Can you explain 1 Corinthians 5:7-8?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 1 CORINTHIANS 5:7-8?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8: “[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: [8] 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.” What does it mean, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us?” Does verse 8 teach that we Christians are required to keep the Passover feast? What are these two verses about anyway? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

What is going on in this context? These verses in question should be interpreted in light of verses 1-2: “[1] It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. [2] And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” There is a Christian man in Corinth having sexual relations with his “father’s wife” (assumed to be his stepmother). The Corinthians have not addressed this issue but are rather gloating over and supporting/encouraging it. Paul mentions that they need to discipline that man—that is, put him out of the assembly until he straightens up (see verses 11 and 13).

Verse 6 continues: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” Paul rebukes the Corinthians for allowing sin to get a foothold in their midst. By them encouraging one brother to sin so grossly in the sexual realm, they are now all vulnerable to permitting worse behavior in their group. Just as a little bit of leaven (yeast) spreads so that all the dough is leavened (and thus rises), a little bit of sinful activity left unaddressed will spread to the whole congregation. Satan will cause that one sin to entice others to commit evil, all of them assuming they will get away with their misbehavior too. The Corinthians were to, in love of course, discipline that Christian brother. He was to be removed from their fellowship until he reformed. It was either deal with him harshly, or risk losing the whole congregation to sin.

In light of that background, we re-read 1 Corinthians 5:7-8: “[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: [8] 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.” Unlike in verse 6, we are no longer talking now about literal leaven, or a literal lump of bread dough. “Leaven” here now functions as a metaphor (symbol) for evil or sin. It does not make sense for the Corinthian (or any other Christian) assembly to condone sin, evil that could possibly contaminate the whole group. Being spiritually immature, the Corinthians were unable to identify this spiritual danger as the Apostle Paul could. Paul thus wrote 1 Corinthians chapter 5. He wrote it for our benefit even today.

Verse 7 again: “Purge out therefore the old leaven….” In other words, “Get rid of that habitual fornicator!” (Go back to verses 1-6, if necessary, to gain the thought flow.) The group must cast out the man to recover itself from defilement—“that [purpose or intent] ye [all believing Corinthians] may be a new lump.” Christ died to put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26 says. Positionally, as members of the Body of Christ, we are spiritually clean before God, forgiven and redeemed by Christ’s shed blood (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). That is where 1 Corinthians 5:7 then comes in with, “For even [further explanation] Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”

What was the purpose of the Passover lamb? It was to save Israel from God’s wrath. Those without that lamb’s blood—namely, the Egyptians—were destroyed. Israel was spared in Egypt because of the blood applied to their doors (Exodus 11:4-8, Exodus 12:11-13). Passover is really a picture/preview of Messiah shedding His blood for Israel’s eternal salvation, sparing her from God’s future wrath at Christ’s Second Coming. At the same time of year Israel was preparing to kill the Passover lamb, they killed the Lord Jesus! But, in God’s design, that blood of Christ was necessary for Him to institute the New Covenant to save Israel one day (see Hebrews chapters 8 and 10). That blood of Christ Jesus also saves us and keeps us in the Church the Body of Christ.

“As ye are unleavened….” In keeping with our righteous spiritual position before God as members of the Church the Body of Christ, we need to put away sin from our local assemblies. To wit, we should have practical daily living that fits our spiritual identity in Christ. That means dealing with brethren who are misbehaving and making the group liable to falling into the same sin or worse. Christ died to deliver us from our sins. Sin does not belong in our lives, and so we deny it access. All of Romans chapter 6 should be read and remembered here. We walk by faith in Romans 6:10-11: “[10] For in that he [Christ] died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. [11] Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin does not belong in the local assembly either, especially because it will encourage others—those observing the misbehavior—to go along with it and engage in the same evil behavior!

“Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” As we hinted at earlier, the blood of Christ saves not only Israel from the penalty of sin (hellfire)—it saves us, the Church the Body of Christ, from the same eternal wrath of God against sinners. What Christ is for Israel, He is “for us” (Body of Christ). (“For us” is absent from modern English versions.) He is “our” Passover—the insulation allowing God’s wrath to pass over us (Body of Christ) and not judge us (Body of Christ). Jesus Christ is our Saviour, the God-Man who made atonement for our sin (Romans 5:11), just as He will atone/forgive Israel’s sins at His Second Coming (Acts 3:19-20). His finished crosswork is vicarious—done on our behalf and done on Israel’s behalf. If Christ Jesus saved us from our sins, and He did, then we have no reason to continue living in them! We have new life in Him, a life that Father God wants to fill with good works rather than sins (Ephesians 2:10). Of course, the Corinthians were too carnal (fleshly minded) to grasp these simple grace teachings (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Sadly, many Christians today are just as weak in the doctrine as they were!

Now, we move on 1 Corinthians 5:8: “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.” This is not, as you seem to be inclined to think, “let us observe the Passover….” Remember, verse 7 is not about literal leaven (yeast) or a lump of physical bread dough. Verse 7 again: “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….”

Verse 8 is not talking about a literal anything either, especially a physical feast as Passover. “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.” Notice the “leaven” here is not actual yeast as in bread we eat, but rather is defined in the verse as “malice [evil intentions] and wickedness [evil deeds].” The literal sense does not make sense; therefore, it must a metaphorical, symbolic, or figurative usage. The “leaven” here is “malice and wickedness”—that which jeopardizes/infects the Christian group (or in the case of Corinth, the fornicating brother in Christ risking the whole group to sin).

We pause a moment to consider an interesting parallel. Immediately after Israel observed the Passover, they were to have the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15-17). The Jews were to get rid of all physical leaven in their houses. There was more than just literal leaven God was interested in purging Israel of, though. As we noted earlier, leaven represented sin, just as it does here in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 (as well as in Galatians 5:9—there it is a symbol of evil/false teaching). Just as Passover taught Israel how to put away sin, Christ serving as our Passover Lamb also encourages us to put away sin (whether individually or as a group). We now return to 1 Corinthians chapter 5 to begin winding down this exegesis.

Verse 8 of 1 Corinthians chapter 5 once more: “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.” The “unleavened bread” here is defined not as literal bread without yeast, but bread “of sincerity and truth.” Again, this is figurative or symbolic. The “malice and wickedness” of the first part of verse 8 was to be replaced with “sincerity [honesty, well-meaning, good intentions] and truth [rather than evil].” Instead of partaking of a meal of evil and sin (figurative, of course), the Corinthians (and we) should participate in the life of the Spirit of God that we have in Christ. See Galatians 5:22-23—the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11). If we must influence our brethren, let us stir them up to follow our good example rather than our bad example!

We close by quoting 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 in its entirety: “[1] It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. [2] And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. [3] For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, [4] In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [5] To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

“[6] Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? [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: [8] 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. [9] I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: [10] Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. [11] But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. [12] For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? [13] But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

Also see:
» Should Christians observe Passover?
» Should we observe the Lord’s Supper?
» Can you explain 1 Corinthians chapter 8?

One response to “Can you explain 1 Corinthians 5:7-8?

  1. Pingback: All Kings and All Nations | 333 Words of Grace

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