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The Old Dough Has to Go

First Corinthians chapter 5 reveals that the church at first century Corinth was in dire need of a thorough spring cleaning. The church was tolerating something really dirty in its midst. A brother in Christ was openly engaged in sexual sin so serious the apostle Paul said it was such sexual immorality as not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father's wife" (verse 1). What?! A sin so sinful sinners wouldn't engage in it — but some of the saints did?! What to do? Using Old Testament imagery, Paul warned the sin-tolerant Corinthians, "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven... .malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

This passage presents a compelling call for distinctive Christian living. Paul warns in verse 6 that sin is contagious. Like yeast in a lump of dough, sin is an active agent, spreading quickly if not rigorously resisted. The open sin at Corinth was not good, and the members' non-chalant attitude about it was putting the entire congregation's spiritual health at great risk. Thus Paul's directive to "purge (clean) out the old leaven." We clean toilets and sinks and dishes because we understand dirt can be dangerous if allowed to pile up. Paul's directive to purge out the old leaven has an Old Testament background. Exodus 12:15 reveals that no leaven was to be found during the Jewish Passover Feast. Leaven stood for slavery and the Jews old way of life in Egypt before God graciously acted to deliver them. Thus the Passover, with its required removal of leaven from Israelite houses, compelled the Jews to remember the great redemptive act of God in the Passover, and to highlight their rescue from slavery in Egypt to new found freedom as the people of God. Similarly, the church is to remember that Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. We have tremendous incentive to resist sin — Jesus died to free us from its deadly, degrading, enslaving effects in our lives! Therefore, we take sin seriously and resist it aggressively, if not perfectly. We strive to purge the leaven of sin out of our lives, not with a "holier-than-thou" attitude, but precisely because Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. We seek to be a new lump in Christ, truly unleavened with sin. Because Jesus died for us, we seek to live lives marked not by malice and wickedness, but by sincerity and truth. We can't allow the leaven of sin to remain unchallenged in the lump of Christ's church. Christ's death in our behalf demands that the old dough (of sin) has to go.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