My favorite bread is Promise Bread from Costco – “everything free” bread / you’d think it would cost less!
For some, the consequences of consuming gluten can severe. Rash. Swelling. Digestive complications.
What Paul is showing us in 1 Corinthians 5:6-13 is that there is a spiritual form of gluten that will cause all kinds of negative effects in the life of a believer.
But instead of gluten, he uses the metaphor of leaven, a baking agent that works like yeast, causing bread to rise.
So, instead of calling us to live a gluten-free life, Paul is calling us to live an unleavened life.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven [yeast] leavens the whole lump?
What is leaven and why is it being used in a negative sense here?
Yeast is an active fungus that is added to dough and acts as a “rising agent” which causes the dough to puff up.
The reason why it is being used in a negative sense is that leaven represents the sinful pride being manifested in the lives of the Corinthians to whom Paul wrote this letter. They, like leavened bread, are puffed up. Spiritually proud. Boastful.
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.
Why is the “old leaven” of sinful pride to be removed?
Even a little yeast will cause the entire batch of dough to become leavened so that it rises, or puffs up.
In other words, allowing even a little sinful pride to exist eventually will spread – in the life of a believer and in a church.
And the results are not pretty.
So, what does Paul mean when he says “you really are unleavened?”
He states a similar idea in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Our true identity in Christ is not defined by our sin but by God’s grace. At the cross, Jesus cleansed us from our sinful leaven and made us a new, unleavened. Fully forgiven. Righteous.
This explains this in the next part of verse 7.
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
How is Jesus our Passover lamb?
The Passover feast was celebrated by the Jews each spring in commemoration of the Israelites being delivered by the Lord through Moses, which took place around 1450 B.C.
The feast is called “Passover” because, during the plague of the first-born, each Israelite family was to kill a lamb and spread its blood over the doorframe of their home.
Then, when the angel of death passed through Egypt, he would “pass over” the homes that were covered with blood, where a substitutionary sacrifice had been made. The lamb instead of the first-born son.
This is the plague that would finally convince the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free.
In the Jewish celebration of Passover, leaven was to be completely removed from every home—completely purged—and they were to consume the meat of the sacrificed lamb. That was the Passover meal.
All that the original Passover represented—deliverance by the blood of a substitionary sacrifice—was fulfilled in Jesus, who in the NT is called the Lamb of God.
This is why Paul says that we are to continue to celebrate the feast in verse 8.
But we no longer look to the blood of a lamb spread over doorposts, we look to the blood of the lamb of God spread on a cross.
Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
What does it mean to “keep the feast” as we celebrate what we now call the Lord’s Supper or Communion?
- We remember (the historic event)
- We believe (renewed faith)
- We respond—by cleaning out any remaining leaven with repentance (crucifying the sinful pride, popping it – letting the air out)
Paul uses two words to describe what is to be removed.
- Malice = animosity
- Wickedness = ponerias (sin), poneros (the devil — the epitome of arrogance and pride)
Repentance identifies the presence of sin (and crucifies it by confessing it) and then faith looks to Jesus (with sincerity = “authenticity”), trusting that his blood really does secure our forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
How might the Corinthians have misunderstood a previous letter Paul had written?
Apparently, they believed that since they had been saved by grace that they could live in sin, as that would magnify God’s grace even more. Of course, we’ve already address how Paul dealt with that logic in Romans 6, where he says, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means!” Or, God forbid!
By flaunting their sin they would be taunting the world. “We can sin and be forgiven, but when you sin, you are condemned!”
But that is not to be the attitude of the true believer!
How are disciples of Jesus to view and treat unbelievers/non-Christians?
Jesus’ own mission, as stated in Luke 4:18, “To proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind… and to set the oppressed free.”
Metaphors of our spiritual need. Liberation. We are not to condemn the world; we are to see the world be set free through the cross of Christ.
11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who claims the name of a brother or sister if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
How does the word “claims” provide the distinction necessary to keep the church from becoming the sin police?
