1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ~ 20130915 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
09/15 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 Celebrate the Festival; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130915_1cor5_6-8.mp3
6 Οὐ καλὸν τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν. οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι μικρὰ ζύμη ὅλον τὸ φύραμα ζυμοῖ; 7 ἐκκαθάρατε τὴν παλαιὰν ζύμην, ἵνα ἦτε νέον φύραμα, καθώς ἐστε ἄζυμοι. καὶ γὰρ τὸ πάσχα ἡμῶν ἐτύθη Χριστός· 8 ὥστε ἑορτάζωμεν, μὴ ἐν ζύμῃ παλαιᾷ μηδὲ ἐν ζύμῃ κακίας καὶ πονηρίας, ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀζύμοις εἰλικρινείας καὶ ἀληθείας.
1Cor 5 [ESV2011]
5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The church in Corinth had a problem. They had a problem with being puffed up. They had a problem with pride. Paul takes a sharp needle and applies it to their over-inflated balloon in order to bring them back to a humility appropriate to those who are only sinners saved by God's grace through the cross of our Lord Jesus.
6 out of the 7 times that the word 'puffed up' or 'arrogant' appears in the New Testament, it is in 1 Corinthians. In 4:6 he tells them that they need to learn “not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” In 4:18-19 he says that some are arrogant or puffed up, as though I were not coming to you, but he warns that he will come and find out not the talk of these puffed up people, but their power. In verse 2 of this chapter, he says that they are puffed up when they ought rather to be mourning. In chapter 8, he says that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. In chapter 13 he says that love does not envy or boast, and it is not puffed up. They have an over-inflated view of themselves.
He repeatedly addresses boasting in this letter. In chapter 1, he reminds them that God chose to save in such a way “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” He quotes the Scripture “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” He concludes in chapter 3 “so let no one boast in men.” In chapter 4, he asks “what do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” In this passage he starts out by saying “your boasting is not good.” The Corinthians had a problem with pride, with being puffed up, with boasting.
In the first verses of this chapter, he applies the sharp point of glaring evidence to burst their over-inflated balloon. They, who claim to be so wise and strong and spiritual and mature, are tolerating a form of sexual immorality in the church that is not even tolerated among unbelievers. The church of Jesus Christ must have higher standards of morality than the world, not lower.
They are arrogant when they ought to be grieving. Their boasting is not good. They may have been flaunting this immoral person as an example of their so-called freedom in Christ. More likely, they were aware of the issue, but simply chose to look the other way and pretend that this sin did not affect them. They took an individualistic attitude toward spirituality; as if it were every man for himself. They may have even been boasting that they were not like this sinner.
Do You Not Know?
Paul rebukes their pride head on, and asks them an insulting question. This is the second of ten such questions we find in 1 Corinthians. To ask someone who claims to be wise and advanced and super-spiritual 'do you not know?' is a blow to the ego. You think you are so wise; you are self-deceived. Let me bring you back to the basics. There are some really simple things you ought to know, but the evidence of your actions reveals that you are ignorant of these basic truths. Do you not know?
A little leaven leavens the whole lump. This is a proverbial principle. We might say 'one bad apple spoils the whole bunch'. Paul is pointing out the organic unity and interconnectedness of the church body. You all are one lump of dough. Because of our connection with Christ, we are connected with one another. We have been kneaded together through trials into a single indivisible whole. Each piece of dough is organically connected with the whole, and affected by the whole. The sin of one will infect or taint all the rest.
Jesus told his disciples to 'watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees' (Mt.16:6). “They understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt.16:12) “which is hypocrisy” (Lk.12:1).
Leaven in that day was a starter of dough that already contained living organisms which feed on the sugars and release carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is trapped inside the dough which causes the dough to rise or become inflated or puffed up. Once leaven is introduced into a lump of dough, it will quickly permeate the entire batch of dough. A tiny piece of this leavened dough can be broken off and used to leaven other batches of dough. The smallest amount of leaven can affect a huge amount of dough. Leaven in the bible is used as an illustration of sin. Because the body of Christ is bound together in unity, the church cannot claim to be spiritually advanced when evil is tolerated among them. Don't think that because you are not personally involved, you are innocent. There is corporate identity and corporate guilt. That is why Paul does not address the sinner. He addresses the group of believers and calls for them to take action.
