Title: A Little Lump of Leaven
Text: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Date: June 6-7, 2015
Let's open to First Corinthians, chapter 5, continuing our study through the book of 1 Corinthians. Chapter 5, beginning in verse 1. The title of our message this morning is a bit unusual, “A Little Lump of Leaven”. Now, I know that these messages usually have a lot of meat and vegetables, but this message has a lot of carbs. I am sure a few people are wondering if there's going to be a gluten-free message later, but no. Okay, I'm sorry. That humor is half baked. I think we need to move on into something spiritual.
Last few verses of Chapter 4, you really get the strong sense that Paul is sending a letter to correct the church. Remember the context. He is their spiritual father. He founded the church. The church is very young and he feels a responsibility to them as their spiritual father to correct their course. Get them back on track. They're young in their faith. "They're babes in Christ," he said. "They are immature Christians." So he wants to strengthen them, build them up, keep them growing, but their immaturity has already caused them to get off track.
This is the point. He's going to correct them, because their immaturity has already caused them to get off, and he wants to get them back. Now, the wonderful thing is that they listened. They listened to his words and they are growing in maturity because of that. In fact, we know that from reading the book of 2 Corinthians, which we're going to get into. So, it really gives us a great principle. They listened. They were teachable, and I think that principle of teachability and humility is a really significant part of growing in faith, growing in maturity. And the things that he's been addressing so far, he's been addressing all the division and the strife and the jealousy that's been in the church. They had like these little mini-denomination as these groups were forming—one aligning with Paul, another aligning with Apollos, another with Peter, another with Christ himself.
Imagine having all of these little mini-denominations and it was just a house church. I mean, that's a lot of divisions for just a little house church. But now, he's addressing another problem, another major problem, and he actually begins this with “It was actually reported,” which is to say, can you believe I've heard this? “It's actually reported that there is immorality among you, and an immorality of such a kind that does not even exist among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. He's having a sexual relationship with his step-mother. This has actually been reported to me. I'm having a hard time believing I'm hearing this,” is what he’s saying.
Now it was bad enough that someone in the church had such a depth of immorality, but the problem is actually made worse because they were puffed up or arrogant about it. Prideful about the fact that they could tolerate such things. In other words, they thought that this was a demonstration of the greatness of their love. It shows how much we love, how much we can tolerate, but Paul writes them to show them that this is a great sin, and sin is like cancer, and it's not love to tolerate cancer when it's actually destroying the body.
So he gives them an interesting illustration. To demonstrate what he's saying, he uses the illustration of leaven in bread, and then he goes on to say that this is a picture of sin, and don't you know that a little lump of leaven will leaven the whole lump of dough? In other words, he says in this illustration, "We're like lumps of dough." Now a lot could to be said about that, but, he means that in a spiritual context. We are called to be unleavened lumps of dough because it only takes a little lump of leaven to leaven the whole lump of dough. I had to practice saying that. It was really hard.
I. We Need God’s View of Morality
Let's read it. 1 Corinthians 5, beginning in verse 1. It is actually reported that there is immorality among you. And immorality of such kind as does not even exist among the gentiles, that someone has his father's wife, and you have become arrogant, and that word is literally puffed up. And you have not mourned instead. In order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from the rest.
Though I, on my part, am absent in body, but present in spirit, have already judged him who has committed this as though I were present. So in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are assembled and I with you in spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved on the day of our Lord Jesus. Now, your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little lump of leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.
Then he brings up Christ who is our Passover Lamb, and when they celebrated the Passover, they did it with unleavened bread. In fact, the whole week was called the feast of unleavened bread. So Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, not with the leaven of malicious or wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Now, I wrote you in my letter, which is to suggest that there was another letter before this, which we don’t have. I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people. Now, I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world not to associate with, or with the covetous or swindlers or idolaters, for then you have to go out of the world, and after all Jesus was called a friend of sinners. But actually I wrote to you not to associate with so-called brothers, if he should be an immoral person or covetous or idolater or reviler or a drunkard or a sinner. Don't even eat with a guy like that. For what have I to do with judging outsiders?
Now that's a really important point, by the way. You don't clean the fish before you catch them, in other words. Do you not judge those who are within the church, however? Those who are outside, God judges them. But you, you remove that wicked man from among yourselves. This is pretty powerful. Paul, again, doesn't pull any punches. He's straight up, straight forward, and there's a lot for us to really understand and take hold of.
One of the things I want us to really get in our minds is that we need God's view of morality. One of the points I've been making several times over the last several weeks is that when we come to Christ, we come to Christ out of the world. And it's very common then, to bring stuff of the world with us when we come into Christ.
That could not be truer when it comes to our perspective on sexuality and morality. It came out of the world. It's very easy for people to bring the world's perspective with them, the world’s perspective on sexuality and morality they bring that with them out of the world when they come in faith to Christ Jesus. And so, the Corinthians lived in Greece, and you want to talk about a culture that was out there, that was Greece. And that culture stood in distinct contrast to the Jewish culture and to the truth that Jesus Himself taught.
Now going back just a little bit in history on this, how did all of this Greek influence actually happen? It started with Alexander the Great. You might know from your history he conquered the known world, and as he brought the conquering of the known world from the Greek--he was actually Macedonian which was Northern Greece. Colonization or the Greek culture then followed right in his footsteps. In fact, the New Testament that we have--this book itself, was written in Greek, from that influence.
And it's also interesting that Alexander the Great actually did not conquer Israel. He conquered the known world, but he didn't conquer Israel. Why is that? Because he had this dream, this vision, that he saw this priest dressed up in this particular garment, and when he came into Jerusalem, there was the priest exactly as in his vision that God had given to him. He got off of his horse and bowed down, and his generals were shocked at this, and he explained this dream.
He went into Jerusalem, and he offered sacrifices through the priest to Jehovah, and did not conquer Israel. That really is an amazing part of history; however, the result of it was they honored him and the Greek culture. Greek names and ways started to come in, but much of the Greek culture was offensive. For example, historically, the Greek athletes competed naked. All right now, only men, because women did not compete in those games, but they would compete naked and in fact, the word gymnasium actually means, in the Greek, naked. So when you go to the gym--okay, let's move on. Let's just not even go there. But the Jewish laws--see, here's the contrast. The Jewish laws forbad public nakedness as dishonoring to God, who gave sexuality as a gift to husband and wife and so therefore, it's dishonoring to him.
A. These things are spiritually appraised
So, looking at his point that he's making, he's speaking into this church that brought a lot of the culture with them. He wants them to see it from God’s perspective. You came out of that culture. Now let’s change your view of these thing. In other words, these things are spiritually appraised. Now Paul has used that phrase before, and it has important meaning. To appraise is to assess the value of something. You want to sell your house; you get your house appraised. But we appraise the value of things in this life, but we must do it spiritually from God’s perspective.
For example, sometimes I’ll hear people say when these kind of things are discussed “What is the big deal?” Now isn’t that a value statement? Aren’t they assessing the value of something when they say such a thing? In other words, they can’t understand the spiritual value. They can’t understand God’s perspective. Why? Because these are spiritually appraised.
See, how are we transformed spiritually? When God changes our view. When God changes our perspective. When we start to see from His view of the thing, and when we begin to agree with His view of the thing. That’s when we’re being transformed. Let me give you a really great Scripture. Luke, chapter 16, verse 15. I mean, this is a straight forward verse. It’s very powerful. Jesus said to them, “But God knows your hearts for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” That is a powerful verse.
See, would you agree that the world’s view of sexuality and morality is distinctly different than God’s view of sexuality and morality? Wouldn’t you agree with that? It’s important for us to see that there is a distinct difference. But then we have to say, “Well, how do we change? How does our perspective change?” That’s when we take hold of God’s thoughts, God’s truths, God’s wisdom, and then we place it higher than what we had when we were in the world. That’s when we change. That’s when we’re transformed.
B. Life in the Spirit is better!
One of the points that he wants us to see from this letter and this chapter is that life in the Spirit is better. Let’s see it from God’s view. Life in the Spirit is just way better. In these chapters, Paul is pressing us to understand. Maturity is better than immaturity. Life in the Spirit is better than life in the flesh. He wants us to see it, but it’s a lot easier to see from the perspective of the mature. The mature one can look at the difference and say, “Hey, maturity is just so much better.” But it’s very difficult for the immature one to see it. If they’re in the midst of their immaturity, it’s very difficult to see that maturity is better. It’s kind of like talking to your children, and you’re trying to transform them—the immature child into a mature adult.
So you know you’ve got to change their view. But from their view, there’s nothing wrong with their life as it is. We’ve got to change this. How does it change? I’m convinced that truth rings true. This is important. Truth rings true. See, the Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing. How is that so? Because when you hear the words of truth, when you hear the words of life, the eyes of your heart begin to open. Why? Because truth rings true.
