Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
"A tide in the affairs of men, but the same representative thinker of humanity warns us that when we "mean to build," we should "survey" "The plot of the situation, and the model;
but the same representative thinker of humanity warns us that when we "mean to build," we should "survey"
"The plot of the situation, and the model;
I. WE OBSERVE THE DEBASED MORAL SENTIMENTS AND PRACTICES WITH WHICH CHRISTIANITY HAD TO CONTEND. We need not go to the moralists, the satirists, the poets of classical literature, in order to form a judgment as to the corruptions which prevailed among the nations previously to the promulgation of Christianity. The New Testament, especially St. Paul's writings, are a sufficient witness. We have the opportunity of learning, through our travellers and missionaries, how largely the state of the heathen world at the present time corresponds with that of pre-Christian paganism.
1. The passage before us furnishes an example of fornication, which was scarcely thought to be a vice, and indeed was a religious observance among the voluptuous society of Corinth.
2. But the case was one of aggravated adultery and incest, which the moralists of antiquity admitted to be crimes, but which it surprises us to find, even in an individual case, in one of the early Christian communities. Such, however, was the moral condition for which our Divine religion brought a remedy.
II. WE REMARK THE LAXITY ON THE PART OF A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WHICH COULD TOLERATE SUCH OFFENCES AGAINST MORALITY.
1. The Church at Corinth allowed the offender to remain unreproved in their midst, as though nothing had happened which called for especial notice and vigorous and immediate action.
2. They did not even mourn, did not distress themselves, did not make the event an occasion of humiliation and mourning; which showed a sad insensibility to the evil.
3. So far from this, at the very time when their fellowship was so disgraced, they were "puffed up," boasting themselves of their spiritual gifts and intellectual distinction!
III. WE GRATEFULLY NOTE THE PROTEST OF THE INSPIRED APOSTLE AGAINST THE CONDUCT BOTH OF THE OFFENDER AND OF THOSE WHO TOLERATED HIM. It may occur to some readers of the Epistle to ask - Is not the very fact that such sin existed and was suffered in the bosom of a Christian society a proof that Christianity had little real, moral, beneficent power in the world? Wherein was this Church at Corinth better than any heathen society? Could a worse state of things exist without than that which admittedly existed within? The answer to this objection is obvious and sufficient, and is very instructive to us.
1. The conduct of the offender was in direct violation of the laws upon which the society to which he nominally belonged was built. Purity was, as much as justice or benevolence, a fundamental law of the Christian kingdom.
2. This conduct was also in flagrant contrast and antagonism to the spirit and life of the Divine Founder of that religion which was professedly received by these Corinthian Christians. Jesus was the model of purity of heart, and his life and character were sinless, holy, blameless.
3. The inaction and tolerance which were blamable in the congregation were inconsistent with their well known duty. The Christian Church is not a club, whose members are at liberty to receive and reject whomsoever they choose. It is a society of which Christ is the Head and Lord, and is bound to receive those who possess his Spirit, and to reject those who openly and unmistakably grieve and outrage that Spirit. The members of the Church were termed "the holy," or "saints;" and although all were and still are in character far short of the designation they bear, there can be no question as to the inconsistency of a life of incest with a Christian profession.
4. The case called for the stern interference of the apostle, as an authority over the Churches His language was intended to quicken the conscience, to enlighten the judgment, to call forth the action, of those who were very negligent and culpable. It Was a new thing in heathendom that such a stand should be made as that which was on this occasion made by the apostle of the Gentiles.
5. Further, the action of the Church, when Brought to a proper state of mind, was such as to show that one great end of the existence of Christian societies was the promotion of moral pretty. The excision of the members was necessary to the preservation of the health of the body.
6. The ultimate repentance and restoration of the offender is a proof to us that the Christian Church was designed to promote, not only the purity of the pure, but the recovery of the lapsed. In this the Church showed herself to be penetrated with the compassionate Spirit of her Divine Master and Head. - T.
I. FLAGRANT SIN IS NOT TO BE TOLERATED IN THE CHURCH. Though the precepts of Christianity are most pure, professors are sometimes impure. The Corinthian Church furnished a deplorable example. The sin of one of its members was a sin which was "not even among the Gentiles." Occasionally occurring among them, but exceptional even in such debased communities; held in general reprobation, not countenanced by their laws. Into the purest society a great impurity may creep. But in the Church of Christ no such iniquity must be winked at. To permit its continuance would be:
1. To imperil the spiritual life of the whole community. "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump ?" Sin has great spreading power; it is marvellously aggressive.
2. To bring contempt upon the Church. The Church has often to endure contempt, but she should never deserve it.
3. To annihilate the Church's influence for good. How can she fight against evils without, if she tolerates them within.
4. To grieve the Head of the Church. What an anomaly for the Church to foster or be indifferent to the sins which pierced her Lord!
5. To invite the judgment of God. For transgression the ancient Church was cast away, and shall the Church of the new dispensation escape if she gives herself to folly and sin ?
II. TO BE DEALT WITH:
1. By the Church.
2. The flagrant offender to be excluded. For slight offences warning may suffice, but serious lapses call for serious remedies. Sufficient recognition of the sin (as in excommunication) may be well, not only for the Church, but for the transgressor. If the Church think lightly of his misdemeanour, he will probably think lightly of it also. Inferentially we gather that the social position, wealth, influence, of the offender do not come into the account. The law of the Church is the same for rich and poor, high and low.
3. With hope of the offender's reclamation. In the case at Corinth the guilty one is, in Paul's language, to be delivered "unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." The meaning probably is that Satan shall have power to deal with him somewhat as he did with Job (Job 2:4-7) and with Paul himself (2 Corinthians 7:7); that the sin shall be followed by suffering; the evil doer, outside the Church, being placed in the hands of Satan, "the god of this world," not absolutely, but largely, so far as bodily affliction is concerned. Satan is represented in Scripture as causing bodily pain (see Luke 13:16). This deliverance to Satan was a power delegated to the Corinthian Church by Paul, who, as an inspired apostle, possessed it. The object of the deliverance to Satan was that "the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." The means, "the destruction of the flesh," not the destruction of the body, which is to have a place in the resurrection, but by affliction of the body the destruction of that "flesh," that carnality, that corrupt nature, which cannot inherit the kingdom of God. It is charitable to hope that affliction may fall, even heavily, upon flagrant transgressors in the Church. This may lead them to repentance and to a holier life. Exclusion from Church fellowship is to have this object in view. The severance is with a view to reunion, either below or above. We give up fellowship, but not hope. Our expectation and prayer should be that those excluded may be found in a saved condition in the day of the Lord Jesus. We should not exclude out of vindictiveness, nor with spirit of final judgment, nor in despair of God's grace. Note: It is a very solemn thing to be excluded from the visible Church of Christ. This places us visibly in the kingdom of Satan, and we know not how much more fully under Satanic influence. The Church is a shelter and refuge appointed by God; we should be careful how we forfeit our place in it. But, however sad our severance from the Christian Church may be, the real sadness is in the sin which causes that severance.
III. CHURCH DISCIPLINE A CAUSE OF CHURCH SORROW.
1. Incompatible with boast fulness. A cause of humiliation. Whilst we are vainly glorying, the devil is doing his work diligently, and the result will presently appear. Those who are "puffed up" are preparing for a great abasement. Corinthian joy is the herald of sorrow:
2. Grief for the excluded one. Once a brother - a brother greatly beloved, perhaps - and now?
3. Grief tending to self examination on the part of those still in fellowship.
(1) Possibly the lapsed one was not cared for as he should have been.
(2) The evil was not checked, perhaps, when it was in the bud. There may have been opportunities to save from actual ann open transgression.
(3) The evil, perhaps, was rather fostered; indirectly, at all events, by too light an estimate of its heinousness. This may have been so at Corinth; in a city so notoriously corrupt some believers may have entertained lax views of profligacy. If we have in any way helped a brother to fall, how keen should be our regret!
(4) The offender may have been led away by the careless living of some in the Church. Or
(5) may have been influenced by the general tone of the Church. At Corinth, no doubt, the many divisions and the much glorying in men bred an unhealthy Church atmosphere. - H.
I. SPIRITUAL PRIDE AND GROSS SIN ARE OFTEN FOUND TOGETHER. The Corinthians were puffed up because of their fancied attainments (1 Corinthians 4:8), whilst this awful wickedness was tolerated among them. Spiritual pride is a distemper sure to beget other grosser evils, whether in individuals or Churches. It dims the spiritual eye and blunts the moral sense, and thereby leads to a fall. Perfectionism content to dwell with incest!
II. THE EXERCISE OF DISCIPLINE.
1. Its warrant. Every society has the right to reject members whose character is inconsistent with its constitution and ends. This is true of the state, as of private associations; and the same right is not to be denied to the Church. As a healthy body throws off disease which finds a lodgment in an unhealthy one, so a healthy Church will not tolerate in its bosom open transgressors. The true ideal of the Church is not collective, but selective - not embracing all men as such, but only those who have been called out from the world (ἐκκλησία). The dividing line is not absolute - there will always be tares among the wheat; but some line there must be. And this inherent right is confirmed by Divine injunction (Matthew 18:17).
2. Its form. In this case the Church is to assemble, Paul himself being present in spirit, and in the Name of the Lord Jesus "to deliver such a one unto Satan" (comp. 1 Timothy 1:20). This probably points to something more than simple excommunication, perhaps to bodily suffering or death, which the apostles in certain instances had the power of inflicting (Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11; Elymas, Acts 13:11). Apart from the specialties of this case, it is plain that disciplinary dealing with scandalous members is to take the form of exclusion from the fellowship of the Christian society; and this is to be the solemn act of the Church, either collectively or by duly appointed representatives. Such a judicial sentence, pronounced in virtue of the power conferred by the Lord Jesus, should carry with it great weight; and that it may have its due effect on the mind of the offender, let there be joined with it brotherly dealing and prayer.
3. Its ends.
(1) As regards the individual, the censures of the Church have in view his true well being. The deliverance to Satan has for its object the destruction of the flesh and the ultimate saving of the spirit. How it brings this about may be learnt from the case of Peter ("Satan asked to have you," Luke 22:31); from Paul's thorn in the flesh ("a messenger of Satan," 2 Corinthians 12:7); and especially from the experience of Job (Job 1:12). The sifting of the adversary drives away the chaff; his buffeting makes us feel our need of heavenly grace; his infliction of loss and disease weans from the world and teaches submission to the will of God. Such discipline is not a pleasant thing for the erring one. The patient does not like the surgeon's knife; but if it cuts out a cancer or amputates a diseased limb, and thereby saves the whole body, it is endured for the sake of the good it effects. Better that the flesh be scorched by the fire of chastisement, if thereby the soul be saved in the day of Christ. We may gather from 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 that in this case the severe discipline produced the desired effect.
(2) As regards the Church, discipline is a protective measure. This one flagrant sinner, suffered to remain amongst them, would act as a corrupting leaven upon the rest. Others would be emboldened to pursue similar courses, until at length the disease would infect the whole body. - B.
Leviticus 18:8. In advising the Church as to its mode of dealing with this erring brother, there is an unusual severity in the apostle's language; and this is accounted for rather by the attitude which he understood the Church had taken towards the offender, than by his sense of the enormity of the offence. St. Paul's supreme jealousy was ever concerning the purity, good order, and moral worth of the Churches. He seems to have highly valued character - in the individual and in the Church - as being the best witness among men for Christ. He strongly affirmed the absolute necessity of the connection between morality and Christianity, and based his argument on this foundation principle - our whole being, spirit, mind, and body, is the Lord's; and this whole being is redeemed in Christ, and is to be, in actual fact, wholly won and held for Christ. It may also be noted, in introducing the subject, that our idea as to the purity, unity, and model order of the early Church is quite a fanciful one. Probably there was no separate Church of those times that came anywhere near realizing the Christian ideal. We consider, from these verses, two things.
I. THE SIN OF A CHRISTIAN PROFESSOR. It may be shown:
1. Whence it may come.
(1) from relics of old evil;
(2) from circumstances reviving old feeling;
(3) from neglect of due self watchfulness and culture;
(4) from undue fulness of eating and drinking;
(5) from the friendship of those who may lead astray;
(6) from sudden influx of bodily passion; and
(7) from actual occasions of temptation.
Though regenerate in will and life principle, the Christian must never forget that he is not free from the relics of evil in his nature and habits, or from the influence of evil in his surroundings; and therefore he constantly needs the counsel, "Watch and be sober." It should be especially pointed out that the most perilous temptations to which Christian professors are subject are those which come suddenly, reaching them at moments when some unguardedness or some self confidence lays them open to assault.
2. How it may gain its support. Here only one point is dwelt on. The apostle is anxious about the perversion of Christian doctrine to the excusing of sin. In many ways what is known as the antinomian spirit has been made the excuse of sin. It cannot be too constantly affirmed that, so far from releasing its members from the claims and obligations of the moral Law, Christianity presses them with tenfold urgency, for it demands an obedience that shall not be merely formal, but one that concerns motive and feeling and will. See the teaching of our Lord in Matthew 5:17-48.
II. THE RELATION OF FELLOW PROFESSORS TO SUCH SIN. No doubt, at Corinth, each individual Christian would strongly and decidedly condemn this erring brother, but party spirit was so rife in the Church, that some took his side, and laboured to find excuses for him, or to secure the continuance of his membership. It is still found most difficult to carry out the due discipline of the Church, seeing that party feeling gathers round even the drunken, the dishonest, and the immoral. It is, indeed, important that all judicial action should be taken by the Church itself, and that individuals should not have independent authority to exclude or to punish, but only right of speaking and of acting in the Church's name. St. Paul urges:
1. That every effort should be made to cherish and to inculcate right sentiment concerning the sin.
2. That action should be taken which would clear the Church of any suspicion of complicity in or approval of the sin. It must be made quite plain that the sin is the sin of an individual, and is an outrage on the Church's principles and purity.
3. And the action must be taken in such a way as may hopefully bear on the recovery of the sinner from his sin. This appears to be the idea of St. Paul in the figure of "delivering to Satan." The sinner was to be given over for a while to suffer the miserable consequences of his sin, but only in the hope that he would be humbled and brought to penitence and confession; and this seems to have been the result in the case of the Corinthian offender. In conclusion, press that
(1) the moral purity of the Christian Church should be the supreme anxiety of every member of it; and
(2) that the maintenance of such purity is quite consistent with the fullest Christian charity, which, through all its dealings, keeps steadily in view the reformation of the offender. - R.T.
I. THE SPECIAL INSTANCE OF THIS PRINCIPLE FURNISHED IN THE CASE OF PAUL AND THE CORINTHIANS. In what senses could the apostle deem himself to be with these Corinthian Christians "in spirit"?
1. By his teaching. He had long laboured in word and doctrine in this great centre of Greek commerce and literature, and amongst this company, of whom not many were wise or noble, but many were called and washed and sanctified by the gospel of Christ and by the Spirit of God. His teaching laid the foundation upon which Apollos and others had built. And we know enough of that teaching to be sure that it included many precepts and motives to holiness. This instruction had sunk into the hearts of the spiritually susceptible, and by it the apostle yet spake of this society, summoning them to a holy life, and bidding them maintain a standard of social purity.
2. By his authority. Paul never forgot that he was an inspired apostle of the Lord. He spake by the Spirit of the Lord, and his counsels were not those of human wisdom merely, but of celestial authority. What the Corinthians were directed to do they were to do in his name, and with the assurance that their action would be sanctioned by the Divine Head of the Church. In vindicating the purity of Christian communion, in cleansing the Bride of Christ from any stain of the world that had fallen upon her white robe, the Corinthians were to feel that the apostle was with them, inspiring and corroborating their lawful necessary action.
