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1 Corinthians 5:1-13
It is reported that there is fornication among you.
1. May arise within the Church.
2. Occasion grievous reproach.
3. Should be instantly investigated and removed. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The duty of the Church in cases of open immorality
I. To itself.
II. To the offender.
1. Separation from the Christian fellowship.
2. Yet in earnest hope of repentance and amendment. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
“That wicked person”
(text, and 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 7:8-13):--
I. His sin.
1. He had married his stepmother. Such a marriage, though forbidden by Moses, was, under certain conditions, permitted by the Scribes. Hence it has been thought that this man was a Jew. But from the gravity of Paul’s censure it is more probable that he was a Gentile who had availed himself of the easy law of divorce and the licence of Corinthian manners. In itself the sin was not so heinous as many which were committed in that wicked city every day.
2. But there were circumstances which aggravated its guilt.
(1) The father of this young man was alive and keenly resented the wrong (2 Corinthians 7:12).
(2) Though Roman law and manners were loose, yet throughout the Empire the act was branded as a public scandal.
(3) This man was a church member and therefore bound to walk by a higher law than that of Rome; and to create such a scandal in such a city might be fatal to the Christian society.
3. Let us, however, do him bare justice, and we shall find him a man like ourselves, open to similar temptations, and falling before them as we fall. From St. Paul’s references to him he appears to have been of a sensitive passionate temperament. A few weeks after his expulsion he was in danger of being “swallowed up by a swelling and excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7), and the apostle trembled lest he should sink into despair, and vehemently urged his restoration (2 Corinthians 2:5-10). Now a man of such temperament might be led almost unwittingly into the gravest sin. His mother is dead and he is deprived of her counsel and sympathy. His father brings home a new wife--a heathen apparently, probably young and fair, given to him by her parents because he is a man of wealth and position. By and by we discover that she is divorced from him and married to his son. Does it require a novelist to suspect that behind these facts lay a romance or a tragedy? The young man may have loved this girl before his father, and while she favoured him her parents may have favoured the elder suitor. Once married, she may have taken out a divorce, as for almost any reason she was able to do, and have given herself to the man she loved. Or, having willingly married the elder man, her heart may have gone over to the younger before she knew she had lost it. Or, more probably still, she may have been one of those fascinating, fatal women with a strange power for taking men captive, and a wicked delight in using it. On any one of these hypotheses the man at once becomes human to us and alive, and while we cannot palliate his sin, it must have had a strong motive, and being a man of like passions with us he does not stand outside the pale of our sympathy.
II. His sentence.
1. He had a terrible awaking from his brief passionate dream. One evening he leaves the fair heathen who has bewitched him and goes down to church. The brethren are at their common evening meal. An unusual animation prevails among them. Titus is there with a letter from Paul, and sits at the board with a clouded, anxious face. The meal over he unrolls the epistle and begins to read. We know how the letter opens. And then, after all this kindly weather, the storm breaks (1 Corinthians 4:21). Up to this point all may have listened with tolerable composure. No one had been singled out for blame. But here, surely more than one back must have shivered with prophetic twinge. Probably, however, the young man had no presentiment of what was coming. If so, so much the worse for him; for now the rod falls in earnest. It is impossible to describe the agony of shame with which a sensitive, impulsive man would listen to the sentences which follow.
2. There can be no doubt that St. Paul intended to supply the church with a formula of excommunication, and that they used it. After due consultation, and when the vote of the church had been taken--not an unanimous vote, as it proved (2 Corinthians 2:6)--we must suppose that the young man was summoned before the elders of the church, and that they pronounced over him the solemn words, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we deliver thee, So-and-so, to Satan, for the destruction of thy flesh, that thy spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” And we may well believe that the sentence fell on the offender like the doom of death. Not that the apostle meant to shut him out from the common requisites and courtesies of life, or to make him a son of perdition; he meant--
(1) To have this open offender against the law of Christ cast out from the communion of the church, at least for a time, and so ‘brought to a knowledge of his sin and sincere repentance. St. Paul habitually conceived of the heathen world as the domain of Satan, the prince of this world, and therefore to cut a man off from the church and cast him back on the world was to “deliver such an one to the power of Satan.”
(2) He habitually conceived of pain, disease, loss, obstruction, &c., as the work of the evil spirit, as indeed does all Scripture. Is any good purpose crossed? Satan hindered (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Is he tormented with a disabling malady? An angel of Satan buffets him (2 Corinthians 12:7). He had the highest authority for his conclusion (Luke 13:16). Probably, therefore, just as Job was given over into the hand of Satan for a time to be tried, or just as a darkness fell upon Elymas, so also when the Corinthian was excommunicated there came on him a succession of cruel losses. Perhaps even the loss of the fair heathen woman, or some disease which purged out the fever from his blood and brought him to himself. How all this differs from the ban to which the Church has again and again exposed the heretic, and from the mystic spiritual doom which some have discovered in this formula! For--
(3) The apostle expressly says that the “destruction” was intended not for damnation, but for salvation (see also 1 Corinthians 11:32; 1 Timothy 1:20).
