“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6–8, AV)
Both my grandmother and my dad died of colon cancer, my dad at a relatively young age. Because of this, when I turned 40, I began screening for this about every five years. On one of those screenings, the doctor discovered some polyps and removed them. One of those was determined to be precancerous. It was a good thing that I had the screening and the subsequent removal. If it was not removed, it would probably have grown and become a greater problem, perhaps fatal.
The point is that when we have problems, we must take action to remedy the problem. In the case of this precancerous polyp, it would have eventually affected the entire body. Now, there are two ways to look at things. One is to see something and ignore it. The other is to take action. This is the dilemma we see at the church in Corinth. A failure to do so will let things fester and become a larger problem that will affect the entire body.
Paul used a metaphor and a historical reference to get the church at Corinth to understand the issue. He began with a metaphor of yeast in making bread and then connected this with the Passover festival. The point of the bread is that the normal bread that people eat has been leavened. It is a good thing in making bread in that the leaven causes the dough to rise, making the bread soft. Yet, the point Paul made was that when the leavening agent began the process in a lump of dough, in quick time the whole lump of dough would be leavened also. In other words, a little leaven leavens the whole.
Now in this metaphor, the leaven could be something good or bad. In reference to the church’s tolerance of the man who was living in sexual sin, this leaven was bad and it would permeate the entire body of the church. As mentioned in a previous post, this would mean many things to the body of Christ in her witness and spiritual power to fulfill the Great Commission.
However, there is another problem with the church’s tolerance of this issue. It would likely result in a general unbiblical tolerance of sin in the church. If the church leaders did not deal with such an issue that was widely understood to exist by the members, they may get the idea that sin is not that big a deal. Moreover, the next generations would see such also and there would be, over time, an increasing degradation of their pursuit of holiness in the church.
Paul reminded the church that Christ died on the cross to set them free from the leaven of sin. Therefore, they should purge such from their body, the church. So, he goes on to exhort them, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” We remember that in the Passover meal, the Jews would eat unleavened bread. Here Paul told them that they as a church were called to feast in the grace of God provided by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. In other words, not with bread leavened by sin, but with unleavened bread of purity in the church.