5:7 As the firstborn of the Israelites were saved from the stroke of the angel of death at the first Passover by the blood of a lamb (cf. Ex. 12:21–23), so salvation is now offered through the blood of Christ, who died at Passover as the Passover Lamb (cf. 1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
5:7 you really are. Paul makes this important qualification to encourage the Corinthians; in a fundamental sense, they are already purified (1:2 note).
Christ, our Passover. The apostle develops the imagery by suggesting that the Passover sacrifice, as a shadow of better things to come (Heb. 10:1), pointed forward to the death of Christ.
5:7 Clean out the old leaven Paul urges believers to stop tolerating immoral behavior.
5:7 Christ our Passover. Just as unleavened bread symbolized being freed from Egypt by the Passover (Ex 12:15–17), so the church is to be unleavened, since it has been separated from the dominion of sin and death by the perfect Passover Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is, therefore, to remove everything sinful in order to be separate from the old life, including the influence of sinful church members.
5:7 Jewish people were required to sweep all leaven out of their houses in preparation for the Passover (Ex. 12:15). The leaven here symbolizes the powerful influence of sin.
5:7 Thus they are commanded to purge out the old leaven. In other words, they should take stern action against evil so that they might be a new, in the sense of a pure lump. Then Paul adds: Since you truly are unleavened. God sees them in Christ as holy, righteous, and pure. Now the apostle is saying that their state should correspond with their standing. As to position they were unleavened. Now as to their practice they should also be unleavened. Their natures should correspond with their name, and their conduct with their creed.
For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. In thinking about the unleavened bread, Paul’s mind goes back to the Passover Feast where, on the eve of the first day of the Feast, the Jew was required to remove all leaven from his house. He went to the kneading trough and scraped it clean. He scrubbed the place where the leaven was kept till not a trace remained. He searched the house with a lamp to make sure that none had been overlooked. Then he lifted up his hands to God and said, “Oh God, I have cast out all the leaven from my house, and if there is any leaven that I do not know of, with all my heart I cast it out too.” That pictures the kind of separation from evil to which the Christian is called in this day.
The slaying of the Passover lamb was a type or picture of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. This verse is one of many in the NT that establishes the principle of typical teaching. By this we mean that persons and events of the OT were types or shadows of things that were to come. Many of them pointed forward directly to the coming of the Lord Jesus to put away our sins by the sacrifice of Himself.
5:7 “Clean out the old leaven” This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. It is an allusion to the Jewish custom of removing yeast from the house just before Passover each year (cf. Exod. 12:15). The annual ritual was a symbol of repentance.
|NASB||“that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened”|
|NKJV||“that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened”|
|NRSV||“that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened”|
|TEV||“so that you will be entirely pure. Then you will be like a new batch of dough without any yeast, as indeed I know you actually are”|
|NJB||“so that you can be the fresh dough, unleavened as you are”|
This shows Paul’s typical combination of the MORAL command linked with the POSITIONAL statement. What we are in Christ positionally, we are to become in Christlike lifestyle. They were the people of God (unleavened), but would be the eschatological people of God (new lump).
|NASB||“For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed”|
|NKJV||“For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us”|
|NRSV||“For our Passover feast is ready, now that Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”|
|TEV||“For our Passover Festival is ready, now that Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”|
|NJB||“For our Passover has been sacrificed, that is, Christ”|
Paul relates the death of Christ to the OT concept of the Passover Lamb (cf. Exod. 12:15ff; 13:7). This is the only place in the NT that this connection is specifically stated. John the Baptist saw this connection and called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” in John 1:29.
7. Clean out the old yeast, that you may be a new batch, unleavened, just as you are. For indeed Christ has been sacrificed as our Passover lamb.
a. “Clean out the old yeast.” The first sentence of this verse seems to reveal an inherent contradiction. Paul commands the Corinthians to put away old yeast and at the same time states that they are “a new batch, unleavened.” But yeast must be interpreted symbolically in this context. Yeast stands for evil. Just as the Jews had to remove old yeast from their homes and eat unleavened bread for an entire week, so the Corinthians must purge evil from their midst. When Paul says that they are unleavened, he means that they have been sanctified by Christ (1:2; 6:11) and are called to live holy lives. Paul stresses the positive and makes the negative subordinate to it. That is, their sanctification in Christ Jesus should prompt the Corinthians forthwith to remove the evil from their midst. Paul wants the Corinthian church to cleanse itself, much as the Jews once a year cleansed their homes of every particle of yeast.