III. His absolution. If “the end crowns the work,” who that has “seen the end of the Lord” with this young man can deny that even his excommunication was a work of mercy? His conscience was roused. He confessed and renounced his sin; his sorrow for it swelled till it threatened to prove fatal. And when Titus brings Paul the tidings, the heart of the apostle is profoundly moved (2 Corinthians 2:5-7). And in this passion of forgiving love to the penitent, Paul was a faithful expounder of the very spirit of the gospel. If there was mercy even for the wicked person no man need despair. (S. Cox, D. D.)
The socially immoral in churches
I. That the socially immoral sometimes find their way into christian Churches. A case of fornication had been reported to Paul. One of the members had actually married his stepmother. Such a piece of immorality would be regarded with the utmost abhorrence, even in heathendom. How such a character became a church member must have been through imposition on the one hand, and the lack of scrutiny on the other. It is to be feared that the admission of the socially immoral into churches has in every age been too common. How many churches are there in England entirely free from those who every day outrage the golden rule? There are merchants that cheat their customers, lawyers their clients, doctors their patients, politicians their constituents; masters and mistresses that oppress their servants, and servants unfaithful to their employers. The Church is a field in which grows the tare as well as the wheat, a net in which there is the “unclean” as well as the “clean.”
II. That Churches in their internal religious disputations are in danger of overlooking these (verse 21). Probably there were those who were proud of this man: perhaps he was eloquent, rich, or influential. We have known joint-stock swindlers who have been made chairmen of religious meetings, and who have been cheered to the echo. Party feeling was so strong, and religious disputation so rife, that such immoralities escaped notice. Creeds are more thought of than character, heretics dreaded more than rogues. Hence the saying, sooner trust a man of the world than a professor of religion.
III. That the exclusion by the churches of such is an urgent duty. A true church is a community of Christly men, and the presence of such in it is an outrage.
1. Their expulsion should be practised with the utmost zeal. It would seem that no sooner did Paul hear of this abomination than he determined to put an end to it (verse 3).
2. The expulsion should be practised not to destroy, but to save the offender (verse 5). All punishment should be reformative (Galatians 6:1). (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Note the several grounds on which it is based.
I. Representation (verse 4). There is but One whose condemnation is commensurate with God’s. Nevertheless, as the representative of that ideal man which Christ realised, the Church condemns. As representative, human punishment is expressive of Divine indignation. “To deliver unto Satan.” I cannot explain such words away. I cannot say the wrath of God and the vengeance of the law are figurative, for it is a mistake to suppose that punishment is only to reform and warn. In our own day we are accustomed to use weak words concerning sin. The Corinthians looked on at this deed of iniquity, and felt no indignation. They called it perhaps “mental disease,” “error,” “mistake of judgment,” “irresistible passion.” St. Paul did feel indignation; and if St. Paul had not been indignant could he have been the man he was? And this, if we would feel it, would correct our lax ways of viewing sin. Observe, the indignation of society is properly representative of the indignation of God. So long as the Corinthians petted this sinner, conscience slumbered; but when the voice of men was raised in condemnation conscience began its work, and then their anger became a type of coming doom. But only so far as man is Christlike can he exercise this power in a true and perfect manner. The world’s excommunication is almost always unjust, and that of the nominal Church more or less so.
II. The reformation of the offender (verse 5). Of all the grounds alleged for punishment, that of “an example to others” is the most unchristian. Here the peculiarly merciful character of Christianity comes forth; the Church was never to give over the hope of recovering the fallen. To shut the door of repentance upon any sin, and thus to produce despair, is altogether alien from Christ’s Spirit. And so far as society does that now it is not Christianised, for Christianity never sacrifices the individual to the society. Christianity has brought out strongly the worth of the single soul. Yet it would be too much to say that example is never a part of the object of punishment. The severe judgments of society have their use. Individuals are sacrificed, but society is kept comparatively pure, for many are deterred from wrong-doing by fear who would be deterred by no other motive.
III. The contagious character of evil (verse 6). Who does not know how the tone of evil has communicated itself? Worldly, irreverent, licentious minds, leaven society. You cannot be long with persons who by innuendo or lax language show an acquaintance with evil, without feeling in sonic degree assimilated to them, nor can you easily retain enthusiasm for right amongst those who scoff at goodness.
IV. Because to permit gross sin would be to contradict the true idea of the Church. Let us distinguish. The Church invisible is “the general assembly and Church of the First-born” (Hebrews 12:23). It is that idea of humanity which exists in the mind of God. But the Church visible is the actual men professing Christ, and exists to represent, and at last to realise, the Church invisible. In the first of these senses the apostle says “ye are unleavened”; i.e., that is the idea of your existence. In the second sense, he describes them as they are, “puffed up, contentious, carnal, walking as men.” Now, for want of keeping these two things distinct, two grave errors may be committed.
1. Undue severity in the treatment of the lapsed. Into this the Corinthians fell, and so did the Church in the third century, when Novatian, laying down the axiom that the actual state of the Church ought to correspond with its ideal consistently, demanded the non-restoration of the lapsed. But the attempt to make the Church entirely pure must fail: it is to be left to a higher tribunal. Cf. the parable of the wheat and the tares. Only as a Church visible she must separate from her all such foreign elements as bear unmistakable marks of their alien birth.
