Get Rid Of The Old Yeast
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Key Verse 7
“Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.”
The Corinthian church had many problems that Paul dealt with in his letter so far. But the problem that we find herein this chapter is indeed outrageous. He starts out this section of the letter like this: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among the pagans: A man has his father’s wife.” (1) It’s shocking that this church which had risen from the ashes of utter corruption to becoming one of the most exemplary churches in the region, would actually have a problem of this sort among its members. One of the members of the church had taken his father’s wife to bed. This kind of sexual immorality was so terrible a sin that Paul said that even pagans don’t fall into a sin of this magnitude. What made it worse still was, as Paul says, “And you are proud!”! (2a) Sexual sins are bound to happen in and out of the church; that is no surprise. But to have them happen with the total consent of the whole church; that is the surprise! Worse yet, they had been proud about it. What was wrong with them? And how did Paul address this issue?
Read verses 1-5. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” We are not familiar with the circumstances that led to this shameful situation in the church. For example we do not know how it came about that a man ended up taking his father’s wife for himself. That such a thing is considered an act of sexual immorality and a heinous sin against God is clear. It may even be categorized as incest. But how the church was handling the matter is what’s disturbing. They were not doing anything about it. Worse yet, they had taken pride in it.
Why had they tolerated such a flagrant sin as this? Perhaps they were abusing the sense of freedom that the Gospel gives for those who come under the grace of our Lord Jesus. It is not so strange that a church or a Christian community would allow sins to be committed within the body of believers under the banner of Christian freedom. Paul himself promoted Christian freedom in some of his letters, extolling the amazing grace of Jesus and calling that Christians are free in the Lord. But not free to use their freedom at random in whatever way they may choose. Freedom is given to those who accept the Gospel; they are free from the laws of the Old Testament that kept people bound to them. In Christ, we become free from the law that bound us as we bind ourselves to the Lord himself. But freedom was never given so that we may abuse our freedom. Freedom that the Gospel gives Christians is a sacred and holy freedom, a freedom to live in the Lord and for the Lord. Those who use or abuse the grace of the Lord and claim that a Christian can do anything because he or she are free are in error. And this error not only cripples the Christian himself or herself, as well as cripple the church and the body of believers they belong to, but it festers in the heart and makes it proud and undiscerning. It’s what happened to this community of believers.
Paul severely dealt with this issue that was hanging over this church. In verses 3-5 he basically commands the church to “hand the man over to Satan” (or cast him out of the fellowship of believers) as a warning to the church as well as an act of severe discipline to the man committing this flagrant sin. Before we get into what exactly Paul means by “hand him over to Satan” we ought to consider why Paul deals so harshly with this church. In essence the congregation was compromising with sin. They were compromising with evil. When they tolerated the sin that was happening around them in the church, they were compromising with evil. And where sin is tolerated, Satan is ruling. That is why Paul’s discipline seems to be so harsh. He wanted to cut the ground from under Satan’s feet.
Compromise is the devil’s playground. Not just compromise in acts of immorality, but generally speaking, any compromise in all things in life is dangerous to the Christian and to his or her church. Compromise itself is the worst sin of all because compromise has a way of diluting sin,. Then after it had diluted sin, compromise opens the door for sin to enter, and when sins has entered into the heart or a community, compromise numbs the person and the church until it has taken its toll on them. How many lives as well as churches have been broken to pieces by the act or crime of compromise!
Lot compromised. He was called to live a life of faith with his uncle Abraham. But the devil found a foothold in his life, and Lot believed that he can enjoy the easy going life and at the same time also live the of faith. The devil lied to him that he could live in the world, and at the same time live in God. But he couldn’t. it was a lie. Lot moved to Sodom, because Sodom offered some form of security. He believed that he could change the hearts of the people of Sodom and make them godly, but instead the life in Sodom consumed his heart and mind and in the end he lost everything that he had— and all to compromise!
