Leaven - noun
- a substance, as yeast or baking powder, that causes fermentation and expansion of dough or batter
- fermented dough reserved for producing fermentation in a new batch of dough.
- an element that produces an altering or transforming influence.
verb (used with object)
- to add leaven to (dough or batter) and cause to rise.
- to permeate with an altering or transforming element.
Leaven does its job slowly, secretly and silently, but no one can deny its effect on bread. The same is true of the work of grace in our hearts.
The nature of leaven is to grow and to change whatever it contacts. When we accept Christ, His grace grows in our hearts and changes us from the inside out. As the gospel transforms lives, it exerts a pervasive influence in the world.
2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The parable that Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven being like leaven teaches that the reign of God is like what happens when leaven permeates a batch of dough. Jesus' point is that the small, insignificant beginnings of God's reign in Himself will one day be great. Although the parable doesn't describe how this will happen, suggests His future reign as the Son of Man.
Luke 17:20-21 ESV Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
Jesus’ answer was that the kingdom of God was not coming the way that the Pharisees were expecting. The kingdom wouldn't come with spectacle or splendor; there would be no great leader who led a rebellion and achieved military victory and routed the Romans. This kingdom would come silently and unseen, much as leaven works in a batch of dough. In fact, Jesus says, the kingdom had already begun, right under the Pharisees’ noses. The King Himself was standing among them, although the Pharisees were oblivious to that fact.
Leaven is a piece of dough that is pulled out of the mass and set apart to undergo fermentation. This results in the transformation of the original pinch that has been taken from the lump. When the transformative work is complete, the leaven is embedded back into the batch.
This is a striking illustration of the nature of the remnant community: the church. It is the ekklesia — the people who are called out of the world. But the Church is not pulled out of the world to live in isolation from the world. This community undergoes the transformative work of sanctification so it can impart a new quality of life into the world.
As the crucial hour of the cross and atonement neared, Jesus prayed both for His disciples at that time and those who will follow Him across history:
John 17:13-19 ESV But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
The point of Jesus’ remnant people being separated from the world is not that they may live blissfully apart from the world and its miseries. The purpose of being set apart (sanctified) is to undergo a process of personal growth in the Spirit (sanctification) for the sake of being put back into the world, to penetrate it with the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Matthew 24:9-14 ESV "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
This is in view when the apostle Peter wrote of the church,
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. — 1 Peter 2:9
The church’s mission leading up to the coming end-times revival will be — as it always has been — the proclamation of Christ and His Kingdom, which is intensified and advanced in the world in and through authentic revival.
You are the leven!
Let’s be the leaven. Let’s get in the world but not be of the world. We are God’s people, called to proclaim Him to a hungry and thirsty, dark world.
Excerpted from Call Down Lightning by Wallace Henley