What symbol did Paul use to address a primarily (if not entirely) Gentile church? How did he chastise them to change? What symbol did he use to represent their pride and arrogance?
1It 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.
He used the symbol of being “puffed up”, much like yeast puffs up bread to make it light and fluffy. In this context, the puffing up was a result of pride, which of course is a sin.
While yeast is not always a symbol for sin (S. Mt 13:33), many times it is. Certainly, Jesus called the doctrine of the religious leaders of His day “leaven” (Mt 16:6-12). Their hypocrisy was called out as leavening as well (Lk 12:1).
But, note Paul goes beyond the comparison of pride and yeast. He also calls out “malice and wickedness” (v 8). Furthermore, he lists other sins as well:
9I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10Yet 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.
11But 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. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11, King James Version)
It is quite evident that he is throwing all sorts of “wickedness” into the pot and calling it “leaven”.
What does he then say about leavening?
6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Isn’t that interesting? Do you grasp what this means? Corinth was one of the seaports of the ancient world. Sailors came into the port after a long time at sea, and they did what carnal men do when they have been away for a while. Corinth was a rather disreputable place. Is it any surprise, then, that Paul reminds some of them from whence they came?
9Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Yes, the Christian walk is about change. Whenever people start talking about their “rights” for this and that, I begin to wonder if they even have a clue as to what real Christianity is all about!
When a Christian goes into the water, he or she is supposed to rise up like a new person. They are a “new lump”. They are “unleavened”, that is without sin because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
Notice Paul told the Gentile church that Christ is our “Passover”. Did Paul expect them to understand the Passover? With the symbols of the lamb that was slain? With the symbols of unleavened bread? How was this all to make sense to them unless the Gentile church at Corinth was keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread?
Was Paul instructing them to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread or not? What do the plain words above say?
5In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover.
6And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
7In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
The Book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus’ sacrifice paid for our sins once and for all, and so the sacrificing of animals is no longer required. However, it is not just a leap of logic to say that as a result the holy days ordained by God are done away, it is the Grand Canyon of leaps! As the above verses show Paul expected even the Gentile converts to keep the holy days.
And, so, I pass on to you Paul’s instructions to keep the Feast without the old leaven of sin, malice and wickedness, but with the pure bread of the sincerity and truth found in Christ alone!