take this to mean there is no action required on our part. This could not be farther from the truth! James —Jesus’ half brother—reminds us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). To claim to have a living faith, yet take no action based on that faith, is dead. So what actions should we take?
Our human part in God’s plan of salvation
During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we are given a specific action we must take as a reflection of our faith. God gave clear instructions for Israel about how to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread through His servant Moses:
“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:15-17).
These instructions continue to be followed by the Church today (since “everlasting ordinance” means everlasting decree or law). But how about the spiritual aspect of it—do we understand, keep and observe these days as commanded? What is the spiritual aspect and meaning of this festival? How should we keep it?
God’s plan for us
God’s purpose for mankind is to reproduce His own kind, to fashion in each person His holy character. He will eventually convert human physical beings to spiritual beings, or from mortal man to immortal being, ultimately to be together as a family in His Kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
God gave to Israel seven annual Festivals which reveal the steps to the fulfillment of this plan: Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day. The Days of Unleavened Bread in particular are key to our human part in God’s plan of salvation.
In the process of conversion, God already did His part in this plan. God paid the death penalty, due for us because of our sins (Romans 3:23), through Jesus Christ’s death as our Passover. He also sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4) to be our helper, to lead us to God’s way of life and help us overcome sins.
In between the Passover and Pentecost, the Days of Unleavened Bread picture our involvement; the ongoing growth process for every individual whom God calls.
How? The Bible uses leavening as a symbol for sin to help us understand how it works in our lives. Just like leaven spreads easily to fill bread dough, sin is wickedness that can spread easily in our lives. The Days of Unleavened Bread picture removing sin from our lives and replacing it instead with Christ living in us: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 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 5:7-8).
We know we can’t leave sin by our own power. God promises to help anyone wanting to get out of the slavery to sin. Hebrews 2:18 says, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
And in 1 Corinthians: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (10:13).
We need God’s help, but He also gives us free will, the freedom to choose. He desires our devotion, commitment and active response to the truth that He’s revealed to us. So, how can we keep the spiritual aspect of the Days of Unleavened Bread today?
Remove the leavening in our home. Spiritually, that means to remove sin in our life. But how can we do it? Ultimately, God forgave our sins and took away the death penalty for sin through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice (Romans 3:23-25). And we know that each person is expected, at their time of conversion, to repent of their sins, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). But the Bible mentions that we can and will sin again, and we need to continually repent of it and ask forgiveness from God (1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2). So, God gave us the Days of Unleavened Bread as another instruction for how we can remove sin in our life every year. This also shows our intention, that we are still interested in God’s plan of salvation—to convert us to be spiritually minded and ultimately to be a spirit being in His Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Therefore purge [or clean 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.”
Eat unleavened bread each day during the Festival. Jesus is the “bread of life” and we partake of Him and His sinless life as we eat unleavened bread. While some might not actually be able to eat bread of any kind (unleavened or not) for a variety of reasons, spiritually, this symbolizes us replacing sin (wrong actions) with God’s way of life. We are able to partake of God’s righteousness through His Holy Spirit. And we grow in the knowledge of God through prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting. Attending Sabbath services is another opportunity for us to grow in God’s grace and knowledge as we fellowship with the brethren. As Colossians 1:10 says, “So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (New Living Translation).
Observe it for seven days. Physically, we observe it for seven days by removing all leavening from our home and keeping it out throughout that time. Spiritually, to keep it for seven days means we are to do this process of removing sin and taking in Christ throughout the days of our life—it’s a continuous, lifelong process. We see this in the fact that the number seven represents completion and perfection in Scripture (ucg.org/the-good-news/the-biblical-festivals-that-reveal-gods-plan-of-salvation). Matthew 24:13 reminds us: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
God loves His creation and wants everyone to be in His Kingdom. But we are created as free moral agents. God gave us an option to choose which way we want to go. The penalty of sin is death, and Jesus is our Savior. He saved us from the penalty of sin through His sacrifice. Our response to this truth should be to repent and be baptized in His name. And He will give us His Holy Spirit to help us overcome sin and live His way of life. Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
The Days of Unleavened Bread are a yearly reminder of our goal to be spiritually like the physical symbol of unleavened bread (sincere, true, filled with Christ). It is a calling to remove and overcome sin in our lives and to learn and live God’s way of life. It’s a calling and mandate for us to be unleavened. Let us make this to be our goal, motto and Christian slogan: Be Unleavened! CC