Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Galatians 5:9

A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.
New American Standard Version

Adam Clarke Commentary

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump - A proverbial expression, see 1 Corinthians 5:6, very aptly applied to those who receive the smallest tincture of false doctrine, relative to the things essential to salvation, which soon influences the whole conduct, so that the man becomes totally perverted. They might have argued, "It is a small thing, and should not be made a subject of serious controversy, whether we be circumcised or not." Granted, that in itself it is a small matter; but, as every man who is circumcised is a debtor to do the whole law, Galatians 5:3, then your circumcision leads necessarily to your total perversion; as the little portion of leaven, mixed with the batch, soon leavens the whole lump.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/galatians-5.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A little leaven … - This is evidently a proverbial expression; see it explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 5:6. Its meaning here is, that the embracing of the errors which they had adopted was to be traced to some influence existing among themselves, and acting like leaven. It may either mean that there was existing among them from the first a slight tendency to conform to rites and customs, and that this had now like leaven pervaded the mass; or it may mean that the false teachers there might be compared to leaven, whose doctrines, though they were few in number, had pervaded the mass of Christians; or it may mean, as many have supposed, that any conformity to the Jewish law was like leaven. If they practiced circumcision, it would not stop there. The tendency to conform to Jewish rites would spread from that until it would infect all the doctrines of religion, and they would fall into the observance of all the rites of the Jewish law. It seems to me that the second interpretation referred to above is the correct one; and that the apostle means to say, that the influence which had brought this change about was at first small and unimportant; that there might have been but a few teachers of that kind, and it might have not been deemed worthy of particular attention or alarm; but that the doctrines thus infused into the churches, had spread like leaven, until the whole mass had become affected.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/galatians-5.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Galatians 5:9

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Leaven as a symbol of evil

I. Leaven corrupts: evil corrupts.

II. Leaven infects: evil infects.

III. Leaves is subtle and secret in its movements: So is evil. It is a virus whose antecedents and consequents it is impossible to trace.

IV. Leaven is not restricted to one mode of reaching the mass upon which it superinduces its own chemical conditions. It may be inserted by the hand of another, or it may be wafted by a breeze, and fall by its own gravity. So evil works--

1. Through systems and organizations.

So now there is the leaven of--

2. Through the Zeit-Geist, the spirit of the age.

IV. The resultant duties.

1. Indignation. To prevent fermentation, the chemist passes the air which contains the sporules through a hot platinum tube, which destroys the germs. A mild apologetic mood will not do for evil.

2. Separation. Living organisms will not grow energetically until brought in contact with substances having an affinity with them. So evil must be “cut off” by caution.

V. The chief instrument in the war against evil is the Cross of Christ. (J. Clifford, D. D.)

The power of example

Just as the leaven, by its mere presence, changes the particles of meal in which it is hid, so does each human being, by his mere presence, affect for good or evil those with whom he associates. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Scripture use of leaven

