“Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” – 1 Corinthians 5:8
When the nation of Israel celebrated Passover, they were instructed to eat only unleavened bread for seven days. In fact, God commanded them to sweep their houses clean of all leaven; anyone who ate any within the seven days faced the penalty of being cut off from Israel (Exodus 12:15).
Paul makes a statement with colossal meaning: “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Under this new and eternal covenant in Jesus’ blood, He Himself is the Passover Lamb, who was sacrificed so that the wrath of God would “pass over” us. This is the protection and victory that His blood affords. It is a free gift received by faith. But the feast has only just begun – our celebration of this incredible deliverance from sin’s slavery and the devil’s tyranny involves another step. Just as Israel removed all leaven, we must be ruthless against what offends the Lord in our walk with Him. Anything contrary to Christ, in heart and character, speech and action, must be removed. In the context, Paul uses “leaven” to refer to any sin that is permitted in a believer’s life; if it remains, we will become “immoral people” rather than living reflections of Jesus. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (5:6).
There are two types of leaven that believers must avoid. The “old leaven” signifies our old life and ways. We may say, “I love the Lord,” yet walk in our old way of viewing money or handling conflict, our old sinful pursuit of comfort, or our old anger and lust. We have allowed light to shine on one room of our hearts, but have never let it fill the house. It is difficult to call such a person a child of the light, until they choose to repent and fully embrace the light. Old leaven has to go to the dumpster once and for all, as we commit to dispose of any other scraps we may find.
The other, subtler type is the leaven of “malice and wickedness.” This may not be “old leaven” but actually a product of Christian disobedience. Malice is basically ill will; refusal to forgive quickly festers into malice. Any instance in which we refuse to treat another person as we would like to be treated is a breath away from ill will. Even “doctrines” within some Christian circles become fertile ground for wickedness. “Pray this prayer with me, and you will go to heaven no matter what you do,” may become the seed of excuse that yields a crop of rebellion. Some, under the influence of words like this, take liberties with sin that exceed the sins of nonbelievers (5:1).
God never said to cut someone off if it takes them a little longer to get all their leaven to the dumpster. However, we should not associate with Christians who say to themselves, “No, the leaven can stay; God is gracious. In fact, I think I’ll enjoy some for dinner tonight.” When we draw a line with such people and disavow their behavior, remember God’s goal is that they have a change of heart and repent. But first, we must be sure we have swept our own house clean of leaven. The key is to fully embrace “sincerity and truth”; this is the unleavened bread of walking with Jesus. We can start by praying along these lines: Father, I sincerely confess to You my temptations, sins, and shortcomings. I am sincerely asking for Your truth to search my heart. My genuine desire is to then go and walk in obedience with Your help, without playing games or blocking out the light of truth. Grant me a pure heart and a cleansed life, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
The Rock Church