2. An over-rigorous puritanism (verses 9, 10). Note the dangerous results of that exclusiveness which affects the society of the religious only.
(1) The habit of judging. For, if we only associate with those whom we think religious, we must decide who are religious, for which judgment we have absolutely no materials.
(2) Consciousness: for we must judge those who are not religious, and then the door is opened for all the slander, &c., which make religious cliques worse than worldly ones.
(3) Spiritual pride; for we must judge ourselves, and so say to others, “I am holier than thou.” (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Discipline in the Corinthian Church
I. The occasion.
1. Common report not always reliable.
2. In this case was lamentably true.
3. Was aggravated by the conduct of the Church.
II. The judgment was--
III. The excommunication was carried into effect--
1. By the assembled church.
2. In the name and with the power of Christ.
3. By apostolic direction.
4. Included a special penalty.
5. Left hope of recovery. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. Who should exercise it--the minister in connection with the church.
II. How far it extends--to exclusion from the Christian fellowship with its consequences.
III. What is its object?
1. The purity of the church.
2. The amendment of the individual. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Christians ought to be solicitous about the spiritual condition of others
“Tom, you’re the sort of Christian I like.” The speaker was a young man of no religious profession. His companion was a church member in good and regular standing. “You’re the sort of Christian I like. You never seem to bother yourself about a fellow’s soul.” The words were lightly spoken, but they pierced like an arrow. One who was passing Tom’s chamber door that night heard something like this: “O God, forgive me that I have seemed indifferent to the welfare of my friends! Help me to trouble myself more and more and more about them! Make me hungry and thirsty for the salvation of those about me! Give me a passion for souls!”
Church not to be judged by her hypocrites
Was there ever a club in all the world without disreputable persons in it? Was there ever any association of men that might not be condemned if the fool’s rule was followed of condemning the wheat because of the chaff? When with all our might and power we purge ourselves of deceivers as soon as we detect them, what more can we do? If our rule and practice is to separate them wholly as soon as we unmask them, what more can virtue itself desire? I ask any man, however much he may hate Christianity, what more can the Church do than watch her members with all diligence, and excommunicate the wicked when discovered? It is a foul piece of meanness on the part of the world that they should aliege the faults of a few false professors against the whole Church: a piece of meanness of which the world ought to be ashamed. Nevertheless, so it is. “Ha! ha!” they say. “So would we have it!” The daughter of Philistia rejoices, and the uncircumcised triumphs when Jesus is betrayed by His friend, and sold by His disciple. O deceitful professor, will not the Lord be avenged upon you for this? Is it nothing to make the enemy blaspheme? Oh, hardened man, tremble, for this shall not go unpunished. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned.--
The deplorable and the commendable in a Church
I. The deplorable. Self-inflation, viz., when the Church prides itself on the gifts, wealth, &c., of its members, and when the members boast of the prestige and power of their Church. This is deplorable--
1. In itself.
(1) It is opposed to common sense. What has a Church which it has not received? The richer its gifts the greater its indebtedness.
(2) it is a flagrant transgression of the law of Christ. “He that would be chief among you let him be your servant.”
(3) It is opposed to the example of Christ who “humbled Himself.”
2. In its consequences.
(1) A man who carries his head too high is apt to overlook matters that may bring both his head and himself to the ground. So with an inflated Church. The Corinthians, through obliviousness of the immorality practised by some, it may be, of its gifted members, have been a bye-word for nineteen centuries.
(2) A man inflated by his self-conceit of health, strength, &c., may easily overlook humble facts and conditions which may easily prove fatal to the strongest and healthiest. So a Church conscious of its antiquity and connection may ignore certain little sources of weakness which in their after flow cover it with infamy. A little leaven leavened the whole lump. What is the reputation of the Church of Corinth to-day?
II. The commendable is set before us rather by implication.
1. Humility. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The Church must stoop to conquer. Absolute subordination to and reliance on its Divine Head is the secret of its triumph.
2. Repentance for shortcomings. The manifest duty and interest of the Church is to face the facts. A fool’s paradise is a desirable abode neither for the individual nor the Church. Having faced the unwelcome facts it is the duty and interest of the Church to lament and confess them.
3. Reformation. “That he that hath done this deed,” &c. Without this repentance and humility will be vain. When abuses exist the Church must not think its duty is done when the members recognise and deplore existing evils. Those evils, whether they consist of customs or persons, must be rigorously expelled. (J. W. Burn.)
Want of discipline in a Church--
I. Is a serious evil.
1. It degrades all.
2. Indicates declension of zeal, watchfulness, love, purity.
II. Is commonly associated with pride.
1. The offender may be respectable; or--
2. The offence ignored.
III. Is a just cause of sorrow.
1. For the dishonour done to Christ.
2. The injury done to souls.
3. The discredit wrought upon God’s cause. (J. Lyth, DD.)
As absent in body, but present in spirit.--
Absent in body, but present in spirit
Much as Paul loved his converts he could not, at this period, think of visiting them. Their conduct so distressed and disappointed him that he felt constrained to be absent from them. But this did net imply any lack of interest in them or their proceedings. On the contrary, there was a sense in which he was really with them.