I suppose we are most of us rather surprised that “leaven” is generally used in a bad sense in Holy Scripture. Not, indeed, always; because the kingdom of heaven itself is likened to leaven; but generally. In the New Testament leaven is mentioned on five distinct occasions, and on four of these as a type of something very evil, as a symbol of a thoroughly mischievous activity. In the Old Testament, the prohibition of leaven in all the offerings made to God occurs to us at once. It must, however, be allowed that this prohibition has two distinct origins, the one of which (and the earlier and most important) is purely historical, and carries with it no notion of good or evil. The total avoidance of leaven during the annual solemnity of the Passover, although it afterwards acquired a moral significance, was simply ordained in memory of their hasty flight from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-51.). The other prohibition, however, is of a moral and typical character: the exclusion of leaven from the sacrifices of God distinctly gave a moral character and meaning to its absence (Leviticus 2:11) Now let us ask what leaven is, and whether there is anything in its own nature to explain the evil significance which Holy Scripture has attached to it. Leaven, then, is simply so much dough in a state of fermentation. When the last “lump” had been leavened, and was ready for baking, a portion was set aside to act as leaven for the next “lump.” Now the process of fermentation is one of the most curious, and (until lately) most obscure among the commoner operations of nature. It is now known to be due to the rapid--often inconceivably rapid--development of vegetable (fungoid) growth, which has the power of disengaging a quantity of free acid, and of changing the chemical character of the substance on which it acts. It is believed that most, if not all, contagious diseases are due to fermentation imported into the blood; and the terrible danger of these diseases is only a striking proof of the extreme facility with which fermentation spreads. This is, indeed, its one great characteristic--a characteristic which governs at once many of the most ordinary and useful operations of life, and many of its most deadly and widespread evils. Fermentation may, indeed, be conveyed by one substance into another, as in the common case of dough “raised” by means of yeast. But the ordinary and typical method is that of leaven, which is itself fermented dough, introduced into the midst of other unfermented dough. The invariable consequence is, that the fermented portion has the power of superinducing its own chemical condition upon the mass with which it is placed in contact: being itself in a state of violent chemical change, it has the power of setting on the same change all around it; nor will this action cease until that of which it is a part has entirely succumbed to its influence. But this change is, in its entirety, a change for the worst: it may, indeed, be checked (as in bread by baking, in wine by adding spirit, or by other means); but unless stopped at an early stage it is hurtful; and when it cannot be checked, as in decaying substances and in fatal diseases, it is simply destructive. Thus fermentation does, as it were, spring from evil and end in evil; it originates in that which is corrupt and hastening towards dissolution, and it ever tends to reproduce the same. Only when carefully watched, and mastered, and held in check, does it lend itself to real usefulness. And even so it retains some reminder of its evil origin. Yeast may be tasteless and harmless enough; but leaven is fermented, i.e., “sour,” dough, and always imparts a certain sourness to the bread which is made with it. It is in the nature of all complex organic substances to be subject to a destructive fermentation; they are only kept from it, only preserve their delicate chemical balance, by the principle of life (whatever it may be) within them The very law of leaven and its power stands in the fact of like to like; and even so false teaching can only act with rapidity and certainty when it comes to minds disposed to receive it--when it jumps, i.e., with the popular errors and exaggerations of the day. But with moral evil it is different, because that evil is always in us more or less, and therefore the leaven always finds something apt to work on if it be admitted. There is in most of us, at any rate, a large body of imaginations which are ready to swell, to work, to become turbid, to disengage a quantity of evil temper and evil feeling, and to ruin the proper sweetness and savour of our Christianity, if once we have opened our hearts to the contagion of malice and wickedness. In 1 Corinthians

5. St. Paul passes, by an easy transition, from the natural to the historical associations of leaven. As sedulously as all ferment was banished from the houses of the Israelites, so sedulously should the moral ferment be banished from the hearts of Christians. (R. Winterbotham, B. Sc.)

Infectious nature of evil

The least particle of evil infects; a single spark kindles a forest. Away with it! But O ye careless! is it a small thing to you, to be corrupted through idle talk and accompanyings, through poison of lies against Christ? (Hedinger.)

The lost hammer

A relief lifeboat was built at New London thirteen years ago. While the workmen were busy over it, one man lost his hammer. Whether he knew it or not, it was nailed up in the bottom of the boat. Perhaps if he found it out, he thought the only harm done was the loss of one hammer. The boat was put to service, and every time it rocked on the waves that hammer was tossed to and fro. Little by little it wore for itself a track, until it had worn through planking and keel, down to the very copper plating, before it was found out. Only that plate of copper kept the vessel from sinking. It seemed a very little thing in the start, but see what mischief it wrought. So with a little sin in the heart. It may break through all the restraints that surround us, and but for God’s great mercy, sink our souls in endless ruin. A few evil words in a child’s ear have rung in his soul for twenty years, and brought untold harm. It is the sir hidden in the heart that we should most fear. There are none who do not need to pray, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.”

Little faults

The least unfaithfulness may bring a curse upon us, as the foot of the chamois on the snowy mountains, or the breath of a traveller who sings or shouts on his snowy road, may cause an avalanche which shall entomb the village now full of life and gaiety at the mountain’s base.

“It is the little rift within the lute,

That by-and-by will make the music mute,

And, ever widening, slowly silence all:

The little rift within the lover’s lute,

Or little pitted speck in garnered fruit,

That rotting inwards slowly moulders all.”

One wilful sin enough to ruin

The effect of one wilfully committed vicious action on the inner life of a man may be like the effect produced by allowing a single drop of ink to fall into a glass of pure water, which surely, though perhaps imperceptibly, permeates and contaminates the whole.

