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Read Introduction to Galatians


“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”


The problem with false doctrine or teaching is that it has the propensity to spread. It does not take much erroneous doctrine to do its damage. 

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

A little leaven (yeast, for example) kneads the whole lump (of dough). “Leaven” is an agent that produces fermentation. Leaven transforms the substance of something such as sourdough when it is in a high state of fermentation–in making bread, for example. What was once grace is now legalism (Mt 16:6, 12).

Yeast takes time to ferment a substance. It is possible to transform grace so gradually that no one will notice the change. What looked innocent to the Galatians would change the very nature of Christianity.

Paul uses “leaven” here for corrupt doctrine (Matthew 13:33; 16:12). Whenever we mix even a little error with truth, it corrupts truth; it has a permeating power (1 Co 5:6). Even a little legalism corrupts grace. Legalism will contaminate the whole church if its leaders allow it to become invasive in the assembly. False doctrine will permeate like yeast in dough.


A little false doctrine can do great damage to the local church.


It only takes a little false doctrine to ruin a local church. A speck on the telescope will distort the heavens. Benjamin Franklin said, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse the rider was lost; and for want of a rider the battle was lost.” Any teaching that adds to Christ’s work on the cross, no matter how small, does damage to His work of grace. Grace plus any work, no matter how small, is evil leaven.

A little yeast converts the entire dough; the dough never converts the yeast. Yeast works on the principle of fermentation. Legalism ferments a church until it totally corrupts the church. A little legalism destroys all grace. Legalism and grace are mutually exclusive.