Feast of Unleavened Bread is a focus on Righteousness - not Sin
by Keith Green. Revised [6/8/2010]
It has been taught for decades in the Church of God that the seven days of unleavened bread are a time for Christians to reflect on putting sin out of their lives. However, according to God, the days picture a Christian living God’s way of life and are not intended to be a time to focus on removing sin – all leaven (representing sin) having been removed at the beginning of the festival period.
When a person is baptized into Christ by the Holy spirit they are JUSTIFIED in God’s eyes, and in that sense all sin is considered by God to have already been removed at the beginning of their Christian journey. They remain justified throughout their entire Christian lives unless they commit the unpardonable sin. Accordingly, from God’s perspective, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a celebration concerning a new sinless creation – not a picture of a sinful creation putting out sin over a lifetime. The literal putting away of sin out of a persons life is another topic, and not the intended focus of this festival.
What does the removal of leaven symbolize spiritually
The meaning of the symbolism involved in the Feast of Unleavened Bread is revealed in a letter written to the Corinthian church:
“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8; NKJV).
In the above verse Paul is talking to those who have the Holy Spirit, and shows that leaven symbolizes ‘the practice’ of sinfulness – in this case malice and wickedness. In contrast, he also shows that unleavened bread symbolizes the OPPOSITE which is Gods way of life – the practice of righteousness, which is described as sincerity and truth.
Notice below how Barnes Commentary shows that the use of the word old in 1 Corinthians 5:8, is a very fitting description of spiritual leaven – the sinful conduct of the old person:
“[Not with the old leaven] Not under the influence, or in the indulgence of the feelings of corrupt and unrenewed human nature - The word "leaven" is very expressive of that former or "old" condition, and denotes the corrupt and corrupting passions of our nature before it is renewed.”(from Barnes Notes)
No leaven present during festival
According to the instructions in the Old Testament, no leaven was to be present in the Israelites houses during the seven day festival:
“Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters.” (Exodus 13:6-7; NKJV).
In fact, notice that All leaven was removed at the very beginning of the festival:
“Seven days ye eat unleavened things; only—in the first day ye cause leaven to cease out of your houses; for any one eating anything fermented from the first day till the seventh day, even that person hath been cut off from Israel.” (Exodus 12:15-16; YLT).
Accordingly, in the above verses there is clearly no symbolic representation of sin (leaven) present within peoples dwellings during the seven day period. Therefore, if no leaven (symbolizing old sinful conduct) was to be present within the Israelite houses for seven days, and the Israelites during the period were to instead “...eat unleavened things; only...” (Exodus 12:15-16; YLT), why do so many of God’s people think that the seven day period is a time to reflect on the sin that needs to be put out of their lives?
Nevertheless, someone will say: “How can the absence of leaven during the seven day period represent the absence of sin in a Christians life? Doesn’t the removal of all leaven represent God’s ‘forgiveness’ of past sins only? Don’t Christians still commit sins, after receiving the Holy Spirit, that require putting out by further repentance and forgiveness? Isn’t it only after a Christian becomes a spirit being that sin is ‘literally’ completely and permanently removed?
Yes, we do sin after baptism with the Holy Spirit, and we do need the presence of a repentant spirit (Christ within us) to make changes in our lives and gradually purge us from sin, but that subject is not covered by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is NOT a focus on our sinful nature. It’s not about sin.
Rather, the festival is about God’s GRACE AND MERCY toward us, about Christians living God’s way of life, and how He sees them as a new sinless creation, free from eternal death as long as they do not commit the unpardonable sin.
Sin is removed – but not literally
When a person receives the Holy Spirit, God overlooks their sins and regards them as a righteous creation – free from sin (But literally we are NOT).
God’s positive way of way of looking at Christians who have the Holy Spirit is described in the following verse:
“just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." (Romans 4:6-8; NKJV).
In other words, we were freed from the consequences of sin (eternal death), and remain free.
God may chasten or further educate us about our sins ‘in the flesh’, but he does not condemn, and from that angle describes Christians as free from sin – ALREADY. Accordingly the absence of leaven (sin) can only be a way to describe God’s justification. It is like our sins had already been literally removed.
Do Christians still need to ask for forgiveness?
Yes, Christians should ask to be forgiven when we sin, but it’s not a matter of asking God to save them again from eternal death again, because that was done when they repented and were baptized with the Holy Spirit. It seems to be more a matter of expressing our remorse and showing desire to continue in the relationship. Nevertheless, God’s people should always be concerned that they are not drifting away from God and in danger of committing the unpardonable sin. (putting Christ to death from within, Hebrews 6:6):
“ Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure,...” (2 Peter 1:10; NKJV).