Danger of little sins

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; a little staff may kill one; a little leak in a ship sinks it; a little flaw in a good cause mars it--so a little sin may at once bar the door of heaven and open the gates of hell: though the scorpion he little, yet it will sting a lion to death: and so will the least sin, if not pardoned by the death of Christ. (T. Brooks.)

You need not break the glasses of a telescope, or coat them over with paint, in order to prevent you from seeing through them. Just breathe upon them, and the dew of your breath will shut out all the stars. So it does not require great crimes to hide the light of God’s countenance. Little faults can do iV just as well. (H. W. Beecher.)

Believe it, these little sins do arm God’s terrible power and vengeance against you: and as a page may carry the sword of a great warrior after him, so your little sins do, as it were, bear the sword of God’s justice, and put it into His hands against you. (Bishop Hopkins.)

A company was walking in Sudbrook Park, when Dr. Ellis drew attention to a large sycamore tree decayed to the core. “That fine tree,” said he, was killed by a single worm. Two years previously, the tree was as healthy as any in the park, when a woodworm, about three inches long, was observed to be forcing its way under the bark Of the trunk. It then caught the eye of a naturalist who was staying there; and he remarked, “.Let that worm alone, and it will kill the tree.” This seemed very improbable; but it was agreed that the black-headed worm should not be disturbed after a time it was discovered that the worm had tunnelled its way a considerable distance under the bark. The leaves, next summer, dropped off very early; and, in the succeeding year, it was a dead, rotten thing, and the hole made by the worm might be seen in the heart of the once noble trunk.” “Ah,” said one who was present, “let us learn a lesson from that single tree. How many who once promised fair for usefulness in the world and the Church have been ruined by a single sin!”

Little sins lead to greater

It is Satan’s custom by small sins to draw us to greater, as the little sticks set the great ones on fire, and a wisp of straw enkindles a block of wood. (T. Manton, D. D.)

A spark is the beginning of a flame, and a small disease may bring a greater. (R. Baxter.)

Sin encroacheth by degrees upon the soul

; if it can get but one of its claws into us, it will quickly follow with its head and whole body. Unfaithfulness to God is first discovered in the smallest matters, then it proceeds to greater things. As the decay of a tree is first visible in its twigs, but by degrees it goeth on the bigger arms, and from them to the main body. As it is the nature of a cancer or gangrene to run from one joint or part of the body to another, from the toe to the foot, from the foot to the leg, from the leg to the thigh, and thence to the vital parts. Do we not sometimes see a whole arm imposthumated with the prick of a little finger; and have we not sometimes heard of a great city betrayed by the opening of a little postern? These little sins will grow to great ones if let alone. Time will turn small dust into stone. The poisonous cockatrice at first was but an egg. Small twigs will prove thorny bushes if not timely stubbed up. (G. Swinnock.)

Deteriorating influence of little sins

The little transgressions in which men indulge, though they have no power upon the settled course of human affairs, even if they are swept out into a current of public sentiment that carries them down, as leaves are carried by the Amazon, are not harmless nor indifferent, because, aside from the influence of minor delinquencies upon the sum of affairs outwardly, there is another history and record, namely, their influence upon the actor. They deteriorate conscience. You can by a blow crush and destroy the conscience, or you can nibble and gnaw it to pieces. There is one way in which a lion strikes down his prey, and there is another way in which a rat comes at his prey; and in time the gnawing of vermin is as fatal to beauty and life itself as the stroke of the lion’s paw. These little infidelities to duty, truth, rectitude, lower the moral tone, limit its range, destroy its sensibility; in short, they put out its light. It is recorded of a lighthouse erected on a tropical shore, that it was like to have failed for the most unlooked-for reason. When first kindled, the brilliant light drew about it such clouds of insects, which populate the evening and night of equatorial lands, that they covered and fairly darkened the glass. There was a noble light that shone out into the darkness and vanquished night, that all the winds could not disturb, nor all the clouds and storms hide; but the soft wings and gauzy bodies of myriads of insects, each one of which was insignificant, effectually veiled the light, and came near defeating the proposed gift to mariners. And so it is in respect to conscience. There may be a power in it to resist great assault, to overcome strong temptations, and to avoid fearful dangers; but there may be a million little venomous insect habits, unimportant in themselves, taken individually, but fearful in their results collectively. (H. W. Beecher.)

Insidiousness of little sins

Men, in their property, are afraid of conflagrations and lightning strokes; but if they were building a wharf in Panama, a million madrepores, so small that only the microscope could detect them, would begin to bore the piles down under the water. There would be neither noise nor foam; but in a little while, if a child did but touch the post, over it would fall as if a saw had cut it through. Now men think, with regard to their conduct, that if they were to lift themselves up gigantically and commit some crashing sin, they should never he able to hold up their heads; but they will harbour in their souls little sins, which are piercing and eating them away to inevitable ruin. (H. W. Beecher.)

The bad leaven; or, the contagion of sin

There is a thing active, “leaven;” a thing factive, “soureth;” a thing passive, “the lump.”

I. But because the whole speech is allegorical, let us first open the metaphor with the key of proper analogy,

1. First, taking leaven for false doctrine, so we find in the New Testament four sorts of leavens: Matthew 16:6, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees; “ there be two of them, the Pharisaical and the Sadducean leavens. Mark 8:15, “Beware of the leaven of Herod;” there is the third. The fourth is my text, the leaven of mingling Mosaical ordinances with Christ’s institutions.

2. Now to the second way of considering these words, taking leaven personally for leaveners, false teachers, indeed heretics.

3. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Now let us resolve this allegory another way, and conceive by leaven, sin; by lump, man; by leavening, infection. In effect, a little sin makes the whole man, in body and soul, unsavoury to the Lord. Sin and leaven are fitly compared for their sourness. There is a leaven sharp and sour, but sanative. But this leaven is far sourer, yet hath nothing but death in it. It is soar to God, sour to angels, sour to saints, sour to the sinner. Sin is sourer than any leaven.

II. The allegory thus opened, the special treasure or instruction remains yet to be drawn out. We perceive what the leaven signifies, and what the lump. Now we must consider the relation betwixt a little leaven, and the whole lump. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” A little sin infecteth a great deal of righteousness. “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). And upon good reason; for there is a universal corruption, therefore should be a universal sanctification. In that young man that professed himself to have kept the commandments, and Christ began to love him, yet there was a little leaven spoiled all--covetousness. In Herod, though he heard many sermons of John’s preached gladly (and it is some good thing to hear sermons with joy), yet the leaven of Herodias marred all.

1. Even the least offence is mortal in its own nature, capable of transgression, and liable to malediction.

2. Sins less heinous, are the most numerous. Many littles make a mickle. Small drops of rain commonly cause the greatest floods. The less violence, the longer continuance. The drizzling sleet, that falls as it were in a mist, fills the channels, they swell the rivers, the overcharged rivers send forth their superfluous waters over the containing banks; now the meadows are polluted, the corn-fields spoiled, the cattle drowned; yea, even houses, and towns, and inhabitants are endangered, and firm continents buried under a deluge of waters. Many little sands, gathered to a heap, fail not to swallow a great vessel. You have eagles, hawks, kites, and such great fowls of rapine, flying always alone; but the sparrows and pigeons, that devour the grain, by innumerable troops. A pace is but a little space of ground; yet a thousand paces make a mile, and many miles bring to hell. If they be not the worst, they are the most; and is it not all to one purpose whether one Goliath or a thousand Philistines overcome thee? The bird brings so many little straws as make up her nest: the reprobate so many little sticks as make up his own burning pile. Augustine saith there is in sin both weight and number. Judge them by tale, and not by weight. Put a wanton speech, a loose gesture into the balance, though Christ found it heavy, and every soul shall for whom he did not bear it, yet it is censured, a little faulting, a little failing: so little, that were it less, it were nothing.

3. These little sins are not so easily felt, therefore most pernicious. If a man hath dyed his hand in blood, a peaceless conscience haunts him with incessant vexation: let him hate his brother, this little murder he feels not. The devil, like a roaring lion, is soon heard: forming himself to a fox, his insinuation is not perceived. Doubtless there be some that would shudder at the temptation to perjury; yet, by insensible steps they arrive at it: by lying they come to swearing, by swearing to forswearing.

4. Little sins are the materials of great sins. The seeds of all sins are naturally in us: not so much as treason, homicide, perjury, but there is in our nature a proclivity to them. Sin seems at first like a little cloud, but it prognosticates a deluge of ensuing wickedness.