Judas compromised. His compromise was very subtle, almost undetected, when the devil tempted him with it. The devil told him “It’s okay not to fully commit yourself to Jesus and to the life Jesus called you to live. Walk with him, eat with him, talk with him, do all the things that he does, but keep an open mind, and don’t fully give your heart. Who knows, this life may not be for you after all. If it is, you can always remain. But if it begins to become intense and demands more time and effort and sacrifice on your part, you can always leave, you can always bail out without losing anything. There is much you can learn from Jesus. But remember ‘that’s all you want from him’, just to learn a few things. You really need not commit to him at all. Just leave a door open for yourself. It’s the smart thing to do.” But he lied to him. Judas won’t be losing ‘nothing’, he would actually lose everything. And another lie. He won’t be learning anything from Jesus, because learning without commitment and practice, fills the heart with head knowledge, and knowledge by itself breeds pride. Judas compromised. In the end, he paid for it with his life.
Sadly there are many Judases in the churches. They don’t know it. They don’t know that knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus. To know Jesus is to lose the world in the process, and gladly. To know Jesus is to surrender one’s life and to give it all to Jesus. But with the devil tempting them to compromise, the Judases of today never commit to one Lord, never commit to one life, never commit to one church, never commit to one gospel. They commit to many, and in doing so, they commit to no one. They end up committed to nothing but to themselves and to their own growing pride.
Compromise comes in many shapes and forms in the church and in the Christian life. Christians at times compromise with such sins as selfishness and indifference, or sins of resentment and of bitterness. They do not see them as sins, but as things to work on casually when there’s opportunity to, when they should clearly see evil as it truly is— as evil and fight until its out of the heart. Compromises are designed by the devil to “water down” or “dilute” the “Absolutes” of God such as “No divorce!” or “Keep the Sabbath holy!” and to render them “Relative”, with retorts such as “it all depends on the circumstances”, or “On the how you things!” or with “but on the other hand” and such. Compromise “waters down” and “dilutes” the evil things of life and renders them more appealing or less harmful. As in the case of this church at Corinth, when they compromised with sexual sin until even this terrible act of immorality began to look benign or harmless to them. In the end they were even proud that they were a progressive church, open minded and free and who exercise pure Christian freedom, even allowing such acts as what this man did, and boasting about it.
We must not compromise with sin. When Jesus entered the temple and saw them compromising with and tolerating the sin of materialism, Jesus overturned the tables. (John 2) He acted out the righteous anger of God against the compromise of sin. Neither must we tolerate and compromise with sin. Paul was severe in the way that he handled this situation he found in the church. Instead of compromising with sin, what did he want them to do?
Look at verse 2. “Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?” Paul was surprised that hey were not filled with grief instead. He expected that they would be filled with grief to see such a sin being brought into the church, the sacred house of God and into the fellowship of God’s family. Paul wanted them to grieve over it. He wanted them to truly grieve that sin of this sort has crept into their fellowship. In their grief, they should have wept before God over the sin that has found its way into their midst, and also wept over the man who was committing the sin. Grief is the natural reaction of the Christian to the sins that come into our lives and our community. Sin is the very thing that separated us from God in the first place, that made us guilty and that sentenced us to judgment and to death. Sin is not a small thing. Sin is the very reason why Jesus died on the cross to deliver us from. It has no place in the church and in the community of God’s people. We who know what the Lord Jesus went through on the cross because of our sins, should be most sensitive to see that sin finds no place among us. Whatever sin it may be, sexual or not, sin is sin and we must fight to keep it out. May God give us the grace to grieve in humility of heart and in repentance to bring all our sins to him for cleansing and forgiveness.
