“Therefore purge out the old leaven,
that you may be a new lump,
since you truly are unleavened.”
1 Corinthians 5:7
I have, for a long time, struggled with this verse ~ with this concept. The verse uses leaven as a symbol of sin, and Paul is making the point that the attitudes and actions of sinful people are contagious, and that just as a little leaven leavens (don’t you just love a noun that is its own verb?) everything around it, so an unrepentant sinner can “infect” the people around them.
My issue has always been: Can’t a good person, an upbeat person, a godly person be just as contagious?
Well, in fact, yes. Luke 13 and Matthew 13, Jesus Himself compares leaven to the kingdom of God, and that’s certainly a good thing. And the good that we are and do does have an impact on those around us.
But in a way, I think sin is stronger. Our selfish, sinful nature is sort of built into us, so it doesn’t take much to turn us to the dark side, if you know what I mean. Galatians 1 points this out nicely, when you combine verse 9 ~ “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” with verse 1 ~ “Therefore stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Sin entangles us. That’s the truth. Temptation just doesn’t have to try that hard. So comparing sin to leaven, and the way it insidiously permeates, is entirely accurate.
But there’s something else I noticed upon this reading, that further clarifies the whole leaven-as-sin point that Paul is making in this passage. And that’s the next part of verse 7: “since you truly are unleavened.”
You are unleavened. Clean. Purified. You are seen as sinless by God, because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Just as the Israelites ate their unleavened bread on the first Passover, so we are to reject any leaven ~ sin ~ in our lives, in recognition of His Passover sacrifice for us. We are free from sin, as they were free from Egyptian bondage.
Remain free, therefore, by purging out anything sinful in your life: hobbies, entertainment, even people ~ anything that might influence you toward sin, and away from Him.
~ “Therefore let us keep 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