“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”—1 Corinthians 5:6-7
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”—1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Sin—particularly known sin—weakens the church.
In context, Paul is chastising the church at Corinth because they had allowed at least one immoral relationship to continue without disciplining the offenders. Paul chides them for not mourning over their failure, but rather continuing with business as usual and even bragging about how great their church was. But God will not stand by without some form of discipline and judgment of His own. And in such a case, the whole church suffers. Public sin must have some kind of public discipline.
Someone has said that the most quoted verse in the Bible is not John 3:16, but Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This verse is interpreted to mean that church leaders should never judge anyone who continues in sin; after all, we’re all sinners, so who are we to judge? But these words of Jesus certainly do not mean that we should tolerate sins such as deceit and immorality. Jesus was talking to Pharisees who judged others but refused to judge themselves. He wanted them to judge themselves so that then they would be in a position to properly judge others.
When Paul says that the church leadership should “cleanse out the old leaven,” he’s referring to the Old Testament instruction that the Passover meal should not be eaten as long as there was leaven in the house—even the bread at the feast was to be unleavened. Indeed, before the Passover meal, the Jews went through an elaborate ritual in searching their houses for the slightest hint of leaven. Leaven is a picture of sin; a small lump can work secretly and puff up the dough so that it spreads and affects the entire loaf of bread. Just so, when we tolerate sin in a church, like yeast, it works secretly to affect the whole congregation.
Let us pray that sin will be revealed and dealt with biblically so that our churches will be free to grow and be an effective witness for Jesus Christ.
Let Us Pray
Father, we admit that we are a sinful people; we admit that we often sin in thought, word, and deed. We pray that You might cleanse us first, no matter how painful. We pray for the leadership of our churches; help them to live holy lives so that they might have the courage to deal with sin among the members of their congregations. We pray that You might reveal immoral relationships, deceitful practices, and sinful attitudes that exist among our leadership.
I pray for _____ that they might live in submission to those who have authority over them, whether it’s their parents or the leaders of the church. Help us all to be accountable to someone and be willing to accept rebuke when it’s offered in love for our own good. We pray that overt sin will be exposed; we ask, Lord, that our churches might be filled with those whose private lives match their public persona.
Rid all of us of the hypocrisy of living in two worlds; make us a genuine people, submissive to those who look out for our good. Yes, Lord, come to cleanse Your church.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.