My family and I have been attending a Brethren Assembly for just around a year now. We have found it a wonderful church; the people are friendly, and the teaching is bible-based and solid.
One thing that bothered me from the beginning, is the fact that we use leavened bread during our communion services. The Churches I grew up in always used unleavened bread, and because it is easy to prove that Jesus ate, and served, unleavened bread at the last supper, I thought there would be no debate over what to use for our Communion services.
When one of our speakers talked about the institutions of the Christian Church, he said that it really didn’t matter what Churches use; it could be either unleavened or leavened bread. He said that the bible doesn’t really say much about it, and the Greek word used is the word for regular leavened bread.
Well, that was too much for me, so I wrote him a letter challenging his position.
He responded by saying that he and a couple of the elders wanted to meet with me some night that week. Well, I lost some sleep over that, thinking that I was about to be kicked out of another church!
I needn’t have worried.
They came one evening and we had a good discussion.
Among the arguments they used is that the word in the Greek is the general word for bread, not the specific word used for unleavened bread. “Azumos” is unleavened bread, while “artos” is just bread. They also said that insisting on leavened bread could lead to legalism.
It is fairly easy to prove that the Last Supper was a Passover Seder. Basically just read Mark’s account;
12 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?
13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. Mark 14:12-15
So, “the Last Supper” was on the first day of unleavened bread. Under the law of Moses, it was a sin to eat leavened bread during the Passover and the seven days of unleavened bread following it. Jesus stated that he was eating the Passover with his disciples, so there was no way that He would have eaten leavened bread at that time.
Not only was Jesus a law-keeper, but He is actually the Law Giver! Jesus is Yehovah (יהוה) of the Old Testament, so the law is an expression of His character, and not merely a code of behaviour. So no, Jesus would not play fast-and-loose with the law.
Here is what Moses said about the Passover;
Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. Exodus 12:15
The phrase “cut off” can mean to be put to death, or it could mean exile from Israel for the rest of your life. What it certainly means is that it was a serious sin to eat leavened bread during the days of unleavened bread.
Jesus was “cut off” the next day; was He cut off for His own sin, or was he cut off for your, and my, sin?
He is our Passover lamb, he died for you and me! So, no! He did not eat leavened bread at the Last Supper.
My friends said that since the yeast is killed in the baking process that all bread is unleavened, but my response is that this would make Moses’ command senseless. Why would someone be “cut off” from Israel for eating leavened bread if all bread is unleavened? Also, leavened bread still contains the dead bodies of the yeast. (this last point is key, but I did not understand why at that time)
I am not writing this to embarrass those gentlemen; the fact is that their main argument is correct, but it took some digging before I understood what was going on. Some of their arguments were incorrect, but using an incorrect argument does not negate your main point, it just means that certain arguments should not be used, because they are based on faulty logic.
Before they arrived I read a couple of articles on the subject. One very interesting point that the articles, and my brothers used is the fact that the primitive Christians all used leavened bread in their Communion Services. The Roman Catholic Church did also, and only went back to unleavened bread around the 900s AD!
That got me thinking. Was there something that the “Primitive Christians” knew that I did not know?
I told them that I was aware that the wave loaves of the feast of Pentecost were leavened, and that they represented the Christian Church. Therefore it looked to me that using leavened bread was like “eating the Church”.
It was about this time that the Lord brought a certain verse to my attention. It just popped into my head;
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. I Corinthians 11:29
Now I had always tried to view the communion bread as representing the Lord’s body, on the cross, and not just as bread, but the thought came to me “Am I not discerning the Lord’s body the way He wants me to understand it?”
You see, there are numerous passages that speak of the Christian Church as being the “body of Christ”. Was He trying to show us that we need to view ourselves as having been crucified with Christ? Indeed He was!
Does the Lord want us to see ourselves in the communion service? When I said that eating “leavened bread is like eating the Church” I didn’t realize how close I was to the truth!
Doesn’t Paul say that we are crucified with Christ?
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Romans 6:6
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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. Galatians 2:20
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Galatians 5:24
As I thought on these things I realized that God wants us to view Christ’s crucifixion as our own crucifixion! He wants us to see ourselves in the communion service, not that we are the Saviour; He is the Saviour. He is the bread, and we are the leaven!
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3
Isn’t this a picture of what we see in the communion loaf? We see the bread, and the yeast is present, hidden within the loaf. In the same way, He is the bread of Life, and we are the leaven, hidden in Christ!
There is more;
As I thought about it, I considered the conditions in which the 3,000 Jewish converts were observing on the feast of Pentecost; That day they were eating the leavened wave loaves of the feast of Pentecost. When they heard Peter preach the gospel these people believed and were immediately indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
Here is Moses, on the feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot;
15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.
17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord. Leviticus 23:15-17
Lots of people calculate Pentecost incorrectly, but just in case we got it wrong, Moses gives a different way of calculating it in verse 16, that ends up with the same day; Sunday. The feast of Pentecost was to be held on the day after the seventh sabbath; Sunday!
The sheaf of the wave offering was offered during the Sabbath day that Jesus was in the tomb, and Pentecost occurred 50 days later, or seven weeks to the day after His resurrection!
So these Jewish converts had no problem moving their day of worship to Sunday, because they had experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on that day, the very same day they were eating the leavened wave loaves! Indeed the Spirit witnessed to them that they were to change the day they set aside for worship to Sunday! Does this mean it is wrong to worship on Saturday, or Tuesday? Absolutely not; Christians should be living in communion with God seven days a week, but the day He wants us to set aside regularly, is the first day, Sunday.
This answers two questions; The bread the early Church ate was leavened, because of the wave loaves of Pentecost, and the day they met was the first day of the week, also because of Pentecost!
The coming of the Holy Spirit during the feast of Pentecost (Shavuot, the feast of weeks) is God’s seal of approval of both Sunday worship, and Leavened bread in the Church’s Communion Service!