I. The special instance of this principle furnished here. In what sense could the apostle deem himself present with them “in spirit”?
1. By his teaching. He had long laboured here, and his teaching laid the foundation on which Apollos and the others had built. This teaching included many precepts and motives to holiness, and had sunk into the hearts of the spiritually susceptible. By it the apostle still summoned them to purity.
2. By his authority. He spoke by the Spirit of the Lord, and what he directed the Corinthians to do would be sanctioned by the Head of the Church. In vindicating the purity of the Christian communion, and in cleansing the stained robe of Christ’s Bride they were to feel that Paul was with them inspiring and corroborating their action.
II. The general operation in the living church.
1. Christ, its Founder and Saviour, is absent in body, but present in Spirit. He assured His disciples that it was expedient for them that He should go away, &c.
2. The action of the Church when in accordance with Christ’s instructions must be recognised as prompted by His Spirit and sanctioned by His authority. His presence is promised, and should be realised, to teach, comfort, and authorise the actions of those who do His will. (Prof. J. R. Thomson.)
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together … to deliver such an one unto Satan.--
Exclusion from Christian fellowship where duly inflicted
I. Is a terrible penalty. Enforced--
1. By Christ.
2. His ministers.
3. The Church.
II. Entails serious consequences.
1. Loss of privilege.
2. Exposure to evil.
3. In this case possibly bodily affliction.
III. Is merciful in its design.
1. To condemn the sin.
2. To save the sinner. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The power of excommunication must be exercised
I. In the name of Christ. According to His command and direction.
II. By the Church. With its knowledge and consent.
III. In the apostolic spirit. With zeal for God’s honour and love for the offender.
IV. With the power of Christ. With His authority.
V. For the destruction of the flesh. Its sinful tendencies.
VI. That the spirit may be saved. By timely repentance and reformation. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The extreme penalty of the Church--
1. Is reserved for notorious offenders.
2. Implies serious consequences.
3. May be mercifully overruled for good. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
1 Corinthians 5:6-13
Your glorying is not good.
The true Church a feast
These verses lead us to look upon the true Church--
I. In its internal enjoyments. The association of Christly men is a “feast,” because it contains the choicest elements for--
1. Spiritual nourishment. The quickening and elevating ideas current in such fellowships constitute a soul banquet, “a feast of fat things.”
2. Spiritual gratification. What higher delight Shah the loving intercourse of kindred souls. The true Church is not a melancholy assemblage, but is the most joyous fellowship on earth.
II. In its external relation to the ungodly. There is a connection with ungodly men--
1. That it must avoid. As the Jews put away leaven at the Passover, so all corrupt men must be excluded from the Church feasts. Their presence, like leaven, would be contagious. No Church that has such leaven in it has any occasion for exultation (1 Corinthians 5:6).
2. That it cannot avoid (1 Corinthians 5:10). You cannot attend to your temporal affairs without contact with the ungodly, and as Christians you are bound to go among them to do them good. Over such you have no jurisdiction; they are “without,” and God is to judge them, not you. But if they creep into the Church you are to deal with them (1 Corinthians 5:11). Observe here--
(1) That sin takes many forms. What is temptation to one man is not to another. One is tempted to be a “fornicator,” another a “miser,” &c.
(2) In whatever form this leaven shows itself it must not be tolerated for one moment. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The evil of self-complacency
I. The spirit condemned.
II. The evil of it.
1. Foolish, man has nothing to glory in.
2. Sinful in itself, often in its occasion.
3. Pernicious, it brings shame, humiliation, ruin. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
The leaven of sin works
4. Perniciously. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Sin a malignant leaven
I. In its nature.
II. In its effects--
1. Upon communities.
2. Upon individuals. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Purging out the leaven
“What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Evermore in Scripture the doctrines of grace are married to the precepts of holiness. Salvation in sin is not possible, it always must be salvation from sin. The apostle, while he was showing the Corinthians how wrong they were to ‘tolerate an incestuous person, compared the spirit of uncleanness to an evil leaven; then the leaven suggested the passover, and turning aside for a moment he applied that, so as to make his argument yet more cogent. Hard by any Scripture wherein you find the safety of the believer guaranteed, you are sure to see needful holiness set side by side with it. The purity of the house from leaven went side by side with its safety by the blood.
I. The happy condition of all true believers in Christ. “Christ our passover,” &c. The habitual state of a Christian is that of one keeping a feast in perfect security. Observe how the apostle puts it: Christ is our passover--that by which God’s wrath passes over from us who deserve its full vengeance: Christ is sacrificed, for He gave Himself for us. No new victim is expected or required. Let others offer what they will, ours is the Lamb once slain, and there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin. This completeness of sacrifice indeed is the main part of the festival which the Christian should perpetually keep. If there were anything yet to be done, how could we celebrate the feast? “Therefore,” says the apostle--and it is a natural inference from it “let us keep the feast.”
1. The paschal lamb was not slain to be looked at, to be laid by, or merely made the subject of conversation; but it was slain to be fed upon. So it is your daily business to feed upon Christ, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed. At the paschal supper the whole of the lamb was intended to be eaten; and thou art to feed upon the whole of Christ. No part is denied thee, neither His humiliation nor His glory, His kingship nor His priesthood, His Godhead nor His manhood.
2. A feast is not only for nourishment, but for exhilaration. Let us in this sense also keep a lifelong feast. The Christian is not only to take the doctrines which concern Christ, to build up his soul with, but he may draw from them the new wine of delight. At the passover the Jews were accustomed to sing. Let us keep the feast in the same way. Let your praises never cease.
3. At the passover the devout Jew was accustomed to teach his family the meaning of the feast. Let it be a part of our continual festival to tell to others what our Redeeming Lord has done. This precept does not refer merely to the Lord’s Supper; it is of continuous force. Let us keep the feast always, for the Lamb is always slain.
II. A holy duty commended to us. “Purge out, therefore, the old leaven.” “Let us keep the feast; not with old leaven,” &c.
1. Leaven is used in Scripture in every case but one as the emblem of sin. This arises from--
(1) Its sourness. Sin, which for awhile may seem pleasant, will soon he nauseous even to the sinner; but the very least degree of sin is obnoxious to God. We cannot tell how much God hates sin.
(2) Its corruption and corrupting influence. Sin is a corruption, it dissolves the very fabric of society and the constitution of man.
(3) Its spreading character. No matter how great the measure of flour, the leaven will work its way. Even thus it is with sin. One woman sinned, and the whole human race was leavened by her fault. If the leaven of evil is permitted in a Church, it will work its way through the whole of it.
(a) A little false doctrine is sure to pave the way for greater departures from truth. The doctrines of the gospel have such a close relation to one another, that if you snap a link you have broken the whole chain. “He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all.”
(b) The leaven of evil living, too, tolerated in one it will soon be excused in another, and a lower tone of thought with regard to sin will rule the Church. Sin is like the bale of goods which came from the East to this city in the olden time, which brought the pest in it. In those days one piece of rag carried the infection into a whole town.
2. This leaven must be purged out. In consequence of the command the head of the household among the Jews, especially when they grew more strict in their ritual, would go through the whole of the house on a certain day to search for every particle of leavened bread. With as scrupulous a care as the Israelite purged out the leaven from his house we are to purge out all sin from ourselves and in our conduct.
(1) The Jewish householder would very soon put away all the large loaves of leavened bread, just as we gave up at once all those gross outward sins in which we indulged before.
(2) Then perhaps the stray crusts which the children had left were put away. So there may be certain minor sins in the judgment of the world which the Christian man, when converted, may not put away the first week; but when they are seen he says, “I must have done with these.”
(3) But the most trouble would be caused by the little crumbs. We must not retain even a crumb of the evil leaven; we must earnestly desire to sweep it all out.
(4) The whole house was searched. A Christian man may feel that he has got rid of all the leaven from his shop, yet it may be there is leaven in his private house.
(5) A candle was used to throw a light into every corner of the house, that no leaven might escape notice. Take you the candle of God’s Word, the candle of His Holy Spirit.
(6) To purge out the old leaven many sweepings of the house will be wanted. For, mark you, you are sure to leave some leaven, and if you leave a little it will work and spread. It is hinted in the text that there are forms of evil which we must peculiarly watch against, and one is malice. I have known believers who have had a very keen sense of right, who have too much indulged the spirit deprecated here, i.e., they have been severe and censorious. Take good heed also that every form of hypocrisy be purged out, for the apostle tells us to eat the passover with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Let us leave off talking beyond our experience, let us never pray beyond what we mean.
III. The happiness of the believer acts upon his holiness, and his holiness upon his happiness.
1. The happiness acts upon the holiness.
(1) If I feed upon Christ, who has been sacrificed for me, the happiness I feel leads me to say, “My sins slew my Saviour, and therefore will I slay my sins.”
(2) Sitting as you do within the house, and knowing that you are all safe because the blood is on the lintel outside, you will say, “The firstborn sons of Egypt are slain, and I am preserved. Why I must be God’s firstborn, and must belong to Him.” “Ye are not your own,” &c.
(3) Moreover, the Christian is encouraged to put away his leaven of sin because he has the foresight of a profitable exchange. The Israelite gave up leavened bread, but he soon had angels’ food in the place of it.
(4) The Christian, too, who knows that his sin is forgiven, feels that the God who could put away his load of sin will surely help to conquer his corruptions.
