God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 5:6-7 Sweep out the yeast
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 4, 2023
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Sweep out the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed: Christ.
Spring cleaning in an ancient Jewish home meant dusting shelves, wiping out all of the cupboards, scrubbing the counter and the sink or washbasin, and thoroughly sweeping the floor, followed by a good hot soapy mop, in order to remove every possible crumb of yeast from the home.
In the traditions of the Jews (the Mishnah), there is seemingly no end to the number of exceptions to the law. The Lord commanded Moses that beginning on the 14th of Nisan, “For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community… Eat nothing made with yeast” (Exodus 12:19-20). Now, Paul had been a Pharisee. He was not only well-versed in the Law of Moses, he was brought up in the community in which exceptions became rules. He knew the habits of the Jews who wanted to press the limits of the Law of Moses. They were in the habit of making endless debates: Should you check all of the wine jars in your wine cellar, or just the top few rows of them? (This debate is found in the Mishnah, in Pesachim I:1). What if a weasel (or a mouse) has dragged something with yeast in it from one house to another, or into a barn? (Pesachim I:2). What if you didn’t search the night before? Can you still search on the 14th? Or while other people are eating the feast? (Pesachim I:3). Can you eat leavened food on the 14th before the fifth or sixth hour, when the yeast was all burned? (Pesachim I:4). And the questions and debates go on and on, with things that no one would ever think of unless he was hungry and utterly despised the taste of unleavened bread. But Paul is thinking of sin. Sin is like yeast because it starts to get involved in every part of a person’s life. And so, “sweep out the yeast,” which is to say, “get rid of the sin in your life.” Not just the sinner, although that was an important point, but the sin in your own life. And don’t make any exceptions!
The business of getting rid of yeast was in preparation for the Passover celebration every spring. Paul uses the familiar custom of sweeping out yeast before eating the Passover lamb to show that a Christian has real sweeping to do: sweeping out sin. This comparison (a simile) is especially ideal because Christ himself is the Passover lamb; the true sacrifice that the Old Testament meal merely pointed to.
The Greek word pascha (πάσχα) comes over from the Hebrew word pesach “Passover” (Exodus 12:11). The word refers to (1) the historical event, (2) the annual memorial of the day, (3) the meal eaten on that day (the way we say “Christmas dinner” or such things), and especially (4) the lamb or kid (goat) that was sacrificed. It is astonishing that a commentary would take time to criticize translations for inserting “lamb” in this verse when that is truly the point of the festival and the direct link to Christ.
Being our Passover lamb is the role that our Lord came to fulfill when he entered his mother’s womb as an infant. He came to be priest (Psalm 110:4) and even high priest (Hebrew 10:21), the true minister of the holy places and of the true tabernacle that God has prepared (Hebrews 8:2), and to be our ransom and redemption (1 Timothy 2:6). He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29), our Passover lamb (this verse, 1 Corinthians 5:7), and, by completing these roles perfectly, he is “our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). He completed this with two roles. First, he satisfied the divine law both by keeping the law perfectly (his active obedience) and by making satisfaction for sin with his innocent death for the sins of the whole world and to obtain righteousness and eternal life for the human race (his passive obedience). Second, he intercedes for us by praying to the Father on our behalf. He does this generally for all sinners, even for his enemies (Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34), but especially for the faithful (John 17:9; Romans 8:34). John comforts us: “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).
We who put our faith in him have our sins swept away by his blood, and therefore we want to continue to remove sin from our lives through repentance. We learn to identify sin as we read and study his Word and listen to good preaching about it, and how often we are blessed by hymns that uncover sin and its shameful shadow!
“All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.” (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, v. 2).
“Children of God, we too were slaves; our master—sin! Our end—the grave! But freedom came in crimson shades: the blood of the Lamb” (The Blood of the Lamb, v. 4).
“If my sins give me alarm and my conscience grieve me, let your cross my fear disarm, peace of conscience give me. Help me see forgiveness won by your holy passion. If for me God slays his Son, God must have compassion!” (Jesus, I Will Ponder Now, verse 5).
“When he was born in human likeness, and his appearance was like that of any other man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
This is our Passover Lamb, Jesus the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sin of the world.
Pastor Timothy Smith