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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5

Verse 6


‘Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?’

1 Corinthians 5:6

The subject of sin pervades the entire Bible, either directly or indirectly, by precept or example, and following in its course, our Prayer Book adopts the same line of teaching, so as even to appropriate a particular portion of the year (Lent) for its special consideration, with its necessary adjuncts of contrition and repentance; and most wisely does it do so, for without first learning what sin has done to ruin us, we shall be little disposed to think of understanding what Christ has done to save us.

I. What, then, is sin?—The Apostle John plainly and concisely answers in 1 John 3:4: ‘Sin is the transgression of the law.’ ‘Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth also the law.’ All sin, then, is a violation of the law God has given to mankind as a rule to which our conduct is to be conformed. There is sin in all cases where the law is not complied with.

II. What does He tell us, Who is to be our Judge?—What does He say in that infallible Word He has given to us for our guidance? He tells us this distinct truth, that ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.’ By which He means that whosoever fails in any one precept of the law, he is guilty of not observing the law—that is, he is a breaker of the law; though he break only one precept, he has violated the law as a whole. Not that he who has failed in one point is as guilty as he who has violated every law, or that all sinners are culpable in an equal degree because all have broken some one or more of God’s laws. No; offences differ in degree, according to their greatness, their heinousness, or their persistency, and will be punished accordingly; but he who has been guilty of any one offence must be treated as a transgressor for that offence, his being amiable and upright in other respects cannot atone for, or screen him from, the penalty of a broken law.

III. Mark the scriptural judgment pronounced on the case: ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, shall be guilty of all.’ Yes, the offender, then, in one point, has mutilated the perfect law of God; for God’s holy law, although it is divided into Ten Commandments and comprehends everything that is included under them, yet is it but one—one holy, perfect, complete law, all whose precepts are united together, are, as it were, linked or bound up to one another, and must stand or fall together. Injure one limb of the human body, and you injure the whole man; so, break one commandment of God’s law, and you break the law as a whole. The perfect law, which is like a body with its many members, is insulted and injured when a single precept is transgressed.

—Rev. Dr. E. J. Brewster.


‘Shall we say of him whose offences are many what is not to be said of him who hath transgressed but once? If a person were only one remove from being perfect, the Divine Word will not allow us to believe that his many supposed virtues would atone for his single sin. And shall we then who have sinned so often suppose that our many sins can be covered by any supposed righteousness of our own? No, had we really those virtues to boast of which some pretend, they would not, they could not, cover our offences.’

Verse 7


‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.’

1 Corinthians 5:7

The Passover is perhaps the most interesting ceremony in the world on the sole ground of its continuous celebration by the Jews; but let us not forget that it has a further history in the Christian Church.

I. Our Saviour adopted the Passover, with the significance attached to it by the Jews of His day, as the symbol of His own sacrifice and of that New Covenant with His Father which He established. If certain critical conclusions were true, we should be forced to the conclusion that the significance of the most sacred Christian rite is itself based upon a fiction.

II. In the fact of our Lord having thus invested the ancient Passover with the supreme importance of its spiritual continuance in the Lord’s Supper, the Christian must see an overwhelming reason for accepting the interpretation of it which was evidently His own and that of His Apostles.

III. These solemn, ancient, and sacred associations cannot be overthrown by precarious guesses; and we may confidently adhere to the old belief that, as God graciously established the Passover as the perpetual symbol of His covenant with His people, and of His redemption of them from bondage, so our Saviour established the Lord’s Supper as the symbol of our redemption from a far heavier bondage, and of our admission to a far more precious covenant.

—Dean Wace.


‘The Passover, to which St. Paul here compares the sacrifice of our Saviour, is perhaps the most interesting and important ceremony in the world. There is no dispute that part of it, at all events, the feast of unleavened bread, goes back to the very commencement of the national life of the Jewish people, or even further, and it is celebrated now by the Jews with the utmost reverence and care in accordance with what they believe to be the prescriptions of their fathers. To quote from Dr. Kalisch, a well-known Jewish commentator, those prescriptions are still observed by the Jewish people with scrupulous conscientiousness, “even by those who otherwise do not strictly adhere to the ritual injunctions of Mosaism, so that the celebration of Passover, even with the greatest sacrifices, has become a standing proverbial characteristic of the Hebrew nation.… Passover was always considered as pre-eminent among the national festivals of Israel, both on account of its political importance and its solemn religious character. It is considered second to no precept except circumcision; it has the significance of a sacrament; it was formerly the only expiatory sacrifice which every Israelite could offer personally without the mediation of the priest; thus the paschal lamb showed manifestly Israel as “a kingdom of priests”; it connected the individual with God, as a member of the chosen community, and with his brethren, as leading to the same Divine sovereignty. Those who neglected to pay this annual debt broke off their connection alike with God and with their fellow-citizens. Both the Israelites and their enemies were fully impressed with the paramount religious influence which a due observance of Passover, that corner-stone and basis of the national life of Israel, exercised upon the people. Hezekiah commenced his great religious reform with an invitation to all the tribes of Israel to repair to Jerusalem and to celebrate the festival of unleavened bread; and a perfect change in the religious aspect of the country was the almost immediate consequence” ( Com. on Exod., p. 181).’

Verse 8


‘Therefore let us keep the feast.’

1 Corinthians 5:8

Why ought we to be happy in the resurrection of Christ? What are some of the true fountains of His resurrection?

I. We rejoice simply in the thought that our Lord is happy.—Forty days after this day He had yet to serve on this earth before He ascended to His glory; but from the moment of His rising on this the Easter morning, neither His body, nor His mind, appear to have been subject to, or even capable of pain, so true were the words He said before He died—even of His suffering—‘It is finished!’ Now in proportion as our sympathy is with Him, our heart will always make the tone of our mind.

II. Truth has been vindicated; and, to a well-ordered mind, it is a great satisfaction to see any truth thoroughly established. The resurrection of Christ must stand or fall, in point of accuracy, on revelation. In the Old Testament it is involved in the types, and declared in the writings of the prophets. Our Lord’s own teaching sometimes clearly, sometimes dimly, showed it; but always it was the real mainspring of our Lord’s whole life. Besides, there is a most carefully compiled testimony and a perfect demonstration that ‘now is Christ risen from the dead.’ The Bible is verified, and the whole truth of Christianity is placed beyond the reach of a doubt or a contradiction.

III. The Resurrection was the acknowledgment on the part of the Father that He accepted the material sacrifice of His dear Son.—Jesus could not have risen without the Father, and equally the Father could not have raised Him unless He had been satisfied with the accomplishment of the great undertaking He came to this earth to perform.

IV. By this stupendous miracle God showed how great honour He puts upon the body.—Some Christians, wishing to avoid the opposite extreme into which they once ran, now disparage the body too much. But what is this body? The mirror, the broken mirror indeed, but still the mirror of God, to be recast presently into a perfect being, the counterpart of the form of Jesus, not only as He walked this earth, but as He is now, this moment, in glory.

V. Once more, the resurrection of Christ is an allegory.—It is an allegory of that spiritual change which now takes place in the soul to prepare and make it capable of the better resurrection presently.


‘ “Therefore let us keep the feast”; let us “keep the feast” in the deep humility of a pardoned sinner’s happy love. A “feast” of high thoughts and fond affections; a “feast” of joys richer than wine; a “feast” of all God’s good things; a “feast” of forgiveness of all enemies and fellowship with all God’s children; a “feast” of alms-giving to the poor; a “feast” of holy sacramental elements.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.