b. “That you may be a new batch.” The removal of old yeast from the homes of the Israelites in Egypt occurred in haste and symbolized their liberation from slavery (Exod. 12:33–34, 39). Purging the old yeast from the Corinthian church likewise must be done quickly; it symbolizes freedom from slavery to sin, specifically the sin of the incestuous party. Prior to celebrating the Passover feast, the Israelites had to purge every particle of yeast from their homes, because the Passover bread had to be without leaven. So the Christians in Corinth had to remove every trace of evil from their midst and demonstrate that they are “a new batch,” that is, a new people in Christ.
c. “For indeed Christ has been sacrificed as our Passover lamb.” Paul packs a volume of theology in a rather short sentence. Because he places this sentence not in a theological context but in a passage relating to discipline, he is concise. The imagery of the paschal lamb’s slaughter on the eve of the Passover feast and Christ’s death on the cross must have come quite naturally to Paul. He reminds the Corinthians: The Israelites had to remove yeast from their homes before they could eat the Passover lamb. They then killed the lamb and put its blood on the sides and tops of their doorposts (Exod. 12:7, 13). But when Christ was crucified, he, as the Lamb of God, became the supreme and final sacrifice for God’s people (Heb. 9:26). He removed the sin of the world (Isa. 53:5–6; John 1:29). His people are sanctified because of his death on the cross. By bringing this theological outlook to mind, Paul expects the Corinthians to make a practical application and quickly remove sin from their midst.
In a spiritual sense, Christians can celebrate Passover. Their sin has been purged through Christ’s sacrificial death. The followers of Christ are saved from eternal death by the blood of the Passover lamb slain at Golgotha. Christians are set free from the burden of guilt and have been given the gift of eternal life.
Is Paul giving a time reference in this passage that aids us in dating the epistle? No, because apart from the reference to Pentecost (16:8), this epistle is devoid of any type of chronology. From this passage we cannot deduce that Paul was about to celebrate the Jewish Passover in Ephesus. That would be putting something into the text instead of deriving something from it.
7. Since Christ has been offered as a Passover sacrifice, the Corinthians should cleanse out the old leaven and live as a new and pure people. The verse begins with the call to get rid of the old yeast (‘Clean out the old leaven’, csb), and Paul again draws on the Old Testament instructions to remove all leaven from houses during Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod. 12:19; 13:7). Removing the old yeast at the very least means expelling the evil person from the congregation, though in verse 8 removal of leaven includes dispensing with ‘malice and wickedness’. The offender is to be excommunicated so that you may be a new unleavened batch. The evil permeating the congregation will be removed, and the batch of dough will be new and pure.
The eschatological tension in Paul’s theology surfaces in his next comment. He has just said that the offender must be cleaned out like leaven so that the church will be a new batch. He immediately adds, however, that they ‘really are unleavened’ (esv, nrsv). If the church is truly ‘unleavened’, why do they have to remove leaven to be a new batch? The danger exegetically and theologically is to remove either side of this tension in Paul, which is often called the indicative—imperative tension. On the one hand, believers are truly unleavened—pure and holy before God—by virtue of Christ’s Passover sacrifice. On the other hand, if believers do not expel the evident sin from their midst, they will be corrupted and defiled. In Christ, they are perfect and holy (indicative), but they must live out that truth by removing sin from their midst (the imperative). At the conclusion of the verse Paul provides the fundamental reason why the believers are truly unleavened before God: Christ has been sacrificed as the Passover Lamb. When Israel was freed from Egypt, the blood on the houses of Israelites ensured that the Lord would pass over them so that their firstborn would be spared death in the punishment of the destroyer (Exod. 12:13, 22–23, 27). So, too, the blood of Christ liberates believers from divine judgment and purifies them from sin so that they are a pure batch before God. The call to remove leaven, then, is grounded in Christ’s redeeming work, and thus grace precedes demand.
