THE EARLY CHURCH AND THE FESTIVAL OF UNLEAVENED BREAD

It  is clear from what is written in the New Testament  that  the Apostles and the early church taught the observance of the Festival  of Unleavened Bread. It is also clear from the  prophecy  of Ezekiel 45:21 that these days will be observed after the  return of Christ. Therefore, it is important to review the teachings of the early church  concerning these  days in order understand their meaning for today and the future, after  the  return of Jesus Christ.

The Apostles and the Early Church

"Now  about  that time Herod the King stretched forth  his  hands to vex certain of the church.  And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded  further  to take Peter also  (Then were the days  of unleavened bread).  And when he had apprehended him,  he put him in prison  and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers  to keep  him,  intending after Passover to bring him  forth to  the people" (Acts 12:1-4 KJV).

Here,  the  writer of Acts was inspired to document that  the murder  of James and the imprisonment of Peter (about 44 A.D.) occurred during the observance of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. This single reference would mean little by itself; however,  when it is viewed  in  the light of the spiritual lessons  concerning  these days, such a reference shows that these days were still important to the early church.

Paul at Philippi

The  account  of Paul's third missionary journey indicates that he left Philippi to go to Troas after the Days of Unleavened Bread.

"And  we sailed away from Philippi after the Days  of Unleavened Bread,  and  came to them at Troas in five days: where  we  abode seven days" (Acts 20:6 KJV).

Acts 20 covers the time period of 57-58 A.D.. And verse 6  refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread,  which was observed in the month of April in 58 A.D.. This observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread took place about 28 years after the death and resurrection  of Jesus, which proves that the early church understood the law concerning the observance of the days.

While  this record does not specifically say that Paul and  those of the early church observed these days, there would have been no reason  to mention these days unless they held some  significance for both the writer and the readers.  Paul and this small group  of God's elect  obviously held up their departure from Philippi in  order to observe this commanded festival. This scripture clearly  shows that  they  were observing those days and waited until after the festival was finished to make their journey.

Paul's Teaching

Paul's  admonition  to  the Corinthians clearly  shows  that  he taught  the observance of the Passover along with the  observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In 1.Corinthians chapter 5, Paul corrects the Church of Corinth for being complacent about the immoral sexual behavior of one  of its members.  It is evident by what  Paul  says that  this sermon was given just before or during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

In his sermon,  Paul compares leavening to sin and says that a  small amount of it will thoroughly permeate everything with which it comes into contact:

"Your  boasting is not good. Don't you know that a  little  yeast works through the whole batch of dough?" (1.Cor.5:6 NIV).

"Purge you out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is  sacrificed  for us: Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither  with the leaven of malice and wickedness;  but with  the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1.Cor.5:7-8 KJV).  See also Col.3:1-10; Rom.8:12-13.

Here,  Paul speaks about the behavior and  attitudes  (leaven/sin) that need to be eliminated as a part of the Christian's  ongoing process of overcoming the old self and progressing toward spiritual maturity.

Those to whom Paul spoke were already in an unleavened condition; they  had been made sinless through the atoning blood of  Christ. Although they were considered sinless before God the Father, Paul admonishes  them  to rid themselves of sin and become as a new batch of dough in which their is no leavening (i.e., sin).

Paul clearly says that the elect at Corinth were to put away the sinful things that they were allowing to invade their lives  and cause  spiritual defilement. But, why should they purge  out  sin? Because Christ, their Passover, had sacrificed himself in order  to free  them  from sin and its penalty—"Christ our  Passover  is sacrificed for us" (1.Cor.5:7).

Notice  that Paul says to observe the Feast of  Unleavened  Bread without leaven (without sin). Paul describes the old leaven (sin) that the Corinthians should eliminate from their lives as pride, malice, and wickedness. He tells them that they should replace this old leaven with the unleavened  bread of sincerity and truth (sinless, righteous behavior).

Pride,  malice, and  wickedness are all condemned by God as being attitudes  and behaviors that will lead to one's eternal death, but having respect  for God and  serving him in sincerity  and  truth will bring God's favor:

"Now  therefore  fear the Lord, and serve him  in  sincerity  and truth: and put away the gods of your fathers served on the  other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve the Lord" (Josh.24:14 KJV).

Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

Some people believe that the feast mentioned in 1.Corinthians 5:8 is the Passover, not the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because 1.Corinthians 5:7 speaks of Christ as the Passover. But this is not true. The Passover observance is not a feast; it is  a memorial of Christ's death and a service in which the elect of God renew their covenant with their heavenly Father. Moreover, Paul  says to clean out the old leaven. When  we  view what  Paul says about leaven in the context of  the  Corinthian's behavior toward the adulterer, it is very clear that he is  speaking  of  leavening as  symbolic of sin that must  be purged   from one's life in order to properly keep the  Feast  of Unleavened Bread.

The following are translations of  1.Corinthians  5:6-8 that help clarify what Paul was saying about sin, the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

New American Standard Version

"Your boasting is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven,  that you  may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.   For Christ  our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let  us  therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven  of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread  of sincerity  and truth"  (vs.6-8).

Williams Translation

"Your  grounds for boasting about such a case is not  good.   Are you  not aware that a little yeast will change the whole lump  of dough? You must clean out the old yeast (a symbol of sin),   that you  may  be  a fresh lump, as you are to be free  from  the  old yeast.   For our Passover Lamb, Christ, has already  been  sacrificed  So let us keep our feast, not with old yeast nor with  the yeast  of vice and wickedness, but with the bread of  purity  and truth without the yeast" (vs.6-8).

Beck Translation

"It  isn't good for you to feel proud.  Don't you know  a  little yeast  makes the whole dough sour?  Get rid of the old yeast  in order  to  be a new dough, as you are really free  from  the old yeast,  because our Passover Lamb was sacrificed, it  is  Christ. Let  us,  then, celebrate our festival, not with old  yeast,  not with  any yeast of vice and wickedness, but with the sweet  bread of purity and truth"  (vs.6-8).

Beck translates verse 8 as, "Let  us  celebrate our  festival."   The Greek-English  Interlinear New Testament translates  this section of verse 8 as, "We should  celebrate  the feast."

In this case, Paul is speaking of celebrating the  Feast of Unleavened Bread after observing the Passover service.

In  no  way was Paul referring to the Passover  observance  as  a feast. These verses plainly state that Paul was telling those  at Corinth  to celebrate the Days of Unleavened Bread in the  manner God intended by putting sin out of their lives. Here, we have a clear example of Gentile Christians keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Why  would non-Jews celebrate the Festival of  Unleavened  Bread?  The  answer is simple: They would not have celebrated the feast unless its observance was necessary in order to properly worship, serve, and please God.

The Bread of the Offerings

Under the sacrificial system, unleavened bread was used as a part of  the  consecration rituals for the priesthood and  was  to  be offered  to  God  with certain animal  sacrifices.  Once  brought before God, this bread became holy and was only to be  used  for God's purpose.

The  parallel between the eating of the unleavened bread  by  the priesthood while in service to God and the eating of  unleavened bread by the elect of God is obvious. Both the priesthood and the elect of God were called to serve God, both were made  holy  and set  apart  for  a sacred service, and both  were  authorized  to partake of holy things. The eating of unleavened bread by the elect today is just as important as it was for the elect of Paul's time.

Sinless and Righteous

One of the  primary reasons that those who are called during the gospel age must eat unleavened bread during the Feast of  Unleavened  Bread  is that God the Father considers  those  who  are partakers of his holy spirit to be totally sinless and righteous.

The Primary Lesson

Although  there are many spiritual lessons that can  be  learned from  the  observance  of the Festival of  Unleavened  Bread,  the primary lesson of these days has to do with maintaining a sinless and righteous nature throughout one's life as one grows  toward spiritual maturity.

The  apostle Paul reminds the elect at Rome that, because they had accepted God's way of life and were dead to past sins, they should cease to practice sin:

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live  any longer therein?" (Rom.6:1-2 KJV).

Some people today feel that, once a person has been baptized and has received the  holy spirit, they may go on with their life without  any significant  change.  However, Paul says in essence, "God forbid that we who are children of God would have such an attitude."  He  says there must be a change from the old life of sin to a new life  of righteousness:

"Know  you  not, that so many of us as were baptized  into  Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should  walk in newness of life" (Rom.6:3-4 KJV).

After baptism,  the old person is dead and buried in the baptismal  waters and a new clean,  pure, and sinless person is raised to life through the power of God's spirit. This new person should begin to live as a son of God who seeks to do God's will  in  their life.

This newness of life refers to a righteous lifestyle that conforms to the law of God, which is only made possible  because of the death and resurrection of Christ.

