Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cast Out Even a Little Leaven

In the study of Another Gospel, we learned that the sin in our “outer man” is removed through suffering in the flesh for Christ’s sake and that we are thereby perfected and made righteous—pleasing and acceptable—to God. We are purified by the fiery trials; as it says in 1 Peter 4:12-15:
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. On their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

And we must understand that the phrase “for His sake” has two senses: One, directly, as when we preach and confess Christ (the Truth) and are persecuted for it; and, two, indirectly, meaning “the opposite of our own sake”—denying our selves (E.g. “turning the other cheek”).

By the way, we see a great example of this process in 1 Corinthians 5, where the Apostle Paul is telling the Corinthian Church what to do with the member who is committing “such fornication that is not so much as named among the Gentiles”. From verse 5:5, we read:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
So even this heinous sin can be removed through suffering in the flesh. In verse 7, Paul chastises the Corinthians for keeping the man in their midst:
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.
As we know from Jesus in Matthew 16:11-12, “leaven” is “pride or self-serving doctrine”:
11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
This man’s self-serving doctrine convinced him that it was okay to fellowship even while living in unrepentant sin. Paul tells them to “purge out” (“purge out” is one Greek word meaning to “clean out” or “prune”) this “old leaven” so the Church would be “unleavened”—clean.

We have here an analogy of the individual human body with the Church. As sin must be purged out of our flesh to cleanse it, so too must corrupt doctrine be purged from the Bride of Christ to cleanse her; both involve suffering, “mortifying the members”.

By the way, this story of grievous sin in the Corinthian Church might possibly have had a happy ending. If we look at the 2nd Chapter of Paul’s next letter to the Corinthians, we read from Verse 4 on:
4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. 5 But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. 6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
If the person Paul is speaking of here is the same man—and there was certainly no one else Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians who was to receive a “punishment” “inflicted of many”—then it would appear that the fellow repented sufficiently to move Paul to instruct the Corinthians to let the poor wretch back into the fellowship.

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