|Volume 21 Number 11 November 2019||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone inquired, “Why use unleavened bread on the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:21)?” There are two answers to this question that complement each other and arrive at the same conclusion that we ought to use unleavened bread in the memorial of the Communion (1 Corinthians 10:16) or the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20).
First, if we imitate what our Lord Jesus Christ did in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we will use what He used for the bread portion of that spiritual feast. Since Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper immediately following the observance of the Passover meal, the only bread in the dwelling where He was at the time was unleavened bread. This is because the Jews were forbidden to have any leavened bread in their homes during the days of the Passover.
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat — that only may be prepared by you. 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. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread. (Exodus 12:15-20 NKJV)
The reason Jews were not allowed to eat leavened bread during the days of the Passover was to remind them of the haste with which the Israelites of the Exodus fled from Egypt. Waiting for leavened bread to rise before baking it could have interfered with readiness to depart without prior notice. “You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).
Secondly, in nearly every instance where the Bible refers to “leaven,” it does so with a negative connotation. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees’” (Matthew 16:6).
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 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 5:6-8)
A way that is absolutely acceptable to God and that cannot be wrong is for Christians to use unleavened bread in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Using leavened bread or some other substitute certainly is not authorized in Scripture and goes beyond what is written in therein (1 Corinthians 4:6).
For What Can the
Contribution Be Used?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone asked, “For what can the church contribution or the church treasury be used?” Behind the question is the implication, “For what will God approve a congregational contribution to be spent?” or “What does Scripture approve for using the church contribution?” The general answer would be that the church contribution can be spent for anything for which the church has an obligation to fulfil. However, brethren disagree about and have differing opinions regarding for what a local congregation has an obligation financially. In addition, there is no more agreement as to how the church can execute its financial expenses in those areas where it is obligated to spend the Lord’s money.
In areas of human judgment and opinion, individual Christians and local congregations need to act in accordance with their consciences and local, congregational decisions. However, when it comes to opinions and human judgment, brethren need to refrain from trying to enforce their opinions and personal decisions on other brethren and on other congregations of the Lord’s church. Making laws where God has not made laws is the same offence for which Jesus Christ rebuked the sect of the Pharisees in the first century. “Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’ He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?’” (Matthew 15:1-3 NKJV).
Elsewhere, our Lord described the scribes and Pharisees as “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24). James Burton Coffman styled this figurative illustration of our Lord as “…a perfect picture of…unbalanced thinking…” The Pulpit Commentary remarks about and makes application of Matthew 23:24 thusly. “Small-mindedness. In some cases there may be no conscious hypocrisy. But a littleness of thinking and acting has dwarfed the whole area of observation. The small soul is able to see the gnat, but it cannot even perceive the existence of the camel. It is so busy with the fussy trivialities on which it prides itself, that it has no power left to attend to weightier matters.” “The Pharisees majored on minors. They had rules for every minute area of life, while at the same time they forgot about the important things” (Bible Exposition Commentary). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament says of the Pharisees that “their values were confused.” The Pharisees “imposed on others non-scriptural traditions” (Willmington). “They were majoring on minors, straining out a gnat, while minoring on majors, swallowing a camel. Being so busy with small details, they never dealt with the important matters” (Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament).
Wanting to avoid the impurity caused by a dead insect in their drink, Pharisees would strain out an insect as small as a fly (and anything larger than a lentil) before it could die in order to preserve the fluid (cf. Lev 11:32,34). Pharisees considered gnats, which were smaller than lentils, exempt from this impurity, but the scrupulous Pharisee of Jesus’ hyperbole would not have taken any chances. Yet Jesus charges hyperbolically that they would leave a camel (the largest land animal in Palestine and ritually unclean) in the cup and gulp it down. (IVP Bible Background Commentary)
Next, let’s consider some New Testament passages relative to congregational financial obligations. First, there was the matter of collecting funds for the purpose of using them benevolently. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). This passage provides us with two valuable pieces of information regarding congregational collections: (1) The contribution enjoined here was specifically for benevolence for “saints” or members of the Lord’s church. The apostle called upon Gentile Christians to respond with some of their material prosperity for those who previously had funded the preaching of the Gospel to them, now that they were in need. (2) The weekly contribution is the only means by which the New Testament authorizes acquisition of funds for whatever financial obligations a local congregation may incur. If there are any additional financial obligations beyond benevolence for which a local church has an obligation, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 describes the way in which those funds are to be acquired.
And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)
The apostle Paul wrote, “But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things” (Romans 15:25-27). Subsequently, he said, “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation” (Acts 24:17).
These verses above and others indicate that the motivation for collecting benevolent funds was to sustain Christians during a time of famine (2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:1). The money that Paul collected from various churches was placed in the hands of the elders of the church in Jerusalem, who would be responsible for its distribution in Jerusalem and in the Roman province of Judea (Acts 11:29-30). The manner in which benevolence made its way from churches among the Gentiles to Jews was through financial cooperation between churches and from several congregations to one congregation that would dispense the funds.
Despite the reason for which these monies were collected was with poor saints in mind, church benevolence was not limited to members of the Lord’s church in the first century. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). If a church can financially support a preacher (Galatians 6:6), and it is generally agreed that it can, then, four verses later, the church contribution can be used to assist benevolently non-Christians as well as Christians. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, too, that church benevolence ought to be directed toward saints and all men (saints plus others). “For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men” (2 Corinthians 9:12-13).
Yet, what of other congregational financial obligations? We have just noted financial obligations for benevolence and for supporting a preacher. In addition, the apostle Paul and others received church support by which they could have a livelihood and take the Gospel to the lost world (1 Corinthians 9:4-14). “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you” (2 Corinthians 11:8).
There are many things for which local churches realize a need to spend from the Lord’s treasury. Several of these are a matter of opinion and human judgment (e.g., to rent or buy church property and maintain it, utilities, office equipment and supplies, etc.). Brethren see implications in Scripture (e.g., a command to assemble implies a place to assemble) and have no qualms about spending money from the church treasury for such. In fact, churches spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on meetinghouses, parking lots, lawn care, air conditioning, padded pews, restrooms, water fountains, chandeliers and so forth. Yet, hardly anyone bulks at the relative extravagance involved in these areas that are not specifically addressed in Scripture. Sometimes the real work of the Lord’s church may be hindered financially because of our tendency to direct church resources inwardly and toward creature comforts.
Nevertheless, opinions and human judgment respecting the worship and the work of the church in any community involve personal and congregational choices. To whom a local church directs its benevolent outreach is its decision to make alone. How a local congregation performs benevolence, edification and evangelism as well as promotes Christian fellowship is a matter only for that church and its members to decide. The church contribution can be spent for anything for which the church has an obligation to fulfil.
Bible Exposition Commentary. CD-ROM. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1989.
Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament. CD-ROM. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2000.
Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU Press, 1989.
Keener, Craig S. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. CD-ROM. Madison: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Pulpit Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament. CD-ROM. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1992.
Willmington, Harold. Willmington’s Bible Handbook. CD-ROM. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997.