"For  if we be planted together in the likeness of his death,  we should be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 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.  For  he that is dead is freed from sin" (Rom.6:5-7 KJV).

When a person accepts the  sacrifice of Christ as a release  from the  death penalty imposed upon them by their sin, truly  repents, is  baptized,  and receives the holy spirit, the  old  person  is actually dead. See our study paper concerning the New Creation.

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey  it  in  the lusts thereof. Neither yield  your  members  as instruments  of unrighteousness to sin; But yield  yourselves to God  as those that are alive from the dead, and your  members  as instruments of righteousness to God" (Rom.6:12-13 KJV).

"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not  under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid" (Rom.6:14-15 KJV).

Sin  should not rule anyone who has dedicated themselves  to  the pursuit  of Godliness. One who is no longer under the law  (i.e., its death penalty) by the grace of God should not willingly  give themselves over to sinful behavior. The Father's grace, which  he  extends to those he calls to salvation, is not a license to break  his law with impunity:

"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you  are  slaves to sin, which leads to death, or  to obedience, which  leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that,  though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the  form of  teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set  free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Rom.6:16-18 NIV).

When  a person is forgiven of their sin (leavening)  through  the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they stand before God as a righteous individual, who is without sin (unleavened).

The Sinless

The  apostle John speaks of the purity and sinlessness  of  those who practice righteousness through the spirit of God.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know him. Beloved, now we are the  sons of God, but it is not apparent what we shall be; however, we know that, when he appears, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that has hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure. Whoever commits sin violates the law; for sin is the violation of the law. And you know that he was manifested in order to take away our sin; and in him there is no sin. Everyone remaining in him does not sin. Everyone sinning has not seen him, nor known him" (1.Jn.3:1-6 Para).

It is important to note that the English word 'seen' in the scripture above is from the Greek word 'horao',  which can mean 'to stare at', 'to discern', or  'to  perceive'.

John is speaking of God's children who continue to reside in Christ and remain sinless (unleavened) because  they understand  the  things  pertaining to  Christ,  whereas  sinners (those who are leavened) cannot understand or know God:

"Little children, let no one lead you astray; the one  practicing righteousness,  is righteous, even as the One is  righteous.  The one  practicing sin is of the Devil, because the Devil sins from the beginning. For this the Son of God was revealed, that he undo [destroy] the devil's works" (1.Jn.3:7-8 Para.).

The 'devil's works' spoken of here refer to the deception  of Eve and Adam's disobedience,  which resulted in humanity being placed under the  sentence of death for the violation of God's righteous law. Christ has destroyed  the  devil's work by his righteous  life  and  perfect sacrifice; thereby, he has removed the death sentence for those who obey God.

The Seed

"Everyone who is begotten of God does not sin because God's  seed [the  spirit  of God] abides in him, and he is not able  to  sin, because he has been born of God" (1.Jn.3:9 Para.).

It  is impossible to understand what John is saying here,  unless one  understands  that the spirit of God within a  child  of  God keeps them in a sinless condition before God the Father. As  long as  a child of God seeks to live a righteous life  and  does not  willfully and habitually practice sin, no sin is imputed  to them.  Why is this? It is because Christ lives in the children of God through the  spirit of God; therefore, his righteous qualifications  are  also attributed to those who possess  the  Father's holy spirit: See Rom.8:33-34; 1.Jn.1:1-7; 2:1-2; 5:18.

Although it is not an exact translation, the Living Bible  Paraphrased (LBP) does clarify what John was trying  to  convey  about overcoming the old self with the power of the holy spirit:

"The  person who has been born into God's family does not make  a practice  of  sinning, because now God's life is in  him;  so  he can't  keep on sinning, for this new life has been born into  him and  controls him—he has been born again" (1.Jn.3:9 LBP).  See also 1.Jn.5:18.

Being Righteous

"By  this the children of God and the children of the  Devil  are revealed:  Everyone not practicing righteousness is not of  God; also the one not loving his brother" (1.Jn.3:10 Para.).

A  major  part of being a Christian concerns  being  a  righteous individual. Being righteous is not only a state of existence,  it is  a  process that involves  maintaining  righteous  behavior throughout one's lifetime. A person accomplishes this by refraining  from  practicing evil and eliminating any  sin (leavening) that one finds in their life through introspection  and self-evaluation as one endeavors to grow spiritually.