5. A little sin infects a great deal of righteousness. The leprosy infected the garments, and the very walls of the house; but sin hath infected wood, and wool, and walls, earth, air, beasts, plants, and planets; and stuck a scar on the crystal brow of nature itself: “For we know the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). If the great world groan for man’s sin, shall not the little world, man, groan for his own sin? When one commended Alexander for his noble acts and famous achievements, another objected against him that he killed Callisthenes. He was valiant and successful in the wars; true, but he killed Callisthenes. He overcame the great Darius; so, but he killed Callisthenes. He made himself master of the world; grant it, but still he killed Callisthenes. His meaning was, that this one unjust fact poisoned all his valorous deeds. Beware of sin, which may thus leaven the whole lump of our soul. Indeed we must all sin, and every sin sours; but to the faithful and repentent Christian it shall not be damnable: “There is no damnation to them that are in Jesus Christ,” (Romans 8:1). There is in all corruption, to most affliction, to none damnation, that are in Christ. Our leaven hath soured us, but we are made sweet again by the all-perfuming blood of our blessed Saviour.

6. The least sins are the most fatal to men’s destruction. There is death in it and for it. A dram of poison diffuseth itself to all parts, till it strangle the vital spirits, and turn out the soul from the tenement. (T. Adams.)

A little leaven

It is needful to remember what leaven represented under the Mosaic ritual. It typified the unrenewed degenerate nature. Though its component ingredients were the same as sweet dough, through fermentation it was liable to corruption and acidity. Thus it is opposed to the oil of the meat offering which symbolized the Spirit of God. In the latter case the meal was made palatable by a mild and penetrating process, while leaven caused a fermenting disturbance of the mass. (Kurtz.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Galatians 5:9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/galatians-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

It is believed here that Dummelow read this correctly as meaning "that only a few of the Galatian converts were affected by the false teachings."[11] The danger of the situation, however, was not to be judged by the small size of the defecting group. As Lipscomb said: "Just as one plague-infected person may bring devastation to a city, so may one teacher of doctrine subversive of the gospel corrupt a whole community of believers."[12]

[11] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 956.

[12] David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Galatians (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, n.d.), p. 260.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/galatians-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. A proverbial expression pretty much in use with the Jews; see 1 Corinthians 5:6, respecting either persons or things; and is in answer to, or prevents an objection that might be made, or something that might be said, in favour of these churches; that their case was not so bad, or the danger they were in so great, as was represented by the apostle; since they were only a few persons that propagated this notion, and but few that received it, at least thoroughly gave into it; and that, if it was an error, it was but a small one, and only regarded a single ritual, or a few rituals of the law; to which the apostle replies, by supposing, but not granting this to be the case, since they were pretty generally declined, and the error was not a slight one, that as a little sour leaven influences and ferments a large mass, or lump of dough, and makes it of the same nature with it, so a small error in doctrine, as it may be thought to be, increases to more ungodliness, and eats as doth a canker; and though a few hands may be first concerned in propagating it, and but few be infected with it, yet these may soon spread the contagion through the whole society: wherefore errors and false teachers should be nipped in the bud, and stopped in their beginnings, how inconsiderable soever they and their tenets may be judged to be.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/galatians-5.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

8 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

(8) He adds this, that he may not seem to contend upon a trifle, warning them diligently (by a metaphor which he borrows of leaven, as Christ himself also did) not to allow the purity of the apostolic doctrine to be infected with the least corruption at all.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/galatians-5.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

A little leaven — the false teaching of the Judaizers. A small portion of legalism, if it be mixed with the Gospel, corrupts its purity. To add legal ordinances and works in the least degree to justification by faith, is to undermine “the whole.” So “leaven” is used of false doctrine (Matthew 16:12: compare Matthew 13:33). In 1 Corinthians 5:6 it means the corrupting influence of one bad person; so Bengel understands it here to refer to the person (Galatians 5:7, Galatians 5:8, Galatians 5:10) who misled them. Ecclesiastes 9:18, “One sinner destroyeth much good” (1 Corinthians 15:33). I prefer to refer it to false doctrine, answering to “persuasion” (Galatians 5:8).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/galatians-5.html. 1871-8.

Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Paul's concern for them meant nothing to some of the Galatians. Many had disowned him as their teacher and gone over to the false apostles. No doubt the false apostles took every occasion to defame Paul as a stubborn and contemptuous fellow who thought nothing of disrupting the unity of the churches for no other reason than his selfish pride and jealousy.

