Passover and Resurrection (1): The Passover Promise
1 Corinthians 5:7b–8 - For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 5:8 Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Remember the Passover Promise - This passage exhorts the Corinthian community with light from the ancient festival of Passover, calling for a renewed community life, while pointing to a new celebration. In the context, a Corinthian man was guilty of immorality and thus enslaved (5:1). Paul gives the formula of excommunication, that he will “deliver such a one to Satan” (since the man is already acting as a slave of Satan’s dominion) (5:4-5). In the context Paul addresses the Corinthians in the issue of a man guilty of incest (5:1). In this passage we have the formula of excommunication: “to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (5:4-5). This is basis for the announcement we make at the Table at an excommunication which the command to “not even to eat with such a one” (v 11). Cleaning out the leaven of sin includes the practice of church discipline, even excommunication if there is no repentance (Mt. 18:15-20). Just as leaven spreads to affect dough, so sin spreads to affect the community. Tolerating sinful behavior and not calling those guilty to account causes the yeast of wickedness to spread. We must “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump.” Our inborn “malice and wickedness,” must be cleaned out so that we may start again with “sincerity and truth.” Like this man, Israel had been enslaved, but God delivered them by the blood of the Lamb (Passover) and passing through the sea (Exodus). Like those in Corinth, Israel’s grumblings in wilderness showed their enslaved nature in spite of God’s objective deliverance (1 Cor. 10:1-8). For Israel, Unleavened Bread (in the festival) symbolized at least three truths: a) their hardship or affliction, b) their haste in leaving, and c) leaving behind the culture of Egypt (Dt. 16:3, Ex. 12:33-34, Mt. 13:33).
In this ancient feast an implicit promise of an even greater deliverance rested.
Rejoice in the Resurrection Fulfillment - Paul applies Passover to pagan Corinthians and teaches that Christ fulfills Passover. Leaven is like the influence of sin in a community and the Eucharist celebration calls for spiritual renewal in casting off old sin-leaven. This is grounded on both the Sacrifice and the Resurrection of Jesus (explained fully in ch. 15). The promise of Resurrection in Passover is displayed in that the Israelites were to abstain from risen bread for seven days which implies that on the Eighth Day they would eat risen, leavened bread. After all, pastries are better than pitas. The days of Unleavened Bread ceremonially commemorated affliction and deliverance for Seven Days. This time awaited (implicitly) an Eighth Day resolution of leavened bread. Paul teaches that since Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, we now are to sincerely and truthfully celebrate the feast of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic feast. And when do we celebrate this? On the first day or the “Eighth Day” of the week. The Lord's Day is the first day of the week, the numerical “eighth day” when one counts from the first creation day. This was not lost on first-century Christian leaders: “Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (Epistle of Barnabas).
The text speaks of the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Malice and wickedness ferment and spread. So every time you gossip, speaking ill of someone else, when you pass on a juicy tid bit half-truth or something you really don’t know for certain, this is the malicious yeast at work. The relationship between these character traits and actions is that “malice” is an evil intention which leads to all kinds of wickedness. It may begin with only a small action, but the intention is to hate rather than love. It leads to manifest wickedness. The immorality mentioned probably began with ill intentions toward family members and then blossomed into a sordid affair. Likewise sincerity is the intent to be honest and authentic. This leads to the full discovery of truth, not to hiding or covering up. Paul teaches that obvious evil being manifested does not come about with no prior causes. Rather it begins with evil intention before it brings froth the full blown fruit of wickedness. Perhaps it began with a son’s bitterness toward his father, something that can’t always be detected. Per
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more