This process of remaining righteous is  pictured by the eating of unleavened bread during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

REMAIN SINLESS

The reality and symbolism of redemption is not complete in  the Passover alone. Although the Passover pictures the sacrifice  of Christ for the forgiveness of sin, to observe the Passover without observing the seven Days of Unleavened Bread  is to miss the point of how one has been forgiven for their sins  and made righteous before God the Father.

Just as the ancient Israelites were freed from Egypt (symbolic of sin) through the power of God when he set their sin aside and hid it  from his  sight through the blood of  the  Passover  lamb (symbolic  of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ), the children of  God today must remain sinless to maintain their covenant with God.

Before accepting the Father's call to salvation and  asking for sins  to  be forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ,  a  person should have already decided to put sin out of their life and obey God's righteous laws and ways.

Unless  a person makes a commitment to leave a  life of  rebellion  against God's law and  promises to seek his  will  in their  life, there is no way that  the Father will forgive  their sins.

After this commitment has been made and a person has been forgiven for their past sins and receives the holy spirit, which  transforms them into a son of God, they must keep their agreement with God in order to remain his son and receive his blessings.

Once  past  sins are forgiven, all future sins come  under  the promise of forgiveness through the blood of Christ, if repentance and obedience is forthcoming from the person who has  been forgiven. However, forgiveness of sin is not a license to  sin with impunity.

COMMUNION WITH THE FATHER AND CHRIST

In  his exhortation to remain spiritually pure, Paul equates  the communion  with God the  Father through  the  Passover  symbols of Christ's  body and blood to the priesthood's ability to  eat  of the sacrifices and commune with the Creator God (Jesus Christ) because of their special relationship and service to God. See 1.Pet.2:5-9:

"Therefore,  my  dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. Since  I  am speaking  to wise men; judge you what I say. The cup of  blessing that  we bless, is it not the communion of the blood  of Christ? The  bread that we break, is it not the communion of the body  of Christ?" (1.Cor.10:14-16 Para.).

In the scripture above, the English word 'communion' is translated from the Greek word 'koinonia', which literally means 'to  participate'. Paul uses this word to express the extremely close relationship between the elect of God,  Jesus Christ, and the Father through the sacrificial symbols of the blood and bread as they relate to Jesus Christ.

"For we being many are one bread [the church] and one body [the church, the body of Christ]: for we  are all partakers of that one bread [Jesus Christ]. Behold Israel after the flesh:  are not  they  which eat of the sacrifices partakers of  the  altar?" (1.Cor.10:17-18 Para.).

Paul reveals that the church (the Father's elect children) is truly one with Christ (one bread  and one body) in communion and service to God the Father  through Jesus Christ's sacrifice and the indwelling of the Father's spirit,  Christ's spirit, and the holy spirit. See our study paper which explains the many aspects of the spirit.

THE SEVEN DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD DURING THE GOSPEL AGE

The  number  seven often signifies spiritual  perfection  in  the scriptures and it fits very well within the symbolic, prophetic, and literal meaning of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

The First Day

The  first  day is to be a day of celebration to rejoice being freed from sin and its death penalty. It is also a day to celebrate becoming a son of the living God and beginning a life of  righteousness that will lead to eternal and immortal life.

The Next Five Days

The  next  five  days picture God's grace  and   one's  spiritual development  through  internalizing God's way of life, which is symbolized by eating unleavened bread. This  is why the apostle Paul was inspired to  exhort  Christians to do the following:

"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be  a  new lump,  as  you are unleavened. For even Christ our  Passover  is sacrificed for us:  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven . . . but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and  truth"  (1.Cor.5:7-8 Para.).

The Seventh Day

The  seventh  day of the feast points to the end of one's physical existence when  one will have successfully  obtained sinless perfection through the power of the holy spirit operating in their life.

SUMMARY

To  observe the Passover and then fail to pursue a  sinless  life, which is pictured  by  the Days of Unleavened Bread, would be  to  fail  to understand the meaning of these days and the sacrifice of Christ.

The  significance of the Passover and the Festival of  Unleavened Bread for the children of God today is clear:

Putting away leavened products and eating  unleavened bread during this seven day festival should do the following:

The Festival of Unleavened Bread is a continuation of the spiritual  process that  began with the observance  of  the  Passover service.

One of the great lessons of the Days of Unleavened Bread is  that of becoming and remaining sinless. Remaining in a sinless  (unleavened) condition is a lifelong process during which a person must grow toward spiritual maturity (true righteousness). This process only  ends when one reaches the end of their life in the human form, which is  pictured by the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w49