God made us in His image, and thus when He speaks the truth, our eyes begin to open. Let me give you a verse. John 6:63; Jesus is teaching, “It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life.” Now that’s a really great verse. “These words that I am speaking to you, these are Spirit and these are life.” Jesus said. “He who takes hold of these words of mine and lives by them is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock foundation. When the storms came, the wind blew, the waves pounded. It did not fall.” That’s the point.
Here’s another verse. Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now going to be affected by the flesh?” Are you matured by the flesh? He said, I don’t think so. You began in the Spirit, and you’re going to be matured in the Spirit. So we need to see from God’s perspective of everything, and it needs to change. We need to change our perspective. How does that happen?
It reminds me when I was talking with my youngest adopted son and he was going through some of your teenage—typical teenage challenges, and so
many conversations went like this… “I want you to think about when you’re an adult, when you’re a man. What kind of man do you want to be?”
Now see, this is really important because it’s very easy to kind of only think in the moment, and have that myopic view and just see as it is today.
But when we open our eyes, think about when you become a man. What kind of man do you want to be? Do you want the blessing of
God on your life? Do want to be that blessed husband, that blessed father, that blessed man of God? I love the fact he is a very honest young man. I could talk to him all day because when we interact, he is very honest and I love that he will often say, “Yes, I do.” That is fantastic that you want that because you need to start right now.
Those things happen in your life when you make changes that move you in that direction right now. Imagine it this way—let’s step back and ask this question. What would your life be like if you walked in the Spirit over the next five years? When you look forward five years and you walk in the Spirit, what would your life be like? What if you walked in the Spirit for ten years, what would your life be like? I suggest to you that ten years from now, you would say I am so glad I walked in the Spirit. I am so glad. Well, in contrast, what if you walked in the flesh? What if you walked in the flesh over the next ten years? I suggest to you that in ten years, you’re going to look back and you would say, “I regret that. I really regret that. I wish I would have walked in the Spirit,” because the Spirit is better.
C. God’s heart is always to restore
Now, going back to First Corinthians 5, here’s where we see the heart of God in this also, where he’s showing us that God’s heart is always to restore. God’s heart always is to restore. See, Paul wrote that he decided to deliver such a man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus. The destruction of his flesh refers to his earthly nature. That which is prone to sinful things, worldly things. Drawn to the world. Deliver him to Satan means to put him outside of the church and into the world, into Satan’s domain. Remove him from spiritual protection.
Now this would have been devastating. This would have had a tremendous great consequence because there is really only one church, and so to be put out of that church is to be put out of the only church there is. It doesn’t work so well today because if someone is put out of one church, they just go to another one. But in those days, this was a huge consequence of things.
Now it’s interesting because I’ve been asked as we talked about this Scripture over time, “Have you ever actually done this? I mean, have you ever actually done this? And actually, yes, we have. A number of years ago there was a man, young man, who was evicted for having affairs, and he refused to stop, and he was asked several times, but he just would not stop. Finally, I just said to him, “You know what? You are dangerous. I cannot have you in the church. You are dangerous, and when you turn this around, you let me know because I can’t have you here because this is dangerous.” And here’s the good news. His life crashed. That’s good news. It crashed, and that woke him up, and he started to turn around and repent and come back.
See, this is really important. God’s heart is always to restore, although sometimes a person must crash to see it. In Romans chapter 1, verses 24 and 27 it says, “Therefore, God gave them over to the lusts in their heart and impurities so that their bodies would be dishonored among them and receiving in their own person to do penalty of their works.” See, it’s a very bad thing when the Lord says, “You know what? Do you really want that? Do you want that so bad? You can have it.” When He stops wrestling, when He stops resisting, when He stops moving against that thing and says, “All right, you want it that bad, you can have it.” That’s a bad thing, because what’s going to come next is going to be a hard crash. But that may be just the thing to turn people around.
Let’s make it personal. How many people—and let’s do a show of hands. How many people would say if God had not saved me from the road I was on, it would have ended in disaster? How many people – show of hands. I’ll raise my hand. If God had not saved me from that road, it would have ended very badly? See, he’s giving 1 Corinthians 5 to show us it’s for the purpose of restoration that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Now, the church did it. They listened, and they removed him, and we know he was restored.
