Last week we began our study of 1 Corinthians 5 and learned that there was immorality taking place in the church that Paul pointed out, “even the pagans do not tolerate.” Paul told the people they needed to remove the man from their fellowship in hope that he would repent of his sin. We also learned that this was not Paul’s general advice to the churches about how to deal with someone when they become entangled in sin. If you will remember, in Galatians 6:1, Paul told the churches of Galatia to “gently restore” those who are “caught in sin.” He doesn’t mean that the church was to form a sin police squad that was ever-watching to catch people sinning. He is referring to those sins that each of us struggle with in life. Your struggles of the flesh may be different than mine and mine different than the next guy, but each of us, though we have been given a new nature in Christ still have to deal with our old sin nature.  We, you and I, live in a cancel culture, but Paul learned well from Jesus that the goal is not dismissal, but restoration with gentleness. 

We are not going back to 1 Corinthians 5 today to talk more about the man who was carrying on the immoral relationship with no regard for what it was doing to his witness for the Lord or how it was bringing shame on the name of the Lord and the testimony of the church. I want us to go back to 1 Corinthians 5 today because of something that caught my attention last week, found in verses 6-8. Turn there with me and let’s read together.

6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 NIV)

I’m pretty certain that once you heard that “a man is sleeping with his father’s wife,” in verse 1, you probably didn’t hear anything else as we read all of 1 Corinthians 5 together.  Verses 6-8 caught my attention because Corinth was a largely Gentile city, but these verses are as Jewish as they come. “Getting rid of the old yeast” and the “Passover lamb” are practices of the Jews tied to Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. If you read just these verses you would think Paul was addressing the people of Jerusalem, not Corinth. These verses got me to thinking, “When the church received this letter from Paul, how would the Gentiles in the church have made any sense of these Jewish ideas and practices?” That’s a great question and I’ve got an answer. I’ve not only got an answer, but I want to use the answer to help us understand why it is imperative for you and me to study the whole counsel of God, not just the New Testament, but the entire Word of God. 

Let’s answer that question: “How did the Gentile followers of Jesus in the church at Corinth make sense of these thoroughly Jewish ideas?” Well, we have to remember that Paul spent 18 months in Corinth laying the foundation for the church and discipling, teaching, the new converts. What did Paul use to disciple the new converts?  Paul didn’t use materials he had bought at a discipleship conference. He didn’t use a disciple making book either. He used the Scriptures. Not the New Testament because it wasn’t in existence yet. The letter we are studying now, 1 Corinthians, was just a letter to a church and not yet a part of the canon of Holy Scripture. Paul used what you call the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible to teach the new converts. Did you know that in the 16 chapters of 1 Corinthians there are at least 19 quotations from the Hebrew Bible. I could take the rest of our time this morning to show you each of them, but I’ll only show you two. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 1:19 and let’s read together.

19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:19 NIV)

The people in the church in Corinth were “puffed up,” they were spiritually arrogant, and Paul was trying to teach them that humility, not pride, is the way of the followers of Jesus. That was not an original idea of Paul, no, he said, “It is written…” Where was it written? In the Scriptures. Turn with me to Isaiah 29:14 and let’s read together.

14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (Isaiah 29:14 NIV)

At the very end of 1 Corinthians 1, Paul encouraged those in the church who wanted to boast about something to “boast in the Lord.” He says he has Scriptural evidence for the idea of boasting about God. Read verse 31 with me.

31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31 NIV)

Once again, if Paul says, “…it is written,” you have to ask, “Where is it written?” If you will turn to Jeremiah 9:23-24 with me. 

23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

In almost every chapter of Paul’s letter to the mostly Gentile church in Corinth he quotes from what we call the Old Testament. I am spending time on this today because I am greatly troubled by the number of Christians that tell me they don’t read the Old Testament because they are New Testament believers or the Old Testament is irrelevant for the followers of Jesus. I don’t want anyone who calls Britton Christian Church “home” to ever make the mistake of saying or believing something that is so, so wrong. 