By their unrepentance, they show they are not believers (the word believe implies repentance)– not living in line with the gospel (see Galatians 2:11-14, where Paul calls out Peter in public for not “walking in line with the gospel.”)
This is why the discipline of unrepentant sinners is not legalistic. It is intended to be a work of grace, allowing tough love to force the offender to recognize their need for grace—and to find that grace in Jesus.
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. [Quoting from Deuteronomy 19:19, alluding to the practice of discipline in the Israelite community “Purge [remove/expel] the evil person from among you.”
How is this kind of judging different than judgementalism?
Judgementalism is the sinful leaven of spiritual superiority, where individual believers become judges of the sins of others as if they themselves are not equally as sinful and in need of God’s grace. This is hypocrisy.
The issue here in 1 Cor. 5 is not a believer caught in a sin but a believer continuing in sin with a prideful, unrepentant spirit and hardened heart.
And the judgment is not a personal verdict but a community verdict.
To judge in the context of church discipline is to go through the process outlined by Jesus in Matthew 18 and then, if there is still no genuine repentance, the church is to excommunicate the unrepentant offender—again, as a means of grace.
We also should say that this final step in the disciplinary process is extreme and (thankfully) rare.
But when it must be enforced, the intent is three-fold:
- for the protection of those harmed by the sin,
- for the eventual restoration of the offender, and
- for the reputation of Jesus as King of the church.
A Few Final Questions for Application:
Why is it so hard to admit sinful pride?
It is like the blind spot on a car or truck. For most of us, we just can’t see it until someone brings it to our attention. This is what discipline can do – as a means of grace.
What happens if we don’t admit it?
Hardness of heart, spiritually wither, feel distant from God, broken relationships
What is possible if we do admit our sinful pride?
Restoration and reconciliation à spiritual renewal.
The TV show Kitchen Nightmares features world-class chef Gordon Ramsay as its host. In each episode, Ramsay visits a restaurant that, while often appealing on the outside, is in desperate need of help and on the verge of closing.
In every episode, the real problem is the same: the food stinks.
Ramsay will order half-a-dozen or so items and with great passion, explain in brutal fashion how horrible each one tastes and what needs to improve.
His goal is not to hurt the owner’s feelings or the chef’s. He is trying to help them be brutally honest about the quality of the food.
Often, the restaurant owners are in denial about the quality of their cuisine because they are distracted by managing food orders, overseeing wait staff, stepping out of the kitchen to shake hands with customers—everything except making good food.
Gordon Ramsay knows that if he doesn’t do something drastic, the restaurant owner will not wake up to the serious issues facing his business.
This is what church discipline is intended to do—something drastic. Not to harm, but to restore by helping an unrepentant sinner come to brutal honesty about his sin and a need for God’s mercy.
Maybe that is where you are today?
Do you know that God’s mercy is available for you? It is. Do you know why God’s mercy is available? Because Jesus was purged.
This is why he was crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem. He was symbolically being cast out and expelled to face the consequences of sin.
But not the consequences of his sin. But of mine… and yours.
This is what Communion represents for us today. The crucified body and blood of Jesus, condemned for us so that we can be fully forgiven and restored to God. On the cross, our sins are purged and absorbed by Christ as our sin-bearing substitute – just like the lamb in the Passover.
 In the same way that I am responsible to discipline my own kids and not random kids throwing tantrums in the grocery, the church family is responsible to discipline its own. This grace of discipline is not offered to the world, only for the children of God. I think this is why the death penalty for first degree, clearly guilty murderers is a good thing. There is a day of reckoning that gives them the opportunity to be saved.
 Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 75–76. “Paul’s main concern here was for the church, which he was jealous to protect from corruption. Thus, even though the incestuous man had sparked the occasion for Paul’s rebuke, Paul insisted that the larger problem lay in the church itself. The church should have recognized that its toleration of such public sin transgressed its holy calling.”
 Kyle Idleman, AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything (David C. Cook, 2014), page 98.