“Christ, our Passover”

Article by: Prof. Eric Aseka - Senior Pastor, Divine Grace Ecclesia,

“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.” 1 Corinthians 5:7-9 

In this passage of Scripture, the apostle Paul tells believers that they are are to live a perpetual Passover feast.

Therefore, they should purge out the old leaven, that they may be a new lump, since they truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Purging out the old leaven signifies the importance of getting rid of all leaven at the Passover feast. All leaven was to be removed from the house, and nothing with leaven in it was to be eaten for a whole week. Paul says that just as the Jews were concerned to remove all leaven from their midst, so the church should have a concern to remove such notorious, unrepentant sinners from their midst. “Christ, our Passover” shows Paul’s connection between the purity of Passover and the Christian life is not a strange stretch. Jesus is in fact our Passover Lamb, whose blood was shed so that the judgment of God might pass over us. So, we are to live in the purity that Passover speaks of. The nature of the Atonement

Christ Our Passover

1 Corinthians 5:7 says: “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”. Because the passion of Christ took place the week of Passover (Matthew 26:1-2), the early church quickly understood that Jesus fulfilled the symbolism in the Passover meal as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The marking of blood on the doorposts (Exodus 12:7-13) has a clear tie to the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross (Revelation 1:1-8), and it is therefore no surprise to see the Lord’s disciples link His death to the Passover throughout their writings. Without Christ, the Father looks upon the world He made and sees only a mass of corrupt sinners who are wholly deserving of His wrath. But since Jesus has died for His people, the Father now sees in the midst of fallen humanity men and women who have been marked with the blood of His Son by faith. His wrath can let these blood-bought saints alone in a passing over even greater than the one over the houses of Israel so long ago.

Our Christian lives are to be marked by the same things which characterized Passover: salvation, liberation, joy, plenty, and purity from leaven. Paul says: “Since you truly are unleavened”, making his point is both clear and dramatic that you must live unleavened because you are unleavened. “Be what you are” is the basic message of the New Testament for Christian living. Beloved, dalvation in sin is not possible, it must always be salvation from sin. That is why we have to be unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. This because sincerity and truth are two strong guardrails for the way of the Christian life.

The principle of Christian separation.

In verse 9, the apostle Paul told them, in a previous epistle, to avoid sexually immoral (porneia) people. He stated: “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people”. The question is, where is this previous epistle from Paul? The apostles wrote many epistles to churches which we no longer have. Certainly such epistles were inspired to speak to that specific church at that specific time, but not to all the church for all time. So, such epistles were not preserved by the Holy Spirit, through the church.

In saying “not to keep company with sexually immoral people”, we should note that not to keep company is literally to “mix up together”. In the context of social relations it means to “mingle with” or “associate with” in a close way.

Verse 10 says: “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”. Beloved, God exhorted each Jewish household to remove all leaven in the house in preparation for Passover. Leaven (yeast) symbolized a complete break with the old life in Egypt. Moses identified leaven with the putrefaction of life in Egypt. Paul used this idea to “purge” incest from the church in Corinth. The church is to “purge” (cleanse) decisively and thoroughly (Greek) the leaven of incest that will spread throughout the church if they do not deal with it.

There ought to be a purge so that you may be a new lump. The church has status before God because of their position in Christ. They were to become what they are, in union with Christ. Note the emphasis is not on “to be” something but on something that they “are”. The church was to live according to their eternal status before God in Christ since it’s members are truly unleavened.

The church is a “new lump” since it is “justified” forensically before God. The word “new” means new in the sense that it did not exist previously. It was a new lump of dough that never had yeast put into it. The church was not just a reformed church patched up but was something radically new. Indeed, Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Christ is, therefore, the Passover Lamb. The Greek places great emphasis on “Christ.” The sacrifice of Christ the Passover Lamb was the means of the church becoming “unleavened.” Christ’s substitutionary death contained the principle of death to sin. Christ took my hell that I might have His heaven. The essence of salvation lies in a sacrifice on our behalf.

Incest is a blight on the finished work of Christ. Jesus was the last lamb that God ever recognized because He fulfilled all the Old Testament’s sacrificial typology. The sacrifice on Calvary was the true and final sacrifice. Christ once and for all dealt with the issue of sin on the cross. The principle here is that the church is to live in light of who they are. The believer and the church have status with God, the same status Jesus has before God forever. Both the church and the individual believer live their Christian lives in light of who they are in Christ. Everything we do reflects our position in Christ. Jesus cleansed us from sin, so we are to live like cleansed people. Paul was using bread metaphors to help his readers understand why they must remove the man who is committing incest from among them (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). In the previous verse, he described sin in the church as leaven that was contaminated. It must be removed or it will infect the whole batch of dough, making the bread worthless. Just as is done with certain breads today, a small piece of an earlier batch of dough would be reserved to “seed” the next batch. Fermenting agents in that piece would be spread around the new dough and continue the cycle. A small influence would grow and become universal.

The apostle Paul adjusts the metaphor to one best understood by those familiar with the Jewish Passover. In preparation for that celebration, Jews scoured their homes to remove any hint of leaven. They would make and eat, instead, unleavened bread. In addition, they would sacrifice a Passover lamb and put its blood on their doorposts before eating it. Therefore, Paul’s metaphor put the Corinthian Christians in the place of the Passover dough. They were to cleanse out all the old leaven and become a new, unleavened piece of dough. Then Paul said something surprising: They were already the unleavened dough. This is true because Christ, the Passover lamb, was sacrificed on the cross to pay for their sin. The leaven had already been removed from them. Paul was urging them to live up to what they already were, the forgiven and set-apart people of Christ. Put another way, why would the Corinthian Christians allow sin that Christ had died for to continue to be flagrantly practiced among them?

Verse 8 says: “Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. The Jews kept the Old Testament Passover for one week. The “feast” here was not the Lord’s Supper or the Passover but the Christian way of life. The idea was “to keep the festival”. The Greek emphasis was: “let us keep on keeping the festival”. The Christian life was like a festival free from wickedness. We should know that Christian living is like a perpetual feast that does not exist for a day or a week but an entire life. How can the Corinthian church keep on keeping the festival of the Christian life if they have sin in their midst? The church should be a place of joyous celebration of a believing community.

The “old leaven” was the life of the believer before he became a Christian. The Christian cannot constantly live as he did before he became a Christian. The leaven of “malice” is the desire to hurt someone. “Malice” has a vicious feature to it. It is mental cancer.

Ephesians 4:31-32 stated: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. The leaven of “wickedness” is the active exercise of hurting someone. It is the actual injury of another person. It is malice in action, malice in deed. There is deliberate malice or active connivance to this sin”. “Truth” is something consistent with reality. A person who lives according to truth does not compromise what he believes. There are no shams. This person lives with an inner desire for a reality consistent with Christ and all for which He stands.

2 Corinthians 2:17 says: “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ”. The principle here is that  living the Christian life like a festival manifests itself in transparency and consistency with the truth. God wants us to be marked by integrity in living the Christian life like a festival. The convergence of truth and action is the essence of Christian living. To put it another way, it is the application of principles of God’s Word to experience. From the moment we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to rewire our heart for “keeping the festival” of Christian living. He wants us to put aside both the mental desire to hurt others and the actual hurting of others. We want to live with a pure heart that rests its case on truth.

Verse 9 says: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people”. Beloved, Paul now transitions into the church’s relationship to “sexually immoral people”. “I wrote to you in my letter (epistle)” mentioned here is the letter (epistle) which Paul wrote before 1 Corinthians. We have no record of this letter. The books in the canon of Scripture are not all the letters that Paul wrote, for he wrote many other letters. The Holy Spirit inspired the canonical books but not his other writings.

He told the Corinthian believers not to keep company with sexually immoral people. The words “keep company” means to keep familiar company or close fellowship with. It is a double compound word with the idea of mix yourself up with. The idea is of an intimate and continuous relationship with someone, in this context, someone who lives in incest. The church at Corinth was being instructed not to treat the person living in incest as a bosom companion because that gives an impression of sanctioning the sin. Paul said in effect: “I wrote you not to be a bosom buddy with sexually immoral Christian people. I did not say that you should have no contact with these people or would not be able to go to work tomorrow. Corinth was filled with sexually depraved people. However, the point was not to withdraw all association with sexually immoral people but to not enter their lifestyles. Paul would qualify what he meant in verses ten and eleven.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 says: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them, I will be their God, and they shall be My people”. The principle here is that the believer is not to associate with another believer who is actively sexually immoral.

A virtue of the world system is broad-mindedness. It is a culture without criteria, without standards. Christians are people with the criteria of the Word of God. Integrity demands that we live consistently with these standards. However, this does not mean we are to cut off contact with non-Christians, but only with Christians who live like they are not saved and violate the integrity demanded of being a Christian. This verse reveals that Paul had written to the church in Corinth before. While this letter is referred to as “First Corinthians”, that reference simply means it is the first of the two contained in the canon of Scripture. That prior writing has been lost to history, but the key point is repeated here that Paul wrote to them about something they had apparently ignored. He commanded them not to associate with people who practice sexual immorality.

Paul will clarify in the next passage verses that he did not mean by this that they should totally dissociate from all unbelievers. Instead, Paul was telling Christians not to include in their community self-labelled Christians known to be practicing sexual immorality. Sexual immorality for Christians might include any kind of sexual involvement outside of heterosexual marriage.

Communicating this same idea in his epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul put it this way, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). By extension, this principle implies that Christian congregations should not turn a blind eye to those who engage in open, unrepentant sin. Doing so not only threatens the spiritual health of the church (Jude 1:12), it damages the reputation of Christ in the eyes of the world (2 Peter 2:1-2). This verse reveals that Paul had written to the church in Corinth before. While this letter is referred to as “First Corinthians,” that reference simply means it is the first of the two contained in the canon of Scripture. That prior writing has been lost to history, but the key point is repeated here: Paul wrote to them about something they had apparently ignored. He commanded them not to associate with people who practice sexual immorality.

Paul will clarify in the following verses that he does not mean by this that they should totally dissociate from all unbelievers. Instead, Paul is telling Christians not to include in their community self-labelled Christians known to be practicing sexual immorality. Sexual immorality for Christians might include any kind of sexual involvement outside of heterosexual marriage.

Communicating this same idea in his epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul put it this way: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). By extension, this principle implies that Christian congregations should not turn a blind eye to those who engage in open, unrepentant sin. Doing so not only threatens the spiritual health of the church (Jude 1:12), it damages the reputation of Christ in the eyes of the world (2 Peter 2:1-2). Therefore, mentioning the greedy, robbers, and idolaters, he explicitly indicates he is including the work world in his instructions. Although we are to avoid immorality ourselves, and we are not to associate with immoral Christians, Paul expects us to work with nonbelievers, even those who do not observe God’s ethical principles. Needless to say, this is a difficult proposition, although he defers getting into specifics until chapter 10. The point he makes here is simply that Christians are forbidden from trying to create some kind of Christian-only economy and leaving the world to fend for itself. Instead, we are called to take our place in the work of the world alongside the people of the world.

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