7. There is a ‘Become what you are’ situation. The Corinthians are a new batch without yeast, they really are. But really to be that new batch they must get rid of the old yeast, where Paul’s verb (ekkathairō) means ‘clean out’. Sin is dirty and defiling, and like yeast it will work until it permeates the whole. The only remedy is to clean out the evil entirely. So Paul speaks of a new batch without yeast. The Christian church is not just the old society patched up. It is radically new (2 Cor. 5:17). The evil that characterizes worldly people has been taken away, and they are ‘free from corruption’ (Weymouth). Paul does not say ‘You ought to be without yeast’, but states it as a fact; that is what Christians actually are. Therefore they must not bring back the old yeast, which, in this context, of course, symbolizes evil.
For introduces the reason for this confident assertion. The great fact that makes all things new is that Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed (it is astonishing that several translations insert ‘lamb’, as niv; it is not in the Greek and it is incorrect, for the sacrifice might be a kid; Paul simply says pascha, ‘passover’). Christ is for believers what the passover was for the Jews. In Egypt they had offered their sacrifice in order that the destroying angel might pass over them. They had been delivered, and a slave rabble emerged as the people of God. Paul is using this imagery to remind his readers that the death of Christ had delivered them from slavery to evil and made them the people of God. There is emphasis on emergence to new life, and here the symbolism of yeast makes an important point. Ancient Israel was commanded to remove all yeast before the sacrifice (Exod. 12:15; 13:7), and in Paul’s day a feature of passover observance was a solemn search for and destruction of all yeast before the feast began. This had to be done before the pascha, the kid or lamb, was offered in the temple. Paul points out that Christ, our Passover has already been sacrificed. It is time and more than time that all yeast (i.e. all evil) was put away.
7. Purge out therefore. Having borrowed a similitude from leaven, he pursues it farther, though he makes a transition from a particular point to a general doctrine. For he is no longer speaking of the case of incest, but exhorts them generally to purity of life, on the ground that we cannot remain in Christ if we are not cleansed. He is accustomed to do this not unfrequently. When he has made a particular statement, he takes occasion to pass on to general exhortations. He had made mention of leaven on another account, as we have seen. As this same metaphor suited the general doctrine which he now subjoins, he extends it farther.
Our Passover. Before coming to the subject-matter, I shall say a few words in reference to the words. Old leaven receives that name on the same principle as the old man, (Rom. 6:6,) for the corruption of nature takes the precedence in us, previously to our being renewed in Christ. That, therefore, is said to be old which we bring with us from the womb, and must perish when we are renewed by the grace of the Spirit. The verb ἐτύθη, which occurs between the name Christ and the term which denotes a sacrifice, may refer to either. I have taken it as referring to the sacrifice, though this is of no great importance, as the meaning is not affected. The verb ἑορτάξωμεν, which Erasmus rendered “Let us celebrate the feast,” signifies also to partake of the solemn feast which was observed after the sacrifice had been offered up. This interpretation appeared to suit better with the passage before us. I have, accordingly, followed the Vulgate in preference to Erasmus, as this rendering is more in accordance with the mystery of which Paul treats.
We come now to the subject-matter. Paul, having it in view to exhort the Corinthians to holiness, shows that what was of old figuratively represented in the passover, ought to be at this day accomplished in us, and explains the correspondence which exists between the figure and the reality. In the first place, as the passover consisted of two parts—a sacrifice and a sacred feast—he makes mention of both. For although some do not reckon the paschal lamb to have been a sacrifice, yet reason shows that it was properly a sacrifice, for in that rite the people were reconciled to God by the sprinkling of blood. Now there is no reconciliation without a sacrifice; and, besides, the Apostle now expressly confirms it, for he makes use of the word θύεσθαι, which is applicable to sacrifices, and in other respects, too, the context would not correspond. The lamb, then, was sacrificed yearly; then followed a feast, the celebration of which lasted for seven successive days. Christ, says Paul, is our Passover. He was sacrificed once, and on this condition, that the efficacy of that one oblation should be everlasting. What remains now is, that we eat,2 not once a-year, but continually.
5:7 / Having introduced the metaphor of leaven or yeast, Paul proceeds to develop that image to bolster his previous insistence that the man engaging in immoral sexual activity be put out of the congregation. To make this point Paul relates the image of yeast to the celebration of unleavened bread that made up part of the Passover ritual. At Passover the custom in Judaism was to cleanse the home of all yeast so as to ensure that the bread for the festival would be unleavened. This cleansing ritual itself symbolized for Paul and all Jews the elimination of all forms of wickedness from the life of the devout Jew. The original image of bread that was made so quickly that it had no time to rise was superseded by the image of cleansing, and Paul builds on that idea. He advises the Corinthians to eliminate the old yeast in order to guarantee that they would themselves be a new batch [of dough] without yeast, that their new life as Christians would be free from immorality or corruption.
