“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough – you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 NET).
Have you ever considered what a powerful substance yeast is? Yeast is what is referred to as a “leavening” or “lifting” agent. When this is added to dough it initiates a fermentation process which, because of the gases produced, causes the dough to rise and become light.
The thing about yeast is that you don’t have to add very much in comparison to the amount of flour that you use. A small amount of yeast can influence a large amount of dough.
This is the problem when we find Christians who are still living a life of sin. Like yeast, the person who is continuing in sin can have an influence on those who are trying to follow Jesus.
Notice what Paul is writing about in this chapter. The problem was not sexually immoral people in general. Those who are not Christians are obviously condemned because of their sin. And besides, as Paul points out, “in no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world” (verse 10) – and that is physically impossible!
The problem is when we have Christians who continue to live immoral lives. They have not put to death their old way of life. The problem in Corinth was a man who was living with his father’s wife (this probably indicates a step-mother). They were not married but they were living with each other as if they were. And the Christians were not doing anything about it but had accepted them in their sin. This was influencing the entire group of Christians. If sin is alright for some, why not for all? What did they have to do? “Remove the evil person from among you” (verse 13).
Rather than being influenced by sin and evil, we are to be bread without yeast – “unleavened bread” if you will. Sin can work its way too easily through a group of people. And this is what the yeast represents – sin, vice, evil. Instead we are to get rid of the old yeast – sin – and become a new batch of unleavened bread. We celebrate the “festival’” with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. What “festival” do Christians celebrate? It would seem that this is a reference the Lord’s Supper.
This helps to explain why we use “unleavened bread” in the Supper. We know this is what Jesus used on the night he was betrayed, because he took parts of the Passover, which required the use of unleavened bread, and gave them a new meaning, symbolising his body and blood. But we find a second reason here: bread with yeast represents sin and evil. Unleavened bread represents sincerity and truth. We remember Jesus with the bread that represents him.
Readings for next week:
11 May – 1 Corinthians 9
12 May – 1 Corinthians 10
13 May – 1 Corinthians 11
14 May – 1 Corinthians 12
15 May – 1 Corinthians 13