1 Corinthians 5:6-8
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.
According to the law given by God to Moses, during the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, which followed and was closely connected to the Passover, the saints of old were to remember God’s gracious deliverance of His people out of the bonds of slavery in Egypt. They were to eat it in haste, “with a belt around the waist, sandals upon the feet, and a staff in the hand”. Leaven was not to be used in the making of the bread for this very reason. And God commanded Moses saying that whoever eats what is leavened, “that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel” (cf. Exodus 12). Leaven was often regarded as a corrupting influence and it was never a part of the sacrifices of the people of Israel.
As we come to the New Testament, we find the Apostle Paul using the image of the corrupting influence of leaven as found in the Old Testament to press home to believers that such corruption is not to be part of the Christian life. In the context of the above passage in 1 Corinthians 5, he refers to the man who committed sexual immorality as leavening the entire lump (the influence of one “bad apple” in the basket.) and he commands the people to put it out (a picture of church discipline!) (cf. verses 1 Cor. 5:4,5). In this context he reminds the Christians in Corinth that “they are truly unleavened”, which most likely is an expression of their definitive sanctification in Christ—that they are positionally already made holy in Christ because of His holy life, atoning death and resurrection. Therefore, the point goes, progressively live out, as God works in you, that sanctified, holy, and “unleavened” life in Christ!
One of the most interesting things about this passage in 1 Corinthians 5 is the Apostle’s use of this image of the unleavened bread of the Passover meal (and the Feast of Unleavened Bread). As the Passover consisted of two parts—the sacrifice and the feast—so the Apostle tells his readers that since Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, then we, as those having been cleansed from that sacrifice, are called to celebrate the feast continually. And how are we to do that? By the offering up of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth instead of the “old leaven” which is most likely a reference to our old man. The feast here is probably not a reference to the Lord’s Supper, but a way for Paul to speak of the whole Christian life. As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary on this text: “This is the great doctrine of the gospel. The Jews, after they had killed the passover, kept the feast of unleavened bread. So must we; not for seven days only, but all our days. We should die with our Savior to sin, be planted into the likeness of his death by mortifying sin, and into the likeness of his resurrection by rising again to newness of life, and that internal and external. We must have new hearts and new lives. Note, The whole life of a Christian must be a feast of unleavened bread.” Paul draws a beautiful picture that goes beyond the example of the man in question as he calls all true believers united to Christ to live lives worthy of their calling—holy lives, unleavened lives of purity, sincerity, and righteousness.
And so, we are reminded by this example of the necessity of holy living. But such living is only possible if we have first been cleansed by the blood of Christ, our Passover! By that same grace which cleanses us we are enabled to live this life to which we have been called. Prepare then to come to the Table of our Lord by His invitation. Grace is given to all who look to Him in true, saving faith. Come and feast upon Him Who alone can save you!
“O lead my blindness by the hand, lead me to Thy familiar feast; not here and now to understand, but even here and now to taste how the eternal Word of heaven on earth in broken bread is given.”
— W.E. Gladstone, 1809-98; as quoted in Robert Letham’s, The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread
Rejoicing in Christ, our Passover,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar