‘Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. 1 Corinthians 5:8
When Paul addressed the church of Corinth, reminding them to be sincere to one another, he used the Greek word ‘eilikrineia’, which means ‘without admixture’. The word ‘eilikrineia’ also implies ‘purity’. However, the truest translation of the word literally would be, 'judged in the light of the sun'. So why did he use this word? Let’s take a look.
The people of Corinth were once fine potters, however, many deceitful workers of the trade would add inferior products into the vessels to cover any flaws, including cracks. These deceitful peddlers were trying to pass off inferior vessels as quality vessels. The discerning buyer could only uncover the fault by holding the vessel up to the light where the flaw would be easily detected. So the vessels were being ‘judged in the light of the sun’. Any impurities or mixture would potentially weaken the vessel and would render it useless so the shrewd shopper would have to carefully examine the vessel before committing to the purchase.
In the same way, those who have been authentically converted to Christianity by faith are now vessels of God (2 Timothy 2:20, Romans 9:20-22, Isaiah 45:9, Jeremiah 18:6). As vessels of God, we are vessels of purity, of honour. God has also made it known that there are also vessels of dishonour. The way we know what kind of vessel we are is by careful examination in the light. Paul challenged the church members of Corinth to do this.
2 Corinthians 13:5
‘Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!’
The substance of a vessel is made known in the light.
‘But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.’
Jesus knew that many didn’t want the light of truth to expose the impurity of their hearts. In darkness, the impurity of the vessel remains concealed. Many prefer to remain in the dark so that they can continue in their evil deeds. Corrupt and defiled, they prefer to remain in darkness.
‘And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.’
So what is the festival that Paul is discussing in our featured Scripture, 1 Corinthians 5:8?
Paul is referring to Passover and specifically, the ritual of cleaning out the leaven from the home. Likewise, Paul is admonishing the church to purge away the old leaven from our midst. The old way we once walked in was ‘the leaven of malice and evil’, but now, we ought to walk with ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’.
Our hearts ought to be ‘judged in the light of the sun’, in other words, to be found ‘sincere’. Our conversion should result in us abandoning the old way where we once walked in malice and evil, but rather, putting on the new self, where ‘purity’ and ‘truthfulness’ is found amongst the body. This sincerity will most certainly impact the way we reach a lost and dying world.
Paul makes a reference to this in 2 Corinthians 2:17, ‘For we are not like so many others, who peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as men sent from God.’
So we could interpret the last part of this verse as, ‘…in Christ we speak before God, with the sort of purity that has been judged in the light of the sun, as men sent from God.’
The antonym of sincerity is deceit. The Bible records much of God’s response to practitioners of deceit, perfectly summed up in Proverbs 6. Let’s lay out for you what the opposite of sincerity looks like.
‘There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.’ Proverbs 6:16-19
Psalm 101:7 ‘No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.’
Why is sincerity within the church so important to God?
Sincerity, or purity, forms part of the attribute of holiness, which is a central characteristic of God. In contrast to sincerity, the state of the natural man’s heart is deceitfulness.
‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?’
The church is made up of people who once walked in the state of deceitfulness but now, thanks be to Jesus Christ, walk in sincerity. Jesus died for us so that we could be rescued from the sting of death (sin) and receive life, calling us to His eternal glory in Christ. To be holy as He is holy. So then, the characteristics of the person we once were ought to be put to death as we are now alive with Christ. This is why God finds leaven within the church so detestable. This behaviour is a stain upon His holy name. It undermines the finished work of the cross because when we call ourselves followers of Christ and yet continue in sin, we misrepresent the very nature of Christ. It is a serious matter and God does not take this matter lightly. You only have to read the book of Revelation to see how Jesus addresses the issue of sin within the church and the awful consequences that await if unrepentance continues.
The bread of life
‘The bread of sincerity and truth’ mentioned by Paul is a reference to the Lord’s supper. The Lord Himself is the bread of life (John 6:35). Jesus boldly testified that He is the essential ingredient to life, the manifestation of sincerity and truth. If we are truly to be found in Him, ‘the bread of sincerity and truth’ will also become essential ingredients to our character.
This characteristic of sincerity is being produced in us day by day and is designed to bring glory to God.
Our prayer? 'Oh Lord, help us to walk with sincerity.' Amen!
-- By Judah Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.