II. THE GENERAL OPERATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE IN THE LIVING CHURCH OF CHRIST JESUS.
1. The great Saviour and Founder of the Church is absent in body, but present in spirit. He himself assured his disciples that it was good for them that he should go away, for that thus the Comforter should come. And the spiritual and universal and perpetual presence of the great Head of the Church is thus delightfully and graciously secured.
2. The action of Christ's Church, when in accordance with the express and plain instructions of our Lord and of his inspired apostles, must be recognized as prompted by his Spirit and sanctioned by his authority. In the application of this principle there are and will be many differences among the people of Christ, but with regard to the principle itself there should be no diversity or hesitation. We do not see his form or hear his voice; but we cannot question his spiritual presence. And he is at hand, not only to teach the disciple, to comfort the sufferer, to counsel those perplexed but to impart a Divine authority to the actions and to the discipline of who rely upon his Word and do his will. - T.
body, but the flesh, that is, the carnal appetite, that is to be destroyed by the chastisement." F. W. Robertson says, "Here the peculiarly merciful character of Christianity comes forth; the Church was never to give over the hope of recovering the fallen. Punishment, then, here is remedial. If St. Paul punished, it was that the 'spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.' And hence (putting capital punishment out of the present question) to shut the door of repentance upon any sin, to make outcasts forever, and thus to produce despair, is contrary to the idea of the Church of Christ, and alien from his spirit." Unfold and illustrate both from Scripture and modern life -
I. HOW CERTAINLY ALL SIN, UNCHECKED, BEARS ITS FRUITAGE OF SUFFERING. There may be even prolonged delay, and consequent presumption in keeping on in sin. But the suffering comes at last; it is certain as the returning harvest. Take two cases.
1. The familiar one of the drunkard. Want cometh, on him and his, as an armed man.
2. The dishonest. A man placed in a position of trust embezzles secretly for years; at last, just as his children are on the threshold of manhood and womanhood, ruin and shame come on them; flight, desolation, misery, and the exile's poverty for him. Man cannot take "fire into his bosom and not be burned; nor can he touch pitch and fail to be defiled." The laws of heredity being now better understood, we can feel more deeply how a man's sins can carry a burden of suffering, even to the innocent unborn generations.
II. HOW, FOR THE ERRING CHRISTIAN, SUCH NECESSARY SUFFERING OR SUCH DIRECT DIVINE JUDGMENT MAY BE REMEDIAL. Illustration may be taken from David's experience, as indicated in his words, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now will I keep thy Word." Explain the process by which, under God, suffering influences the views and feelings of the erring Christian; but point out carefully how suffering affects differently the good and the bad man. It tends rather to harden the bad, because it seems to him mere loss and disability. It softens and humbles the Christian, because by him it is known as the heavenly Father's chastening hand. Show how the sanctifying discipline of suffering is shown in the very story of our human race. The "day of the Lord Jesus" may be conceived as the time when a man's life story is complete; then it can come into consideration and judgment. Then it may be seen that, through all the sufferings that followed upon the soilings, "the spirit has been saved." Press that "delivering over to Satan" does not put the erring one out of Christ's loving thought and care, and therefore it should never put him out of our Christian interest and prayer and sympathy. We must ever keep his welcome back awaiting him. - R.T.
Purge it out - an earnest word; cleanse and purify by ridding the Church of its moral defilement, and so complete the work begun in the excommunication of the incestuous man. It is "old leaven," the relic of the natural man, and it threatens to destroy the new man of Christ's kingdom. For what now is the Divine ideal of a Christian? A new creature in Christ. And what the ideal of the Church? A new brotherhood of humanity in Christ. Therefore, purge out the old leaven, and be a new lump, remembering that even discipline executed in Christ's name has its dangers, and may divert us from attention to our own spiritual condition. Inasmuch, then, as St. Paul looked on the excision of the ungodly member of the Church, and the internal purification of the Church in all its members, as branches of one and the same duty, he presses his argument under the idea of a new lump not a mere outer reform, but a thoroughgoing inward renewal by the grace of the Spirit. Such language could have emanated from no man who had not been a religious Jew. Nor could it have proceeded from one who was simply a spiritual Jew. It was a Christian thinker, a thinker of catholic insight, who saw into Judaism from the cross of Calvary, when that cross and its Divine Sacrifice had the great darkness under which they stood cleared away by Pentecost. Once St. Paul had understood the scrupulous removing of the leaven by the Jews from their homes in a very different way. Once he had seen in the Pass over and kindred institutions a life giving and perpetual force. Now, however, the images lingered in his thoughts, only to remind him that Christians were "unleavened," and that all the leaven of impurity must be put away from them. For them the Paschal Lamb had been slain, and in the Victim's death they had redemption. "Let us keep the feast;" our consecrated life a festival of gladness, and our thanksgiving continually ascending to God. And how shall this long and sacred festivity be observed? No external demonstrations are mentioned. Could the Jew conceive of a festival like this? Would not the pomp and show of national reunions, the booths and palm boughs, the cheer of open air life, and the music and domestic joy of the congregated caravans, rush upon him with their thrilling recollections? And would not the Greek, whose senses were so finely attuned to whatever was beautiful in material nature, and whose very birthright was the luxury of existence beneath skies and amid landscapes that seemed to pour their sympathies into his bosom, - would not he recall the theatre and the games? And yet St. Paul tells them of a festival which the renewed soul may keep without any of these things, and be supremely happy. "The old leaven," especially "the leaven of malice and wickedness," must be excluded, and the feast must be kept "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." The evil in our nature must be destroyed, and, in its place, must be had the genuine excellence which has been tried and proved, and the harmony that comes from self control because the human will is controlled by the indwelling Spirit of God. Virtues such as sincerity and truth need society, and, assuredly, society needs them. Eager to communicate and in turn to receive, what shall be the law of their intercourse with mankind? Fellowship is a Christian designation that cannot have its meaning in the world. But Christians are in the world, and a very important element in its life. To deny its associations and segregate themselves from others is to commit a species of suicide. On a former occasion St. Paul had written an Epistle touching this subject. But he had been misunderstood, and now he would rectify their error. They had blundered, not he. And now he sets the matter clearly before them by impressing on these Corinthians that there was not only a distinction between the Church and the world, but likewise between the good and the evil in the Church itself. Tares must grow with the wheat, but that was no reason why they should treat the tares as wheat. Fornicators in the Church or out of it were fornicators, and the brethren were not to keep company with them. And hence his explicitness, "not to company" with any man who was a fornicator, though he might be "called a brother." Nor does he stop here. Covetous men, idolaters, railers, drunkards, extortioners, they were not to associate with on such terms of social companionship as would be symbolized by eating with them. How could he as an apostle judge those who were without? If he did not do this, could they suppose that he meant to require it of them? The outer world must be left with God. And now St. Paul returns to the matter engrossing his solicitude: "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person." If, indeed, Christ is our Paschal Lamb; if through that offering of expiation and reconciliation in itself forever perfect and by us realized in pardon and renewal and sanctification, life becomes an Easter of glad thanksgiving; we must make this sincerity (purity) and this truth (harmony) visible to the world in our social sympathies. Bodily sins are easily condoned among men: beware of that evil. Extortion and covetousness grow out of the idolatry of the senses, and they must not be countenanced by familiar association. How modern is this Epistle! No thought had St. Paul of us and our century, but these words of his rise from their local connections and assume universality of application. Corinth is at our doors, because its spirit is in all unsanctified hearts. And yet - thanks to the grace of the Spirit - in all the foremost civilizations of this age and over a wider space than ever before, the Paschal Lamb is precious to thousands. Since the days of the apostle, human life has expanded its outward area. Myriads of things, unknown to it then, are its possession and strength and glory now. Two wonderful enlargements have gone on - that of the universe to our comprehension, and this of the globe and the world to which we belong. And, in the midst of all the widening, specially in the fuller opening of human sympathies and the growth of human intercourse, the blessed festival of Christian life repeats its ancient joy and multiplies the participants of its Divine gladness. - L.