2 Corinthians, chapter 2, the next book, verses 6 to 8. He wrote, “Sufficient for such a one whose just punishment was inflicted by the majority is enough, so that on the contrary, you should rather turn and forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Reaffirm your love for him.” God is always ready to forgive. I love those last words. He’s always ready to forgive. He always holds out His hands. He’s ready to restore, and we should have the same heart as well.
Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual”—or you could say mature—you restore him. “Restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness.” In Matthew 18, verses 21 to 22, Peter came to Jesus and said to Him, “Lord, how often should my brother sin against me and I forgive him, up to seven times?” Now, when he asked the question, he thought that was a magnanimous question because the Pharisees were teaching a three-strikes-and-you’re-out teaching, so he thought it was magnanimous of him. How many times should I forgive, seven times? Jesus said, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but I say to you up to 70 times 7.” That’s a lot of forgiveness—490. How do you keep track of that much forgiveness? I mean, how do you come to it? Maybe we need an app for that, a smartphone app, then what we do is keep track of all those who offend us and every time they offend us, we forgive and we click or put a nice little mark there next to their name, and start adding it up. This is helpful because apparently when you get to 491, now you can be unforgiving and bitter. See, it’s really helpful because when you get to 463, you can say, “Hey, pal, that’s 463. A few more and that’s it for you.”
Now, here’s the thing. Don’t you think that it’s true that his point is this, that if you forgive and then choose to forgive and then choose to forgive and then choose to forgive and then choose to forgive and then choose to forgive, you don’t have to choose any more because you have become a forgiving person. In other words, at some point it becomes who you are. It becomes your character. It becomes written on your soul. That’s the point he’s making for us. This is God’s heart and we should have the same heart.
II. Don’t be a Spiritual Doughboy
Now, he goes on then in the chapter, and he brings up this whole idea of leaven, and I want us to look at it because it’s really important, and maybe we can make the point like this. Don’t be a spiritual doughboy. You might say, did he actually say that? Yes, but you have to admit, you’ll actually remember it. It’s the Pillsbury Doughboy, remember him? The pop and fresh little doughboy, all filled and puffed up, you know, and you remember those little containers and you hit them on the can and they go “Pow,” and then you can make these fluffy, fluffy biscuits. Ahhh, they look so good. But they’re puffed up, and so you do this analogy of this leaven that puffs up the bread, it puffs up the dough. He said earlier, “You’re puffed up by this. You’re tolerating this man’s immorality. Do you not know that a little lump of leaven leavens a whole lump of dough?”
Sin, like leaven, grows and starts to affect everything. The problem with sin, then, is the growing. Over and over you see the analogies—God uses the analogy of bread. Many places in the Scriptures. The Jews celebrated the week-long feast of the unleavened bread, which included Passover. God gave them manna to eat in the desert those 40 years. Every morning they would get out of their tents and go out into the desert and there would be manna, like dew falling from Heaven. They could harvest as much as they needed for the day. It was sweet and it was nutritious, tasted good like honey with coriander seeds. It tasted like crispy cream donuts, and it was good for you. This was another picture of the bread of Heaven.
A. Grow in the spirit, not in the flesh
Then Jesus said that He was the Bread of Life. He fed 5,000—that’s just the men—by multiplying five loaves and two fish. Paul said then, that we are the unleavened lump of dough. But he’s using a picture to show us a point. In other words, grow in the Spirit. Don’t grow in the flesh. Grow in the Spirit, not in the flesh. The reason leaven represents sin is because it puffs up with emptiness. It puffs up with nothingness.
Growing up, my mom used to buy this stuff called “puffed wheat.” I don’t know if they still have it. I didn’t like puffed wheat. I mean, to buy ten pounds of it, you’d have to buy 80 bags of it and to eat breakfast you’d have to have a big bowl of it because you could eat the whole bowl and only have to swallow it twice. It’s just air, and that’s the whole point of this thing—this idea of leaven is this puffed up with emptiness. It makes a person’s life empty. Void. No purpose. No meaning. No account. It just makes the person’s life void with emptiness.
Ecclesiastes 5:10, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth will be satisfied with his income, for this is emptiness. This is vanity.” Here’s another one. Psalms 119, verse 37, this is a really good verse. “Turn my eyes from looking on worthless things and give me life in Your ways.” I’ve got to memorize that verse. Turn my eyes from looking at worthless, empty, vain things and give me life, give me life in your ways.
