The Problem With Immoral Church Members; Page 5 of 11 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
The sin unto death is committed by believers. (This is the death of the body, not of the soul.) The unpardonable sin is committed by unbelievers—“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt 12:31-32; KJV). Any person who blasphemes the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven—either in this life or the life to come; but a believer who commits the sin unto death will be destroyed physically and saved spiritually. He will, of course, suffer great loss of reward, but his spirit will be saved “in the day of the Lord Jesus.” There are well-meaning born again people who refuse to accept this Bible fact. Nevertheless, it is clearly set forth in our present verse—and anyone who refuses to receive this truth does so simply because he has a closed mind and is married to a denomination or religion, instead of obeying the Spirit, rightly dividing the Word, and allowing the Word of God to speak while man keeps silent.
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Your glorying is not good.
This points back to verse 2, where Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are “puffed up.” They have no right to glory (brag); they have nothing to glory about. With the Corinthian church in the shape it was in at the time of the writing of this epistle, the believers there should have been weeping, they should have been on their faces before God, repenting in sackcloth and ashes, instead of living like kings, promoting their own wisdom and glorying in their own ability.
Know ye not….” This statement is used in 1 Corinthians 3.16; it is used five times in chapter 6 and twice in chapter 9. These believers had advertised their wisdom, but by their actions they advertised gross ignorance concerning spiritual matters, and an utter lack of the wisdom that comes from God.
Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
The stress is on “little.” A very small amount of leaven (yeast) spreads through a very large lump. In the same way, a seemingly small sin will continue to grow until it becomes very great; and that is what happened in the assembly at Corinth. They had allowed little things to go unjudged—things such as jealousy, envy, conceit, and a partisan spirit—until now the leaven had grown into the gross immoral sin of fornication.
When he wrote to the Galatians, Paul used the same statement: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal 5:9; KJV). In the Old Testament leaven is referred to many times. In the New Testament we are told that leaven is symbolic of the power of evil: “Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt 16:12; KJV). The first reference to leaven in the Bible is found in Genesis 19.3, where lot served unleavened bread to his heavenly guests.
Section 3-B: The Christian church must be purged of the contamination of sinners, and separated from pagan influences (vv.7-13)
Part 1: Celebration
7 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:
Purge out therefore the old leaven,
What does leaven do to the bread? Well, you put it in the dough, set it in a warm place, and the bread begins to puff up. When it gets to a certain height, the bread is put into the hot oven. Why? To stop the leavening process. If the bread did not get into the oven, that leavening process would go on and the bread would rise higher and higher. Finally the whole loaf would be corrupt and rotten. Now that is exactly what happens with evil in the church if it is not dealt with. Finally the whole thing will blow up and will destroy the effectiveness of the church. A little leaven will leaven the whole lump; so it must be purged out.
The reference here is to the Jewish household that was commanded to remove all leaven from the house in order to prepare for the Passover—“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from
the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread” (Ex 12:18-20; KJV). To meet the letter of this instruction in the fullest manner possible, the Jews, on the eve of this festival, institute the most rigorous search through every part of their houses, not only removing all leavened bread, but sweeping every part clean, so that no crumb of bread will be left that had any leaven in it. And they were so strict in the observance of the letter of this law, that if even a mouse was seen running across the floor with a crumb of bread in its mouth, they considered the whole house as polluted, and began their purification anew. We have already seen that leaven was an emblem of sin, because it proceeded from corruption; and the putting away of this implied the turning to God with simplicity and uprightness of heart.
Removing all leaven from Jewish homes in preparation for the Passover signified that they had completely broken with the old manner of life in Egypt, and that their entrance upon the new life was designed for them to enjoy the fellowship that only God could give. The Jewish family who refused to obey that command and refused to remove all leaven from the home could not enjoy the fellowship with God that could be theirs, if they obeyed His command.
Here Paul is attempting to show the believers at Corinth that if they refused to remove the leaven from the assembly, they could not expect the blessing of God upon either the fellowship or the testimony of the church there. The assembly at Corinth was NOT an unleavened assembly; evil existed there, and evil must be put away if they hoped to experience the blessings of God and enjoy fellowship with God—blessings and fellowship that was theirs if only they would humble their hearts, repent of their carnality, and deal with the fornicator within their membership.
That ye may be a new lump,
The reason for removing the leaven from their lives is this: that they might appear to be what they professed to be, new men, new creatures in Christ, by their walking in newness of life; and by removing that wicked person, they would be like the apostles were, when Judas was taken from them by death, all clean through the word of Christ.
as ye are unleavened.
“As ye are unleavened” means “as ye are bound by your Christian profession to be unleavened, or to be pure.” "You are not contaminated with sin." Despite the sinful lapses visible in the church, the action of their being cleansed in the blood of Christ was constant and effective. This purity did not come from anything they had done themselves, but it was due to their position; they continued to be “in Christ.”
Your very profession implies this, and you ought, therefore, to remove all impurity, and to become holy. Let there be no impurity or anything in your life that is inconsistent with that holiness which the gospel teaches and requires. Here the apostle does not refer merely to the case of the incestuous person, but he uses this occasion to exhort them to put away all sin. Not only to remove this incestuous person, but to remove all impurity, so that they might become entirely holy. The doctrine the apostle is asserting here is that Christians are made holy by their profession, and therefore they ought to do all that is within their power to remove everything that is impure.
The Corinthian believers professed to be holy, and they were without the leaven of sin; but not without sin in their hearts, and not without committing sinful acts, more or less, in their lives; but they were justified by the righteousness of Christ, and they had the new creature formed in their souls, or that which was born of God within them, that does not sin. The apostle compares the true believers of this church to the unleavened bread eaten at the Passover, for the benevolence of their hearts, and the simplicity of their lives; as he does the incestuous man to the old leaven that was to be searched for, and cast out at the feast.
For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
In the Old Testament, after the Feast of the Passover there followed immediately the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Paul says that Christ, the true Passover Lamb, has now been sacrificed for us. This should be followed by lives that are free from the leaven of sin. Instead, this Corinthian congregation was allowing leaven—that is, evil—to come right into their church. These were the very ones who were talking about the death of Christ and the crucifixion of Christ, and yet they permitted leaven to enter into the church.