I believe the Bible teaches us to use unleavened bread exclusively for the Lord's Supper. I realize that many great and godly Christian scholars, including even Calvin and Spurgeon, disagree with me on this point. Nevertheless, I must say with Luther "My conscience is bound by the Word of God." While I respect the great Reformed scholars of history, I do not slavishly follow every doctrine they held. We cannot decide whether to accept or reject a doctrine based merely on whether Calvin or Spurgeon, or, for that matter, the entire Christian church, held the view. Rather, we look to Christian scholars to show us the evidence they have gleaned from scripture, and we then examine their arguments and weigh the evidence for ourselves, in the light the Holy Spirit gives us, as we compare scripture with scripture. We normally expect to find the arguments of such godly and learned men to be in accord with the scriptural teaching. However, even the best of men can err—God alone is infallible—and we must entrust ourselves to the teaching of His holy Word as we understand it, until such time as the Holy Spirit gives us clearer insight into its meaning.
My essay is divided into two parts. In the first part, I give a positive exposition of my understanding of the Lord's Supper and its connection to the Passover festival, alongside Paul's inspired commentary on the significance of unleavened bread with respect to remembering Christ, our Passover lamb, sacrificed for us. In the second part, I respond to various objections leveled against this view.
Both positions agree on one point—namely, that Jesus certainly used unleavened bread when He instituted the Lord's Supper. How, then are we to understand our Lord's words, "Do this in remembrance of me"? Did He mean that we are to use the same kind of bread and wine that He and His disciples used that evening—i.e. the very type of bread and wine prescribed by God through Moses—or are we to assume (with no explicit Biblical warrant) that He did not intend the use of any specific kind of bread?
Perhaps the most fundamental point of difference I have
the two positions is that the "unleavened" position recognizes a strong
connection between the Old Testament Passover meal and the Lord's
whereas the "leavened" view seems to treat any connection between the
as of minor or incidental importance. For my part, I do not
it is of minor importance that the Lord's Supper was instituted in
with the Passover meal, just prior to our Lord's crucifixion.
suggest that what we call "the Lord's Supper" is, in fact, the Passover
meal reduced to two elements—the bread and the wine—and sanctified for
the observance of the New Testament church. When seen in this
Paul's reference to "Christ, our Passover" in
5:7-8 and his exortation to "celebrate the festival"
has in mind
the Lord's Supper—i.e. the New Testament version of the Passover
therefore the reference to unleavened bread has an application, not
to how Christians are to live, but more particularly, in the context of
how this is illustrated in the elements of the Lord's Supper.
Part 1: A Biblical Exposition of the Doctrine.
Point #1. The Lord's Supper was instituted in the context of the Passover Meal.
The Passover was instituted by God the evening that the death angel passed through Egypt, taking the life of every firstborn child that was not under the protection of the blood of the Passover lamb applied to the doorposts of the house. The following day, the Israelites left the bondage of Egypt forever. This is a story that is very familiar to us, but we recognize that it holds a much deeper meaning than simply the historic exodus from Egypt. The sacrifice of the Passover lamb, and the protection it provided from the death-judgment that evening is clearly symbolic of the Lord Jesus and His redeeming work at Calvary. The Passover was immediately about God's victory over Pharoah, but ultimately, it was about Christ's victory over sin and death.
It is not surprising, then, that our Lord's "Last Supper", before going to the cross, was a Passover meal. When we read the account of the Last Supper, we find a significant emphasis upon the fact that this was the Passover meal.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." They said to him, "Where will you have us prepare it?" He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there." And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.The word "Passover" (pasca) occurs five times in this brief account, and our Lord says "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." Now, surely this would be a strange statement if Passover was nothing more than a remembrance of Israel's deliverance from Egypt. Our Lord was well aware of the horrible suffering He was about to face in just a matter of hours, and it was certainly an odd time for reminiscing about a historical event in Israel's distant past.
Our Lord had in mind the "Greater Passover" that delivers us from the wrath of God, and He fully recognized that He was the Passover lamb, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7). The Passover meal commemorated the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt, to be sure, but this was a type of the ultimate Passover, when Christ would be crucified for our sins and purchase eternal salvation for His people. It was this latter event that captured our Lord's interest, and so, when He sat down to eat the Passover meal with His disciples, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
Are we so accustomed to hearing this formula repeated that we fail to remember that our Lord was eating the Passover meal with His disciples when He uttered these words? Have we forgotten the immediate historical context in which our Lord said to "Do this in remembrance of me"? Or, are we so blinded to the true meaning of Passover that we assume it to be nothing more than an Old Testament ceremony that celebrates a memorable event in Israel's distant past? If we carefully follow the events of the Last Supper, we see that our Lord was not instituting a new sacrament, but was consecrating two elements of an ancient sacrament for our continued observance.
Our Lord took the Passover bread, broke
it, and said to his disciples
"Take eat; this is my body." In so doing, he shows
us the deeper significance
of the Passover. He is the Passover lamb who was
slain to deliver us from God's
wrath (John 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7). His body is the Passover Bread
and His blood is the Passover Wine that satisfy our
hunger and thirst for righteousness
(Mat 5:6). When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, he was
explaining the greater significance of the Passover elements. We do
violence to his
teaching when we claim that any type of bread is appropriate for the
This is tantamount to saying that any type of bread (i.e. either
leavened or unleavened)
would have been appropriate for Passover, and that, of course, directly
God's command that the Passover bread must be unleavened (Exod 12:8;
Point #2. God clearly commanded unleavened bread and forbade the use of leavened bread for Passover.
The Lord's Supper is sometimes described as if it is to be done in the context of eating an ordinary meal together, using ordinary bread and ordinary wine. But there was nothing ordinary about the meal which instituted the Lord's Supper. Biblically, the Lord's Supper was eaten in the context of a very special meal—the most important meal in the Jewish calendar—and one which, in its own right, ultimately pointed to Christ, the Passover lamb, sacrificed for us.
Because of the importance of the meal, God gave special instructions regarding what was to be eaten and how it was to be eaten. A lamb or goat—a year old and without blemish—was to be slaughtered, its blood sprinkled on the doorposts, and then the lamb was to be roasted and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. They were to eat it in haste, as though ready to leave at any moment—with their belt fastened, their sandals on their feet, and their staff in their hand.
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. "Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover.The bread was given special attention. It was to be unleavened bread only—leavened bread was forbidden for this special meal. Moreover, they were to continue for seven days eating no leavened bread. They were not even to allow leaven in their homes, and anyone who ate what was leavened was to be cut off from the people.