Others of the Galatians perhaps saw no harm in deviating a trifle from the doctrine of justification and faith. When they noticed that Paul made so much ado about a matter that seemed of no particular importance to them they raised their eyebrows and thought within themselves: "What if we did deviate a little from the doctrine of Paul? What if we are a little to blame? He ought to overlook the whole matter, and not make such an issue out of it, lest the unity of the churches be disturbed." To this Paul replies: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

Our opponents record the same complaints about us. They put us down as contentious, ill-tempered faultfinders. But these are the crafty passes of the devil, with which he seeks to overthrow our faith. We answer with Paul: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

Small faults grow into big faults. To tolerate a trifling error inevitably leads to crass heresy. The doctrine of the Bible is not ours to take or to allow liberties with. We have no right to change even a tittle of it. When it comes to life we are ready to do, to suffer, to forgive anything our opponents demand as long as faith and doctrine remain pure and uncorrupt. The Apostle James says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." This passage supports us over against our critics who claim that we disregard all charity to the great injury of the churches. We protest we desire nothing more than peace with all men. If they would only permit us to keep our doctrine of faith! The pure doctrine takes precedence before charity, apostles, or an angel from heaven.

Let others praise charity and concord to the skies; we magnify the authority of the Word and faith. Charity may be neglected at times without peril, but not the Word and faith. Charity suffers all things, it gives in. Faith suffers nothing; it never yields. Charity is often deceived but is never put out because it has nothing to lose; it continues to do well even to the ungrateful. When it comes to faith and salvation in the midst of lies and errors that parade as truth and deceive many, charity has no voice or vote. Let us not be influenced by the popular cry for charity and unity. If we do not love God and His Word what difference does it make if we love anything at all?

Paul, therefore, admonishes both teachers and hearers not to esteem lightly the doctrine of faith as if it were a toy with which to amuse oneself in idle hours.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website
Bibliographical Information
Luther, Martin. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/mlg/galatians-5.html. Zondervan. Gand Rapids, MI. 1939.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

This proverb Paul has in 1 Corinthians 5:6. It is merely the pervasive power of leaven that is involved in the proverb as in Matthew 13:33, not the use of leaven as a symbol of evil.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/galatians-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

A little leaven ( μικρὰ ζύμη )

A proverbial warning, which appears also 1 Corinthians 5:6. It refers, not to the doctrine of the false teachers, but to the false teachers themselves. Comp. Mark 8:15. With the single exception of the parable, Matthew 13:33, leaven, in Scripture, is always a symbol of evil. Comp. Exodus 12:15, Exodus 12:19; Exodus 13:3, Exodus 13:7; Exodus 23:18; Leviticus 2:11; Deuteronomy 16:3. This, however, is no warrant for the nonsense which has been deduced from it, as that Jesus' parable of the leaven contains a prophecy of the corruption of Christianity. Because leaven in Scripture is habitually the type of corruption, we are “none the less free to use it in a good sense as Christ did. One figure need not always stand for one and the same thing. The devil is 'a roaring lion,' but Christ is also 'the lion of the tribe of Judah'” (Trench). It is an apt figure of secret, pervading energy, whether bad or good. A new interest is given to the figure by Pasteur's discovery that fermentation is a necessary consequence of the activity and growth of living organisms. A very few of these Judaising intruders are sufficient to corrupt the whole church.

Lump ( φύραμα )

PoSee on Romans 9:21.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/galatians-5.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump — One troubler, verse10, troubles all.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/galatians-5.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

A little leaven, &c.; that is, the error had arisen from the influence of a small number, though it had spread extensively among them.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/galatians-5.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Малая закваска. Я отношу это к учению, а не к людям. Ибо апостол увещевает, сколь опасно искажать божественное учение, дабы галаты не сочли эту опасность слишком малозначащей. Ведь сатана, проникнув в Церковь, не отвергает учения открыто, но искажает его чистоту ложными и чуждыми мнениями. Многие же, не замечая тяжесть подобного зла, сопротивляются ему не столь упорно. Поэтому здесь апостол открыто заявляет: после повреждения божественной истины у нас ничего не остается. Он пользуется при этом сравнением с закваской, которая, будучи небольшой по размеру, сообщает свои свойства всей заквашенной массе. Итак, следует остерегаться примышлять что-либо к чистоте Евангелия.