Look at verse 2 again. Paul expected them to grieve over the sin that has entered into their lives and church. But he also expected them to have cast the offender out of the church. Why? Because of his influence. Read verses 6-8. “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” Here Paul explains to the Corinthian Christian why the man must be put out of the church. Because just as yeast quickly spreads in the dough and is akin to bad influence, the bad influence of this man’s sin will also quickly spread until it has brought its bad fruit to the whole church. Paul reminded them that they had been redeemed by Christ, the sacrifice who had given his life in order to defeat the sin in their lives. He reminded them of the Christ who had given them a new life apart from sin, and had already rid them of the bad influence of sin, so why were they bringing in the yeast of sexual immorality back among them when it had been dealt with, and once and for all cast out of their lives and church? Paul urged them to get rid of the yeast of bad influence. They needed to have cut off the yeast and thrown it out. They needed to have dealt severely with the compromise in their lives which they were tolerating and allowing to grow and spread. Didn’t they know that if the compromise of sin is not dealt with, it could lead the church to destruction!
Paul understood that at this point it would be terribly difficult for them to expel the immoral man from among them. He was one of them. They had consented to his behavior, deeming it acceptable in the church. They had already boasted of what they had tolerated among them. How could they now expel him? Look at verses 3-5. Paul assured them that Paul himself had already passed judgment on this man. Even though they had not, that he had already judged him as if he were there himself. The sentence could not be reversed. Paul also admonished them to do what is the right thing in the sight of God. He admonished them to assemble in the name of the Lord Jesus. They had been a fellowship belonging to Jesus Christ. This was not their fellowship to do with as they pleased. They belonged to Christ Jesus, and as members of the church of our Lord, they must do what the Lord himself calls them to do. And the Lord had already deemed that all sexual immorality is of the devil, and that there is no room in the fellowship of God for such sexual compromises. In the name of Jesus then, they must consent to deliver this man to Satan. In other words, they were to eject him form the fellowship. Not in hatred or in spite. But in love.
How can casting him out of the fellowship be an act of love? Paul was not thinking about the fellowship’s reputation. He was not thinking about the man’s honor. He was not thinking about emotional hurts of casting one man out. He was only thinking that in the name of the Lord Jesus the right thing must be done, and in this case, the world needed to see how serious sin is. More than that, Paul was also thinking about the man’s soul. If he persists in his sin, he would surely die and would bring the church down with him. But he were to be cast out, he would no longer come under the protection of the Lord Jesus. he would be in the domain of Satan who would taunt him. But the man having known the Gospel and the grace of God once, also knows of the love of God. He would grieve to see that he was no longer in fellowship with Christ and his church. It would lead him to repentance, and to forgiveness, and to life. Paul deeply cared for this man’s soul. He wanted to give him a chance to consider what he had done. He wants him to consider what calamity he had brought down on a fellowship of saints. People sin but never think about how their sins affects their own lives, and how it affects other’s lives as well. Many are callous to their own sins, thinking that they can do what they want when they want to. But our lives are intertwined. We bear the responsibility as the Lord had taught us for each other. Our lives must bring others to Jesus and to the Gospel, and not make others neutral nor drive them away from the gift of life which God has for them.
Paul wanted the Corinthian church to love this man practically. And love, as sweet as it is at time, is also harsh at times as well. Just like a father disciplines his children to make them better human beings, so also the Gospel teaches us that discipline is as much love as any other act of love may be. Love is to love with God’s love. God’s love is sweet but at times bitter. We must be ready to be loved by God in any way God would show us love, that our souls may escape the devil’s trap and that we may be delivered from the wayward way. Paul asked them to cast him out. He did that with all the love of God.
Look at verses 9-13. “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’” Paul did not want them to take his advice to the extreme and completely avoid all those with sexual sins or acts of compromise that belong to the devil. Paul explained to them that judgment from the church is for the church itself, and not for the outside world. As for them, they should have judged the man already— not a judgment as that which God alone is worthy of— but a judgment of truth, that what the man is doing was wrong, that he should repent and put his sin aside. We too must listen to Paul’s advice and judge or discern what is happening in the lives of our brothers and sisters and in the church itself. When we have a loving heart toward our fellow Christians, and we have a fear of God in our hearts, then we can easily judge what is sin and what is not. We can easily judge what is compromise and what is absolute. Then we can have a fellowship that is indeed healthy in every way. Only let us examine our hearts today, and if we have any thing we are compromising, may we bring it to God and let him cast it out of our midst.