Leaven has no place under the blood of the Lamb. Sin must be identified and removed daily before it defiles and changes our nature and character in Christ.
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
In our contemporary Western society, it’s easy to miss the spiritual understanding of leaven and the very practical application of this metaphor. Mention unleavened bread to a westerner, and we immediately think of the Passover and God’s clear instruction. This is pretty close to the mark, because the Passover is a type of Christ and the cross, and leaven is an intrinsic spiritual principle woven into both events, and also into our Christian life. To understand the connection, it’s worth looking at leaven first from the earthly perspective to grasp the ‘how it works’ that is critical to spiritual understanding.
Leaven formed an integral part of Jewish life.
Basically, leaven is yeast – a rising agent for bread. It was ‘made’ by allowing a lump of dough to ferment, usually by placing it in a warm, dark place. Time was an important factor, because the older the leavened – fermented – dough, the greater the potency. In other words, the longer it was allowed to ferment, the more active it became. Once the first ‘batch’ was prepared, women would ensure that they always retained a lump – they never used it all up and started from scratch. To make more, they would simply add a small lump of the already leavened dough to the centre of another ball of dough. That small lump would then ‘kick-start’ the fermentation of the new dough.
The significance of leaven lies in its potency. Only a small amount was needed to start the fermentation process. It took only a tiny lump to change the nature of the entire lump of dough. While leaven was, of course, necessary for the baking of bread, the spiritual significance lies in its ability to transform dough simply by being there. If it was added to the dough, fermentation was a given. It was a simple process of cause and effect. When old leaven is added to a new lump, it becomes inedible. It’s transformed from bread dough to leaven dough.
Leaven and the Passover.
Today’s verse points to a very specific aspect of the Passover, which is the type of salvation while the Exodus points to our Christian walk towards God and our ‘promised land,’ i.e. our journey to closer intimacy with God and acceptable worship of God. But where does leaven fit into all this? And why did God specifically command the Israelites to eat only unleavened bread? The answer lies in the fact that leaven is the spiritual metaphor for sin.
In simple terms, God was illustrating the necessity to leave sin behind from the moment of deliverance or salvation. It was a practical lesson for a spiritual truth. The deliverance of the Israelites was dependent on them being ‘under the blood of the Lamb’ which is what is represented by the blood on the doors and lintels. His message was that those who are saved should not carry leaven or sin with them.
Spiritual leaven and its effect on our lives.
Leaven provides a powerful metaphor to help us understand the power of sin. Like leaven, even a single small sin will affect the entire ‘lump.’ Its potency quickly spreads throughout, transforming us out of our original purpose and into ‘wrong’ purpose. Bread is edible, and it provides nourishment for growth. Leaven, on the other hand, cannot be eaten. Anyone who tries will become ill. The parallel with believers ‘feeding’ others is clear. If we’re ‘leavened,’ whatever we do, give, or say will be tainted. It will not bring life.
In fact, our leaven will spread and infect others, even if we aren’t aware of it. Today’s verse is saying we’re a ‘new lump,’ one undefiled by sin or leaven at the moment of salvation. We’re clean and pure and under the blood of the Lamb, and should continue that way. However, if we add even a little leaven, the fermentation process begins. We’re no longer pure, and everything we touch will be tainted by the sin in us.
The potency of leaven is exponential.
What this means is that the longer sin remains in us, the more powerful it is. It becomes an integral part of us, infiltrating our nature and character. But it also gathers more power to self-multiply. A single sin will soon spread to another, and another, and then a few more as the ‘fermentation’ process spreads. Is an indisputable fact that long-standing sins – those we have held onto for a long time – are the hardest to get rid of. The old leaven is the most potent.
Like leaven, sin establishes itself at the centre of who we are. Leave it there for a long time, and it becomes indistinguishable from the lump around it. It ferments and spreads from the inside out, gradually transforming us into its image. God intends that believers are transformed into the image of Christ – the bread of life. When we look at this as God sees it, we begin to understand the poisonous power of sin in us.
How to purge the leaven from our lives.
Again, we look at Jewish custom and law to dig into this. God commanded them to keep what became known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread for a full seven days after the Passover feast. This required that all leaven was removed or purged from their homes – removed, thrown out, disposed of. It was final and absolute. For seven days, they would bake only unleavened bread. Once the feast was over, of course, creating a new batch of leaven for daily use was a simple matter. Sin is just as easily ‘remade’ if we aren’t careful and cognisant of our weaknesses.
To purge the leaven means we must remove every vestige of sin from our lives. We must search it out and ruthlessly dispose of it. No sin, however small, should be allowed to remain. It’s very clear-cut with no grey areas or excuses. The number seven, of course is the spiritual type of ‘infinity.’ The implication here is that it’s a process that should continue forever. That God called an annual feast was a reminder to His people to repeat the process. It’s not once and forever. It’s ongoing. We are reminded that sin sneaks back in, often under the guise of something ‘useful’ or desirable, and we need to constantly eradicate it.
Leaven has no place under the blood of the Lamb.
The last sentence of today’s verse reminds us of Christ and what He has done. It is because of the cross that we are able to purge the leaven from our lives. The blood of the Lamb brings forgiveness and cleansing. Each time we repent and confess our sin, we are made into a ‘new lump,’ pure and undefiled. We no longer have to adhere to strict rituals or traditions, but the principle of unleavened bread remains with us. Purging the leaven of sin in our lives keeps us under the blood of the Lamb.
Thank You, Jesus, that You shed Your blood for our forgiveness and cleansing, and that we are sheltered and made righteous under the blood of the Lamb. Help us to purge ourselves of sin constantly, to be aware of it and deal with it, so that we may stand pure and righteous in You.