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.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul moves from the Corinthian’s sin of divisiveness on to their sin of apathy over a case of sexual sin within their church (5:1-5). Again, this “super-spiritual” church failed to see that a truly Spirit controlled person will love others enough to seek their freedom from the bondage of sin, especially sexual sin.
For us today 1 Corinthians 5 serves the church in many ways, not the least of which is by answering the question, “Where does our morality come from?” Or maybe a more basic question, “If we are free in Christ is their even a moral standard for us?”
The answer: Yes.
Paul tells the church to cleanse out the old leaven. That is, remove the unrepentant man from your church.
Why such a harsh decree? Because Paul wants them to live out their identity as the new creation, the unleavened batch of dough (v.7). Notice how he says as you really are unleavened. This is a statement of their identity. Paul is saying “be what you are.” “You are pure, so act like it!” Our moral standard does not create our identity, it flows from it.
A little history: You can’t celebrate the Passover with the old leavened bread. The Israelites had to make unleavened bread on the night they left Egypt. So before baking, they had to sweep out all of the old leaven from the house, just so that none would get into their dough before baking.
This is the imagery Paul is using for the church- clean your house! How can you celebrate new life in Christ, through the indwelling Spirit of Christ, while flaunting your evil, malicious, sin? You can’t. Jesus’ Passover sacrifice did not free us to sin, it freed us from sin.
How do we, as a community, overcome this sin daily? We embrace the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (v.8). We must fight for a sincere, non hypocritical, belief in the gospel and the change it has brought to our lives. But sincerity alone is not enough. Sincerely believing a lie will still destroy you. We also need the truth. And Jesus is that Truth. His life is true. And our union with him is true. It is real. It is real power from real forgiveness.
“To live is Christ” is not the absence of morality, it is morality from the power of the Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us. It is the power of sincerity and truth. It is never complacency. It is never looking the other way as those we are called to love drive off the cliff of sin. It is a deep desire for love and holiness that drives us to even remove the unrepentant sinning saint if need be, trusting that such a separation allows the community to uphold their identity in Christ, while seeing that identity restored in our brother or sister.
Have you tried being moral in order to earn your identity, or are you letting your identity define your morality? How does our identity in Christ or “Christ in us” empower a morality that flows from love?