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread."As Bible-believing Christians, we know that God has a purpose for everything He does. In stipulating how the Passover meal was to be eaten, He was not only reminding His people year after year of the exodus from Egypt, but was also preparing them for the central event of history—the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah. Even though the Passover was celebrated countless times throughout Israel's history, God had one very special Passover meal in mind from the very beginning—the meal that Jesus and His disciples would eat on the night before His crucifixion. The various details of the meal—the lamb without blemish, the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread—are each symbolic of some special attribute of Christ as the Passover sacrifice for His people.
Point #3. The apostle Paul, when describing Christ as our Passover, identifies leaven as "malice and evil" and unleavened bread as "sincerity and truth".
Why was such a fuss made over leaven and leavened bread? If we confine this question to what is revealed in the Old Testament, we find merely that it represented the haste with which the Israelites fled from Egypt.
You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.Presumably, the thought here is that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste that they could not take time to prepare leavened bread, waiting for the bread to rise. This passage refers to unleavened bread as "the bread of affliction"—reminding them of how severely they were afflicted in Egypt, so that, in the years ahead, they would cherish God's deliverance on that remarkable day when Moses led them out of bondage from Pharoah.
If this is all that scripture had to say on the subject, then we might possibly feel justified in relegating unleavened bread to the list of "carnal ordinances" of the Jewish ceremonial law that were done away in Christ (Hebrews 9:10). However, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, gives us additional insight into the meaning of "leaven" and "unleavened bread" in the context of the Passover—specifically, with respect to Christ as the Passover lamb, sacrificed for us.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.In the context of remembering "Christ, our Passover", sacrificed for us, we are to "celebrate the festival", not with the old leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Here, Paul equates "leaven" with "malice and evil", and equates "unleavened bread" with "sincerity and truth".
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Paul, in this passage, is not thinking of the Old Testament Passover celebration, for in the Old Testament festival, a literal lamb was sacrificed. But Paul speaks instead of Christ, our Passover, who has been sacrificed. Paul is thinking here of the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of the Passover symbols. This is a divinely-inspired New Testament commentary on the ultimate meaning of "leaven" and "unleavened bread" within the context of celebrating the festival of Christ, our Passover.
The Lord's Supper is the New Testament counterpart of the Old
Passover meal, and the apostle teaches us that leaven represents "malice
and evil", whereas unleavened bread represents "sincerity
This is an apostolic teaching, and therefore did not pass away with the
shadowy elements of the Mosaic ceremonial law. How,
we eat leavened bread in the Lord's Supper and assume that it does not
represent "malice and evil" when the apostle clearly
connection in the context of celebrating the festival of Christ, our
lamb, sacrificed for us?
Here are some thoughts to consider regarding the Lord's Supper ...
From 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 we learn that there is a deep and important meaning attached to the use of unleavened bread in the Lord's Supper—reminding us that it was a sinless Christ who was sacrificed for us, and that He feeds us with the pure bread of sincerity and truth. If we are ignorant of these meanings, we may find a measure of spiritual nutrition in taking the Lord's Supper, but there is greater grace to be obtained if we see the whole picture and comprehend all the divinely-ordained symbolism inherent in the elements.
When a church chooses to use leavened bread for the Lord's Supper, it has many harmful consequences:
He has few remaining options.
Therefore let us ... decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. ... Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Part 2: Answers to objections against this view:
Objection #1. When He instituted the use of bread in the Lord's Supper, our Lord simply said "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." He did not say that unleavened bread must be used, nor did He say that unleavened bread represents His sinlessness.
We must remember that the Lord's Supper was not instituted in a contextual vacuum. Christ and His disciples were observing the Passover meal that evening, in the way God had prescribed through Moses (see Exodus 12:1-14; Deut 16:1-3; Luke 22:13-16; etc.). God commanded the use of unleavened bread for the Passover meal, and so it was no mere coincidence that Jesus used unleavened bread when He instituted the Lord's Supper. When He said "Do this in remembrance of me," is it not most natural to assume that He meant we should do just what He and His disciples did that night, using the very same elements they used? If we depart from the specific type of bread they used, should we not have a clear Biblical warrant for doing so? It seems to me that, without an explicit warrant to use another kind of bread, we are not obeying our Lord's command to "Do this in remembrance of me."
Was the type of bread merely incidental? Why, then, did God forbid the use of leavened bread for the Passover meal? (Exodus 12:19-20; etc.). Was it merely a symbol of leaving Egypt in haste? Why then did Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, give a divinely-inspired commentary on the Passover feast, equating leaven with "malice and evil", and unleavened bread with "sincerity and truth"? This Biblical commentary on the meaning of "leaven" and "unleavened bread" is given in the context of "Christ, our Passover," sacrificed for us. The Jews were meticulous in purging the leaven from their houses prior to Passover, and Paul says that this is symbolic of purging the "evil and malice" out of our hearts and lives so that we can "celebrate the festival" in "sincerity and truth".
This is in perfect harmony with his teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 ...
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.It is no accident that 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 describes the self-examination that should precede taking the Lord's Supper, for 1 Corinthians 5:7 specifically claims to be describing the Lord's Supper, with its reference to "Christ, our Passover", and that we should "celebrate the festival ... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." How and when does the New Testament church celebrate the festival of Christ, our Passover sacrificed for us? —obviously, it is in the Lord's Supper, instituted at the Passover meal, when our Lord told His disciples to "Do this in remembrance of me."
1 Corinthians 11:27-29
Objection #2. Exodus 12:11 and Deuteronomy 16:3 say that the reason why God ordained unleavened bread for Passover is to remind Israel of the haste with which they left Egypt—there was no time to allow the bread to rise prior to baking it. The Lord's Supper, on the other hand, does not commemorate the hasty escape from Egypt, but our Lord's sacrifice for our sins. Hence, the symbolism of leaven does not apply.
This overlooks the fact that the Passover law commanded the Israelites to purge leaven from their homes and from their land. This is not something that could be done in a hasty manner, which suggests that there is more to the symbolism than simply remembering that the Israelites left Egypt in haste.
Exod 12:15 - Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.In his commentary on Exodus 12:15, John Gill describes the practice of the Jews ...
Exod 13:7 - Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory.