Dr. Brent Strawn is an unusual guy. He is a Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School and a Professor of Law at the Duke University School of Law. He wrote a book in 2017 titled, “The Old Testament is Dying.” In his book he talks about how those like me, pastors, have neglected to teach the people in the pews the importance of the Old Testament for understanding our faith. Dr. Strawn points out that 39 of the 66 books of the Bible are found in the Old Testament. He also says that based strictly on word count, 77.2% of the Bible is found in the Old Testament. So, if you neglect to study and learn the Old Testament, you are neglecting the majority of God’s Word. In his book he quotes Wilhelm Vischer, the Old Testament scholar whose major area of study was Christ in the Old Testament. Vischer said,

Tell me what you would strike from the Old Testament and I’ll tell you what defect there is in your Christian knowledge. (Wilhelm Vischer)

If you have been here at Britton Christian Church for any amount of time then you have heard me say that the death of Jesus for our sins makes absolutely no sense whatsoever apart from the foundation laid by the teachings of the Old Testament. But if you know that Abraham took his son Isaac to Mount Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice to God and that God stopped Abraham and provided a substitute, a ram caught in a thicket, then it causes you to think about another Substitute which was provided in that same place so many years later. If you understand the sacrificial system instituted by God at the tabernacle and temple for the purpose of atoning for the sins of God’s people, then it causes you to think about another Sacrifice that was offered for the atonement of the sins of God’s people in that very place in Jerusalem. 

Our Scripture for today is a great illustration of what I am talking about when I speak about the importance of understanding the Old Testament to help us better understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Let’s read our Scripture one more time to refresh our memory.

6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 NIV)

When Paul wrote these words he no doubt was thinking about the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. Do you know about those feasts? Do they have any relevance or significance for those of us who are not Jewish, but are followers of Jesus? Let’s begin by talking about yeast or really it should be translated “leaven” because yeast wasn’t used in biblical times. David Garland tells us,

Leaven, to be distinguished from yeast, was made by keeping back a piece of the previous week’s dough, storing it in suitable conditions, and adding juices to promote the process of fermentation, much like sourdough. This moldy dough could go bad and become a contaminant, which explains why it was a fitting symbol for the infectious power of evil. (Garland, David. 1 Corinthians. pg. 178)

In Exodus 12, in connection with the instructions about how to prepare the Passover lamb, the people are told to only eat unleavened bread for seven days. They are not told why, but we learn the reason why in Deuteronomy 16. Read it with me.

2 Sacrifice to Yahweh your God a Passover animal from the herd or flock in the place where the LORD chooses to have His name dwell. 3 You must not eat leavened bread with it. For seven days you are to eat unleavened bread with it, the bread of hardship– because you left the land of Egypt in a hurry– so that you may remember for the rest of your life the day you left the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 16:2-3 CSB)

For the leaven to do its work and cause the bread to rise it takes time. They didn’t have time, they would be leaving in a hurry so God told them not to leaven their bread, they had to eat unleavened bread for seven days. Originally there were no negative connotations connected with leaven, but over the course of time leaven began to be used at times to describe that which was unclean. There may be a very practical reason for this. Stop and think about this with me for a minute. 

The process of leavening bread was different than using yeast to cause the dough to rise. To leaven dough you would pinch off a piece of last week’s dough and let it sit until you made bread for the next week. In the ancient world, in a hot climate, that leavened piece could acquire bacteria and over the course of time become contaminated. That little piece of leavened dough would be introduced to the fresh batch of dough week after week and month after month. The leaven would permeate the entire batch of dough. It’s no wonder leaven eventually began to be used as a synonym for uncleanness and evil. At the Feast of Unleavened Bread, God commanded His people to thoroughly cleanse their homes of all leaven. When you think about, God’s instructions served as a means to keep His people healthy. 

