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1 Corinthians 5:8 The yeast of sin

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 5, 2023

8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with old yeast, not with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The celebration of this feast of Christ does not end, as other festivals do, but continues on and on throughout each person’s lifetime. The Passover went on for seven days, but then a new batch of yeast could be made or paid for, and the new lump would be used and re-used until it, too, was burned the following spring. The celebration without the yeast of sin should go on and on without any end. This verse divides a person: the new creation vs. the old Adam; the forgiven sinner vs. the sinful nature. The “old yeast” therefore is not the punishment for sin, but the fallen sinful nature which remains in us as long as we live. The sinful nature is not only deserving of punishment because of what it inherits, but also because it is at fault; it is sinful and generates sins. So the Scriptures call it ”the old man” (Romans 6:6), and they also show that it commits “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22).

This verse joins together two words for sin, malice and wickedness, and perhaps this would be a good place to pause and look at the differences between the various words for sin in the Greek part of the Bible (there are a dozen or so more in Hebrew, but we will touch on those in our upcoming study of Psalm 119).

  • adikia (ἀδικία) unrighteousness, iniquity. “Allow no iniquity to dwell in your tent” (Job 11:14). Also, “There is nothing iniquitous about him” (John 7:18).
  • anomia (ἀνομία) lawlessness. “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). “Do no wrong, but walk in his ways” (Psalm 119:3). And again: “Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).
  • apostasia (ἀποστασία) apostasy; defection. “That day will not come until the rebellion occurs” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
  • hamartia (ἁμαρτία) sin in general. “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). “When they become aware of the sin” (Leviticus 4:14, 20, 21, 23, 24, 28). Also, the verb hamartano “to miss the mark” (Judges 20:16); “When you sin against your brothers, you sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12).
  • asebeia (ἀσέβεια) impiety; sin against the first table of the law. “That prophet has spoken ‘presumptuously,’ do not listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:22). “What is Jacob’s sin? Is it not Samaria?” (Micah 1:5).
  • hettema (ἥττημα) failure. “Their loss means riches for the Gentiles” (Romans 11:12).
  • kakia (κακία) malice, wrong. “The yeast of malice” (1 Corinthians 5:8); also: “We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
  • opheilemata (ὀϕειλήματα) debts. “Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12).
  • parabasis (παράβασις) actual sin including transgression; violation of the law. “The penalty that pursues the transgression of the unrighteous” (Wisdom 14:31; see also Romans 4:15; Hebrews 2:2).
  • paraptoma (παράπτωμα) transgression, fall. “If anyone is caught in a transgression, restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1). “They could find no corruption in Daniel” (Daniel 6:4).
  • parakoe (παρακοή) disobedience. “Ready to punish every act of disobedience” (2 Corinthians 10:6).
  • plemmeleia (πλημμέλεια) crime, disgrace (from words meaning “without concern” or “play a false note”). “Why have you committed such an unfaithful act?” (Joshua 22:16).
  • poneria (πονηρία) evil, wickedness. 1 Corinthians 5:8; also “There is an evil I have seen under the sun…” (Ecclesiastes 10:5).

All of these are sins that “so easily entangle” us (Hebrews 12:1). Only the blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from these sins and transgressions, whether they are mistakes or outright rebellions. So we confess our sins, all of them, either aloud in private confession to our pastors or silently as we pray on our beds or in worship. The forgiveness that is proclaimed to us is forgiveness from Jesus, as we teach in the Catechism: “Confession has two parts. The one is that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the pastor as from God himself, not doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thus forgiven before God in heaven.” (Confession, First).

Our lives should become a celebration of Christ with two qualities in particular: sincerity and truth. Sincerity is being free from all deceit or hypocrisy. Truth is being free from all lies and falsehoods. This is a description of the Christian life without any of the yeast of sin. The Christian does not hide his secret sins but confesses them so that he may receive help from the Holy Spirit in avoiding them, turning away from them, and being repulsed by them. As this takes place, our love for holiness and our desire for godliness will grow. “Who loves his Lord? Since he has renewed us by the forgiveness of sins, he made us another pattern, so we would have the spirit of children, as though he were creating us all over again.” This exchange will never be complete in our lifetime. There will be setbacks and troubles. But God is gracious and patient, compassionate and slow to anger. He loves his dear children. Put your faith in Jesus our Lord, and know that God is with you, within you, and holding you up so that you will not fall.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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