Deut 16:4 - No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days ...
even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; out of their dwelling houses, which were to be diligently searched for that purpose, and every hole and crevice in them; and not only their lower rooms, their dining rooms and parlours, but their upper rooms and bedchambers; because it was possible a man might sometimes go into them with a piece of bread in his hand, and drop or leave some of it behind him: yea, synagogues and schools were to be searched, since children might carry thither leavened breads (i): and this search was to be made by the light of a lamp or candle, not by the light of the moon, if in the night; nor by the light of the sun, if in the day, but by the light of a lamp or candle, and not by the light of a torch, or of a lump of fat, or grease, or oil, but by a lamp or candle of wax (k): and this search was to be made at the beginning of the night of the fourteenth of Nisan; yea, it is said that leavened bread was forbidden from the seventh hour of the day, that is, one o'clock in the afternoon and upwards, which is the middle of the day ...This is clearly not something that the Jews did on the first Passover, when they left Egypt in haste. If they had had time enough to make such a diligent search of their homes, then they would have had ample time to allow their bread to rise. God clearly had more in mind than the haste with which they left Egypt when he commanded the Jews that they must exclusively use unleavened bread for Passover.
The New Testament often clarifies teachings that are obscure or left unexplained in the Old Testament. For example, the New Testament makes plain that Christ is our Passover lamb who was sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:7-8), and it is in this same context that it explains that leaven represents "malice and evil" while unleavened bread represents "sincerity and truth".
This explains the symbolism of the purging of leaven from the homes in the Old Testament Passover law. Not only is Christ the antitype of the Passover lamb, but the purging of leaven from the homes represents ...
Paul makes these very applications in 1 Corinthians ...
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 5:7
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. ... God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."
1 Corinthians 5:11, 13
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
1 Corinthians 11:26-28
One of the key principles of scripture is that Christ and his sacrifice on the cross is the focus of all scripture.
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
Much of the Old Testament points to Christ, even when it is not expressed as an explicit prophecy. For example, the offering up of Isaac, the "only" and beloved son of Abraham, foreshadowed the cross of Christ, as did the thousands of animal sacrifices that were offered up in the Old Testament. Joseph was hated by his brothers and they sought to kill him, yet in the end he returned in glory and power to show mercy to them—this too foreshadowed our Lord and the great salvation he wrought for us.
When considering the ordinances of the Old Testament, we need
to look beyond the immediate, explicit Old Testament meaning to see if
there is any clear reference to Christ, his sacrifice for us, or the
salvation he wrought on our behalf. We should not assume
that the hasty flight from Egypt exhausts the symbolism of unleavened
bread, and we
should be attentive when the New Testament sheds further light on
Passover and its fulfillment in Christ, and expands on the meaning of
Objection #3. In John 6:29-58, our Lord explained that He is the bread of life, given for the life of the world. Therefore, the significance of the bread used in the Lord's Supper is that it is nutritious. Since leavened bread is just as nutritious as unleavened bread, it does not matter which kind is used.
One fallacy with this argument is that it supposes that the nutritious quality of bread exhausts the symbolism of bread in the Lord's Supper. However, in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, the apostle Paul gives us additional insight concerning the use of unleavened bread in connection with the remembrance of "Christ, our Passover lamb," when he exhorts us to "celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." There is no reason to suppose that John 6:29-58 says all that there is to be said on the use of bread in the Lord's Supper, especially when Paul adds additional insights.
The bread is nutritious precisely because our sinless Savior offered His body on the cross to provide us with the kind of nutrition we desperately needed—namely righteousness. If the "nutrition" He gives us is tainted with sin, then it cannot protect us from the just wrath of an infinitely holy God. If, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:8, leaven represents "malice and evil", then leavened bread would represent a "poisoned nutrition"—like bread laced with arsenic—that kills us rather than heals us. Thus, the very image of bread feeding us and providing life-sustaining nutrients requires that it be symbolic of righteousness, and not merely of an amoral "nutrition".
When we consider the context in which Jesus called himself "the bread of life", we find that it gives no support for the use of leavened bread in the Lord's Supper ...
John 6:31-51 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" 43 Jesus answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."Throughout this section of scripture where Jesus refers to himself twice as "the bread of life", he is comparing himself to the manna that God provided to the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. Just as the manna came down from heaven to provide nourishment for the people, so also Jesus has come down from heaven to provide spiritual nourishment for his people by dying in their place on the cross.
The fallacy, therefore, of using "I am the bread of life" to support the use of leavened bread is that manna definitely was not leavened bread. When Jesus describes himself as "the bread of life" in John 6:35 and 6:48, he is not referring to common, everyday, leavened bread, but to the supernatural "bread from heaven" that God sent daily to the children of Israel in the wilderness.
The very word "manna" means "What is it?" in Hebrew (Exodus 16:15). When the Jews first saw it, they didn't know what it was, and therefore it was definitely not the sort of bread they were accustomed to eating. Exodus 16:14 describes it as "a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground." Exodus 16:31 and Numbers 11:7 describe it as being white, like coriander seed, and tasting like wafers made with honey. Clearly, if it was "flake-like" and "fine as frost on the ground" then it did not have the raised texture of leavened bread.
In summary, we see two major fallacies with this argument.
First, the very symbol
of the bread being nutritious requires that it be unleavened
and truth") rather than being poisoned with leaven (which represents
malice"). Second, when Jesus said "I am the bread of life",
comparing himself to the manna that God sent from
heaven, which definitely did
not contain leaven.
Objection #4. Scripture uses the generic word "bread" (artos) rather than the specific term "unleavened bread" (azumos), when describing the Lord's Supper. Thus, God does not care whether the bread is unleavened or not.
The Greek word artos is the word commonly translated "loaf" or "loaves", as well as "bread", and it traces its meaning from the word airo, which means "to lift, or to raise", thereby suggesting the idea of bread that has been raised by the leavening process. However, word usage—not origin—is the final determiner of a word's range of meanings, and usage demonstrates that artos does not necessarily or exclusively denote leavened bread. It is used of the manna that God sent from heaven (John 6:31-41) as well as of the unleavened bread eaten by Jesus and His disciples at the Passover meal (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19). Thus, the word artos is simply the generic word for bread—whether leavened or not.
We must remember that unleavened bread is a particular kind of bread, and that to call it "bread" does not negate the fact that it is unleavened, nor does it diminish the importance of its unleavened state. Luke 22:7 uses the term "Unleavened Bread" (azumos) to denote the day on which Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal, and verse 19 says that he took "bread" (artos), gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples to eat. Yet, no one will claim, merely because a different word is used, that the bread suddenly became leavened when Jesus gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples. It was the same unleavened bread with which they began the meal, and it would have violated the Passover law if it had contained leaven.