Elsewhere he uses the illustration of the church as a body. If one part of the body is infected, the whole body is at risk. Sometimes desperate measures are necessary to curb the spread of the cancer. But you don't go around haphazardly lopping off limbs. That is a last resort when every other kind of healing rescue has failed.
Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread
What Paul has in mind here is the feast of unleavened bread that began with the passover celebration. Listen to God's instructions from Exodus 12.
And Exodus 13.
This was a celebration memorializing what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt. God's people were slaves, cruelly oppressed. God was about to unleash his wrath against all the unbelievers who were mistreating his people and set his people free by a mighty deliverance. A lamb without blemish was to be slaughtered for each household, in place of the firstborn son. Its blood was applied to the door of the house as an indication that those inside were followers of God, obeying his instructions, covered by the blood. All leaven was to be removed from the house, and the passover lamb eaten with a hasty meal of unleavened bread and bitter herbs. There was not to be a trace of puffed up pride, because salvation is completely from the Lord. 'It is because of what the LORD did for me'.
Be Who You Are
Paul instructs the church in Corinth to cleanse out the old leaven. This is the third of four commands to expel the unrepentant sinner from the church; (v.1) let him who has done this be removed from among you, (v.5) deliver this man to Satan, (v.7) cleanse out the old leaven, (v.13) purge the evil from among you. There is sin that is contaminating the purity of the church, and they must deal with it. Remember, this was an ongoing public issue where there was no repentance. Jesus said “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn.8:7). All of us are sinners, forgiven by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must not be quick to cast stones. But when someone is presuming on God's grace and willfully continuing in sin that grace may increase, we are to defend the honor of Christ and the purity of his bride the church.
It is in the middle of this difficult context that we have one of the most beautiful pictures of Jesus. This is an amazing statement. “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Paul is reminding the church in Corinth who they are in Christ. He is admonishing them to be who they are in Christ Jesus. He says 'as you really are unleavened'. There is leaven of a horrific kind in this church, a kind not even tolerated among unbelievers; they are commanded to cleanse out the old leaven. But he says 'as you really are unleavened'. They are not acting in harmony with who they are in Christ. In Christ, they are unleavened. In Christ, their sin is gone, as far as the east is from the west, remembered no more. He began this letter addressing them as “the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1:2). He gives thanks for the faithfulness of God, “who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8). In they eyes of God they are justified, declared righteous, unleavened, sanctified, guiltless, because Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed. In Egypt, the lamb died in place of the son. Its blood covered the family. John saw Jesus and said:
This is the ground, the basis for the command. This is not the goal of the command. It does not say 'cleanse out the old leaven so that you will be worthy of the sacrifice of Christ'. What it does say is 'cleanse out the old leaven because Christ has been sacrificed once for all and you are unleavened'. Be who you already are in Christ. Let your conduct come into harmony with who you are. The Messiah, Jesus, is our passover lamb, our substitute. We are covered by his blood. All who come under the protection of his blood, no matter what they have done, are safe. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”(Acts 16:31).
We often live in an incongruity. Our action does not match our identity. Paul deals with this in Romans 6. In outrage he asks:
With Christ we died to sin. With him we are raised to new life. He goes on with some practical instruction to be who we are:
You are under grace, you are not getting what you deserve, you have been set free from sin, you have been given new life. Now be who you are! The Christian life must be centered around the cross. The life of the church must keep the message of Christ crucified at center stage. Pursue the purity of the church, because Christ our passover has been sacrificed and he has made us pure.
Let Us Feast!
What must our response be to the awesome liberating truth of the Lamb of God who takes away our sin? Feast! Therefore keep on feasting! Celebrate the festival. Go on feasting. As we feast, we are to put aside the old leaven, leaven of badness and depravity. Instead we are to feast in unleavened clarity and transparency, with unleavened truth. We are to feast. The Christian life is to be a feast, a celebration. There are times for mourning and grief, grief over sin and decisive action to put away sin as Paul instructs in this passage, but the Christian life is to be characterized by joy. We are invited to a feast. With what is the table set? Keep in mind that we are talking about the passover. Christ our passover has once for all been sacrificed. We are invited to feast on the Passover Lamb. We are to feast on Jesus, to feed on Jesus, be nourished and strengthened by Jesus, to be sustained by Jesus, to let him meet our every need and satisfy our every longing. With transparency and truth, we are to come to the cross of our Lord Jesus and find in him everything our souls long for.
December 2, 1855, C.H. Spurgeon preached on this passage. He said:
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed; so then, let us feast on him!