When Paul uses the word in 1 Corinthians 5 he is not only pointing out the sin of the man who was in the immoral relationship, but he was using the imagery of leaven to let the people know that the one man’s sin was impacting the entire church just like a leavened piece of dough would spread throughout the fresh batch of dough. Jesus used leaven to describe the influence of the Pharisees in Matthew 16:6. Read it with me.

6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6 ESV)

Be careful! Watch out for the influence and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees or it will spread throughout the entire community. Jesus also used leaven in another verse, but in Matthew 13:33 He used it in a positive way. Read it with me.

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33 ESV)

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, in another place Jesus said it was like a tiny mustard seed. The kingdom of heaven started off small, but it has permeated the entire world! 

I was thinking about leaven this past week. The church in Corinth was being impacted by turning a blind eye to the sin of the man who was in the immoral relationship. Any person who downplays the seriousness of their own sin or the sins of those they love is setting themselves up for more than heartache and destruction. Sin has a ripple effect does it not? Of course it does. At the same time, to use Jesus’ positive spin on leaven, righteousness, holiness, godliness, grace, mercy, and faithfulness can also have a ripple effect. Through the years my own life has been greatly impacted by godly men and women. The grace they have shown me has caused me to want to be gracious to others. Their quiet faithfulness to the Lord taught me the pure joy of serving the Lord for His glory alone and not for the recognition of others. Watching David Darnell faithfully spend hour after hour studying God’s Word and then listening to the remarkable things he had to share with me taught me that godly wisdom and a firm grasp of God’s Word will come only through time spent alone with the Lord in His Word. The leaven of godly men and women has had a great influence on my life. 

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is dealing with a very specific situation and that is why he says, 

7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7 NIV)

 “Get rid of the old leaven so you may be a new unleavened batch–as you really are.” I absolutely love this! Paul is encouraging them to be what they already are. The church is a mess. They are turning a blind eye to the man’s sin, yet Paul says you are new leaven, now act like it! Chuck Swindoll writes,

In this one verse we have all the ingredients of Paul’s doctrines of justification and sanctification. As believers in Christ, the moment we believe we are ‘justified’ –declared righteous by God, while still in our sinning state. Yet we also are called to a life of ‘sanctification’– becoming progressively more righteous in our daily experience, as we are gradually renewed and conformed to the image of Christ. So, when Paul tells the Corinthians that they ‘are in fact unleavened’ (5:7), he refers to being positionally unleavened–their legal righteous standing before God (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:1-12). When he urges them to ‘clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump’ (1 Cor. 5:7), he refers to being progressively unleavened–their practical transformation toward the spiritual reality (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18). (Swindoll, Charles. Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: 1&2 Corinthians. pg. 83) 

If you are here this morning and you are a follower of Jesus then you need to know that you are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone and behold you have been made new. The old life is gone and you have been raised to a new life in Christ. You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. You have been made new by the blood of the Lamb. This is what God’s Word calls justification. We are fully justified by God and made righteous. This was true of the believers in Corinth and Paul says to them, “Be what you are.”

At the same time, Chuck Swindoll uses a word that we don’t often hear today and that is “sanctification.” We have been justified, but we are being sanctified, made into the image of God’s Son day-by-day. When we say “No” to sin and “Yes” to following in Jesus’ steps, in our thoughts and actions, we are being sanctified.  

Before we run out of time let’s turn our attention to the Passover. When Paul tells the people in Corinth to be who they are, he tells them, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Once again, these are mostly Gentiles, but Passover is a Jewish experience in history. Let’s talk about Passover just for a moment. If you want to learn about the origin of Passover then you have to read Exodus 12:1-13:16. While the Jews were slaves in Egypt, God heard their cry and determined to deliver them through Moses’ leadership. God sent 10 plagues on Egypt to try and persuade Pharaoh to let His people go. The last of the ten plagues was the worst, God would pass over the land and kill every firstborn in the land. Before the night this would take place, God gave His people instructions. They were to take a lamb, take care of it, and then kill it. After they killed the lamb they were to take its blood and smear it over the door frames of their houses. Let’s read just a few verses so we can understand why they were to do this. Turn to Exodus 12:6-7; 12-14.

