Study Notes for I Corinthians 5:6-12 (click here for Study Sheet)
Paul follows his unequivocal instructions to the Corinthians to expel the immoral brother with the statement, "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"
The Corinthians church had become "soft on sin." Proud of their newfound freedom in Christ they were excusing immorality, divisiveness, dishonesty, and greed. Paul chastises them by reminding them that a little bit of sin (yeast) changes the whole batch of dough.
There are two levels at which this teaching is true. If any of us harbors a sinful indulgence, rationalizing its presence our life, we deceive ourselves. If we refuse to admit that we are captive to a habit or attitude that pulls us away from God and from integrity, we open ourselves to more and more deception.
If we excuse blatant sin or divisiveness in our fellowship of believers, we open the door to Satan's influence among ourselves. We put our brothers at risk, and we lose our power.
Paul uses imagery from the Passover and from the Feast of Unleavened Bread in this passage. He admonishes the church to get rid of their old yeast-the yeast of sin-so they can be a church without yeast.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed Passover in the Jewish calendar. Paul asserts that our Passover Lamb-Jesus-has been sacrificed. He has taken care of the problem of sin. Now we must live without "the yeast of malice and wickedness" but with the "bread of sincerity and truth."
Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, sin no longer claims us. When we accept His sacrifice, God brings our dead souls to life and connects us to himself. We no longer live hopelessly chained to sin. We are free now to live with sincerity; we are free to live in truth.
We can get rid of the yeast of sin. Now we can celebrate with "bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth." Now we can celebrate with the Bread of Life; now the broken body of Christ is our bread. We are no longer in bondage to the disfiguring yeast of sin. We are alive, nourished and cleansed by his body and blood. As Christ-followers we live the fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We are alive in Christ. His death and resurrection have taken us from the death of being bound to malice and wickedness to life in Jesus, shaped and grown by sincerity and truth.
Sincerity and Truth
If we are not sincerely wanting to know and to grow, we will not acknowledge truth. The word of God, the Holy Spirit, even fellow believers may confront us with truth. If we are not sincere, or if we are double-minded, (see James 1:7) that truth will not change us. Only when we sincerely want to know the truth and grow in Jesus will we be willing to let him release us from the bonds of malice and wickedness.
In the words of the late clinical psychologist Richard Nies, "When you break from sincerity, you ultimately break from reality." As long as we indulge in self-deception, we are not able to recognize truth. We live in a self-serving world in which we are our own "last word." We define our own versions of right and wrong. We rationalize our compulsions. We excuse our hedonism. We rename our sin. We use the same words that people of truth use, but the words don't mean the same things. We give them our own private meanings. We become arrogant in our delusions, and we inoculate ourselves against truth.
Don't Associate with Immorality
Paul's instructions are almost shocking. "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."
Paul equates the seriousness of gossip, greed, and swindling with idolatry, sexual immorality, and drunkenness. Many of us find reasons to indulge in forms of gossip and shady financial dealings. We call these things "getting ahead," "protecting ourselves," "planning for retirement," and "telling the truth."
Many of us, in fact, grew up around fellow church members and parochial institutions that had shadows of questionable financial dealings clinging to them. In addition, many of us grew accustomed to worshiping in environments in which it was not safe to reveal personal needs or struggles. Such information might well become part of the "gossip mill" and could be used to limit a person's involvement at church or at work. To many of us, the sins of greed and gossip seemed less serious, more forgivable, than sexual sins or drunkenness.
This passage in Corinthians, however, is unmistakable. These sins are equally serious, and true believers are not to allow these sins to flourish in the church. Each of them is a transgression against another person, and each compromises the perpetrator's sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. To indulge in any form of dishonesty is to limit God's power in one's life.
Paul does clarify that believers are not to try to escape from the world. These sins are expected among non-believers, and the church's job is not to judge the unbelievers. That, he says, is God's job.
As the body of Christ, however, we are all parts of a whole. The sin of one member causes damage to the whole body. Believers, unified in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, are to exercise judgment over the body. But the body is only to exercise that judgment in an attitude of grief, in the presence of Jesus Christ, and as an act of redemption. (verses 2-5)
The church has no jurisdiction over the world because it is not part of the world although it is in it. The church is to be salt and light in a dying world, but it does not share in the world's death. The church is a living organism proclaiming salvation among those who are dying. Only God the Creator who holds good and evil within his sovereignty has the authority to judge the unrepentant world. The world's unrepentance is a rejection of God, and only God can judge that rejection.
Paul instructs the church to "expel the wicked man from among you." This expulsion is not a death sentence. Rather, it is a last attempt to bring the offender to salvation. For the church to ignore a blatant sin is to condone it. For the safety of the believers and the health of the body, the church must exercise discipline.
A Call to Accountability
God calls us to be accountable for our actions. He calls us to live in sincerity and to embrace truth.
As Christ-followers we are to help bear one another's burdens. Further, if we find a brother caught in sin, we "who are spiritual should restore him gently." (Gal. 6: 1, 2)
God calls us to be involved in one another's lives with love. We are not to ignore sin, but we are not to fall into Satan's trap by gossiping when we see sin. Further, we are not to become drawn into sin ourselves.
God asks us as believers to be accountable to each other. Accountability, however, can only happen in an environment of safety-and environment of sincerity and truth. It cannot happen around malice and wickedness.
We are not to blink at blatant sin in our fellowship. We are, however, to bear the light of truth to the unbelieving world around us.
As Christ-followers we must act with integrity and lay our own sins and compulsions before our Savior. We must not be afraid to call sin by its right name. We must also bear the love and mercy of God to our world.
We must live in sincerity and truth.
All contents copyright (c) 1999-2000 Graphics
Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 23, 2000.