Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 7: Like Unto Leaven
Based on Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20, 21
Many educated and influential men had come to hear
the Prophet of Galilee. Some of these looked with
curious interest upon the multitude that had gathered about
Christ as He taught by the sea. In this great throng all
classes of society were represented. There were the poor,
the illiterate, the ragged beggar, the robber with the seal
of guilt upon his face, the maimed, the dissipated, the
merchant and the man of leisure, high and low, rich and
poor, all crowding upon one another for a place to stand
and hear the words of Christ. As these cultured men
gazed upon the strange assembly, they asked themselves,
Is the kingdom of God composed of such material as this?
Again the Saviour replied by a parable:
|Hidden Leaven.—Davis Collection.|
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a
woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the
whole was leavened."
Among the Jews leaven was sometimes used as an
emblem of sin. At the time of the Passover the people [p. 96] were directed to remove all the leaven from their houses as
they were to put away sin from their hearts. Christ warned
His disciples, "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees,
which is hypocrisy." Luke 12:1. And the apostle Paul
speaks of the "leaven of malice and wickedness." I Cor.
5:8. But in the Saviour's parable, leaven is used to
represent the kingdom of heaven. It illustrates the
quickening, assimilating power of the grace of God.
None are so vile, none have fallen so low, as to be
beyond the working of this power. In all who will submit
themselves to the Holy Spirit a new principle of life is to
be implanted; the lost image of God is to be restored in
But man cannot transform himself by the exercise of
his will. He possesses no power by which this change
can be effected. The leaven—something wholly from
without—must be put into the meal before the desired change
can be wrought in it. So the grace of God must be
received by the sinner before he can be fitted for the kingdom
of glory. All the culture and education which the
world can give will fail of making a degraded child of
sin a child of heaven. The renewing energy must come
from God. The change can be made only by the Holy [p. 97] Spirit. All who would be saved, high or low, rich or
poor, must submit to the working of this power.
As the leaven, when mingled with the meal, works from
within outward, so it is by the renewing of the heart
that the grace of God works to transform the life. No
mere external change is sufficient to bring us into
harmony with God. There are many who try to reform by
correcting this or that bad habit, and they hope in this way
to become Christians, but they are beginning in the wrong
place. Our first work is with the heart.
A profession of faith and the possession of truth in
the soul are two different things. The mere knowledge
of truth is not enough. We may possess this, but the
tenor of our thoughts may not be changed. The heart
must be converted and sanctified.
The man who attempts to keep the commandments of
God from a sense of obligation merely—because he is
required to do so—will never enter into the joy of
obedience. He does not obey. When the requirements of God
are accounted a burden because they cut across human
inclination, we may know that the life is not a Christian
life. True obedience is the outworking of a principle
within. It springs from the love of righteousness, the
love of the law of God. The essence of all righteousness [p. 98] is loyalty to our Redeemer. This will lead us to do right
because it is right—because right doing is pleasing to God.
The great truth of the conversion of the heart by the
Holy Spirit is presented in Christ's words to Nicodemus:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born
from above, he can not see the kingdom of God. . . .
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is
born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto
thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it
listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not
tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth. So is every
one that is born of the Spirit." John 3:3-8, margin.
The apostle Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, says,
"God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith
He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened
us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together
in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come
He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His
kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace
are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it
is the gift of God." Eph. 2:4-8.
The leaven hidden in the flour works invisibly to bring
the whole mass under its leavening process; so the leaven
of truth works secretly, silently, steadily, to transform the
soul. The natural inclinations are softened and subdued.
New thoughts, new feelings, new motives, are implanted. [p. 99] A new standard of character is set up—the life of Christ.
The mind is changed; the faculties are roused to action in
new lines. Man is not endowed with new faculties, but
the faculties he has are sanctified. The conscience is
awakened. We are endowed with traits of character that
enable us to do service for God.