I. THE IDEAL STATE OF THE CHRISTIAN HEART AND OF THE CHRISTIAN SOCIETY IS ONE OF PERFECT FREEDOM FROM ALL TAINT OF SIN. It was a high and noble aim that which the Divine Founder of Christianity set before him - the formation of a society which should be pure with his own purity, i.e. both of life and of heart. It is to such an aim that he himself, and after him his inspired apostles, encourage all Christians to aspire: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."
II. THERE IS A LEAVEN OF SINFUL INFLUENCE IN HUMAN NATURE AND IN HUMAN SOCIETY WHICH ENDANGERS THE PURITY OF THE CHURCH.
1. The presence of such a leaven was very painfully manifest in the society at Corinth. But where is the Christian community which is absolutely pure? There are societies which make great professions in this matter; but their "glorying is not good." Where is the individual Christian in whose nature there is no trace of the old, worldly, sinful, corrupt humanity? The purest and the best are foremost to acknowledge that this is so.
2. Leaven furnishes an illustration of the diffusive, contagious, corrupting power of sin. A little leaven leavens the lump. A sin tolerated, a sinner countenanced, in a Christian society, may imperil the general purity. "One sickly sheep infects the flock;" "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" These and other proverbial intimations of the power of this principle are sufficient to put us upon our guard. Each heart is aware of the secret temptations to evil to which it is most exposed; and perhaps every one's experience can show how evil habit grows when unchecked and indulged.
III. THE DIVINE SUMMONS REQUIRES THAT THE LEAVEN OF SIN BE REMOVED THAT THE MASS MAY BE PRESERVED IN PURITY.
1. The case of the Corinthians reminds us that the excision of an offending member may be necessary in order to vindicate Christian purity and to protest against the encroachments of sin. The old leaven must, in this sense, be "purged out."
2. There is, however, a wider application of this principle. Corruption creeps into every nature, into every society. And the apostle here enjoins that we submit to no truce, to no compromise with sin, but that, for the sake of our own spiritual and eternal interests, we keep a watch upon ourselves, lest the sour leaven steal in unobserved, and corrupt our nature ere we be aware of its operation, or at all events its power. Holiness becometh the house of the Lord forever. - T.
leaven is always used in a had sense in Scripture, and is the illustration of the working of evil principle. Some forcing of Scripture is, however, necessary if a bad sense must be always found; and while we must admit that leavening is, in measure, a corrupting process, we should also recognize that the permeating influence of leaven may be used to illustrate the advance and extension of good principle. Undoubtedly it is the tendency of evil to propagate itself rapidly, and infect all around it, on which the apostle here dwells - a tendency which may be also illustrated by the insidious spreading of contagious and infectious disease. It may be helpful to give some account of the character and action of "leaven." Hugh Macmillan says, "It consists of myriads of the cells of the common green mould in an undeveloped state. If a fragment of the dough with the leaven in it be put aside in a shady place, the cells of the fungus in the leaven will vegetate, and cover the dough with a slight downy substance, which is just the plant in its complete form. The swelling of the dough, and the commotion which goes on in the leavened mass, are owing to the multiplication of the plant cells, which takes place with astonishing rapidity. By this process of vegetation, the starch and sugar of the dough are converted into other chemical products. But it is only allowed to go to a certain length, and then the principle of growth is checked, by placing the dough in the oven and baking it into bread. Leaven is thus a principle of destruction and construction - of decay and of growth - of death and of life. It has two effects, which are made use of as types in Scripture. On the one side, the operation of leaven upon meal presents an analogy to something evil in the spiritual world; for it decays and decomposes the matter with which it comes into contact. On the other side, the operation of leaven upon meal presents an analogy to something good in the spiritual world; for it is a principle of life and growth, and imparts a new energy and a beneficent quality to the matter with which it comes in contact." Archbishop Trench says, "In some passages, the puffing up, disturbing, souring propotries which leaven has are the prominent points of comparison; in others, its warmth, its penetrative energy, the power which a little of it has to lend its own savour and virtue to much wherewith it is brought in contact."
I. LEAVEN IS A FIGURE OF MORAL EVIL IN THE CHURCH. It suggests
(1) the insidious nature,
(2) the rapid propagation,
(3) the corrupting influence, of evil. Observe, the evil was not a matter of example, but of contagion. Such a one as this incestuous man - wicked, impenitent, and unpunished - would infect the rest of the Church. Who does not know how the tone of evil has communicated itself? Worldly minds, irreverent minds, licentious minds, leaven society. You cannot be long with persons who by innuendo, double meaning, or lax language, show an acquaintance with evil, without feeling in some degree assimilated to them, nor can you easily retain enthusiasm for right amongst those who detract and scoff at goodness. The corrupting influence of evil in the Church may be illustrated from the history of the great heresies, more especially those which have been started by immoral and unworthy men.
II. SUCH MORAL EVIL IS SURE PRESENTLY TO ATTRACT PUBLIC ATTENTION. And so it brings a wrong estimate of the Chinch, and excites prejudice against it. The Church has most gravely suffered, in every age, from her unworthy members, who have been only too readily regarded, by outsiders, as the Church's representatives. "The student of history wilt remember how dexterously Gibbon contrives to throw discredit upon Christianity by enlarging upon the shortcomings of the early Church, and by evading the comparison between its moral elevation and the shocking demoralization of heathen society."
III. SUCH MORAL EVIL HAS A DANGEROUSLY ACTIVE AND PERVASIVE INFLUENCE, "It leaveneth the whole lump." It spreads in the soil as the roots of bindweed. Therefore, as, in preparation for the Paschal feast, the Jews carefully and minutely searched forevery particle of leaven, to turn it out of their houses, so must the Christian Church watch lest any bad person come into its membership, and must strictly exclude those who may take bad ways after joining its membership, lest their evil influence should be found to pervade the whole lump. The very first symptoms and indications of moral evil demand resolute dealing, and should be immediately met by the strong yet charitable discipline of the Church. In simple language, suited for children, the poet expresses the danger dealt with in this homily.
"One sickly sheep infects the flock,
I. IT COMMEMORATED A GREAT DELIVERANCE. The Israelites were reminded by the Passover feast of the bondage from which their ancestors had been delivered when they were brought out of Egypt "with a high hand and a stretched out arm." The nation had been emancipated from the tyranny of the Pharaohs, and had been spared the doom of the first born of the people of the land. Christ's redemption set his people free from the tyranny, the bondage, the unrewarded toil, the darksome night, the dreary hopelessness, of sin; and brought them out into the freedom, the light, the gracious privileges, the glorious hopes, of the gospel.
II. IT WAS SLAIN AS A DIVINELY ORDERED SACRIFICE AND OFFERING, Put to death by the head of the family, the lamb was taken to the priest, who sprinkled its blood upon the altar and burned its fat, according to the ordinance. Although the lamb was offered yearly, it was in the first instance that it was regarded most strictly as a sacrifice. Christ was offered once only; "There remaineth no more offering for sin." Yet the Eucharist is a perpetual memorial of the great Sacrifice of Calvary. It is by the willing, accepted, vicarious sacrifice of our Redeemer that mankind have been reconciled and consecrated unto God.