If I should, on one occasion, refer to the Bible as "the
infallible Word of God", and, on another occasion, refer to
it simply as "the Word of God", my latter reference
is not intended as a retraction or denial of my former
statement. Or, if I should sometimes call God "our
sovereign God", and other times call Him "our God",
it does not follow that the latter designation is meant as a denial of
His sovereignty. Likewise, if the Passover bread is sometimes
described as "unleavened bread", and other times is
merely called "bread", it does not follow that the
latter usage implies that the bread may be leavened. It
simply acknowledges that unleavened bread falls in the broader category
Objection #5. If God had meant for the church to use unleavened bread for the Lord's Supper, then He would have explicitly said so. By using only the generic word for bread, He teaches us that it does not matter whether the bread is unleavened.
Christians hold to many teachings that are not explicitly spelled out in scripture, but may be deduced by comparing scripture with scripture and applying sound reason. For example, the Bible nowhere gives an explicit statement that there is one God who eternally consists of three distinct persons. Yet, we validly deduce the doctrine of the Trinity from the various statements made concerning the unity of God, the deity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the relationships between the three persons which prove that they are distinct. Paedobaptists argue for the baptism of infants without any Biblical passage that plainly teaches that the New Testament church baptized infants. Sunday Sabbatarians argue that the Sabbath day was moved from Saturday to Sunday but can cite no passage where we are explicitly told to observe a Sunday Sabbath.
It is both inconsistent and hypocritical to insist that an explicit command is required to justify the exclusive use of unleavened bread in the Lord's Supper, if you do not insist on explicit statements supporting the Trinity, paedobaptism or "Christian Sabbath".
On the other hand, our Lord's command to "Do this in remembrance of Me", in the context of partaking the Passover meal that He "earnestly desired" to eat with His disciples can be argued to consistute a clear New Testament injunction to use unleavened bread. There is no reason why God should need to repeat the importance of using unleavened bread when He made it abundantly clear in the institution of Passover (and, repeatedly thereafter), that unleavened bread is the only kind of bread that was permissible for the Passover meal.
In fact, we should turn the objection around, and ask "Where
is the clear Biblical statement that it is permissible to depart
from the type of bread that our Lord used when He instituted the Lord's
Supper?" Or "Where is the clear Biblical
statement that the Lord's Supper is such a departure from the Passover
meal that we can safely deny that the prescription
to use only leavened bread applies to the Lord's
Objection #6. The use of leavened bread belongs, with circumcision and animal sacrifices, to the circumstantial rituals of the Old Covenant and should not be carried over into the New Covenant.
Two significant points refute this claim.
First, the institution of an ordinance defines what it is and how it should be observed. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, he gave unleavened Passover bread to his disciples, teaching them that the Passover bread represents his body given for us, and charged them to observe this ordinance until he returns. In doing this, he not only teaches us that He is the fulfillment of the Passover typology, but also that two features of the typology—corporately eating the Passover bread and drinking the Passover wine—continue throughout the present age, symbolizing the sacrifice of his own body and blood for his people to deliver them from the "Egypt" of slavery to sin and of God's righteous judgment.
Second, the apostle Paul instructs the church, in connection with celebrating the Feast of "Christ, our Passover", that we are to think of leaven as representative of malice and evil, while unleavened bread is representative of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). This is specific instruction to the present-day church concerning the meaning of leaven and unleavened bread in the context of Passover, and, in particular, with respect to Christ as the meaning behind the Passover typology. The Lord's Supper was instituted at a Passover meal, reminding us that Jesus is the ultimate meaning behind Passover—that his body is represented by the Passover bread, and his blood is represented by the Passover wine. How then can we separate Paul's teaching about the meaning of leaven from our practice of the Lord's Supper?
Those who claim that it does not matter if the bread is leavened must somehow divorce Paul's teaching that leaven represents malice and evil from the use of bread in the Lord's Supper. But Paul's reference to "Christ, our Passover" and his exhortation to "celebrate the festival" draws too intimate a connection to the Lord's Supper and to its institution, where Jesus, at the Passover meal, identified his own body and blood as the meaning of the Passover bread and Passover wine.
It simply will not do to carelessly dismiss unleavened bread
as some "Old Covenant ritual" that does not apply to us today.
Scripture gives us clear reasons to think that the unleavened
Passover bread was what Christ intended when he said "Do
this in remembrance of me," and Paul
reinforces this when he explains the meaning of leaven with respect to
remembering "Christ, our Passover". On the other
hand, there is nothing in scripture to suggest that the use of
unleavened bread is strictly a "fleshly ordinance" of the Old Covenant.
Let us follow scripture, and not merely human
opinions and speculations concerning the appropriateness of leaven.
Objection #7. Leaven is used in both a good sense and a bad sense in scripture. It is therefore fallacious to assume that it always represents sin or evil.
In scripture, leaven can refer to anything that spreads throughout its host, imparting an effect to the whole. In many passages, it speaks of the way that, if false doctrine or evil gains a foothold in the church or in an individual, it can then spread and contaminate the whole. However, leaven is also used of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:21, where it is apparently used in a positive way. Thus, it is correct to say that leaven does not always represent sin or evil.
However, the argument for using unleavened bread is not based on the notion that leaven necessarily represents sin or evil. Rather, the argument is based on a specific passage of scripture which is discussing the Lord's Supper (i.e. "Christ, our Passover" and "Let us therefore celebrate the festival"). Note that two of the church's most able expositors, John Calvin and John Gill, affirmed that this passage is speaking of the Lord's Supper:
... but that by the preaching of the gospel and the dispensation of the sacred Supper, the benefit of it should be communicated to us. Thus Paul says, that "Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us," and bids us "keep the feast" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).This passage, which speaks of the Lord's Supper, equates leaven with "malice and evil", while equating unleavened bread with "sincerity and truth". In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, there is no guesswork as to the significance of leaven, and there is no possibility that it might have a good or even a neutral meaning.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 18, Section 3
Not the feast of the passover, which was now ceased, though this is said in allusion to it ... but rather the feast of the Lord's supper is here meant ...
John Gill, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:8
Moreover, other passages that describe the symbolism of leaven make reference only to the leaven itself and to the influence it has on the dough (Matthew 13:33; 16:6,11,12; Galatians 5:9), whereas in 1 Corinthians 5:8, Paul explicitly mentions unleavened bread as well as leaven, and makes a sharp contrast between the two. Thus, he is not speaking merely in an abstract way about "leaven" and how it affects the dough into which it is mixed. Instead, he is speaking of a particular kind of bread—unleavened bread—and says that this kind of bread represents "sincerity and truth" in contrast to leaven representing "evil and malice". Since the church has a God-given ordinance that uses bread to commemorate "Christ our Passover", it plainly follows that the symbolism of leaven versus unleavened bread would apply to that ordinance and would carry the meanings taught by the apostle.