2. Holiness produces happiness. How quiet doth the soul become when the man feels, “I have done that which was right, I have given up that which was evil.” What is it that makes God’s people look so sad? It is the old leaven. “Let us keep the feast”; but it is useless to hope to do so while we keep the leaven. Conclusion: There are some here who are not saved. Notice how salvation comes--not through purging cut the leaven; that operation is to be seen to afterwards, but because the Paschal Lamb is slain. Do not begin at the wrong end, begin with the Cross. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The purification of the Church
I. Its necessity arises from--
1. The existence of sin (1 Corinthians 5:1).
3. Disregard of the corrupting tendency of sin.
II. Its means.
1. The removal of that which offends.
3. Through the sacrifice of Christ.
III. Its motives.
1. The full enjoyment of fellowship in Christ.
2. Which is interrupted by malice and wickedness.
3. But enhanced by sincerity and truth. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
No man reaches at once an extremity of sin; the descent is not abrupt, but sloped. Little sins must creep in before great sins can find room. First the thin end of the wedge, to make way for the broader part. The ordinary laws of motion seem to apply to the spiritual ease; the speed increases fast after a time. So is the chain of sin slight at first and weak, like a single thread that seems scarcely to hold the soul, and which the soul hardly feels; and then it changes into a twisted skein, and then into a corded rope, and then into links of iron. So it is like a little leaven, that works on from part to part, till it has leavened the whole lump. Speak of a murder to a boy, and he will start in horror at the very word, and his blood run cold, as he thinks of tales of violent death. Yet the murderer was once a boy shuddering at the sight of a little blood, putting his hand with an uneasy conscience to some little sin. Little sins grow into great, first as it were a mere scratch on the flesh, and then a putrefying sore. Satan works like the leaven, not spreading his net over every part at once, but stealing his way to the dominion of our souls. So have we seen a little stream creeping through the fields, and then it has gathered other streams like itself, and these being joined to one another, have gone down together widening into a mighty river, that has swept down to the sea with its broad breast of waters and its strong rushing tide. Even so have we seen a small seed cast into the fruitful earth, and before long the seed has put forth its arms and opened for itself a way through the yielding soil, and the little stalk has risen with its green head above the earth, and the stalk has gradually broken forth into a strong plant, and the plant into a tree overshadowing the field. Allow little sins, suffer them to stay for a moment in our souls, and little they will not remain; open the door of our souls ever so little to any sin, and the sin will be soon master of the house and all that is therein. (J. Armstrong, D. D.)
Little sins--their injuriousness
Some brittle gold, having been accidentally melted with a quantity of well-refined and tough gold, was found to have rendered the whole mass brittle with a highly crystalline fracture, and therefore useless for coinage. The impurity causing brittleness in the whole 75,000 ounces was a small fraction of an ounce, probably one three-hundred-thousandth, or less, of the original weight. It will be seen from this that the saying holds good in metallurgy as well as in morals, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” rendering it totally unfit for current uses, until it has been passed through a purifying process. (I. C. Booth, LL. D.)
1 Corinthians 5:7-8
Purge out therefore the old leaven.
The old leaven
I. Its nature and operation.
II. The imperative necessity of its removal. By repentance. That ye may be a new lump.
III. The means and motive--that we may enjoy Christ--our true passover--sacrificed for us. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
represented the pollutions of the idolatry and vices of Egypt with which Israel had broken in coming forth from it. As Israel had providentially carried to the desert that night only unleavened bread, the permanent rite had been borrowed from the historical circumstance (Exodus 12:39; Exodus 13:6-9). The apostle spiritualised the ceremony. As Israelites at every passover feast were bound to leave behind them the pollutions of their Egyptian life, in order to become a new people of God, so the Church is bound to break with all the evil dispositions of the natural heart, or that which is elsewhere called “the old man.” The desired result of this breaking on the part of each one with his own known sin will be a renewing of the whole Church, “that ye may be a new lump.” Another allusion to Jewish customs. On the eve of the feast a fresh piece of dough was kneaded with pure water, and from it were prepared the cakes of unleavened bread which were eaten during the feast. “New” does not signify quality, but time--“recent.” The whole community, by this work of purification wrought on itself, should become like a piece of dough newly kneaded. Has not the awakening of a whole Church been seen more than once to begin with submission to an old censure which weighed on the conscience of one sinner? This confession draws forth others, and the holy breath passed over the whole community. (Prof. Godet.)
Old leaven to be purged
There is a test point about you somewhere. Perhaps it is pride; you cannot bear an affront; you will not confess a fault. Perhaps it is personal vanity, ready to sacrifice everything to display. Perhaps it is a sharp tongue. Perhaps it is some sensual appetite, bent on its unclean gratification. Then you are to gather up your moral forces just here, and, till that darling sin is brought under the practical law of Christ, you are shut out from Christ’s kingdom. (Bp. Huntington.)
All sin to be removed
If a physician were called to see a patient who had a cancer on his breast, the only thing to be done would be to cut it out from the roots. The physician, might give palliatives, so that the patient would have less pain, or he might make his patient believe it was no cancer, or forget that he had a cancer near his vitals; but if the physician were to do this instead of removing the evil, he would be a wicked man and the enemy of his patient. The man’s case was such that the only favour which could be conferred upon him would be to cut out the cancer. Now all agree that sin is the great evil of the soul of man. Nothing can make man more spiritually happy here, or fit him for happiness hereafter, but the removal of sin from his nature. Sin is the plague-spot on the soul, which destroys its peace, and threatens its destruction unless removed. It is therefore certain that if the love of God were manifested towards man, it would be in turning man from sin which produces misery, to holiness which produces happiness. (J. B. Walker.)
The leaven of malice to be purged
It is said of the serpent, that he casts up all his poison before he drinks. It were to be much desired that herein we had so much serpentine wisdom as to disgorge our malice before we pray, to cast up all the bitterness of our spirits before we come to the sacrament of reconciliation.