III. IT WAS PARTAKEN BY THE FAITHFUL WORSHIPPERS IN THE PASCHAL MEAL. It was in this way that every Hebrew family was reminded of its share in the covenant mercy and faithfulness of the Eternal. As they ate the lamb in the appointed way, and with the appointed observances and accompaniments, the children of Israel were led to appropriate, in faith and obedience, the spiritual provision which the God of their fathers had made for them. In like manner the members of the spiritual commonwealth of Israel "eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man," taking Christ as the nourishment of their souls, and appropriating the strength, the wisdom, the grace of God himself. In the sacrament of the Supper, they who eat and drink in faith participate in the provisions of Divine bounty and love.
IV. IT WAS SUGGESTIVE OF INDIVIDUAL, OF HOUSEHOLD, OF NATIONAL, PURITY. In connection with the Paschal meal, several circumstances may be noted. The lamb was without blemish; the house was freed from leaven; all were careful to avoid ceremonial defilement. These arrangements symbolized "holiness unto the Lord," and they remind us that those who regard the Christ of God as their Passover are bound by every sacred consideration to seek that purity of heart, that sanctification of nature, which can alone render a man and a society acceptable to a holy and heart searching God. - T.
I. CHRIST IS OUR PASSOVER.
(1) Appointed by God Israel's Passover was "the Lord s Passover" (Exodus 12:27); "My sacrifice" (Exodus 23:18). Jesus is the "Christ," the Anointed of God. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him." Here is our confidence, that our Passover is the Lord's Passover, appointed and approved by the Eternal: "My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Salvation by the cross is God's plan of salvation; it must, therefore, fully commend itself to God.
(2) Innocent. Here is the pathos of the cross. He died not for his sins, but for ours. He had not transgressed, but we had, and therefore he died.
(3) Without blemish. "With the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish" (1 Peter 1:19). Keen unfriendly eyes were upon Christ, but the reluctant verdict was "no fault." "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26).
(4) Slain, Christ crucified. The converging point - "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." The Paschal lamb was slain by those for whose welfare and safety it was appointed; so Christ was crucified by men whom he came to redeem. No bone broken (comp. Exodus 12:46 with John 19:36).
(5) The blood sprinkled. The blood shed is not enough, it must be applied. The blood of the Paschal lamb was applied with a bunch of hyssop, a type of "faith" which, though apparently small and insignificant, brings the blood of Christ into saving contact with the heart.
(6) The flesh eaten. We have to feed upon Christ. "My flesh is meat indeed." The Passover was a feast; the idea of enjoyment is involved. So those who feast upon Christ obtain truest happiness. The Paschal lamb was eaten by the Israelites with loins girded, shoes on feet, staff in hand; so the followers of Christ, when they become such, confess themselves to be strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. The lamb was eaten in Egypt. So we are saved as sinners; we have not to come up out of the Egypt of corruption. We have not to get ourselves ready for Christ; we are ready when we are lost and desire to be found of him. Many are hindered by their "unworthiness;" they want to be holy before they seek salvation, which means that the patient desires to be cured before he sends for the doctor. And he comes to us; we do not come to him, - we are in Egypt when we first behold the Lamb of God.
(7) The whole eaten. We have not to take a part of Christ. We have to accept the full terms of salvation, not those only that most please us. Christ and his cross as well as Christ and his crown.
(8) Eaten with bitter herbs. So repentance should accompany faith. We should have bitter sorrow for bitter sins. Our sins were very bitter to him. We have never tasted sin fully - only a part of it, the sweeter part of it. He tasted the bitter part for us.
2. Identified with deliverance from wrath and bondage.
(1) From wrath. The destroying angel was abroad, and smote every house unprotected by the sprinkled blood. So the wrath of God falls upon the rejecters of Christ, but those upon whose hearts and consciences the blood of Christ is sprinkled are preserved from the stroke of Divine justice. At the cross "righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10). The blood of the Paschal lamb made the Israelite perfectly safe; we are made so by the blood of Christ.
(2) From bondage. The Passover and the Exodus are indissolubly united. So in our spiritual history. When God pardons, the bondage of Satan is destroyed. We are no longer slaves of the devil, but children of God. And this becomes manifested; justification and sanctification, joined by God, are not put asunder. We begin a new life; we depart from our old master; we "spoil the Egyptians," for we bring everything with us out of the old life that is worth bringing; and our faces are set towards the new Jerusalem, the everlasting home of the redeemed.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF OUR PASSOVER ON OUR LIFE. At the Passover the Jews were exceedingly anxious to get rid of every particle of leaven (Deuteronomy 16:4); so all who can call Christ their Passover should search and purify their hearts. As the Feast of Unleavened Bread followed the slaying of the Paschal lamb, so the unleaven of righteousness, of godly life, should abide with all who have part in the great Passover. This is "keeping the feast." It is then a feast, a time of joy to the believer, when all leaven of "malice and wickedness" is excluded. The "unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" is not only wholesome, it is surprisingly sweet. The influence of Christ's death is not only towards salvation, but towards holiness. If we are his we must depart from evil. We must have works as well as faith - the former a natural outcome of the latter. The one is not without the other - the Passover and unleavened bread go together. Profession by all means, but certainly practice as well. We must show that we are out of Egypt by a repudiation of Egyptian manners. "Christ our Passover;" "For to me to live is Christ." - H.
I. CHRIST OUR PASCHAL LAMB. Note the main points of correspondence between the type and the antitype.
2. The lamb was slain. It was a sacrifice, the victim's life going for the life of the people. Jesus Christ was crucified for us, "bearing our sins in his body upon the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).
3. The blood of the lamb was sprinkled "on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses." It was not enough that the blood was shed, it must also be put as a mark on the door. "And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Exodus 12:7, 13). Even so the blood of Jesus Christ must be applied to each individual sinner ere it can avail to deliver from the condemnation. Personal faith in him appropriating his atoning sacrifice, is the hand that dips the hyssop in the basin and sprinkles the blood on the house.
4. The lamb was to be eaten that night by the household. Its blood was their protection, its flesh their food. Jesus Christ is our Life as well as our Atonement. The believer sheltered by his blood draws his nourishment from him (John 6:51).
II. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AN UNLEAVENED FESTIVAL.
1. It is a festival. "Let us keep the feast." There is no special reference to the Lord's Supper, but to the whole Christian life. What the Paschal week was to the Jew, the believer's life is to be to him. It is to be
(1) consecrated to God, and
(2) spent in grateful remembrance of God's redeeming mercy.
All through let us keep festival in view of the Lamb slain, with the joy of those who have been delivered from bondage.
2. It is to be kept without leaven. All sin is to be purged out. The Christian is ideally unleavened. Theoretically no leaven was to be found in the houses of Israel during the Passover, although some of it might escape the most diligent search; and so believers, as they stand in Christ, are dead to sin. This is the high calling which we are to make our own by putting away all sin. Let us be in reality what we are in idea (l Peter 2:9) - let us be a holy people. Every form of vice and wickedness must be cast away as inconsistent with our unleavened condition, and only "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" be found in our homes. A pure, transparent, honest life, corresponding in all things to the truth, becomes those who rightly "keep the feast." - B.
(1) The analogy;
(2) the exhortation based on it.
I. THE ANALOGY. "Christ our Passover." Both in the type and in the antitype we have:
1. A vicarious sacrifice. The slaying of the Paschal lamb, which was the leading feature in the whole Passover festival, was clearly of this nature. The lamb was a blameless creature, the very emblem of simple, guileless innocence. It had no share in the sins and sorrows of the people. Unlike them, it needed no redemption. It was the victim of their necessities. It suffered death for their sakes, died to serve the interests of their life. The broad mark of resemblance, in this respect, between the lamb and Christ is the very heart and core of the meaning of the text. In him we see the highest expression of that great law of self sacrifice which pervades the universe, and of which the slaying of the Paschal lamb (as, indeed, the slaying of every lamb) was one of the lower forms. "Not for himself was he cut off; Wounded for our transgressions;" "Slain for us." The innocence of the lamb, and especially the fact that it was "without blemish," the very flower of the flock, was typical of his sinless perfection, his absolute exemption from the evil that belongs to us. While its patient yielding up of its life dimly imaged forth the sublime self surrender of his love, when, for our sakes, he "offered himself without spot unto God."