Often the question arises, Why, then, are there so many,
claiming to believe God's word, in whom there is not seen
a reformation in words, in spirit, and in character? Why
are there so many who cannot bear opposition to their
purposes and plans, who manifest an unholy temper, and
whose words are harsh, overbearing, and passionate? There
is seen in their lives the same love of self, the same selfish
indulgence, the same temper and hasty speech, that is seen in
the life of the worldling. There is the same sensitive
pride, the same yielding to natural inclination, the same
perversity of character, as if the truth were wholly
unknown to them. The reason is that they are not converted.
They have not hidden the leaven of truth in the heart.
It has not had opportunity to do its work. Their natural
and cultivated tendencies to evil have not been submitted [p. 100] to its transforming power. Their lives reveal the absence
of the grace of Christ, an unbelief in His power to
transform the character.
"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of
God." Rom. 10:17. The Scriptures are the great agency
in the transformation of character. Christ prayed, "Sanctify
them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth." John
17:17. If studied and obeyed, the word of God works in
the heart, subduing every unholy attribute. The Holy
Spirit comes to convict of sin, and the faith that springs
up in the heart works by love to Christ, conforming us
in body, soul, and spirit to His own image. Then God can
use us to do His will. The power given us works from
within outwardly, leading us to communicate to others the
truth that has been communicated to us.
The truths of the word of God meet man's great practical
necessity—the conversion of the soul through faith.
These grand principles are not to be thought too pure
and holy to be brought into the daily life. They are truths
which reach to heaven and compass eternity, yet their vital
influence is to be woven into human experience. They are [p. 101] to permeate all the great things and all the little things of
Received into the heart, the leaven of truth will regulate
the desires, purify the thoughts, and sweeten the disposition.
It quickens the faculties of the mind and the energies
of the soul. It enlarges the capacity for feeling, for loving.
The world regards as a mystery the man who is imbued
with this principle. The selfish, money-loving man lives
only to secure for himself the riches, honors, and pleasures
of this world. He loses the eternal world from his
reckoning. But with the follower of Christ these things will
not be all-absorbing. For Christ's sake he will labor and
deny self, that he may aid in the great work of saving
souls who are without Christ and without hope in the
world. Such a man the world cannot understand; for he
is keeping in view eternal realities. The love of Christ with
its redeeming power has come into the heart. This love
masters every other motive, and raises its possessor above
the corrupting influence of the world.
The word of God is to have a sanctifying effect on our
association with every member of the human family. The
leaven of truth will not produce the spirit of rivalry, the
love of ambition, the desire to be first. True, heaven-born
love is not selfish and changeable. It is not dependent on
human praise. The heart of him who receives the grace [p. 102] of God overflows with love for God and for those for whom
Christ died. Self is not struggling for recognition. He
does not love others because they love and please him,
because they appreciate his merits, but because they are
Christ's purchased possession. If his motives, words, or
actions are misunderstood or misrepresented, he takes no
offense, but pursues the even tenor of his way. He is kind
and thoughtful, humble in his opinion of himself, yet full of
hope, always trusting in the mercy and love of God.
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The apostle exhorts us, "As He which hath called you
is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because
it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
The grace of Christ is to control the temper and the voice.
Its working will be seen in politeness and tender regard
shown by brother for brother, in kind, encouraging words.
An angel presence is in the home. The life breathes a
sweet perfume, which ascends to God as holy incense.
Love is manifested in kindness, gentleness, forbearance, and
The countenance is changed. Christ abiding in the
heart shines out in the faces of those who love Him and
keep His commandments. Truth is written there. The
sweet peace of heaven is revealed. There is expressed a
habitual gentleness, a more than human love.
The leaven of truth works a change in the whole man,
making the coarse refined, the rough gentle, the selfish
generous. By it the impure are cleansed, washed in the
blood of the Lamb. Through its life-giving power it brings
all there is of mind and soul and strength into harmony
with the divine life. Man with his human nature becomes
a partaker of divinity. Christ is honored in excellence and
perfection of character. As these changes are effected,
angels break forth in rapturous song, and God and Christ
rejoice over souls fashioned after the divine similitude.
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