A Little Leaven
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.
Paul was correcting the Church at Corinth about sexual immorality and one situation he heard of, a man with his father’s wife. Paul instructs the church to discipline this man by removing him from the church so that he had a chance to be saved from his sin.
Then Paul gives a verse that believers quote and memorize, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” However, we may be inclined to read over the “Your boasting is not good” that comes before this. What is Paul’s deal here? The church is probably growing; it is an exciting place to gather on Sunday, what is the deal? Paul is correcting the whole church leadership about one guy who decided to commit to what was not even allowed in the secular world around them.
I am not going to start writing about excommunication, but I would assume this person was part of the leadership, the boasting of the church in Corinth. Better yet, this correction was a message to the church to not concentrate on boasting of themselves, but all the more to be humble, because we can miss it. They had a lot of fleshy, lifestyle stuff to work out in their midst, and Paul was pushing for that to be their focus. Encouraging the people of the church is great, but boasting is a different thing entirely.
Now that I got that out of the way, I want to focus more on the leaven aspect. Here we get the leaven illustration, and this is not a sprinkle of yeast. This is a fermented piece of dough that gets rolled into the next batch of bread because it was left from some earlier batch. This was a standard aspect of bread making in those days, and no one would have been corrected for making bread this way. Paul is making a clear distinction between the world and the Kingdom of God here and I believe this was specifically targeting leaders in the church.
Should the Kingdom of God be sprinkled with the leaven of the world?
It is a tough question because we live in a culture that mixes secular with Christian living so seamlessly. We can easily get into discussions about whether something is a clear and cut sin and leave it there, but should we be having another conversation. Are believers living lives that invite anointing and favor? I can be straight and say Christian leaders should be living lives of purity, free from bondage of any kind.
Do our activities or choices have a little leaven in them? While our choice, in and of itself, may not have overt sin involved, did we make that choice because of the leaven left over from a sinful choice we made prior or those around us? We find the original law in Leviticus 18:1-5 and the reason for this and other laws of its kind was the heart of God, that His people would be different from those who were not His people. The heart of New Testament grace is still the same, are we different from those who do not walk as Christians? Sure, all things are permissible that are not overtly sin, but it is not always good for you or the Kingdom. (1 Cor. 10:30) Overt sin is rarely something that just happens at the moment; it is the product of the creeping in of leaven (tainted life) that slowly eradicates our discernment.
What separates us from the world around us is most precious, and it is the main tool that God uses, outside of His Word, to chase after the hurting and broken. The short answer is that no leaven, as Paul describes it, will be mixed into the Kingdom of God in the finality of it all. God loves us so much, He extends so much grace to us, but let’s pursue the things that are most advantageous to us as followers of Jesus.
Any thoughts to add? Want to hear what you think on the subject.
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