2. The instrument of a great deliverance. The sprinkling of the blood on the door posts of the Israelites was both the condition of their safety and the sign and pledge to them that they were safe (Hebrews 11:27). There could be no fitness in the phrase, "Christ our Passover," except as meaning that the blood of Christ is to us the means of an infinitely greater deliverance. Salvation from death for the human race, through the virtue of his death as its Representative and Head, is the fundamental truth of the Christian system. On this truth rests the whole fabric of the kingdom of God among men. It is a kingdom founded, built up, consummated, glorified, by the power of a crucified Redeemer. We are reminded how -
"All the souls that are were forfeit once, 3. The pledge and seal of a consecrated life. The first Passover marked the beginning for the Hebrews of a new and distinctly national existence. However slow they may have been to recognize the full meaning of this, the most prominent feature of their position ever after was that principle of separation and consecration to the Lord, of which the blood of the Paschal lamb was the symbol and the seal. Special emphasis is given to this by the fact that the Passover was at first a purely family observance. Its moral influence began at the very fountainhead of national life - the family circle. It was thus the memorial of a covenant that existed before the Law, before the priesthood; and may well be regarded as prefiguring a grace that is independent of all national and ecclesiastical conditions, all Churches, priesthoods, ritual orders - the bond of the fellowship of the elect and reconciled children of God. Thus is participation in Christ, "our Passover," the beginning of a new life, the seal of a new Divine relationship, the charter of spiritual freedom, the pledge of personal consecration, the passport to citizenship in the eternal kingdom of God. II. THE EXHORTATION. "Wherefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven," etc. The seven days' Feast of Unleavened Bread followed the slaying of the Paschal lamb. In "the feast" the apostle may possibly have indirect reference to that sacred observance of "the Lord's Supper," in the institution of which he himself developed the Jewish Passover into its simpler Christian form (Luke 22:15, 16). This also, though no sacrifice, is both a memorial and a prophecy. "As often as ye eat," etc. (1 Corinthians 11:26). But the reference is far broader. It indicates the life long feast of Christian fellowship and service. We are reminded: 1. That the value of all the solemnities of our religion - sabbaths, sacred seasons, special Divine manifestations, acts of worship, etc. - lies in the influence they exert on our personal character and conduct. Let our daily life be a "sacrament," a solemn yet joyous Passover of love, and gratitude, and trust, and praise. 2. That in order to this we must be "purged from our old sins." The evil of the past must be resolutely abandoned. "Malice and wickedness" cast out from our dwellings, that "sincerity and truth" may take their place. Simplicity of mind, singleness of heart, honesty of purpose, - these are the cardinal Christian virtues, the very "bread and staff of life" to all Christian strength and nobleness. - W.
3. The pledge and seal of a consecrated life. The first Passover marked the beginning for the Hebrews of a new and distinctly national existence. However slow they may have been to recognize the full meaning of this, the most prominent feature of their position ever after was that principle of separation and consecration to the Lord, of which the blood of the Paschal lamb was the symbol and the seal. Special emphasis is given to this by the fact that the Passover was at first a purely family observance. Its moral influence began at the very fountainhead of national life - the family circle. It was thus the memorial of a covenant that existed before the Law, before the priesthood; and may well be regarded as prefiguring a grace that is independent of all national and ecclesiastical conditions, all Churches, priesthoods, ritual orders - the bond of the fellowship of the elect and reconciled children of God. Thus is participation in Christ, "our Passover," the beginning of a new life, the seal of a new Divine relationship, the charter of spiritual freedom, the pledge of personal consecration, the passport to citizenship in the eternal kingdom of God.
II. THE EXHORTATION. "Wherefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven," etc. The seven days' Feast of Unleavened Bread followed the slaying of the Paschal lamb. In "the feast" the apostle may possibly have indirect reference to that sacred observance of "the Lord's Supper," in the institution of which he himself developed the Jewish Passover into its simpler Christian form (Luke 22:15, 16). This also, though no sacrifice, is both a memorial and a prophecy. "As often as ye eat," etc. (1 Corinthians 11:26). But the reference is far broader. It indicates the life long feast of Christian fellowship and service. We are reminded:
1. That the value of all the solemnities of our religion - sabbaths, sacred seasons, special Divine manifestations, acts of worship, etc. - lies in the influence they exert on our personal character and conduct. Let our daily life be a "sacrament," a solemn yet joyous Passover of love, and gratitude, and trust, and praise.
2. That in order to this we must be "purged from our old sins." The evil of the past must be resolutely abandoned. "Malice and wickedness" cast out from our dwellings, that "sincerity and truth" may take their place. Simplicity of mind, singleness of heart, honesty of purpose, - these are the cardinal Christian virtues, the very "bread and staff of life" to all Christian strength and nobleness. - W.
I. THE MEANING OF THESE ORDINANCES. In the Passover were two parts, closely connected and yet distinct.
1. The sacrifice of an unspotted lamb.
2. The feast on the sacrifice kept by each household.
Under the established ritual in Israel, the former was rendered at the sanctuary. It required an altar, and the hand of an authorized priest or Levite. The latter was within the domestic circle. It required no other celebrant than the head of a household. There was no altar, but a family table. The service was not propitiatory, but commemorative and social. The Lord's Supper can never be clearly understood if these two elements are superstitiously confused together. There is an exhibition, not a renewal, of the sacrifice of Christ. The altar has been served, and its occupation is gone. We have no more need of altar on earth, or sacrificing priest. Christ our Passover "has been sacrificed." What remains is the feast of commemoration and communion; and for this a table only is wanted, with one to preside and lead the service, not a priest to interpose between the Christians and Christ. But while these two things are not to be confounded, they are not to be put apart in our thoughts. It is not enough to say of the Lord's Supper that it is a social pledge of Christian friendship and a common hope. It may not be dissociated from the impressive thought and fact of Christ's atonement for our sins; and we cannot regard those who deny the propitiatory character and value of the Lord's death as competent to administer or partake of the Lord's Supper. The Passover was a family service, because it commemorated the redemption of a nation which was reckoned in tribes according to families. The Lord's Supper is observed by groups, congregations, or organized companies of Christians, because it commemorates the redemption of the Church which is arranged and reckoned in congregations or groups, all forming one "household of faith."
II. THE COMMUNICANTS. "Let us keep the feast." No alien or uncircumcised person might partake of the Paschal supper; but all the congregation of Israel was charged to observe this ordinance, for redemption was not the privilege of the few, but the joy of the whole nation. And for the occasion, distinctions of rank and opulence within the nation were ignored. As all classes had shared the bondage, so were all classes to share the joy of redemption. Let all who have redemption through the blood of Christ "keep the feast" of the Lord's Supper, and that in obedience to his command, not as and because they think proper, but as and because the Lord has appointed it in his Church. And let no difference of rank, wealth, or social position be recognized. The eminent and the obscure, the rich and the poor, the master and the servant, are at this, if at no other table, to eat of the same bread and drink from the same cup. Such as are aliens from the faith, or uncircumcised in heart, are not entitled to communicate.