Paul registers this thought in two bold statements. First, he declares that the members of the Corinthian congregation really are new, unleavened dough. They are what they are by God’s grace, and now they have only to live up to who God has called them and empowered them by the Spirit to be. Second, in a further development of the Passover theme, Paul declares the power of God that makes all this new life real, saying, For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Here Paul refers to the saving significance of Jesus’ death in a simple metaphor that is often misunderstood. This image is one of divine provision in dealing with the perils faced by humanity. The Passover lamb was not technically a sacrifice, but it was a means through which God marked out the chosen people in order to save them from wrathful destruction. While the image of sacrifice is not brought into play in this statement, one should not miss Paul’s clear point: because of what God has done and is doing in Jesus Christ, humans are set free to eliminate corruption from their lives and to become the persons that God’s Spirit is empowering them to be.
7 The preceding mention of “leaven” naturally suggests imagery from Paul’s own history as a law-abiding Jew, namely the two religious rituals of Passover. He begins with a direct allusion to the ceremonial removal of all leaven from their homes (Exod. 12:15), which in turn prompts an allusion to the most important event of all, the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb (Exod. 12:6).
Thus he shifts from the “small” leaven and “whole” batch (of dough) in the proverb to “old” leaven and “new” batch (of dough) from the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The imagery is expressed as an imperative, similar to that which had long been a part of his Jewish experience: “Get rid106 of the old leaven.” In this context, of course, this refers to the removal of the incestuous man (v. 5); but as the concluding sentence (v. 8) in the present paragraph indicates, the very use of such imagery has the possibility of broader application. The purpose of this removal of the “leaven” reflects the process of starting over with a new batch of unleavened dough, and is applied directly to the corporate life of the community: “that you may be a new unleavened batch.” Paul’s intent is for them to be done with the “leaven” of such sin in their midst, and thus to get on with being God’s “holy people” in Corinth (1:2).
In so applying the imagery, however, Paul expresses himself in a way that is foreign to his own theology; so he immediately qualifies it with “even as you really are.” As always in Paul, the imperative, even though it must be obeyed, cannot be turned into a piece of legal material, obedience to which brings favor with God. Right at the point where the imperative sounds as if it comes first (“Get rid of the old so that you may be new”), he reminds them that what they must become is what they already are by the grace of God. “Become what you are” is the basic nature of Paul’s parenesis. He is simply too steeped in the religious heritage of the OT to allow a divorce of ethics from the gift of God’s favor. But he has been too badly burned by his former pharisaism to allow that ethics leads to that gift of favor. The indicative always comes first: “You are a new loaf (God’s people) by sheer grace and mercy.” But without the imperative the former has failed to be the power of God unto salvation. Hence, “Now become what you are, God’s ‘new loaf’ in Corinth.” The application to our own lives and church, of course, is universal.
Still keeping the imagery of Passover, but shifting over to the second ritual, Paul proceeds to explain how they became God’s “new loaf” in Corinth: “for indeed our111 Passover Lamb has been sacrificed,113 even Christ.” Although this is the only occurrence of this imagery in Paul, that only shows how limited our availability to him is on the basis of his few letters. He clearly assumes that his Gentile readers will understand this thoroughly Jewish imagery. As in John’s gospel, this is a direct application of the death of Christ to the slaughter of the Paschal lambs on the first day of Unleavened Bread.116 The slaying of the lamb is what led to the Jews’ being “unleavened.” So too with us, Paul says. Our Lamb has been sacrificed; through his death we have received forgiveness from the past and freedom for new life in Christ. This emphasis on the sacrifice of Christ as the basis of their transfer from the old to the new is the point Paul will elaborate on next, in the final application of the metaphor.
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 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1649). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Co 5:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1760). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Utley, R. J. (2002). Paul’s Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians (Vol. Volume 6, p. 64). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 165–166). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 1, pp. 187–189). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Fee, G. D. (2014). The First Epistle to the Corinthians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Revised Edition, pp. 237–239). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.