“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival,” Paul exhorted the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; English Standard Version). In 2004, an abc television network documentary titled Jesus and Paul: Word and Witness made a point that the Apostle Paul is the true founder of Christianity.
Search the Internet, and you will see that more than one Bible scholar agrees with that thinking. However, if that were true, why aren’t more Christian churches doing what Paul says to do in the 14 letters he wrote for us? His letters are full of instructions on how to be a true Christian.
For example, some Christian groups keep a Passover-type service, but only a tiny few celebrate the festival, or feast, the way Paul discusses in his letter. Sadly most Christians would not even have a clue as to what he was talking about, even though Paul knew that all Christians should keep this festival. Do you?
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Paul is referring to the feast of Unleavened Bread described in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. It is the second annual festival the Lord, the Eternal God, described to Moses as one of “my feasts” (Leviticus 23:2). God instructed Moses that this festival was to be kept forever (Exodus 12:17). All people claiming to be true Christians are duty-bound to keep this feast.
Unfortunately, most Christian churches teach that the festivals and associated holy days listed in Leviticus 23 were abolished with the Old Covenant. This is false doctrine and teaching that wrecks people’s spiritual lives. Let’s understand what Paul teaches us to do.
Jesus Christ, Paul and the original 12 apostles faithfully observed all of God’s feasts. However, they kept the feasts with a new emphasis, built on the foundation that was established in the Old Testament. For example, Jesus Christ changed the symbols of the Old Testament Passover (which had been sacrificing and eating a young unblemished lamb as a sin offering, along with unleavened bread). He instituted the foot-washing ceremony, plus eating a small piece of unleavened bread and drinking a small amount of red wine (John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:26-29).
The new symbols showed that He was God’s Passover Lamb to deliver all humanity from their enslavement to sin (John 1:29). Jesus Christ also taught Paul and the other disciples that there was a spiritual dimension to all the feasts, a dimension that all Christians should learn and apply to their spiritual lives.
Passover—The First Step
One cannot properly keep the Passover without also keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread. In Exodus 12, God instructed Moses that the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread had to be kept one right after the other. Traditionally, the two festivals were often called simply the Passover (Luke 22:1).
God commanded Moses to teach the people how to keep the whole time period (Exodus 12:1). “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you,” instructed Moses (verses 14-16). What are the important points of these verses?
God established the Days of Unleavened Bread as a memorial of the time God brought them out from Egypt (verse 17). Keeping the Passover ceremony proved to be an incredibly miraculous event for them. They were spared from the plague of the firstborn that came upon Egypt (verse 29).
But the Passover was only the first step in God’s plan to deliver them.
The children of Israel had become severely weakened culturally, physically and spiritually while enslaved in Egypt. Israel had become a degenerate people (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). The Israelites were surrounded by it; God looks on Egypt as a type of sin (Hebrews 11:24-27), and they had been saturated in it for centuries.
To fully come out of Egypt, the children of Israel needed to change internally—to come out of their filthy way of living not only by leaving the borders of Egypt behind, but also by changing their human nature. They had to literally unlearn what they had learned in Egypt.
To teach them that lesson, God required three things of them. Two of the seven days of Unleavened Bread (the first and seventh) were established high Sabbaths where the people gathered together to be instructed in God’s way of life. They were also required to put all leaven out of their houses and then to eat only unleavened bread for the whole festival period. Why?
Leaven—Type of Sin
In the Bible, leaven pictures sin. However, unleavened bread pictures the sinless life that Jesus Christ lived as a human being on Earth (Hebrews 4:14-16). Paul understood this clearly. Living a life of sin (or in Egypt) puffs human beings up like yeast puffs up dough (1 Corinthians 5:2). Sin causes human beings to arrogantly rebel against God and His Ten Commandments.
Paul got the news that a man in the Corinthian congregation was regularly committing extremely sordid fornication. His lifestyle was well known and accepted by fellow members in the Church. In fact, they were proud of themselves for being so “understanding” of this man’s sin.
“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” warned Paul. The man’s sin was spreading sin throughout the congregation. Had the Corinthians been on target spiritually, they would have put that sinning member out of their midst until he repented of such heinous actions. Because they did not, they also became infected with sin. This is such a simple lesson to understand. Sin spreads in our lives like yeast in flour. When we do not stop sin, it stops us.
Purge Out Leaven
Paul loved the Corinthians. He wanted to make sure that they qualified to receive eternal life. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened,” he admonished them (1 Corinthians 5:7, first part). True Christians can never be casual about any sins, even the seemingly small ones. When we see sin in our lives, we must put it out quickly! Why? Sins spread rapidly and separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Separation from God leads to eternal death!
Even more, we must have deep respect for Jesus Christ’s huge personal sacrifice for us. He was God prior to His human birth. He was our direct Creator (Ephesians 3:9). The Passover ceremony shows us what great lengths Christ had to endure so our sins could be washed away (Revelation 1:5). Jesus Christ’s sacrifice made us unleavened spiritually. All true Christians have the duty to remain unleavened.
God requires us to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread because “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7, last part.) Every year during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are reminded of our part in our own salvation. Christ deleavened us from our past sins with His death (Romans 5:8-10). It is our job to keep sin out—to stay unleavened. The Christian who does not keep this wonderful festival is confused about how to handle sin in his personal life. His eternal life is in serious jeopardy.
“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,” encouraged Paul (verse 8). The festival of Unleavened Bread truly is a celebration. Great joy comes into our lives when we face the truth about the destructiveness of sin. Our sins destroyed the very life of our own Creator. It will destroy our lives as well. God wants to save us from that—and that is cause for celebration!
Jesus Christ died so we can live for eternity. He desires that we live the same righteous life that He did. He is alive and doing everything He can do to help us. We must never forget that we are saved by His life. Christ will not do it all for us—as some mistakenly believe. We must put sin out by putting His righteousness in. Honest, sincere study and full obedience to God’s Word is the unleavened bread we must be eating. Let’s be fully aware of not only the price Christ paid for us—let’s all celebrate the festival of Unleavened Bread.
If you would like to know more, please request Herbert W. Armstrong’s inspiring booklet Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?