If this is the case, then to serve leavened bread for the Lord's Supper has two serious flaws:
Objection #8. God prescribed the ritual use of bread in other contexts in the Old Testament, for example, the showbread, where it was not required to be unleavened bread. We therefore should not assume that leaven necessarily signifies sin, nor that it is necessarily wrong to use leavened bread for formal worship.
I would agree, that on other occasions, and in other contexts, God does not require the use of unleavened bread. But this strikes at the very heart of the issue—when we are considering the Lord's Supper, we are not concerned with "other" contexts, but with the context of "Christ, our Passover". It is all too common for commentators to gloss over the fact that Jesus was not eating an "ordinary meal" with His disciples when He instituted the Lord's Supper. Instead, He was eating the Passover meal with them. And, God explicitly commanded that the Passover meal be eaten with unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8; 13:3).
Everyone—regardless of their position on the use of unleavened
that the bread that our Lord used when He said "Do this
remembrance of Me" was unleavened bread.
Yet, to do something
than what Christ did that evening is to disobey His command to "Do this
in remembrance of Me." It seems to me irresponsible and
indefensible to casually toss this consideration aside, and to
say that Jesus does not care whether the bread was
is the proof that we are permitted to depart from this aspect of the
of the Lord's Supper, and without such proof, are we not acting in
of our Lord's command?
Objection #9. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul speaks of the "unleavened bread" of "sincerity and truth". He is not addressing the type of bread to be used in communion, but is describing the spiritual life of the believer.
This is a false dichotomy. Obviously, Paul is drawing an analogy between unleavened bread and "sincerity and truth". But recognizing this fact does not force us to the conclusion that he does not have literal unleavened bread in mind, or that the mention of "unleavened bread" is entirely figurative, with no relevance to the Lord's Supper.
There would be no purpose to using unleavened bread in the
Lord's Supper unless it did have some spiritual
that is exactly the sense of Paul's teaching here. When we
"Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us" (i.e. by
taking the Lord's
Supper, which was instituted on the evening of the Passover, using the
bread and wine of the Passover meal), we are admonished to "celebrate
the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,
with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth".
connected unleavened bread with our celebration of the Lord's Supper,
he exhorts us to observe it, not merely with the physical elements, but
to remember and apply their spiritual significance as well.
aspect of the sacraments is that the elements have specific
significance, and they especially minister grace to the soul
are mindful of their intended significance.
Objection #10. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, when Paul invites us to "celebrate the festival", he is not speaking of a literal festival, nor of the observance of the Lord's Supper, but of living a life of truth and sincerity.
This too is a false dichotomy. There is a literal festival that Christians celebrate in remembrance of the sacrifice of "Christ, our Passover lamb". It is a festival that was instituted in connection with the Passover meal our Lord ate with His disciples the night He was betrayed. As with all the sacraments of the Old and New Covenants, this festival entails both a ritual to be observed as well as a spiritual significance and application of the elements of the ritual.
Thus, in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul refers to the ritual aspects—celebrating the festival using unleavened bread—and explains their typology: i.e. their spiritual significance and application in the believer's life. Without the literal aspect, it is merely poetry to speak of "celebrating the festival" with "unleavened bread". Why mention "celebrate the festival" and "unleavened bread" at all, if there is no literal festival to celebrate, or if it is not to be observed with unleavened bread?
Some would argue that Paul is reaching back to the Old
of Passover, to draw a New Testament application. The problem
this view is that there is a New Testament counterpart to the Passover
that Christians observe today. If God saw fit for His New
church to remember the Passover by observing the Lord's Supper, and if
He also felt that an important New Testament illustration could be
from the use of unleavened bread in the Old Testament Passover, then
this aspect of the Passover meal not carry over
into the Lord's
Supper? When Christians use unleavened bread in the Lord's
the sense of 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 is immediate, and the illustration is
far more effective, than if we merely imagine how the Old Testament
might have used unleavened bread to observe Passover, and what
that might have had with Christ.
Objection #11. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul is describing the believers' righteousness, not Christ's righteousness. Therefore, it is not valid to apply the figure of unleavened bread to the body of Christ.
Again, it is a false dichotomy to distinguish between the believers' righteousness versus Christ's righteousness. True righteousness is a constant, defined by God's perfect, unchanging character, and it does not matter whether you find it in Christ or in His saints. Moreover, the believer has no true righteousness except for Christ's righteousness imputed to him in justification, and wrought within him through sanctification. Thus, it is false to say that, because Paul is discussing the believers' righteousness, he is therefore not discussing Christ's righteousness, for both are one and the same.
I readily admit that Paul is not making a direct theological statement, such as "The absence of leaven in the bread signifies the absence of sin in Christ." However, we rarely find such tidy theological statements in scripture. Where, for example, would you find the doctrine of the Trinity, or of the two natures of Christ, clearly spelled out in all their finer details in a single passage of scripture? Instead, we must compare scripture with scripture, bringing together the various passages that address a particular point, and draw from the collection of texts the meaning that best fits them all.
"Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.Paul's commentary on celebrating the festival of Christ, our Passover lamb, identifies leaven with "malice and evil", and unleavened bread with "sincerity and truth". Now, when bread is used in the New Testament celebration of Christ as our Passover lamb, how are we to think about the bread and the use of leaven? The apostle has plainly said that leaven represents "malice and evil", while Christ has said of the bread "This is my body, which is given for you." Are we to compartmentalize these two statements, pretending that one has nothing directly to do with the other? Or are we to understand that there is significance not only in the bread used in the remembrance of our Lord's Passover sacrifice, but also with respect to leaven representing evil and malice, while unleavened bread represents sincerity and truth?
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:7-8
When we allow both Biblical teachings to speak to us, it is
that the bread that represents Christ's body cannot be represented by
kind of bread that is equated with malice and evil. This is
was most appropriate that Jesus did not use leavened bread when He
the Lord's Supper. To follow His example—to "Do this
remembrance of me"—requires that we use unleavened bread,
Objection #12. The immediate context of 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 is not discussing the Lord's Supper. Both preceding and following this passage, he is discussing church discipline, and how to respond to the professing Christian who engages in serious public sin.
