Christ our Passover - 1 Corinthians 5:1-8

James McColl, Australia

In these verses there are four issues of significant importance:

A. The Seriousness of the Sin. There was a very grave case of immorality in the assembly. Corinth was a licentious city, very lax in relation to morals. Yet even they avoided the particular sin being practised and tolerated. "It is reported commonly (actually) that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife." (5:1) It was widely known. There was no doubt about it whatsoever.

B. The Shamefulness of the State. The assembly had taken no action. Worse than this, they were conceited about it. Verse 2 tells us that they were ‘puffed up’. Paul uses this expression six times in this Epistle, relating to partiality, criticism, oratory, immorality, knowledge and love (4:6; 4:18,19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4). It was bad enough for such a sin to be practiced in God’s assembly, but worse still for the Corinthians to display such an attitude of arrogance. What is not clear is the relationship of their arrogance to the problem. Is it one of mere tolerance or did they believe that the grace of God gives then such liberty? To prevent the carrying out of scriptural discipline would bring about the displeasure of God. Proverbs 28:13 makes it clear that "He that covereth sin shall not prosper..."

C. The Significance of the Sacrifice. "Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep festival, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (RV 5:7, 8). Paul is about to apply the imagery of Exodus 12, "Purge out the old leaven, . . " Get rid of the old that you may be new! He reminds them that what they must become is what they already are by the grace of God, "As ye are unleavened."

Paul moves on to the second ritual in Exodus 12, "The sacrificial lamb." He goes on to explain how they became God’s "new loaf" in Corinth, "For even Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us..." This emphasis on the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, as the basis of their transfer from the old to the new, is the point Paul will elaborate in verse 8, in the final application of the metaphor. "So then let us keep the feast or festival. " In this statement, he is not referring to the Lord’s Supper but to a life in freedom from evil. They were to remove the incestuous man, which is like "cleansing the house of leaven, " in order that they may become in practice what they were positionally in Christ, that is to be unleavened. But now "the old leaven" is further qualified in terms of "malice and wickedness. "These two words cover every form of iniquity. In contrast, we are to celebrate our new life with "sincerity and truth. " The Corinthians, in covering up the sin and boasting about it, were acting without purity of motive or basis in truth. They were living a sham. The fact and application of the death of Christ to our behavior will lead us to a life of holiness, with which this epistle began, "Unto the church of God, which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints (1:2)

Paul has been using the imagery of Exodus 12 with great skill and an examination of that chapter reveals three lines of teaching which Paul has applied so well in 1 Corinthians 5:

1. (vv. 1-7) Redemption known and enjoyed. The lamb selected, scrutinized, slain and the sheltering blood applied. Redemption by blood!

2. (vv. 8-11) Communion and fellowship in feeding on the roast lamb. The lamb became the food of the sheltered household. In applying this typical teaching to ourselves, it means that our affections are nourished by the One who in suffering love bore our judgement. In our remembrance of the Lord Jesus, our hearts are touched by Him who bore the awful punishment of God against our sins. The Israelites ate the roast lamb "with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs." This teaches us that we are to eat of Him in freedom from the corrupting influences of the flesh and in self judgement. God will not allow anything to develop in our lives that was judged at the cross.

3. (14-20) The Moral results. A life of practical holiness in the festival. "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel." This addresses the whole cycle of our lives. The Corinthians failed to apply this teaching in a practical sense, and demonstrated an unwillingness to judge the sin - the action of the flesh. Paul brings this teaching into chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians to show the proper use of the believer’s body, that it is for the Lord and not for fornication, " ...and ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, which is God’s."

D. The Sanctity of the Sanctuary. (5:12; 6:11-20) This fourth great issue lays great emphasis on the importance of the believer’s body and what is done with it. In Chapter 6 verse 1, he reminds the Corinthians about their past, "and such were some of you. This is a tremendously moving statement. We have only to recall the moral cesspool of first century Corinth to appreciate the wonder of Paul’s assertion. What a transformation was wrought in their lives by the power of the Gospel! "Know ye not that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (sexual perverts), nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (6:9,10).

1. "But ye are washed." Washed from the defilement of sin - Moral.
2. "But ye are sanctified." Sanctified from the habit of sin - Practical.
3. "But ye are justified." Justified from the guilt of sin - Judicial.

Paul is taking them in thought to their pre-conversion life, but now "you have washed yourselves, " breaking links with such unholy and impure practices. The basis upon which it happened was "the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, " meaning all that He is and has done. The agency or instrumentality by which it was made good to them was "in the Spirit of our God." Before Paul gives a full Christian perspective on the believer’s "body," he deals with the general principle raised by the statement in 6:12, "All things are lawful for me..." This is something a believer does with his or her body. But this is not the criterion by which the Christian lives. Not, is it permissible but is it profitable? The logic, used by some today, that ‘if one takes a drink, he is not a drunkard’ may be used in regard to the issues of fornication and adultery. This is false teaching. Fornication is sinning against one’s own body. We are not expected to do this, for "our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit."