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The Bread of Life

Dear Church Family,

To leaven or not to leaven? That is the question…

Over the years, I have received questions about the kind of bread that ought to be used in communion. Specifically, should the bread that we use be leavened or unleavened?

By way of a brief explanation, it should be noted that whether the bread in the Lord’s supper is leavened or unleavened, it is not an essential aspect of the Lord’s supper. Most likely, the bread that Christ used in the last supper was unleavened bread (according to the tradition of the Passover); however, the Greek word that the Gospel writers used to describe that bread is not the specific word for unleavened bread, but the general word that simply refers to a loaf of bread. Thus, it doesn’t seem that the Gospel writers saw it as that important.

Also, though some have argued that leaven always represents sin in the Bible, that is not the case. In fact, Jesus illustrated the growth of the kingdom of heaven by comparing it to a woman who put leaven into a large quantity of flour until it permeated all of it (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:21). Thus, we may view leavened bread as a symbol of our hope and prayer that the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, His church, would spread to all the world.

Finally, leavened bread is the typical kind of bread that we commonly eat in our daily lives, and to most people it just tastes better. Perhaps some people use unleavened bread for their sandwiches or toast it for breakfast, but I don’t personally know any that do. There’s a reason that homeowners bake cookies or bread when showing their homes to potential buyers and don’t offer them dry crackers. There’s something welcoming and enticing about the aroma (and taste) of baking bread. Sunday is a feast day of sorts, a celebration of the resurrection of our Savior; so it just makes sense that the aesthetics of the Table reinforce that celebration.

If you would like to read more on this topic, I recommend the following two articles:

(1) “Does Scripture Demand Unleavened Bread in the Lord’s Supper?” by John S. Hammett

(2) “Must We Use Unleavened Bread in the Lord’s Supper?” by Andrew Webb (this second article provides many quotations from Reformed commentators on the topic)

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch