First Corinthians 5:1-13
Remove The Old Leaven
What We Look Like When We've Lost Our Repentance
1. The city of Corinth was an international municipality with two ports. Besides being a large city that prospered commercially, it was also a religious town where different national religions mixed. Upon the hill down from which one looked on Corinth there was a great temple to Aphrodite, where there was also a large number of temple prostitutes. Besides that [temple], the religious rituals for many different gods that were in existence there [at Corinth] had a deep connection to sexual license and looseness. The prosperity of these rituals and the port city seem to have brought a serious moral corruption [to Corinth]. The name of the town of "Corinth" was made into a word, the verb "to corinthianize;" and that it had the meaning of "to commit lewd acts" was well known by many. This was the scene in the every day life of the believers at Corinth.
2. At this such a Corinth a case that came up in the church was reported to Paul. "According to what they tell me evidently there is lewdness among you. And worse, it is such a lewd act that it is not even found among the Gentiles, a certain person is making his father's wife as his own," (verse one).
3. A church member was having a sexual relationship with "his father's wife" -- probably not his very mother, but here the text brings up this church member. A relationship as such was an act that was severely prohibited even in the Old Testament. There the text says, "The person who sleeps with his fathers' wife is cursed," (Deuteronomy 27:20). Paul calls it, "such a lewd act that it is not even found among Gentiles." I'm told that even under Roman law such a relationship was forbidden.
4. That case wasn't it all. Later in verse eleven Paul writes, "If one is called brother and he is lewd, or greedy, or worships idols, or speaks evil of someone, or is given to wine, or robs someone's things..." It is written as if presuming that such persons might actually be in the Corinthian church. Thus, the church placed in the town of Corinth, we see, had been under serious influence from the environment into which it was placed.
5. This type of problem is one that hits home with us too. The church is built in this old world. It isn't a world in isolation from society. Thus, we are always being put to task [and challenged] on how we live in this world.
6. In the last ten years, value systems have changed a great deal in this country in regard to sexual morals, marriage and the home. Sex being talked about without anything to do with marriage or the home has become the expected. It's not just talk about premarital sex acts. Even among people already married, people with homes and kids it's the same situation. It has gotten so that divorce and adultery are openly talked about, without any guilt or shady quality to them whatsoever. And I would say it is getting more and more that way ever since it all got started.
7. How is the church going to live within such a society as that? Along with the changes in society does the church end up changing with it? No, it shouldn't have to. Because what's important for us is not what society deems good, not what it recognizes, but what God values, what God recognizes, what He finds detestable.
8. When speaking about the issue of sex, the Bible does not speak of the actual sex act itself as something detestable or dirty. God created people male and female. It was God who said, "Have children, increase, fill the earth." Sexual relations is a gift filled with the blessing of God. People should enjoy every thing, not just limited to sexual relations, but everything given by God for blessing in this world.
9. However, since this is a gift of God, it first becomes a joy when under God's order. When the order set by God is cast off, what was originally supposed to have been a blessing loses its blessing. It becomes a curse. Sexual relations is the same way. If it is apart from God's system of order, then it is cursed. The world in which we live clearly shows the truth of this fact of not being blessed but rather being cursed when we call "freedom or liberation" a sexual relationship that is apart from marriage and it causes deep pain, suffering, and hate in human society. A free society but without God is truly a society filled with pain. So then, how are we supposed to live in a world like that?
10. Paul spoke very harshly in regard to this matter that had been communicated to him from Corinth. Because the church should not become one with the world's system. "Even still, you are overly proud? Much rather shouldn't you be sorrowful and exclude the person doing this from among you? Though I am separated from you in body I am there with you in the spirit, like a person who has actually been present, I have already judged the person who has done this such a thing," (5:2-3).
11. It is not merely one man who had committed a sin that Paul has judged. The problem is that this man has remained in his sin and that the church has approved of it. In other words then the problem is with both the guilty man, but also the church in that neither has recognized sin as sin. Therein lies the figure of having lost one's repentance. But, if those who have been led by the light within are not living in the light but would rather remain in darkness, then they will be turned over to the power of darkness. That's what Paul meant when he says, "They are handed over to Satan." As a result, he also meant something will happen to them physically. Of course, it need scarcely be said that Paul's wish was not for the destruction of the man, but that the man would ultimately be saved.
Take Out The Old Leaven
12. Any how, the issue was not just an individual who had sinned. Instead, Paul is taking issue with the very way the church itself at Corinth ought to be.
13. "Your being so proud is not good. Don't you know that a little leaven swells up the entire dough?," (verse six). When it says leaven it is not merely the individual who sinned. He doesn't say remove such a person because his influence will extend to the entire body if you leave him be. As the leaven is called "the old leaven or "the leaven of ill will and evil" in verse eight [leaven refers to] the principle of life prior to becoming a christian and is the sin that used to be so authoritatively present in [one's old life]. Thus then, this can't be talking about some particular individual. It has to do with each person in the church. Of course, the old leaven is an actual and real problem for us today.
14. It is a well known fact for us that a little leaven swells up the entire dough. It is a known fact that when a little sin creeps into our lives it extends into our whole life as well. Generation after generation of the church has repeatedly experienced that when the sin of the world which lodges itself into the church comes in unchanged, before you know it it extends its influence into the entire church. So, the old leaven must be removed. It is repentance that God is seeking from us there. What we need for the dough to always be fresh is not to keep the leaven in.
15. "In reality, you are an unleavened people. For, Christ was slain as our Passover lamb," (verse seven), said Paul. Jesus died on the cross for us as the redemptive lamb to take away our sins. Through the Lord's redemption we had our sins taken away from the sight of God. Therefore, we can live as God's people. Because of Christ, we can live as sinless people, as people who have not let in the leaven, as people in fellowship with God. God sees us as "an unleavened people." So, we too seek to be as new dough.
16. Make no mistake. Forgiveness of sin is not a license to sin. Christ was not crucified so that he would make us into a monstrous bread swelled up flabbily by old leaven. Christ became redemption for our sin. "Therefore, shall we not celebrate the Passover with pure and true bread, which is unleavened, not using old leaven and the leaven of ill will and wickedness?," (verse eight), says Paul. This is the kind of Passover indeed, which is the faith life and the worship response of thanksgiving for the blessings of God.
Because It Is A Fellowship That Is In This World
17. I am repeating but, as an issue of repentance, to be this new dough isn't realized by isolation from the world. Paul wrote the following as a supplement to the contents of a previously written epistle, "In a previous letter I wrote that you shouldn't associate with an immoral person, but the meaning of that was not that you should not be social at all with immoral persons of this world or the greedy or the thieves of other peoples' things or worshippers of idols; for, if that were so, you might have to leave the world, (verses nine and ten). There's no need to leave the world and we mustn't. The problem, as ever, is the inner fellowship of the church.
18. There might be some of you feeling some opposition with the words, "Don't hang out with or eat with such a person," or "You shouldn't judge what's on the inside of folks." If that's all you heard it must sound to you like words that arose out of the exclusivity of those following the noses of their groups so proud in their purity. But, as I touched on earlier, the problem here is more than the presence of sin but rather the lack of repentance. It is when sin is not seen as sin. In not recognizing sin as sin, in not having complete repentance and then just eating together, can real fellowship truly come into existence in such a way? I hardly think so. When we speak in regard to the harshness of Paul's words, we must consider what kind of fellowship we are given in Christ.
19. These are the words we have in the epistle of John, "If we say that we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, it is a lie and we are not practicing the truth. But, as God is in the light, if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another and we are cleansed from every sin through the blood of his son Jesus," (First John 1:6-7). We cannot insist that there is no sin in us and continue to walk in sin. When we repent of our sin and walk in the light, by being in the light we have true fellowship. Because we are a church that cannot leave the world, the fellowship of the church must seek to be a fellowship that is in the light and not for worldly friendship and intimacy.