It is true that the subject of this chapter is church discipline, but it does not follow that a discussion of the Lord's Supper is unrelated or inappropriate when addressing the matter of church discipline. The Lord's Supper is a symbol and sacrament of Christian unity, as we remember together that we are all needy sinners saved by God's redemptive grace. Those who take the Lord's Supper while guilty of open, unrepentant sin, make a mockery of the sacrament, and bring disgrace upon Christ and His church.
It is no novelty, therefore, to suggest that the apostle should discuss the Lord's Supper and some of its implications, both for personal purity, as well as for church purity, in the context of church discipline. The Christian who sins openly and without repentance must be excluded from the church, as Paul commands in verses 2, 5 and 9-13 ...
... Let him who has done this be removed from among you. ... When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.Since this is so, each member of the church should examine himself—his heart attitude, as well as his behavior—lest he also come under God's chastening judgment (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). The Lord's Supper is the chief occasion when we seriously contemplate the great evil of sin and the profound significance of Christ's redemptive death for us—the love of God that prompted it, as well as the redemptive goal which He is accomplishing through it. The gospel is plainly declared in a deep and intimate way through the Lord's Supper, and a chief purpose of church discipline is to protect the glory of this precious gospel.
1 Corinthians 5:2, 5
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people ... But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. ... Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? ... "Purge the evil person from among you."
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
In the final analysis, Paul speaks, in 1 Corinthians 5, of "Christ,
our Passover lamb, crucified", and invites us to "celebrate
feast". This should be adequate to establish that
he does indeed
have the Lord's Supper in mind. Moreover, it is perfectly
that he should make reference to the Lord's Supper in the context of
discipline, and there is no reason to suppose that any additional
support should be required.
Objection #13. When our Lord instituted the Lord's Supper, he only said that the bread represents his body; he did not explain the meaning of leaven. Therefore, he did not expect his people to assign any particular significance to leaven, nor to suppose that unleavened bread is representative of righteousness. Paul's explanation recorded in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 came many years later and cannot be applied after the fact to the Lord's Supper.Scripture does not record all that was said or done on any particular occasion. If it did, it would be hundreds of times longer than it is. John, for example, tells us "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25). Matthew, Mark and Luke record many incidents in the life of our Lord, yet relate different details—one author supplying information that another omitted.
Thus, in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, when Paul explains the meaning of leaven and of unleavened bread with respect to celebrating the feast of Christ our Passover, it is possible that he is reiterating something that was taught earlier by our Lord, but not explicitly recorded in scripture. And even if this teaching had not been revealed until Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, it still is inspired scripture that should inform our understanding of the symbolism of the elements used in the Lord's Supper from that time forward.
Moreover, we should remember that God commanded the Israelites to remove every particle of leaven from their homes and land in preparation for Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. No explanation was given when this command was first instituted, but a spiritual person would very likely see a parallel with the need for heart-purification, which would imply that leaven represents evil or malice, just as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. John Gill, in his commentary on 1 Cor 5:7, cites numerous Jewish sources who identified leaven as symbolic of "the vitiosity and corruption of nature" and "the evil imagination of a man". If this was a transparent meaning of leaven and unleavened bread to the Old Testament Jews and a common teaching of the rabbis, then how much more evident would it have been to Jesus' disciples as they were eating the Passover meal during which our Lord instituted the Lord's Supper?
Objection #14. The gospel transcends cultures and customs, and God expects us to use whatever bread is commonly used in any particular culture, rather than using a type of bread that was unique to the Jewish culture.
We should not assume that unleavened bread is unique to Jewish culture. It has a prominent place in Jewish life only because God commanded that it be used for the Passover observance. In any culture, it is a simple matter to leave out the leaven when making bread, and it is probably safe to say that every culture has recipes for breads that do not involve leaven. God did not stipulate that Jewish matzoh bread be used for Passover, but only that no leaven be used. Tortillas, for example, would be perfectly appropriate as "unleavened bread".
It is true that the gospel transcends cultures and customs, but it is totally fallacious to conclude from this that "God expects us to use whatever bread is commonly used in any particular culture." This sort of argument conveniently forgets that Jesus and His disciples were definitely not eating "common bread" at the Last Supper. The Last Supper was a Passover meal, and God had expressly forbidden the use of "common bread" (i.e. leavened bread, that which the Jews normally ate in their daily meals) for Passover.
Thus, this objection contradicts God's Word, which explicitly
"common bread" was not to be
used for the Passover meal.
Jesus' question seems most appropriate here: "And
why do you break
the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"
Objection #15. Christians, from the post-apostolic age to the present, have been virtually unanimous in their opinion that leavened bread is acceptable for use in the Lord's Supper.
This is the sort of argument that tends to propagate error from one generation to the next. If we are not willing to test the traditions of previous generations by God's authoritative Word, then we are setting those traditions up as being infallible and of equal authority with scripture. We should never appeal to church tradition as an independent authority, supposing that the fallible traditions of men can be called upon for support whenever we cannot find compelling justification for our beliefs in the scriptures.
This is the sort of argument that was used against Luther and the Reformers. It could have killed the modern Missions movement. We will gladly consider the Biblical arguments of Christian scholars from previous centuries, but we cannot accept their fiat claims nor their "common practice" as having any weight in its own right, for this is merely human opinion if these scholars do not justify their claims and practice by demonstrating where it is clearly taught in God's authoritative Word.
Even the traditions of the early church cannot be blindly accepted. During his ministry, the apostle Paul decried the apostasy of many of the churches he had planted.
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.Error has been present in the church from apostolic days. Therefore, the practices and traditions of the church of any century—from the first to the 21st—must be judged by scripture, and not merely assumed to be the unquestioned standard for orthodoxy.
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.
2 Timothy 1:15
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
2 Timothy 4:9-10
But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."
He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"We should never assume that the scales are as lopsided as they are often made to appear. Elijah thought that he was the only person who had remained faithful to God, but God assured him that "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." (Romans 11:4). Idolatry comes in many forms—it may be a physical image fashioned by human hands, or it may be doctrinal traditions invented by human imagination. In every age, God has a faithful remnant who possess the courage to test the traditions of the church and reject them when they contradict the teaching of scripture.
in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
We cannot remedy the errors that Christians of the past have
perhaps we can serve our own generation by calling them to prayerfully
reconsider this issue. May God give us all greater
on this issue, and may He knit our hearts together in love as we
seek to resolve the matter to His glory.
Objection #16. When we use leavened bread for the Lord's Supper, we acknowledge our communion with the vast majority of the historic church of various centuries, cultures and theological traditions who use leavened bread.
