"Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened".
I. Leaven: Fermentation of the Soul for Good: (Figuratively)
The meaning of the word "leaven" here is intending to denote more properly: the "secret and hidden" nature of the" piety of the soul." But in a "figurative" way, it can also mean the the "intermixing" of the Gospel into the converted heart of a confessed sinner who has just confessed Christ as their Savior and Lord." If you look at "leaven" in this passage figuratively using the aforementioned example, according to Matthew Henry's Commentary, it would mean that Jesus was referring to the spreading of the gospel message. Remember the words of the Psalmist who declared: "Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.(Psalms 119:11) As the property of leaven (yeast) is to change, or assimilate to its own nature, the meal or dough with which it is mixed, so the property of the grace of Jesus Christ is to change the whole soul into the image and likeness of Christ. When "leaven" is used in a good sense, the women represent Israel (Genesis 37:9-10 with Revelation 12; Ezekiel 16), the two covenants (Galatians 4:21-31), and righteousness and purity (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7-8). The term "meal" symbolizes the Word of God (Matthew 4:4; John 6:47-63).
God intends that this process (salvation) should continue in the soul till that soul has been completely "fermented" in the Word and bears the image of the Lord, making that soul diametrically in opposition to the sinning soul that is still conformed to the image of the world. Both these parables are prophetic (verses 32 and 33), and were intended to show, principally, how, from very small beginnings, the Gospel of Christ should pervade all the nations of the world, and fill them with righteousness and true holiness.Let us examine the parable from the "Goodness Perspective, that is, to show that the gospel should prevail and be successful by degrees, but silently and insensibly. From this perspective,the preaching of the gospel is like leaven, and works like leaven in the hearts of those who receive it.Observe:
According to the passage, a woman in preparation to bake bread took this leaven and hid it in 3 measures of meal. in order to ferment the bread dough causing it to rise as the chemical change takes place in the kneaded bread dough. Her actions are a depiction of the manner in which the Church, that is, the Church with its Ministers, teacher, disciples and believers go about doing the work of evangelism because they are employed in"leavening places". "Leavening places" are places where the Gospel message is sorely needed and given to the souls ( men and women, boys and girls) who have been corrupted by the "leavening" (sin) of this world. The heart of man that has not been hardened by the callousness of this modern day society is soft and pliable. A tender heart will profit by the application of the Word. The "law" tends to "grind the heart, whereas the preaching of the Gospel will cause the heart to be fermented and thus take on the spiritual properties of the Gospel three measures full..In contrast a hardened heart will react to the gospel in the opposite.
Concerning our hearts, just as they must be broken, the heart also must be prepped and moistened, and experience excruciating pains taken with them to prepare them for the word, that they may receive the impressions of it. The leaven (God's word) must be hidden in the heart (Psalms 119:11), not so much for secrecy (for it will show itself) as for safety; our inward thought must be upon it, we must lay it up, as Mary laid up (hid them in her heart) the sayings of Christ, (Luke 2:51). When the woman hides the leaven in the meal, it is with an intention that it should communicate its taste and relish to it; This is an example of how we must treasure having the word in our souls, that we may be sanctified by the "washing of the Word it, (John 17:17).It is three measures of meal, a great quantity, for as the Bible aid: "a little leaven leavens the whole lump". The meal must be kneaded, before it receive the leaven;
Thus the affect the Gospel (leaven) has on the heart is the kind that will ultimately cause the individual realize that they are a sinner, lost and need to be saved by Jesus. The Word of God s quick and powerful, (Hebrews 4:12) In the same manner as.the leaven works speedily to ferment the bread dough,, so does the Word, yet more gradually. Salvation of the soul is "instantaneous", the very moment the person confesses with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.(Romans 10:9) The leaven effect such a sudden change as did Elijah's mantle make upon Elisha! the second he put it on in 1 Kings 19:20. It works silently and insensibly (Mark 4:26), yet strongly and irresistibly: it does its work without noise, for so is the way of the Spirit, but does it without fail. Hide but the leaven in the dough, and all the world cannot hinder it from communicating its taste and relish to it, and yet none sees how it is done, but by degrees the whole is leavened. The leaven thus hid in the dough, works there, it ferments;
When the gospel comes into the soul, It works a change, not on the substance (the physical heart); the dough is the same, but in the "heart" of man. that is in our emotional and psychological state; As King David plead with God in Psalms 51:1 God will in the redemptive process "Create in you a clean heart and renew in you a right spirit. (mindset toward God and this world). The Gospel makes us to savor we have done in confessing our sinful state and confessing that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and our acceptance of Him and the redemption work He did for us when He died on the cross and shed His blood for the remission of our sins.and other things to savor with us otherwise than they used to do, Romans 8:5.Remember, God's Word is quick (alive) and powerful,
The Gospel also works a "wholistic" change. God's Word "infuses" itself into all the powers and faculties of the soul, and alters the our psychological properties, to the extent that even the physical members of the body will change. (Romans 6:13) This change is so powerful, it can make the soul of man to partake of the "nature" of the God's Word, as the dough does of the leaven. We are delivered into it as into a mold (Romans 6:17), changed into the same image (2 Corinthians 3:18), like the impression of the seal upon the wax. The gospel savors of God, and Christ, and free grace, and another world, and these things now relish with the soul. It is a word of faith and repentance, holiness and love, and these are wrought in the soul by it. This savor is communicated insensibly, for our life is hid; but inseparably, for grace is a good part that shall never be taken away from those who have it. When the dough is leaven it is then placed into the heated oven to bake and firm. The heated oven corresponds to the fiery trials and afflictions from the devil that commonly occur in his evil response to your conversion to Christianity. This change;is a life process called sanctification that cleanses us from the old life that was born in sin and shaped in iniquity, yet in the process, the saints are fitted to be bread for our Master's table.
