“The Mustard Seed and Leaven” (Clarence Larkin)
The Mustard Tree.The Parable of the “Mustard Tree,” and the one that follows it, the “Leaven,” both begin with the phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto,” and therefore their teaching should not contradict the teaching of the Parable of the “Wheat and Tares.” The same is true of all the “Kingdom of Heaven” parables. Yet these two parables have both been used to teach the “expansion of the Church” until it shall be universal in its supremacy.
We repeat again that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not the Church, but Christendom. Yet for clearness sake we will let the “Mustard Tree” represent the “visible” Church, composed of all churches called Christian.
Of these two Parables the “Mustard Tree” represents the “external” growth and condition of the visible Church and the “Leaven” the “internal” development.
The “Mustard Plant” is a “garden herb,” and is cultivated for its seed, used as a condiment. It grows wild, often to the height of seven or eight feet. To obtain the best results it should be cultivated in a garden. In the Parable we find the seed sown in a “Field,” (the World), not in a garden, and it grows “wild” until it is no longer called an “herb” but a “tree.” The seed does not produce, after its kind,”an humble “herb”, but becomes a vain glorious Tree, a “Monstrosity,” in which the “Birds of the Air” Lodge.
Who are these “birds?” They are the “fowls” of the Parable of the Sower, for the same word is used, and are therefore the agents of the “Wicked One,” the Devil. (Matt. 13:4,19)
It is clear then that the “birds” in this parable do not represent persons converted by the preaching of the Gospel, but the emissaries of Satan, and they do not lodge in the branches of the “Tree” so much for shelter as for worldly advantage, and they “befoul” it by their presence.
According to this Parable the “Kingdom of Heaven” is a Vast Worldly System, rooted in the earth, bearing the name of Christ, possessed of wealth, standing, and power, but sheltering the agents of the “Ruler of the Darkness of This Age.”
Such we know is the condition of the visible Church today. Where is the picture of “pure” Christianity spreading through the world until the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the deep, thus ushering in a Millennium, in this Parable? In fact,it teaches the contrary and is proof of Jesus’ own declaration that when He shall come back He shall Not Find ‘THE FAITH’ on the Earth. (Luke 18:8)
The common interpretation of the Parable of the “Leaven” (Matt. 13:33), is, that the “woman” represents the Church, the “leaven”, the Gospel, and the “three measures of meal”, Humanity; and that the “Leaven of the Gospel” is to be so introduced by the Church into the “Meal of Humanity” that the whole world will be converted to Christ.
But the “Leaven” cannot mean the “Gospel,” Leaven in the Scriptures is the Symbol of Evil.
It is a species of corruption produced by fermentation, and tends to putrefaction, and will “corrupt” everything with which it comes in contact. The Children of Israel were commanded to put it out of their houses at the time of the “Passover” on penalty of “excommunication.” Ex. 12:15. It must not come in contact with any sacrifice. (Ex. 34:25; Lev. 2:11; 10:12)
Three times Christ uses the word “Leaven” beside here in this Parable. He speaks of the “Leaven of the Pharisees,” the “Leaven of the Sadducees” and the “Leaven of Herod.” (Matt. 16:6-12; Mark 8:15) He calls the “Leaven” of the Pharisees and Sadducees “false doctrine.” The “False Doctrine” of the Pharisees was “Legalism,” the “form of godliness without the power.” The “False Doctrine” of the Sadducees was “Scepticism,” the denial of the resurrection of the body, saying there was neither angel or spirit. The “False Doctrine” of Herod was “Materialism,” a mixture of religion and worldliness.
Christ never used the word “leaven” except in an “evil” sense.
It is used in the same way by the Apostle Paul. Writing to the Corinthians he said “Purge out therefore the ‘old leaven’ that ye may be a ‘new lump.”‘ 1 Cor. 5:6-8. In the same passage he calls Leaven “malice and wickedness,” as contrasted with “sincerity and truth.” Writing to the Corinthians and Galatians about “evil practices,” he warns them that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9)
If by “leaven” is meant the Gospel we have a queer contradiction for the Gospel does not work like leaven. Leaven when put in meal works by “itself,” and if left “alone” will leaven the whole batch of dough. But this is not the way the Gospel works; if it were, every village, town, city and country where the Gospel has once been implanted, should by this time be so thoroughly “leavened” as to be now completely Christian, but this we know is not true. The Gospel as far as converting the world is concerned is a failure.