More detailed examination of the spiritual meaning of the festival
The seven days of unleavened bread was to be observed by ancient Israel, because it was a memorial of their journey out of Egypt under God’s rule, which meant complete freedom from any further enslavement to the Egyptian taskmasters:
“So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt ”(Exodus 12:17).
“Therefore say to the children of Israel:'I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you…” (Exodus 6:6).
The above account of physical Israel being rescued from bondage and travelling out of Egypt is a direct parallel of what has happened to individuals who are Gods true people today – Spiritual Israel. They have also been delivered from slavery (bondage to sin) and are on a journey out of this world of sin and headed towards God’s Kingdom:
“Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34-35)
“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered…” (Romans 6:16-18).
Therefore, because the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in regards to Christians (spiritual Israel), is about their rescue from enslavement to sin and journey out of this world toward God’s Kingdom. The removal of leaven at the beginning of the festival in Exodus 12:15 symbolizes what happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit – they are JUSTIFIED (under grace). Whereas, the eating of unleavened bread during the seven days pictures Christians on a spiritual journey out of this world by living God’s way of life.
God describes Christians as new creations – free from sin
The concept that the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures a Christian living God’s way of life and is not intended to be a focus on sin is further confirmed by how God refers Christians as new creations:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”.(2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
New creation is Christ within and therefore sinless
The new creation that comes into existence upon receipt of the Holy Spirit can be discerned in Galatians 2:20-21. In these verses, Paul refers to himself as having been crucified, which according to what he wrote in Romans 6:6 is about the death of his old sinful self (picturing justification). He then continues in the same passage and makes mention of his new spiritual life (in contrast to his old life) – referring to it as Christ living in him. By describing things this way it is clear he was writing about what happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit – the old person is figuratively crucified and the new person is conceived (Romans 6:3-6).
Therefore, it makes sense that the reference in Galatians 2:20-21 to Christ living in him is what God defines as the new person – the Christlike side of a persons nature. See now the relevant verse in which the terms old person and new person have been added in brackets:
“I have been crucified with Christ; [old person] it is no longer I who live, [old person] but Christ lives in me; [new person] and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20-21).
Accordingly, the first day of unleavened bread for a Christian is a celebration of new birth. The resulting removal of sin, according to God’s perspective, happens all at once, when the new person (Christ within) is conceived by the Holy Spirit. From that point forward the old creation (sinful nature) wars against the new creation (Christlike nature) (Romans 7:23), but sin is NEVER imputed to the new person. God does not sew a new piece of new cloth (righteousness) onto an old garment (old creation) (Matthew 9:16; Revelation 7:9 & 19:8). He just concentrates on developing the new Christlike nature, which will continue to exist when a person is resurrected. Whereas, the old sinful creation is described by God as though it was already dead by crucifixion:
“...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)
God’s positive focus
According to the following list of bible passages God’s focus concerning Christians is very positive because even though they sin as humans He already refers to them as righteous.
1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,…”
Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous…”
Romans 4:3 “ For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
Romans 4:6-8 “...Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying. Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin...”.
Notice in Romans 4:6-8 verse God’s merciful disposition toward a Christian; he treats them as though there sins were covered; not able to be seen; had been ALREADY removed, as pictured by the seven days of unleavened bread in which “...no leavened bread shall be seen among you...” (Exodus 13:6-7). He does not impute any of there iniquities any more, meaning they are free from eternal death, unless the unpardonable sin is committed.
Paul repeats this same understanding by using another analogy in Colossians 2:11:
“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ…”
In this second analogy reference is being made again to the removal of sin (putting off the body of sins – the old sinful person). This takes place when a person, according to how God sees things, becomes a new creation by baptism with the Holy Spirit, which physical circumcision typifies:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”(Galatians 6:15)
Many other parallel verses all describe the same concept
One very important principal found extensively throughout the Bible is that God often users more than one analogy to describe the same spritual event – each separate analogy often adding a little more detail about the same subject. Therefore, besides the complete removal of leaven at the beginning of the days of unleavened bread, picturing justification – it is not surprising to find other analogies describing the same subject. Compare the following list, and see how they all refer to a person being justified when they receive the Holy Spirit:
1) “in the first day ye cause leaven to cease out of your houses;…” (Exodus 12:5; YLT).
2) “...Knowing this, that our old man is crucified…” (Romans 6:6).
3) “ But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,…” (Romans 8:9).
4) “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh,…”(Colossians 2:11).
Corinthians 5:17-18 is also about the same subject:
“ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away…” (2 ).
1) The removal of leaven at the beginning of the days of unleavened bread pictures JUSTIFICATION – deliverance from eternal death.
2) The eating of unleavened bread during the seven days pictures a Christian living God’s way of life.
3) The seven day festival is therefore a focus on God’s way of life – not sin.