Thus the Gospel was put in the world. The apostles, by their preaching,and the church being scattered by its public profession of Jesus spread the leaven (God's Word) in the great mass of mankind, and it had a strange effect on the people. It put the world into a ferment, and in a sense, the Gospel preaching turned he world upside down (Acts 17:6), and by degrees made a wonderful change in the taste and relish of it: the savor of the gospel was manifested in every place, (2 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 15:19). Conclusively, the "leaven" (Gospel) effectual, not by outward force, and therefore not by any such force resistible and conquerable, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, who works, and none can hinder.
II. Leaven: Fermentation of the Soul for Evil:
In the same instance, if we perceive this passage to mean the opposite, it then the pervading message is: in the latter days, the enemy (Satan) will use false teachers to corrupt the sound teaching of the Word of God and cause many to err. We can see this ongoing worldwide as many "religious factions are racing to eliminate pure Christianity by forming a "composite religion" (one-world religious system) that comprises of the belief systems of all perspective religions. Thus, Matthew 13:3 would then illustrate how the kingdom of heaven teachings and the program of God in this age would become corrupted by false doctrines and un-scriptural programs until the whole church is corrupted. (Luke 18:8; 1 Timothy 4:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:5; 4:3-4; 2 Peter 3:3-4).
Jesus makes reference to 3 types of "Leaven" : the "Leaven of the Pharisees,. the "Leaven" of the Sadducees and the "Leaven " of "Herod". (Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15) The "Leaven" of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees was based on false doctrines that warped Judaistic beliefs.. The Pharisees false doctrinal beliefs were steeped in "legalism". And the fact that they had taken it upon themselves to "superimpose" their "private interpretation" on the Old Testament writings and make it appear to the masses that they were holier than thou showed us that they had a "form" of godliness, but denied and did not possessed the real power of God. The Sadducees on the other hand suffered from the false doctrine of "Skepticism". Their "skepticism" was based upon their denial of the resurrection of the body, even publicly declaring that angels and spirits don't exist. The "leavening" of Herod was based upon his "materialism" which comprised of both religion and worldliness.
The passage in this sense would show that the yeast hidden in 3 measures of meal would represent (hid in three measures of meal,) till the whole was leavened would illustrate all false teachings, religious programs, and professed Christian lives seek to hide behind the Word of God, rather than living according to the Word. This passage seen in a negative connotation violates Jesus' use of this term elsewhere,in conjunction with the import of other parables, such as the parable of the tares.. The "Tares" that were sown among the wheat is a depiction of the evil that will exist until the end of the world. (age).According to Dr. Clarence A. Larkin in his book "Dispensational Truth". the "common" interpretation of the word "leaven was it represented the Gospel, the woman represented the Church, and the three measures of wheat in which she hid the leaven in was a depiction of "humanity". The general belief was the "leaven" of the Gospel was to be introduced to humanity by the Church in order that the whole world would be converted to Jesus Christ. As good as this sounds and how marvelous it would be if the whole world was converted in Christ, unfortunately this will not be the case. For this and many other reasons, "leaven" cannot mean the Gospel.However, symbolically it can represent the effect the gospel has on mankind when placed in the heart of man.
"Leaven" by definition was yeast that was used in bread dough to case the now fermented dough to rise as opposed to remaining flat when no yeast or leaven was used. When the dough was kneaded into it to form the loaf, that yeast would cause a chemical reaction with the other ingredients in the makeup of the bread dough that would cause the kneaded dough to rise and take shape. In another instance, the example of a lump of old bread dough that was highly fermented, was used "figuratively" both in the Old and New Testament as representing "evil" of every kind. Leaven is figurative of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9); false doctrines (Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15-21); and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). The woman in thee verse is used figuratively in an evil sense represents wickedness, fallacy, uncleanness, and unfaithfulness (Lamentations 1:17), harlotry (Ezekiel 16:15,22,26,28-59; 23; 36:17; Hosea 1:2; 2:2-17; 3:1; Revelation 17), wickedness (Zechariah 5:5-11; Revelation 17:5), and false religion (Revelation 17).
In the New Testament, Jesus used the term leaven to represent "false doctrines" that can corrupt the pure teaching of the Word of God. In Christ's later uses of this symbol, it refers to evil doctrines of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod (Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15). Paul's references (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; Galatians 5:9), which certainly regard leaven as evil, seem greatly influenced by Christ's parable. Three measures of meal. Apparently a common quantity employed in baking (Genesis 18:6). The woman (in contrast to the man in the other parables) is the opponent of Christ and infuses the kingdom in this age with false doctrine. Elsewhere she is called "Wickedness" (Zechariah 5:7-8), "Jezebel" (Revelation 2:20 ), and the "great harlot" (Revelation 17:1 .). By this characterization of leaven in the meal, believers are warned to beware of false doctrine which would infiltrate all parts of the kingdom in its integral aspect. Christ spoke publicly (to the multitude) in symbolic language alone, without interpretation. Only to the disciples did he explain the symbolism (Matt 13:10 ff.; 13:36 ff.). Matthew regarded this as reminiscent of Psalms 78:2, and saw in Jesus the most perfect fulfillment of the prophet's . The other parable declared the "fact" that the gospel would greatly spread, and that piety in the heart would greatly increase. This states the "way" or "mode" in which it would be done. It is secret, silent, steady; pervading all the faculties of the soul and all the kingdoms of the world, as leaven, or yeast, though hidden in the flour, and though deposited only in one place, works silently until all the mass is brought under its influence.
A "final Warning Concerning "Leaven": "False Doctrine" (Current and Future)
2 Peter 2:1-3 "Destructive Doctrines"
"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber".
Dr. William Edward Boddie