The Christian's first concern should always be vertical, and only secondarily horizontal. Thus, our first concern should be to acknowledge our communion with Christ and His apostles by eating the same bread as they did on the Passover evening when our Lord instituted the Lord's Supper. The horizontal concern—i.e. fellowship with believers of other traditions, cultures and centuries—should be of secondary importance to us. If we keep Christ central, then we will of necessity be in communion with others who keep Christ central.
The church's unity does not consist in outward conformity to the practice of other Christians, but in keeping Christ central and being in fellowship with Him. He gave Passover bread to His disciples when He commanded them to "Do this in remembrance of me." If we would emulate His example and obey His command, we must eat the same kind of bread that He and His disciples were eating that evening—just as if we were present with them, eating the same meal together. If all Christians, in their practice of the Lord's Supper, would seek to follow our Lord's example and command, then we would enjoy the unity of observing the Lord's Supper in a uniform way—using the same unleavened bread that God clearly prescribed for use in the Passover meal.
If we must choose between following the
example of the historic
church versus following the command of Christ, then we must follow
This is the only recipe for legitimate Christian
Reformers understood this principle quite well, even if, on this issue,
they did not apply it perfectly.
Objection #17. Christians should accept whatever type of bread the church uses. If the church is serving the wrong type of bread for the Lord's Supper, then the elders must answer to the Lord for this. Christians, on the other hand, are accountable to obey their elders.
While it is certainly true that the elders are accountable to God for the type of bread they choose to provide for the Lord's Supper, it does not follow that God's people are thereby relieved of any responsibility regarding the type of bread used. The elders are responsible for the serving of the bread, and individual Christians are responsible for the eating of it. If I knowingly and willfully eat leavened bread for communion, believing (as I do) that this symbolizes that Christ is a sinner, and that He feeds us with sinfulness, then I am sinning against Christ and against my own conscience by eating this type of bread—even if the elders assure me that leaven has no significance in the Lord's Supper.
Moreover, the Lord's Supper is supposed to confer grace to me when I eat it. But an important means by which this grace comes is through understanding and believing the symbolism of the sacrament—the bread representing Christ's body feeding us, and the wine representing His blood satisfying our thirst. But Scripture also says, with respect to "Christ our Passover" that leaven represents "malice and evil", and so leavened bread represents a sinful Savior feeding us with the bread of sinfulness. Does this confer grace to my soul, or does it proclaim a lie that I do not believe? How can it confer grace when it insults the majesty of Christ and contradicts the gospel?
How can any Christian, in good conscience, eat leavened bread
Lord's Supper, if he understands 1 Corinthians 5:8-9
reference to the Lord's Supper?—he cannot, and it is no relief to be
told that the elders bear the responsibility, or that he is required to
obey his elders in this matter. The elders might as well
command him to bow down to an idol, or commit adultery, as to partake
of a sacrament that proclaims a sinful Christ feeding us with the bread
of malice and evil.
Objection #18. For the Lord's Supper, Christians should use whatever bread and wine is readily available. At the Last Supper, Jesus used unleavened bread only because that is what was readily available to them at the time.
This objection conveniently overlooks the emphasis that Jesus placed on eating a Passover meal with His disciples before going to the cross. He said to them "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer," (Luke 22:15), so it was no accident that he and his disciples were eating a Passover meal when he instituted the Lord's Supper for our observance.
In God's sovereign plan, he deliberately purposed that the Passover meal should represent our Lord's sacrifice at Calvary. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:7). The Passover bread represents his body, given for us (Luke 22:19). The cup of Passover wine poured out represents his blood of the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). To argue that we should simply use whatever bread and drink is readily available is to disregard the deep theological connection between Passover and our Lord's sacrifice at Calvary.
Moreover, if you are serious about using "whatever bread is readily available", then you could pull a loaf of sandwich bread out of your pantry and use that. Those who use leavened bread for communion, however, typically order the bread from the same supplier that offers unleavened bread for communion, so both kinds are "readily available", and this is no argument for choosing to use leavened bread rather than unleavened bread. In some cases, the bread may be home-baked by certain members of the church, who could as easily bake unleavened bread as leavened. Even if the bread is purchased from the local grocery store, there are unleavened options, such as Jewish matzoh bread, or tortillas, that could be used. Thus it is truly an empty argument to give "whatever bread is readily available" as your reason for using leavened bread rather than unleavened bread.
We may further observe that the argument for using "readily available" bread, could justify using coffee and donuts, or milk and cookies, or beer and pizza, if that happens to be what is "readily available".
The point is that the term "readily available" is simply an excuse to depart from following our Lord's example when he instituted the Lord's Supper. Why would we not wish to follow his example of using unleavened bread? Unleavened bread is not so difficult to obtain as the "readily available" argument might imply. If we were to take seriously that Christ and His redemptive death are the focus of all of Scripture (Luke 24:27; John 5:39), and that Christ is our Passover (1 Cor 5:7), and that the Lord's Supper was purposely instituted during the Passover meal—using the very elements of the Passover meal—then why would we ever seek to use leavened bread for the Lord's Supper?
Scripture plainly says that leaven represents malice
and evil, and unleavened bread represents sincerity
and truth, and it says this in the context of celebrating the
feast of Christ, our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:8).
Shall we ignore this Biblical commentary on the meaning of leaven and
of unleavened bread, merely for the sake of personal convenience (i.e.
"whatever type is readily available")? Does the sacredness of Christ
mean so little to us that we would carelessly use the kind of bread
that scripture identifies with "malice and evil" to represent our
Lord's sinless body, broken for our salvation?
Objection #19. God does not care what you eat or drink for the Lord's Supper. Any food and drink will do, so long as you think of Christ's body broken for you, and his blood shed for you when you eat and drink it.
This is becoming a popular view in our day. Rather than celebrating the Lord's Supper with bread and wine, some would insist that coffee and donuts, or even pizza and beer would be just as appropriate, and might be even more effective in reaching people who are disenchanted with traditional Christianity.
This is just the next logical step to take, once you have decided that God doesn't care whether the bread is leavened or not. Perhaps he didn't really care whether it is actually bread, either. And, if that is true, then why would it matter whether we use wine (or juice) from grapes? Maybe other wine or juices would be okay. Maybe it doesn't even need to be wine or juice at all. Perhaps we should offer a choice: "Coffee, tea or milk?" Perhaps soda pop or milkshakes would be acceptable. They would certainly be popular choices.
