Do You Not Know That a Little Leaven Leavens the Whole Lump?
Our Scripture lesson this morning is from 1 Corinthians 5:1-8:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 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. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Our question today is found in verse 6, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”
At first glance, this question may appear as one of life’s oddest questions, rather than one of its most important, but let me assure you it is one of the most important and practical questions we can ask. For example, this very moment, we see America filled with violent and chaotic protests, why is this? It is because we are attempting to purge ourselves of the sins of past generations, yet it is going at it in all the wrong way. We are ignorant of what the Bible teaches about the corruption of sin and how it is passed on from person to person, generation to generation.
There are two consequences of sin: Culpability and Corruption: I like to call these the two “C’s” of Sin.
Culpability we are all familiar with. Each of us stands guilty before God of our own sin. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God tells us this:
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Culpability is not passed on from person to person, nor is it passed on from generation to generation.
Those who are attempting to place on the sins of past generations of Americans upon the current generation are very misguided. This current rage is nothing more than self-righteousness. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were sinners, but so are we! Each person is answerable to God. We need to take care of our own sin before we judge others. Paul warns us:
Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
For example, far more African Americans have died on abortion tables than on slave ships. As a nation, our hands are bloody. The numbers of individuals killed by abortion dwarfs all past mass killing; including the Holocaust! We as a nation are in no position to throw stones at anyone!
Moreover, every generation has had its moral blind spots. June was Gay Pride month. As a nation, we are so blind to our own sin we even celebrate it! Past generations we blind to their own sins as well. We don’t need to erase history; we need to learn from it!
We need to learn from it, because if we do not, we will be corrupted by it.
The second consequence is Corruption. This is the consequence our text deals with. There are many texts in Scripture which speak of God “visiting” the sins of the fathers upon the children. The most well known is found within the Ten Commandments itself:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Many are confused by this language of God “visiting” the sins of the father upon the children. The Bible is very clear that each person stands before God for their own sins, not the sins of another.
The confusion is cleared up when we realize that the word “visiting” is a covenantal term. This is clearly seen in the context of the passage I just read. When God “visits” a person or community, He is visiting them with either covenantal blessing or curses. Although the culpability of sin cannot be passed on from person to person, the curse of sin can.
This is what Paul is so concerned about in our text, although only one man was practicing sexual immorality, unless the church removed the corruption of sin from their midst, the whole church would be infected. We see the same warning from Jesus in His seven letters to the churches in the book of Revelation. There, Jesus call the whole church to repent of the sins of a few.
In God’s providence, I think we are all much more aware of the dangers of infection because of COVID-19. Sin is much more deadly than any physical disease. Unless the leaven of sin is removed, the whole lump will be infected!
So how do we remove the corruption of sin from our midst?
In the same way we remove the capability of sin, by repenting and believing the Gospel.
Repent and Believe the Gospel
Repent and Believe the Gospel
According to our text, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”! Not only does the sacrifice of Jesus atone of the guilt of sin, it also atones for the corruption of sin.
Paul tells the Corinthians to “cleanse out the old leaven,” he is speaking of repentance. Biblically, repentance is the turning away from sin and turning to Christ in faith. In Paul’s letter to Titus, we find this instruction:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
This passage clearly illustrates the turning away from sin and the turning to Christ.
If we are to be free from the corruption of racism or abortion for example, we must “renounce” them. This is true of any sin. Until we “renounce” sin, God will continue to “visit” us with the sins of our forefathers. Again, and again we see examples of this in Scripture. For example, the people who returned with Ezra and Nehemiah continued to experience the covenantal curses of their forefather’s sin until they “renounced” them. If the church of Corinth had not excommunicated this sexually immoral man, they would have been cursed by his corruption. The same is true for our church, our families and our nation.
My hope as I conclude this message is that you can now see the protesters underestimate the seriously underestimating the problem and they are seeking to correct it in the wrong way. Our closing song this morning is entitled, “Nothing but the Blood”. Nothing but the blood of Jesus will cleanse us from the culpability of our own sin and the corruption of other’s sin.
In my closing prayer I am going to give you time a time of silence so that you can renounce any sin you need to and to turn to Christ in faith.
Let us pray.