Leaving the Leaven Behind

Leaving the Leaven Behind

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?
—1 Corinthians 5:6

It is our duty to correct other Christians in the church in order to reclaim them from sin and to maintain the witness of the church. Finally, a third purpose of church discipline is to sustain the health of the congregation. You have probably heard the saying “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” Paul had another saying in 1 Corinthians 5:6: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” Now, I have never baked anything in my life and never intend to, but if you know anything about baking, you know it takes just a little pinch of leaven to make an entire lump of dough rise. In the Bible, leaven is used as a metaphor for sin. Paul was saying it only takes a little bit of sin to infect a whole body of believers. He extended that analogy in verse 7: “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”

Paul was referring to the first Passover, in the book of Exodus. God sent ten plagues to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelite people leave Egypt. Before the tenth and final judgment, God told the Israelites, “If you take the blood of a blameless lamb and put it on your doorpost, when I see the blood on your door, I will pass over you in judgment.” And that is exactly what happened. That night, the angel of death killed the firstborn of everyone who did not have the blood of a lamb placed over them. When Pharaoh lost his firstborn son, he told the Israelites, “Get out of here as quickly as possible.” They left in such a hurry they did not even have time to leaven the bread they were baking. They left the leaven back in Egypt as they headed toward their new lives in the promised land. That leaven represented sin, the old way of life in Egypt. God was calling the Israelites out of Egypt to a new land, so they had to leave the leaven, the sin, behind.

That is what Paul was alluding to in 1 Corinthians 5. The moment you trust in Christ as your Savior, when you have His blood placed over your life, God says, “I will pass over you in judgment.” But as we head to our new way of living in Christ, we are to leave behind the leaven in our lives. That sin, that uncleanness, has no place in our new lives.

This passage is a call to personal holiness. But Paul was also talking about the church, the “whole lump of dough” (v. 6). We are all together in this, and we are to do everything we can to sweep out the leaven of sin and keep it from permeating and infecting the body of Christ. We have a responsibility to correct other Christians in the body of Christ to maintain not just the health of each member but also the health of the church as a whole.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Confrontation” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org