The problem with all such thinking is threefold: (1) it departs significantly from both the teaching and practice of Jesus, his disciples and the New Testament church; (2) it strips the sacrament of any significance connected with its institution (i.e. during the Passover meal that our Lord ate just prior to his crucifixion), or any symbolism attached to the specific elements used during that meal (i.e. the grape wine and unleavened bread that God had commanded to be used for the Passover meal); and (3) it cheapens the sacrament by turning it into a commonplace snack where the only distinguishing mark is that some deference is paid to Jesus and his sacrifice.
Once we decide that certain features of the Lord's Supper as
instituted by our Lord,
are unimportant, we open the door to questioning them all. This
undermines the authority
of scripture and establishes fleshly reason and personal taste as the
Is Christ truly the Lord of the Lord's Supper, or is he merely the
Objection #20. Most Reformed scholars of the past 500 years have observed the Lord's Supper using leavened bread. It is arrogance to question their views.
The Reformed scholars and theologians of church history have been some of the most blessed gifts that God has given to his church. Their knowledge, wisdom, godliness, courage and pastoral concern are shining examples to the rest of us, who rejoice in the bright reflection of Christ we see in their lives and ministry. But we need to be careful that we do not elevate these precious human leaders and teachers above Christ and his holy Word. I am fully confident that, if you were to ask them if they wished to be regarded with such unquestioned authority, they would, with one voice, answer: "No! Scripture alone is infallible. We have sought to faithfully proclaim the things we have gleaned from the scriptures, but we confess that we are but fallible mortals. Put your confidence in God and in his Word alone, and do not trust in men."
We need to emulate the "noble" Bereans, who would not accept the teachings even of Christ's faithful apostle, Paul, without first consulting the scriptures, examining God's holy word daily, to see if these things are so.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.We follow the leaders of past ages rightly when we examine the Bible-based arguments they give for the positions they held and then search the scriptures to see if their arguments fit the grammar and context of the passages cited. We must never blindly accept their teachings, but rather subject them to careful scrutiny, just as the Bereans did. To do this does not dishonor our leaders—on the contrary, scripture says that the Bereans were "more noble" for having held God's Word in such high esteem.
To suppose that Christ's earthly undershepherds are infallible, or that their teachings are not to be questioned, is to resurrect one of the most insidious errors of the Roman Church. Martin Luther's courageous response at Worms is just as applicable now, regarding the teaching of our Reformed teachers, as it was then, with regard to the teachings of the Romanists...
Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.
Reformed authors sometimes state their opinion that the type of bread does not matter. However, they seldom back up their position with any firm Biblical data. For example, Calvin states:
... whether the bread is to be leavened or unleavened, and the wine to be red or white, is of no consequence. These things are indifferent, and left free to the Church ...Calvin seems confident of his claim, but where is the Biblical ground for it? Calvin gives none. Rather, he appeals to "history", claiming that leavened bread was used up until the time of Alexander, Bishop of Rome, who took delight in using unleavened bread. Whether this history is accurate or not, it is always wrong to appeal to history in order to oppose or suppress the teaching of scripture. He would have done the church a greater service if, rather than quoting history books, he had cited scriptures to establish his point.
—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 17, Paragraph 43.
It is worth noting that, when contrasting the Lord's Supper with the Romish "Sacrifice of the Mass", Calvin confirms one of the points I have been making, namely that Paul had in mind the Lord's Supper when he exhorts us: "Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
For Christ did not offer himself once, in the view that his sacrifice should be daily ratified by new oblations, but that by the preaching of the gospel and the dispensation of the sacred Supper, the benefit of it should be communicated to us. Thus Paul says, that "Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us," and bids us "keep the feast" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). The method, I say, in which the cross of Christ is duly applied to us is when the enjoyment is communicated to us, and we receive it with true faith.Once it is established that Paul was referring to the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, it naturally follows that his discussion of the significance of leaven and of unleavened bread would have specific reference to how the church observes the Lord's Supper and the meaning of the elements used.
—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 18, Section 3
When we compare the "unleavened only" view with the "any bread will do" view, we find that the former view has a robust theology of unleavened bread—recognizing that ...
Rather than citing scriptures that explicitly say that leavened bread is allowable, or that give examples where leavened bread was clearly used by Jesus or his apostles, the "any bread will do" view bases its teaching instead on the traditions of the church, or on the invalid claim that since the generic word for bread (artos) was used of the bread that Jesus gave his disciples when he instituted the Lord's Supper at the Passover meal, this somehow proves that leavened bread is permissible. And it appeals to other such nebulous and empty arguments as well.
Such evidence would never stand up in a court of law. We know it is safe to use unleavened bread for the Lord's Supper, because that is what Jesus used when he instituted it. We have no such Biblical assurance regarding the use of leavened bread. God expressly prohibited leavened bread from use in the Passover meal, and the Passover meal was the very context in which Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. Can we safely assume that this prohibition does not carry over to the Lord's Supper? Can we safely assume that leaven has no significance to Christ or the salvation he wrought? Can we safely assume that it has no special significance with respect to the Lord's Supper? 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 teaches otherwise.
Or, is it valid to appeal to church tradition to overturn Jesus' statement to "Do this in remembrance of me—where he referred to the Passover bread he had just given to his disciples? Clearly, the "any bread will do" view has no real foundation on which to stand and can do nothing more than take pot shots at the Biblical view, and appeal to church history as if, having failed to prove its case from scripture, must now resort to a fallible, secondary source.
It is not appropriate that Christians should engage in such sophistry. We need to be people who honestly, humbly seek to know and obey what God has written in his holy Word, and should not be trying to dodge the example Christ set for us at the first Lord's Supper, nor seeking to nullify the explicit command that God gave concerning the use of leaven during Passover. We should never let the traditions of the church overturn the plain teachings of the scriptures. Let us be zealous to follow Christ, and to observe the Lord's Supper using the very elements he used when he instituted the ordinance for our obedience.
The use of unleavened bread in the Lord's Supper provides us
with far more depth
and richness of meaning—the sacrifice of Christ's sinless body
nourishing us with righteousness and purging us of the leaven of malice
and evil, as we imagine ourselves communing with him and his disciples
at the Passover meal where he offered them the unleavened Passover
bread, saying "This is my body which is for you. Do this in
remembrance of me," to celebrate the feast of "Christ,
our Passover lamb", who was sacrificed for us.
This nourishes our souls far more than leavened bread, which
contradicts much of the
imagery that the bread is meant to convey.
Here are links to some articles representing the contrary view. I do not find them very convincing, but you should judge for yourself.