A Holy Place
It is remarkable that the statement, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” should occur twice in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 5:6, Gal. 5:9). The first time in connection with grave moral evil, and the second in connection with serious evil doctrine.
A very important truth is thus brought out, viz.: that the Christian assembly should be a clean place. It is characteristically this, and it should be so actually. In the exhortation to “purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump,” the words are added, “As ye ARE unleavened” (1 Cor. 5:7). It then adds, “Even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”—this speaks of sin being dealt with, and gives the position characteristically and then urges the pracrical, “let us therefore keep the feast [that is, taking this feast of unleavened bread as a figure] not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (v. 8).
An attempt has been made to teach that a Christian may be connected with an assembly which permits someone who is guilty of gross moral sin or of holding serious evil doctrine, to continue among them unjudged, and yet be undefiled as long as he or she is not personally guilty of such sin, or of sympathizing with such. This is surely a very wrong way of looking at things, and quite contrary to Scripture. The Word of God says, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
When Achan sinned in taking of the spoils of Jericho a goodly Babylonish garment, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold, fifty shekels in weight, the word went forth, not that one misguided individual had sinned and all else were innocent, but that “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant” (Josh. 7:11).
When judgment was pronounced on the actual guilty party, Joshua said, “Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day.” And we read, “All Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them [sons and daughters and all he had] with fire after they had stoned them with stones.”
So it is with the Christian assembly. So it was at Corinth. A case of gross moral turpitude was knowingly allowed in their midst. The assembly is a holy place—characteristically unleavened and should be so actually, and the matter had to be dealt with. The assembly had to be cleared.
On the other hand, there are degrees of evil. Narrow-minded men in the assembly might seek to purge out saints, not walking up to their ideas, putting them out for trivial reasons. There are usually things present, which exercise the minds of the older and more experienced Christians, but which need to be met with pastoral dealings, and not excommunication, which would be carrying things too far.
So whilst it was plain this evil man must be excommunicated in the most solemn way from the Christian assembly, we are given a list of sinful practices that would necessitate excommunication. The list is, “a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner.” A little thought over this list will show how comprehensive it is, and yet guarding against misguided men acting on trivial grounds in this serious matter.
Then in Galatians 5:9 we have the sentence, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” as a warning against evil doctrine being harboured in the midst of the Christian assembly.
If the Apostle Paul, in handling the matter, called for severe measures in the matter of serious evil conduct, his handling was still more severe in the matter of evil doctrine. He wrote, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). The next verse reiterates this, and we know that Scripture is not given to idle repetition. The thing being twice repeated shows that the matter is intensely serious The Apostle could not have been more insistent.
Is it possible for saints to remain in fellowship where serious evil teaching is held, though not holding such teaching themselves, and yet not be defiled? There is nothing more deadening to the conscience than this. Such saints are defiled—“a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” In tacitly submitting to evil doctrines they become “partaker of his [the propagator of doctrines subversive of Christianity] evil deeds” (2 John 11).
It is not without significance that the command to refuse entrance into the home or pass the usual salutation to one who did not bring “the doctrine of Christ,” was not given to strong Christian men, but to a lady and her children, young people (2 John 9-11). Does this not emphasize our points? Doubtless the Apostle’s handling of the matter of Judaizing teachers in the Church of God brought clearance and deliverance, it is evident, after his vehement denunciation of the matter as subversive of the very Gospel, such leaven could not be allowed to work among the saints.
May each one of us be careful to maintain holiness of conduct and soundness in doctrine.