Leaven spreads as a whole lump of dough. Immorality takes over more and more of a person’s life until it affects everything. I have seen the consequences of immorality over and over. You can almost see the steps of it. First, it drains a person of their spiritual life. It just drains them. The spiritual life just drained out of them. Then their faith grows weaker and weaker. Then comes the depression. There’s a lot of causes for depression, and this is one of them. Then comes the depression, then an emptiness and then fear.
Proverbs 28—I love Proverbs 28, verse 1, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” When you think about that phrase—I mean, really think about that phrase—it has a lot of meaning. The wicked flee when no one is pursuing. That is deep. But the righteous are as bold as a lion. Don’t you love that perspective? What a vision for a Christian who is strong in their faith, spiritually mature. They are as bold as a lion. There’s something powerful about that.
I love Romans 6, verse 21, “What benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.” When I first heard that verse, when I really took hold of that verse, it hit me, right in the heart. Wow, that is a really good question. What benefit did you get? If it helped you at all, was there any benefit to your life at all from that, from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of this thing is death. The outcome—see this is usually where he’s showing us the perspective. What’s the outcome? When you have a vision. When you understand that these things have a result, wow, it changes your perspective. Well, I want a different outcome.
Jesus gave a parable, and that parable was very insightful about the outcome of things that grow in our life. It was the parable of the sower and the seed, and He said this is a picture of the Word of God being sown, and it falls and lands on different types of lives or soils, one--the first he mentioned is the hard path. The path along the ways. The seed is sown, but it is so hard, you won’t receive the Word of God at all. Birds come and pluck it away. The second is the rocky, thin soil. It does receive it, but as soon as the heat of the day comes, it withers and becomes of no value. But then He gives these certain soils and I want us to look at them. This is Luke 8, verses 14 and 15, “Now the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who heard and as they go their way, they’re choked with the worries and the riches and the pleasures of this life, and they bear no fruit to maturity.” So what’s growing, then, in that person's life? Thorns, thistles, weeds, and the thorns and the thistles and the weeds, they choke out so that spiritual things do not bear, but the weeds are growing pretty good. The briars are growing really good, and the briars—we live in the Northwest, and the briars, they grow.
“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who've heard the word with an honest and good heart, and they bring forth fruit with patience. I love that picture. What a picture. They bear fruit with perseverance.”
B. Unleavened bread is sincerity and truth
What a picture. There are the results. See the results. And then he goes on to explain in 1 Corinthians 5 that unleavened bread is sincerity and truth. Verse 8, he says, "The unleavened bread celebrates the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. In other words, unleavened bread isn't just the removal of immorality, it's not just the removal of sin. It is the spiritual substance of the life of God within us. It's not just removing, that doesn't take away the immorality. There needs to be the substance of life. There needs to be a spiritual revival. There must be a spiritual filling. That's the whole point.
If there's going to be change in a person's life, if there's going to be a transformation in how a person lives, it must be because of the life of God—the substance of the life of God is found; otherwise, he says, let there be no immorality. It’s just another rule. It's just another constraint. God doesn’t just give us rules. He gives us character. He gives us integrity. He gives us sincerity. He gives us truth. He gives us the Spirit of life. He gives us honor. He gives us the substance of His Spirit within the soul.
Now Jesus taught an interesting thing in Mathew 16, verses 6 and 12. Speaking of the Pharisees, He says, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” He was questioned, what did he mean? He explained it, and He said, “Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which was the problem—that was the issue. Well, that's seen in Matthew 23, verses 5, 14 and 16. Jesus said, in reference to these Jewish leaders, “They do all their deeds for show.” That's straight forward right there. They don’t mean this. Oh, this means--it's the appearance of things. It's just for show. And Jesus said, “For pretense, they make long prayers.” For pretense, what does that mean? It means there’s no substance in it. They're like blind guides.
Well, what’s the opposite? The opposite? The opposite is sincerity and truth. Sincerity and truth. Jesus said, “The one whose heart is good and true, he takes hold of the Word of God”, and thereby the seed begins to bear and sprout and brings fruit to maturity. That word “sincerity” in the Greek, literally means “examined in the light of the sun”. Now, that’s a beautiful picture. Live your life in the brilliance of the Son. Don't live in the shadows. Don't live in the darkness. That's where mold grows. Live in the brilliance of the Son. That's where fruit grows. That’s where glory comes. That's where peace comes. That's where honor comes. Live with honor. Live with honor. It's better - It's just way better.
When there's revival in the heart, that's when transformation comes. He says, "Remove immorality. That only happens when there’s Spiritual revival. That’s what God is asking for. Have sincerity and have truth.