IF the character of leaven can be established from the teachings of the Lord who attributed the corruption of the kingdom of God in Judaism to this cause (the working of leaven), it seems fair to suppose that that which He foretold in the identical parable would corrupt Christianity is identified. Regard to what is said about leaven in the Epistles together with this will bid fair to gain the mind of the Spirit on this matter. Discernment in this will be practical guidance.
The Lord’s warning of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16. 12) is found in that section of the Gospel in which the revelation of the Church is made (ch. 13. 53 to 19. 1), and follows the record of four types of people who came to Christ.
The first was the Pharisees who came from Jerusalem with their question about handwashing (Matt. 15. 1-20). They received no blessing, but were exposed and denounced for making the word of God of none effect by their tradition. Human tradition which becomes pre-eminent in this way is a leaven which the secret system uses. Even good tradition begins to be harmful when it is taken for granted without spiritual exercise and personal research in the Scriptures. How much more so when it becomes fanciful, sentimental and superstitious and pre-eminent over the revelations of the word of God. Such a development of human tradition is all too evident in the systems of Christendom. Fresh Spirit-guided and anointed exposition of the Scriptures is the antidote. Let us ask ourselves if we should find a place where there is no room for this.
The second was the woman of Canaan. Though she boasted nothing of the lineage by which the Pharisees set so much store, yet she secured blessing by the virility of her personal faith in Christ Himself (Matt. 15. 22-28). Heredity looms large in human thinking and nowhere more so than in religion. What matters in heaven is the reality of personal experience of the Living Christ. If a movement is so leavened with ideas of human lineage as to leave no room for vital faith in Christ, can it have any room for Him?
The third was the multitude which sought the withdrawing Christ and which finding Him sitting in an unnamed mountain received full blessing in that unlikely place (Matt. 15. 29-39). Though great store has been set by supposedly sacred places, blessing is not conditioned thereby. Jerusalem and a score of others have been esteemed. But neither in Jerusalem nor in any such places, but “in spirit and truth” were the words of the Lord. “For where two or three are gathered, together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Let it be the Person that we seek, and may we find complete deliverance from the notion that places of any kind contribute anything to the finding of Him.
The fourth was the Sadducees who came with their materialistic demand for a sign from heaven, and were refused any but that of the Prophet Jonah (Matt. 16. 1-4). They could discern the signs of the sky, but were ignorant of the signs of the times. The more men learn about the creation of God the less they seem to understand about the God of that creation and His ways. But there is a mysterious faculty of understanding imparted to those who accept the sign of Jonas as it was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ (1 John 5. 20). Soon are they initiated into that wisdom of God which though apparently foolish is wiser than men. Closely allied to the leaven of the Sadducees is the leaven of Herod. The Herodians compromised Scriptural principles to curry favour with the State. Void of spiritual understanding, they were men of a policy which had been evolved by human reasoning. They were not men of principles learned by revelation. This soon leads to desire for temporal power, which is never gained except at the expense of spiritual power and understanding. Soon they and the Sadducees with whom they were associated lost sight of the great spiritual world above and also of the world of recompenses ahead, and their horizon became limited to sense. Immunity from such influences will be found by accepting as dictatorial the clearly revealed will of God, and by, without compromise of it, living for eternity conscious that we do so under the eye of God Himself and of unnumbered hosts of heavenly beings good and evil.
By these elements Judaism was corrupted, and of their working the Lord warned His disciples. For they still work wherever anything that is of God is found. Already have they operated successfully to corrupt a good deal which is around us. How wise, therefore, is that soul which heeds His warnings and, recognising and avoiding that which is thus affected, concentrates upon the simplicity that is unto Christ (2 Cor. 11. 3).
The spiritual development necessary to this is emphasised in the next passage where the system is shewn to us (Eph. 4. 14). In this passage and its context (Eph. 4. 1-16) the growth of the “body of Christ” is described and the same unseen system and its development is envisaged. The possibility of an infantile condition is contemplated in contrast to a spiritual maturity which results from the edifying of the “body of Christ” by the work of service into which all the saints are perfected by the operation of the gifts. The absence of spiritual development and consequently of usefulness in edifying others lays the souls open to the influence of this movement and its many winds of doctrine (v. 14). The parallels between this verse and the vision of Revelation are such as to admit no hesitation in saying that the verse portrays the present secret working of “Babylon the great.” The many winds answer to the “many voices” which the meaning of the name Babylon indicates. The winds are winds of one teaching, and they operate unto the scheme (or method, or systematising) of error. This is all fours with the one great end in view in the vision of the dominant woman of the Apocalypse. Her many voices eventually accomplish , her one end, that of human domination, in contrast to the Divine end of Human emancipation.
All error is one even as all truth is one. Stripped of externals Buddhism, Confucianism, Mohammedanism and modernistic Christianity are identical. They all are winds of the same doctrine. All work by the sleight of men, and all are part of that cunning which contributes to the scheme of deceit. All are Unitarian. All deny the Deity of Jesus and the personality of the Holy Spirit. All hold out no more than a vague hope for the future as the result of human effort and association with a religious movement.
But the co-equal and co-eternal Deity of Jesus, justification, by faith alone in Him and His atoning work and regeneration and sanctification by the grace of the Divine Person the Holy Spirit are contrastingly the truth, which gives not a vague hope, but a blessed certainty, not conditioned by the performance of outward religious ceremonies or by membership or non-membership of organised religious movements.
(To be concluded in the next issue.)
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