Matthew 16:5-12 (ESV)
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.  Jesus said to them, "Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."  And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread."  But Jesus, aware of this, said, "O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?  Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?  Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?  How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."  Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
“Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” This leaven is still around, and disciples of Christ do well to beware of it!
Leaven, It is great for making bread, but it was also code for evil in the scriptures. Jesus tells the disciples to beware of two types of leaven, to types of false teaching. The first was that of the Pharisees and a legalistic reading of Scripture, the second was that of the Sadducees, the theological liberals of the day, they didn’t believe anything, but thought tradition was nice, maybe. . The problem is just a little bit of this stuff can rise to make a mess of the whole lump of theological dough. Eventually it gets in the way of justification by grace through faith.
Of course, today we have all sorts of people trying to tell us that we shouldn’t beware of this leaven. Supposedly it is harmless. By this I mean I routinely find people telling me that I should not take Lutheranism so seriously, after all Baptists are Christian too. Of Course this seems always a one way street, because the next minute the Baptist telling me this wants me to write off Roman Catholics as decidedly not Christian. I’m left scratching my head and thinking if you want me to consider you a Christian despite your blasphemous doctrines, then you are in no position whatsoever to make the assertion that Roman Catholics are not Christian.
Now that there was inflammatory language. The next thing I will here is that I should not be so harsh toward the doctrine of Baptists, or the ELCA, or Calvinists, or you name the heterodox doctrine. But if it isn’t true it is blasphemous, and that is all there is to it. Joel Olsteen is blasphemous. Rick Warren is blasphemous, Al Moehler is blasphemous. For that matter, as much as I like Kim Riddlebarger and Michael Horton, I consider their doctrines to be blasphemous. And if they were at all honest they would return the favor. Perhaps there are degrees of blasphemy. Baptists are on the extreme edge of it in my book. I have no tolerance for those who deny the grace of God offered in baptism to the little Children whom Jesus loves, the ones Jesus explicitly says have faith in him.
Yet over and over again, I’m told chiefly by Calvinist types, that our differences are not so great and we should be in fellowship with each other. Not so great? I beg to differ. Calvinism has blossomed into a rather putrid tulip of damnation. I would trace the roots of liberalism and the denial of miracles even in the New Testament back to the denial of Calvinists that the Lord’s Supper is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, as well as the denial of baptismal regeneration. Such blasphemies, as well as the blasphemy of double predestination that undermines any proclamation of Gospel in those churches, has given birth then to equally blasphemous doctrines on the other side of the pendulum, the hated Arminianism that finds it’s expression in various pietist sects of “Lutherans”, as well as Baptists, Methodists, American Evangelical Churches, Calvary Chapels, and is chiefly known by the ubiquitous use of the sinner’s prayer, or any such reliance on prayer rather than faith in the promises of Jesus and the sacraments forgiving sins for salvation.
See, this stuff just snowballs and morphs, or to keep with the metaphor Jesus here uses, leavens the whole lump. It turns Christianity into something it was never supposed to be, a religion of law. And the problem is, that whereas I believe there are Christians in all these groups, even as I believe there are Christians among us Lutherans, created by the work of the Holy Spirit creating faith wherever his word is proclaimed and people are baptized in the name of the Triune God, (wherever the Triune God is believed in, there is hope for the gospel to break through the legalism and create faith,) these legalist doctrines have a habit of torturing souls to the point of driving the sheep away. And perhaps the first generation that leaves manages to hold on to a semblance of faith and trust in God, but the next generation goes completely untouched by the gospel, never being brought to church to be baptized by “those hypocrites.” The legalism is false belief that leads to despair, that leads to other great shame and vice, that is if it doesn’t lead straightway to the greater vice and delusion of self righteousness, the belief that you actually are leading a perfect life.
So no, I think I will beware of this false doctrine. I think I will preach against it. I think I will hold it divisive, and if you don’t think the differences are all that great, why don’t you then give up your position and adopt mine, but please don’t belabor me to leave mine with your smug accusations as you refuse to leave your positions. Sometimes, just sometimes when hiking about the woods the distance between two points seem closer from one vantage point, and the trail not so treacherous, but from the other side the reality is shown that the distance is far greater, and the way much more precarious than the other vantage point betrayed at first sight. I contend that the Lutheran vantage point sees the dangers much more clearly than our reformed brethren who would say our differences should not be divisive. We are in fact at an impasse. And for the Lutheran, the only option in dealing with the leaven of the Reformed, or the Arminian, the liberal and the Roman Catholic, is in the words of my mentor Rod Rosenbladt, to stand and shoot in both directions.