6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs… 12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD– a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:6-7; 12-14 NIV)

The blood of the lamb was a sign to God that those under the blood were His people. The blood of the lamb set apart those Hebrew slaves from everyone else in Egypt. The blood of the lamb saved God’s people in a very real way. After God passed over Egypt, those who were under the blood were no longer slaves, they were bought with a price, and were now on their way to the Promised Land! In a night, in a moment, they were transformed from slaves to freed men and women! By the end of Exodus 12, they were headed out of Egypt. 

What’s really interesting is that at the beginning of Exodus 13, God gives Moses instructions to give to the people while the experience was still fresh in their minds. He told them that once they were in the Promised Land they were to continue to remember the day the Lord spared their lives and brought them out of Egypt. Look at Exodus 13:3 with me. 

3 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. (Exodus 13:3 ESV)

“…by a strong hand the LORD brought you out…” Throughout Israel’s history that night in Egypt has served as a reminder to God’s people that we no longer belong to Pharaoh because our God has redeemed us with the blood of the Lamb. We are His people–called to live for His glory! 

The Passover to this very day marks the Jews as God’s chosen people. It is an annual reminder of what God did for His people. He rescued them, redeemed them, set them on a new course, and led them all the way to the Promised Land. 

As powerful of a story as the Passover is for you and me there is an even more powerful story. The day came when Jesus was born. He grew and became a man. He was walking by the Jordan River one day when John the Baptist saw Him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he told them, 

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

He who never sinned took our sin, your sin and my sin, upon Himself and in exchange, He clothed us in His own righteousness. Like those Hebrew slaves in bondage to the dark domain of Pharaoh, Paul told the people in Colosse, 

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

In Him we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. We are forgiven in Jesus, so now it is imperative that we clean out the old leaven of our past, that we fight the good fight against our flesh, and we be who we are. In 1 Corinthians 5:8, Paul tells the people of Corinth and he says to us this morning,

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. (1 Corinthians 5:8 ESV)

Do you remember how often God told the Jews to celebrate the Passover? Once every year right?  Do you know what’s interesting about the word “celebrate” in this verse? It is in the present active tense which means we are to continually celebrate, every moment of every day we are to celebrate the festival of what God has done and we are to do it with sincerity and truth. We are to continually purge the old leaven of malice and evil, the old leaven of our sin nature, and live our lives with sincerity and truth. Make no mistake about it, Paul is not arguing for sinless perfection, but he is reminding us that we are a new creation in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to fight the good fight against sin and to be honest and humble about our own struggles with sin before a watching world. We are living before a watching world my friend. 

I was reading an article by Ben Sixsmith last week. Ben wrote the article after he heard about the most recent fall of celebrity pastors. Let me read you an excerpt so you will know that we are living before a watching world. Ben writes,

I am not religious, so it is not my place to dictate to Christians what they should and should not believe. Still, if someone has a faith worth following, I feel that their beliefs should make me feel uncomfortable for not doing so. If they share 90 percent of my lifestyle and values, then there is nothing especially inspiring about them. Instead of making me want to become more like them, it looks very much as if they want to become more like me. (Ben Sixsmith, The Sad Irony of Celebrity Pastors)

We are not to follow in the footsteps of the world, but we are to follow Jesus and let His light shine as the people of the world look upon us. We are called to get rid of the old leaven of our sin nature and walk in the new life made available to us in Christ Jesus. How? Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed! We are called to die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. How? Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed! We are called to live in sincerity, openness and transparency about our own struggles instead of living deceptive and deceitful lives. How? Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed! We are called to live in truth, not our own truth or truth as we define it, but in His truth. How? Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed! Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed! Won’t you surrender your life to Him today?

Mike Hays

Britton Christian Church

922 NW 91st

OKC, OK. 73114 

March 7, 2021

 

Christ Our Passover Lamb Has Been Sacrificed
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
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