III. THE DISPOSITIONS WHICH OUGHT TO CHARACTERIZE COMMUNICANTS. The Passover was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Hence the apostle's charge, "Purge out the old leaven." We know that the Jews were extremely punctilious in this respect, and searched their houses minutely, lest in a dark corner some particle of leaven might lie unsuspected; for leaven was regarded as a symbol of corruption and of the self propagating power of evil. With similar earnestness should Christians examine themselves, and so eat and drink of the Lord's Supper. Away with the old leaven; the tendency to corruption which belongs to the old life is sin. Away with malice and wickedness; purge out even the smallest fragments of unholy disposition and temper, and keep the feast with sincerity and truth. The Corinthians were required to prove their sincerity by excluding from communion a certain "wicked person," whose conduct had brought reproach on the Christian name. So must we be ready at all times to prove our sincerity by renouncing fellowship with unrighteousness and concord with Belial. They were also required to have "truth in the inward parts," and so are we. We fall short of that strength of faith, fervour of love, and depth of humility which would well become communicants at the holy table of our Lord; but at all events we may bring, and ought to bring, to the feast hearts honest and true. "Lord, thou knowest all things." Thou knowest our shortcomings, perversities, stupidities, follies, prejudices, errors, and faults; but "thou knowest that we love thee." We are not at thy table playing a part or affecting devotion to thee in order to be seen of men. Far from us be such ghastly hypocrisy! Ours be the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. - F.
Zephaniah 1:12), they used to carry out this custom of searching for leaven with great strictness, taking a candle and 'prying into every mouse hole and cranny,' as St. Chrysostom says, so as to collect even the smallest crumb of leavened bread, which was to be placed in a box or some place where a mouse could not get at it."
I. THE CHRISTIAN CALL TO BE UNLEAVENED. "Ye are not called unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." The apostles were especially called to witness to a truth by word of lip; but, while each member was equally called to speak for Christ, the testimony of the Church, as a whole, was to be the testimony of its purity. Its very aim was to be to keep itself separate and free from the evils and defilements of the world. Show how far the modern Church may be regarded as having forgotten the Divine call unto "uncorruptness."
II. THE CHRISTIAN PERIL OF BECOMING LEAVENED. A peril coming
(1) from without, in the attractions of worldly pleasure and success;
(2) from within, by the defection of individuals, and their evil influence, or by the unwatchfulness and neglected spiritual culture of many. When Christians cease to find their joy in God, they easily seek for it in the world and in worldly things.
III. THE CHRISTIAN CARE TO KEEP UNLEAVENED. This care should characterize each for himself, and each for the other. And it should ever be regarded as the great life burden of the Christian and the Church. It must cost constant watchfulness and effort; and he who would be pure must learn how to deal sternly with himself. - R.T.
is slain:" he is not "about to be slain," or "being slain;" it is an accomplished, completed, historical fact, "he is slain;" "he has been slain." From a reference in one of the later chapters, we find that St. Paul wrote this Epistle to the Corinthians just about the time of the Passover; his mind was occupied with the associations of this feast, and so, in a very natural way, he took his illustration from it. Reverting to the original appointment of the Passover, we observe that the Lord designed to come in one last and overwhelming judgment on the rebellious Egyptians. God's people dwelt in the very midst of them, but no Divine judgments hung over them. Still, it was necessary that, by some sign, the Israelites' houses should be distinguished from others. The observance of an appointed sign would prove the obedience of Israel, and clearly mark the judgment as Divine. The point in the matter to which St. Paul now directs attention is, however, this - the slaying of the lamb was the beginning of the Feast of the Passover, or of Unleavened Bread, if the lamb was killed, the feast time had plainly begun (see Exodus 12:18), and no leaven ought to be found in their habitations. This is the thing on which the apostle fixes for the enforcement of his counsel. It is as if he had said, "This is the time of the Christian feast of the unleavened. 'Christ our Passover is sacrificed;' the purity time has therefore come. Our feast is not indeed for seven days only, but for our whole life. We too are under the most solemn responsibilities; pledged to lives of holiness; bound to cleanse out every relic of the old leaven of sin and self will, urged by every persuasion to 'perfect holiness in the fear of God;' and set upon 'possessing our vessels in sanctification and honour.'" We must be practically what we are theoretically, a new and regenerated society. Dwelling on the Christian suggestions of the text, we notice -
I. THE SLAYING OF THE CHRISTIAN PASSOVER LAMB. Limit the thought on this to the one thing that is prominently in the apostle's mind. The word "Passover" is used by him for that seal which marked the Israelites off from the Egyptians, so that the destroying angel might pass over their houses. The blood of the lamb, sprinkled on the lintel and posts, was the sign that marked them as the Lord's obedient people, the objects of his grace, experiencing then a preservation which was to be followed by a glorious deliverance. This feature of the old Passover may be pressed on the Christian Church. The apostle says, "You too are marked off as God's; for you the Passover Lamb has been slain; on you the blood has been sprinkled; for you the great deliverance has been wrought; you are actually now sealed over, as a Christian Church, unto God, by the blood of the everlasting covenant."
II. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THOSE SPRINKLED WITH THE PASSOVER BLOOD. As sealed over to God, Israel was bound to realize what was involved in their side of the covenant into which they had entered. On God's side, the covenant pledged fatherly interest, unceasing care, gracious provision for all need, and the fulfilment of certain defined promises. On man's side, it pledged obedience, service, and above all else, separation from the world, and purity. God impressed his claim to this purity by instituting the seven days of unleavened feast immediately on the sealing of the covenant, enjoining that what they did symbolically for seven days they were in moral and spiritual manner to do all their days. St. Paul applies this to the Corinthian Christians, who had, as it were, entered fully into covenant with God, seeing that Christ, their Passover, had been slain. They too should remember to what moral life and conduct they were pledged. They must realize a spiritual separation from evil; holiness becometh the people of God. Press that each of us should seek to realize the responsibilities of our Christian standing. This is the time when, in home, and family, and society, and business, and the Church, we have to remember that we are "called unto holiness." Christ is sacrificed, and this is the time of "feast of the unleavened." - R.T.
(1) there was a sacrificed lamb;
(2) that its blood became a protection and a sign;
(3) that the meat of the lamb was partaken of together;
(4) that all the food was unleavened; and
(5) that the loins were girt ready for a journey.
Then show how this old Passover may be regarded as realized in the Christian feast.
1. Jesus is the slain Lamb.
2. His blood is the Church's protection and sign.
3. His truth and love - that is, he himself - is the Church's food.
4. The spirit in which we share our Divine food is that of sincerity and truth, which is represented by the "unleavened."
5. We share as those who belong to the heavenly, and therefore say, "This is not our rest." Press that the presence of the leavened, the guileful, and the sinner spoils the simplicity and purity of our Christian feast. - R.T.
I. THIS FESTIVAL IS BASED UPON THE SACRIFICE AND REDEMPTION OF CHRIST JESUS. As the events connected with Israel's emancipation from Egypt constituted the foundation of the national and religious life of the Hebrews, so we Christians date our fellowship, our standing, our privileges from the redeeming and mediatorial work of our Divine Saviour. Apart from him there would have been no foundation for our new life and hallowed communion; he accounts for all, and is himself "all and in all."
II. THE OBSERVANCE OF THIS FESTIVAL MUST CORRESPOND WITH THE PURPOSE AND WITH THE CHARACTER OF OUR LORD. "The leaven of malice and wickedness" has no place in the household of faith and holiness. As the Israelites ate the unleavened bread during the celebration of the Passover festival, so are Christians called to make their daily spiritual feast upon the purity, the sincerity, the truth which are the appropriate aliment of the consecrated Israel of God. In the Church which Christ has purchased with his precious blood, nothing impure, corrupt, defiling, should be tolerated. The Eucharistic meal should impart something of its character to all meals; and the holy and public observances of the Church should cast something of their glow and beauty upon the daily employments of the Lord's consecrated people.
III. THIS IS AN UNBROKEN AND PERPETUAL FESTIVAL. The times and seasons, the sabbaths, new moons, and festivals, which were observed among the Jews, were doubtless designed to inculcate the practice and to familiarize with the idea of holiness. And they were intended to prepare for the dispensation which teaches that all days and all scenes, all relationships and all actions, are holy unto God. The spiritual festival to which Christians are bidden is one which never ends, the viands of Divine grace are never exhausted, the fellowship of the saints never wearies, and the Master of the banquet never departs. - T.
I. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT LIMITED TO THE SOCIETY OF THEIR FELLOW CHRISTIANS. St. Paul possessed no small measure of what has been humorously called "sanctified common sense." He saw clearly and at once that if a man set out with the determination to have no intercourse with those of different principles and sentiments from himself, he would be driven in consistency to "go out of the world." So far from forbidding such intercourse, he permitted it, and even in some instances encouraged it.
1. The example of the Lord Jesus and of his apostles sanctions intercourse with general society. Jesus talked with persons of all sorts and conditions, accepted invitations to the houses of strangers, and even of enemies. And we find the apostles seeking introduction to Jews and Gentiles, to the virtuous and the vicious.
2. Such conduct exercises a power of attraction over all who are affected by it. The assumption of superior sanctity repels, whilst the kindly sympathy of neighbourhood, the good offices of social life, may lead to a desire to know and enjoy the blessings of the gospel.
3. Opportunities occur in social intercourse for introducing, either directly or indirectly, the truths of religion. It is not always the public proclamation of the truth which reaches the heart of the careless and ungodly. "A word spoken in season, how good it is!" Many have had reason for lifelong gratitude towards such as have in a casual way taken advantage of the opportunity to commend the gospel to their souls.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE RESTRAINED FROM FREE INTERCOURSE WITH FELLOW PROFESSORS WHOSE CONDUCT IS UNWORTHY OF THE NAME THEY BEAR.
1. It must not be supposed that we are confined to the fellowship of those whose character is mature and blameless. This would be to set up in the Church an aristocracy of the worst kind.
2. Those whose company is forbidden are such as, by manifest and flagrant violation of the moral law, prove the utter insincerity of their profession to be followers of Christ.
3. The reasons for this prohibition are obvious.
(1) It Could scarcely be other than injurious to our own moral nature to be intimate with those whose life belies their creed, whose hypocrisy is unmistakable.
(2) Such intimacy would be interpreted by the world as meaning that in our esteem it is of little consequence what a man is, if he only professes to be Christ's.
(3) And there can be no question that to cultivate the friendship of a hypocrite would tend to encourage him in his sinful course; whilst to withdraw from his society might lead him to repentance. - T.
I. IN OUR ORDINARY LIFE WE MUST ASSOCIATE MORE OR LESS WITH THE IMPURE AND GODLESS. Our legitimate business leads us among such, our duties as citizens and subjects as well. If we kept ourselves entirely apart, we should have "to go out of the world."
1. Christianity is not designed to drive us "out of the world." We are to live among men righteously. Here we have an argument against monasticism, which is "going out of the world" to escape from its evils.
2. Our Lord and Master mixed freely amongst men.
3. We have many opportunities of witnessing for Christ when we come in contact with men of the world. This should never be lost sight of; private Christians thus may become ministers and missionaries. And they may thus reach classes beyond the ordinary aggressive means. Christians should live the gospel amidst a crooked and perverse generation.
4. Still, we must recognize the peril of such association with ungodly men. Duty may call us to mix with worldlings, but duty will never call us to shut our eyes to the danger of doing this. The hunter may be right in running into peril, but he can't be right in refusing to recognize the peril, and in making no provision for it. When we go into the world we should go armed. "The whole armour of God" should be our panoply. We should not go alone; we may go with Christ if the path be the path of duty. Prayer, watchfulness, God reliance, not self reliance, should be remembered. We are then not only in an enemy's country, but the enemy is around us and will soon attack. "Be ye also ready:" many have been unready, and have been sorely wounded of the archers. Go not further into the world than duty bids you.
II. BUT WE ARE NOT TO ASSOCIATE WITH A PROFESSED CHRISTIAN WHO WALKS DISORDERLY. The case is here altered. Those outside are as strangers to us, though we mix among them; this one we know and have been identified with. Those outside are left to the judgment of God; we have no part in judging them. But we have in the case of an offending brother. As members of the Church, it is our duty to sit in judgment upon him (vers. 4, 5), and, if the offence be sufficiently serious, to expel him. Hence, forth, until he repents we are not to have fellowship with him, not even to eat with him, but to show him by our conduct what has been expressed in the Church's decree, viz. that he is separated until repentance and amendment. If this were not so:
1. The force of Church discipline would be seriously weakened. It would become largely unmeaning. It would be very idle, as well as scandalously contradictory, to cut off from fellowship and to admit to it at the same time.
2. The effect upon the offender would be lessened. Church discipline does not lose sight of his welfare; it is directed towards his recovery and restoration. But if it is to produce this effect it must be felt. It cannot be felt if practically it is destroyed.
3. It would seem as though the evil were lightly esteemed. This would bring a great scandal upon Christianly. It would not only expose it to contempt, but justify contempt.
4. There would be much peril to the other members of the Church:
(1) In the association. There is often more peril in associating with a false professor than with an open evil doer.
(2) In the conviction that they could sin with comparative impunity so far as the Church was concerned. We may ask - What kinds of sin involve such separation? The apostle gives a list of transgressors.
(1) Fornicators. The unclean; professing purity, practising impurity.
(2) The covetous. Those who make a god of the things of sense. Heart idolatry.
(3) Idolaters. Probably those who, professing to serve the only true God, identified themselves very closely with idolaters, joined in their feasts and sacrifices, and so became partakers of their guilt. There are many professors now who pay homage to "the god of this world." A little wholesome Church discipline might not be altogether thrown away upon some of these.
(4) Railers or revilers. Those who say they have a clean heart, but keep a foul mouth.
(5) Drunkards. Those who claim to be akin to Christ, and yet sink themselves lower than the brutes.
(6) Extortioners. Greedy, grasping souls, who overreach and cheat others, but who overreach and cheat themselves pre-eminently. We may not company with these; we may pray for them, we may labour for their recovery. We may do so gratefully, humbly, remembering that we stand because Divine grace upholds us. - H.
I. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT TO AVOID NECESSARY INTERCOURSE WITH THE WORLD, Society at Corinth was corrupt. Every law in both tables was habitually transgressed, and to avoid meeting such transgressors was impossible. And this is true of the world as it now is outside the Church. You have to do business in it. and to deal often with men whose character is immoral. You cannot help forming relationships with them, and being associated with them in many ways. But while this is a necessity of our situation in a wicked world, true Christians will not make companions of such sinners. Duty may take you into unpleasant and dangerous localities, but you do not remain there of choice. Whilst you are in the world, as the followers of Christ you are not of it.
II. PROFESSING CHRISTIANS OF EVIL CHARACTER ARE TO BE SHUNNED. Remembering the condition of Corinthian society, we are not astonished to find such sins as Paul here mentions appearing in the Church. A so called Christian living in the practice of these or similar iniquities, thereby proves himself to be no Christian at all. There must be no fellowship with such persons, no eating and drinking with them as if they belonged to the Church. They are to be put out of the Christian society. This applies, not only to the judicial act of the Church, but also to the conduct of individual members towards offenders. There must be a holy abhorrence of the sin as defiling the body of Christ, and a careful keeping of our garments clean. Not, however, with the mistaken aim of having a perfectly pure Church; for discipline can take cognizance only of open and scandalous sins. Nor are we to act in a censorious or Pharisaic spirit. Along with hatred of the sin let there be a Christ like compassion for the sinner. - B.
I. COMMON, EVERY DAY LIFE ASSOCIATIONS WITH EVIL HAVE TO BE MAINTAINED, in
Yet in all these the earnest Christian need never find it difficult to make a firm witness for truth, righteousness, and charity.
II. SPECIAL RELATIONS OF FRIENDSHIP WITH EVIL WE MAY NOT MAKE. We may not
(1) for our own sake;
(2) for such friends' sake;
(3) for the sake of others who may observe our friendship, and, above all,
(4) for Christ's sake, who said, through his servant, "Come out from among them,... and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you." - R.T.