Purging out the old leaven
A friend once described to me this process as he saw it in a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. The carpenter would not allow him to witness the search in the house lest his presence should defile the home; but he allowed him to enter the shop and witness the search there. The man went about the work with a will; he was evidently thoroughly in earnest; he girded up his loins as if he had a day’s work before him, and then proceeded to search with the utmost zeal. Carefully and conscientiously he turned over every board, he moved all his tools, he swept out the whole place, he opened every drawer, looked into every cupboard; there was not a crevice or a cranny in the wall that was not inspected lest there might be a tiny crumb of leaven anywhere in the shop. As he drew towards the close of his search my friend suddenly heard him utter an exclamation of horror, and looking round he saw him standing as though he had seen something most alarming. If he had found a viper or a cockatrice he could not have been more horrified than he seemed to be. What was it? In the last corner that he had visited, under some shavings, he had come across a little canvas bag, and in this little bag there were a few crumbs of leavened bread; one of the workmen had left it on some former occasion. It was enough; it defiled the whole place. With the utmost possible gravity and solemnity, and with a most anxious expression of countenance as though it were a most critical and important business, the man took hold of two pieces of wood, and using them as a pair of tongs he raised up the bag, and holding it off at arm’s length, marched out of the shop and dropped the leavened crumbs, bag and all, into the centre of a fire that he had burning outside ready for such a contingency, and so he purged out the old leaven. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast.--
Christ our passover
I. The inference.
1. That sin has the true qualities of leaven.
(1) Offensive sourness. Nothing is so distasteful to God; indeed nothing can displease Him but sin. How can it be otherwise when it is professedly opposite to Divine justice? Even the conscience, which is God’s taster, finds it abominably loathsome: how much more God! Did God find sin in His angels? He tumbles them down out of heaven. Did He find sin in our first parents? He hurls them out of paradise. Yea, did He find our sins laid on the Son of His love? He spares Him not (Isaiah 53:5). The more loathsome we find our sins the nearer we come to the purity of the Holy One of Israel (Psalms 45:7). What shall we say, then, to those who find no savour in anything but their sins? Let us, then, bate sin (Psalms 97:10) and take heed of being leavened with it.
(2) Diffusiveness. It began with one angel and infected legions. It began with one woman and infected all mankind. Let it take hold of one faculty and it will infect soul and body. Let it seize on one person in a family and it will corrupt the whole house. From thence it spreads to the neighbourhood, and taints whole cities and regions (2 Timothy 2:7). Since, then, our wickedness is of so spreading a nature--
(a) How careful we should be to resist its very beginnings! It is much easier to keep the floodgates shut than to drain the lower grounds when they are once overflown.
(b) How wary we should be of joining the society of the infectious, whether in opinion or manners (1 Corinthians 5:11; Titus 3:10).
(c) How much it concerns all public persons in Church or State to improve their authority to the utmost for the prevention of vice, and the expurgation of leavened persons (Psalms 71:4, Hebrews).
2. This leaven must be purged out if we would have any interest in Christ our passover. In vain should any Jew talk of keeping a passover to God if he would eat the lamb with leavened bread. In vain should any Christian talk of applying Christ to his soul while his heart willingly retains any of the leaven of any known sin (Psalms 26:6).
II. The proposition.
1. That Christ is a passover. The word is taken from the time of the solemnity (Acts 12:4); for the sacrifices offered in the solemnity (Deuteronomy 16:4); for the act of God’s transition (Exodus 12:11); for the lamb to be offered and eaten (2 Chronicles 35:11, and here).
(1) The lamb is the passover. Which may appear far-fetched. Here was a double passing over--that of the angel over Israel, that of Israel out of Egypt: both were acts, one of God, the other of men. The explanation is that the thing signed is usually put for the sign itself (Genesis 17:13; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Now what a mercy was it for God to pass over Israel when He slew the Egyptian firstborn. For this they were indebted to the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled on their doorposts. Had they eaten the lamb and not sprinkled the blood they had not escaped. The reality of this figure is that by Christ’s blood sprinkled on our souls we are freed from the vengeance of the Almighty. As then Israel were never to eat of the paschal lamb, but they were recalled to the memory of their deliverance, so neither may we ever behold this sacramental representation of Christ’s death but we should bethink ourselves of the infinite mercy of God in saving us.
(2) That Christ is that Paschal Lamb in regard to--
(a) Choice as to, first, nature. A lamb is noted for innocence and gentleness. Christ is the Lamb of God. What perfect innocence and admirable meekness He displayed (Isaiah 53:7). Secondly, quality. Any lamb would not serve: it must be a lamb without blemish. Could Christ have been capable of the least sin, so far from ransoming the world, He could not have saved Himself.
(b) Preparation in respect to, first, killing. The lamb to make a true passover must be slain: so there was a necessity that Jesus should die for us (Luke 24:25-26). Secondly, sprinkling his blood. Thirdly, roasting. So did the true Paschal Lamb undergo the flames of His Father’s wrath for our sins.