 

 

 

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/galatians-5.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Ver. 9. A little leaven] viz. Of false doctrine, Matthew 16:6. {See Trapp on "Matthew 16:6"}

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/galatians-5.html. 1865-1868.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Galatians 5:9. ΄ικρὰ ζύμη, a little leaven) One turbulent person, Galatians 5:10. [One wicked man destroys much good, Ecclesiastes 9:18. The malice, cunning, or violence of a single person, often produces immense injury.—V. g.]

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/galatians-5.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

This is a proverbial expression, which (as others of that nature) is applicable in more cases than one. The apostle made use of it, 1 Corinthians 5:6, to persuade that church to purge their communion, by casting out the incestuous person: he maketh use of it here to persuade them to take heed of admitting any principles of false doctrine, which he compareth to leaven, (as our Saviour does, Matthew 16:6,12), and that very fitly, both in regard of the sour and of the diffusive nature of it; the latter of which is here chiefly intended; the truths of God having such dependence one upon another, that he who erreth in any one doctrine of faith, seldom continueth long sound as to other points.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/galatians-5.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

закваска Обычное, не требующее доказательств выражение (ср. 1Кор. 5:6), в котором говорится о действии дрожжей в тесте. По причине ее проникающей силы, закваска в Писании часто означает грех (Мф. 16:6, 12).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/galatians-5.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

A little leaven; error introduced by a few false teachers.

Leaveneth the whole lump; corrupts the whole body of the church. As error begun in a church tends to increase and to corrupt the whole, it should be renounced and abandoned as soon as discovered; and all should watch and be on their guard against the beginning of evil.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Family Bible New Testament". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/galatians-5.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians

Galatians 5:9. ΄ικρὰ ζύμη ὅλον τὸ φύραμα ζυμοῖ—“A little leaven the whole lump leaveneth.” This is a proverbial saying, delivered here as a warning. Matthew 13:33; Matthew 16:11; Mark 8:15; Luke 13:21; 1 Corinthians 5:6. The figure-applied in a bad sense, save in Matthew 13:33, Luke 13:21 -may refer either to the false teachers or to their doctrine. Luther, Chrysostom, Calvin, a Lapide, Matthies, and Meyer refer it to the latter. The meaning in that case is, that the introduction of minute error has a tendency to corrupt the whole mass of truth. Alford differently—“corrupts the whole mass of Christians,” taking ζύμη in the abstract and φύραμα in the concrete. It refers to persons, Romans 11:16, and here the Judaists are in the apostle's mind. True indeed, as Meyer says, the apostle nowhere lays stress on their number; yet the following ὁ ταράσσων might seem to indicate that the Judaists were not many. The question is, Who hindered you? and the assertion that the hindrance was occasioned by the πεισμονή refers to the teachers; so that the proverb may mean, that though like leaven they may appear small in comparison with the lump, yet by assiduity and influence they may and will infect and debase the entire society- ὅλον being emphatic. Such is the better view, as being more in harmony with the context. Theophylact refers the little leaven to circumcision- μία οὖσα ἐντολή; but that can scarcely be the apostle's reference: it is the doctrine connected with it which he has chiefly in view.

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Eadie, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/jec/galatians-5.html.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘A little leaven leavens the whole lump.’

They must therefore beware. For a small amount of yeast will spread through and affect the whole lump of pastry. So also will a small amount of false teaching affect a large number so that in the end all are affected. Or it can enter the individual mind and gradually possess it until that person is totally affected. Compare 1 Corinthians 5:6. Here he is stressing the danger that, when something like legalism begins to get a toehold, it is not long before it takes control of the whole. It spreads like yeast throughout the whole mixture. He might also be meaning that it only takes one man with false ideas to come in and then it can infect the group, and soon the whole group is led astray.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/galatians-5.html. 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Galatians 5:9. A little leaven loaveneth the whole lump. A proverbial expression for the all-pervading influence of a good or bad principle. Here used in a bad sense, as 1 Corinthians 5:6 and Mark 8:15, and often by rabbinical writers. The Judaizing doctrine of the necessity of circumcision poisons the whole system of Christian doctrine and practice. Others less aptly apply it to the persons of the false teachers who corrupt the mass of the people. In a good sense the figure of the leaven is used of the kingdom of heaven which penetrates all the faculties and powers of man and of society. Matthew 13:32; Luke 13:21.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/galatians-5.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Galatians 5:9. Leaven became a type of moral and spiritual corruption in virtue of the fermentation it engenders. A very small lump might readily form a centre of widespread corruption; so stringent precautions were adopted in Jewish households for the removal of every particle before the days of unleavened bread. Hence the origin of the proverb quoted here and in 1 Corinthians 5:6. It is clear that the taint of heresy had not yet spread widely through the Galatian Churches: it was more its insidious nature than its actual extent that alarmed the Apostle.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/galatians-5.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

A little, &c. This proverb is quoted 1 Corinthians 5:6.

lump. Greek. phurama. See Romans 9:21.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/galatians-5.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. A little leaven - the false teaching of the Judaizers. A little legalism, mixed with the Gospel, corrupts its purity. To add ordinances and works in the least degree to justification by faith, is to undermine 'the whole.' So "leaven," false doctrines (Matthew 16:12; cf. Matthew 13:33). In 1 Corinthians 5:6 it means the corrupting influence of one bad person; so Bengel refers it here to the person (Galatians 5:7-8; Galatians 5:10) who misled them (Ecclesiastes 9:18; 1 Corinthians 15:33). False doctrine answers better to "persuasion" (Galatians 5:8).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/galatians-5.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(9) A little leaven . . .—A pregnant expression, which leaves a good deal to the reader to supply. The proverb is true which says that a little leaven leavens the whole mass of dough. And so, in your case, the malcontents may be few, but they will soon ruin the whole Church. It seems decidedly more in accordance with the context to take the “little leaven” as referring rather to a few seceders than to a little bad doctrine.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/galatians-5.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Matthew 23:33; 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 13:21; 1 Corinthians 5:6,7; 15:33; 2 Timothy 2:17
Reciprocal: Exodus 12:8 - unleavened;  Leviticus 2:11 - no leaven;  Matthew 13:33 - like

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/galatians-5.html.

Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Oh, how true and oh how sad to see pastors allowing a person to teach false doctrine in their church.

We decided to try a little church we had knowledge of - the pastor was from a good school so we went to Sunday school. Much to my surprise the teacher was implying that there could be errors in the Scriptures. He suggested that a certain passage might be wrong. Then one of the class seemed to be in agreement with the teacher and by the end of the class it was clear that the entire class had a very low view of inerrancy and of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures.

I was sure that the pastor could not agree to their view of things but decided maybe I"d better check. I called and asked about the class. He told me that the class was a split off from another church that felt comfortable in his church so they had their little class and attended the church.

How ridiculous to allow wolves to have free access to the sheep. Had we been an immature couple in the Lord that wandered into that class we could have received serious false doctrine.

Oh, how dangerous to allow wolves to teach the sheep. When false doctrine is found it must be rooted out for the sake of the sheep and the prosperity of Christ"s church.

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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/sdn/galatians-5.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9.A little leaven—St. Paul now hints from what quarter this Judaistic persuasion comes. It seems to have been derived from a single person, (who, Galatians 5:7; he, Galatians 5:10,) aided by a small party at first, (they, Galatians 5:12,) who produced the trouble. This is so obvious that we wonder that the great body of commentators refer the leaven to circumcision, on the ground that circumcision, though a little matter, would infect their whole religious state.

Leaven—See note on 1 Corinthians 5:6.

The whole lump—Small in numbers as was the party originating the Judaistic schism in the Galatian Church, it was in danger of converting the whole body, as leaven impregnates the whole loaf.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/galatians-5.html. 1874-1909.

The Bible Study New Testament

9. It takes only a little yeast. “The errors of one teacher are enough to turn a whole church away from the truth!!!”

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/galatians-5.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

9.A little leaven. This refers, I think, to doctrine, not to men. It guards them against the mischievous consequences which arise from corruption of doctrine, and warns them not to consider it, as is commonly done, to be a matter attended by little or no danger. Satan’s stratagem is, that he does not attempt an avowed destruction of the whole gospel, but he taints its purity by introducing false and corrupt opinions. Many persons are thus led to overlook the seriousness of the injury done, and therefore make a less determined resistance. The apostle proclaims aloud that, after the truth of God has been corrupted, we are no longer safe. He employs the metaphor of leaven, which, however small in quantity, communicates its sourness to the whole mass. We must exercise the utmost caution lest we allow any counterfeit to be substituted for the pure doctrine of the gospel.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/galatians-5.html. 1840-57.