(c) Eating. Note, first, it was to be eaten with bitter herbs to teach us that we may not hope to partake of Christ without sensible disrelishes of nature, without true contrition. Secondly, the whole lamb must be eaten. Many a lamb did the Jews eat in the course of the year besides; these were halved and quartered as occasion served. Whosoever would partake of Christ must take the whole Christ. There are those who will be sharing and quartering Christ; one will allow His humanity, but not His Deity; another His prophetic character, but not His priesthood, &c. In vain do these partake of Christ while they thus set upon Him by piecemeal. (Bp. Hall.)
Christ our passover
I. The antecedent.
1. What is meant by Pascha? (Exodus 12:26.) Passing over is, of itself, a thing indifferent; it is good or bad according to what passes or is passed over. If any good pass over us we are the losers; if any danger the gainers. Again, if we pass from better to worse it is a detriment; if from worse to better a benefit. This is a benefit. Evil--the destroying angel--passed over Israel. They passed out of Egypt well, but the Egyptians ill.
2. What is this to us? We live in a world of which Egypt is but a corner and was a type; our Pharaoh is the devil; God’s wrath is the destroying angel; death is our Red Sea through which all must pass, some well, some ill. Our abode is as dangerous as theirs; we need a Pascha to escape God’s wrath and to pass well over death. Their passover, again, was nothing to ours. Theirs was but the deliverance of one poor nation from a passing bodily danger; ours frees all mankind from the destruction of body and soul, and that for ever. And what comparison is there between Canaan and heaven whither Christ shall make us pass?
3. Who is it? A sacrificial lamb--the figure of Christ, the Lamb of God, who became our passover when He was offered to bear the sins of the world. What is sin but a transgression or passing over the duty set before us in the Law of God? But for it no destroyer would have power over us: Christ was a passover from first to last. His birth was a passing over from the bosom of His Father to the womb of His mother: His resurrection a passing over from death to life; His ascension a passing over from the world to the Father. But in His death God took over our sins from us and laid them upon Him.
II. The consequent. “Let us keep the feast.” A fast rather, one would think; but by His resurrection we know that Christ is well passed over, and so we may keep our feast with joy. And a double feast it is. By His death He made the destroyer pass over us; by His resurrection He makes death passable by us. In the sacramental feast we--
1. Remember Him our Sacrifice.
2. Apply the sacrifice to our salvation. (Bp. Andrewes.)
Christ our passover
I. We are in danger of destruction. The angel of wrath has commission to destroy all the workers of iniquity. This destruction is certain, fearful, and will come in the darkness at an hour we look not for it.
II. There is no other means of escape. We cannot bar our doors or windows against this minister of wrath. We cannot propitiate or resist him, or bear up under his avenging stroke.
III. Escape is provided by the blood of Christ.
1. This is the only means.
2. The efficacious means. The angel entered no door sprinkled with the blood.
3. It must be applied. It is not enough that it has been shed.
4. The application of this blood gives not only security, but a sense of safety.
Doubtless all degrees of confidence were felt by the Israelites. Some slept without anxiety; others trembled at every sound; others pressed their firstborn to their bosoms and longed for the morning. So with sinners sprinkled with the blood. All are secure, but the measure of their confidence is very different. The want of confidence arises from the want of faith.
IV. The passover secures entrance into Canaan. Christ not only delivers from death, but gives an abundant entrance into heaven.
V. The passover was to be commemorated as long as the old economy lasted. The death of Christ is to be commemorated till He come.
VI. The passover was celebrated with everything indicative of separation from Egypt. The old leaven was purged out. So the death of Christ binds us to holiness. What would have been thought of a Hebrew who, after such a deliverance, had clung to his fetters? (C. Hodge, D. D.)
Christ our passover
I. Christ is typified here under the paschal lamb. Read Exodus 12:1-51. Note--
1. The victim--the lamb. No other creature could so well have typified Him who was “holy, harmless,” &c., and a sacrifice for sin.
(1) It was a lamb without blemish. And was not Jesus Christ even such? Born of the pure Virgin, begotten of the Holy Ghost, His soul was pure, and His life was the same. In Him was no sin. Ye who have known the Lord, say, can ye find any fault with your Saviour?
(2) “A male of the first year.” Then it was in its prime. And so our Lord had just come to the ripeness of manhood when He was offered. He did not give Himself to die for us when He was a youth, for He would not then have given all He was to be, nor in old age, when He was in decay. And, moreover, at His death, “He cried with a loud voice,” &c., a sign that His soul was strong within Him. And does not the thought rise up--if Jesus gave His all to me, should I not give my little all to Him?
2. The place where this lamb was to be killed. The first passover was held in Egypt, the second in the wilderness; but there were no more until Israel came to Canaan. And then (Deuteronomy 16:5) God no longer allowed them to slay the lamb in their own houses, but appointed a place for its celebration, viz., Jerusalem. In Jerusalem our Lamb was sacrificed for us; it was at the precise spot where God had ordained that it should be. If that mob at Nazareth had been able to compass His death, type and prophecy could not have been fulfilled.
3. The manner of its death. It was to be slaughtered, and its blood caught in a basin. Next it was to be roasted, but it was not to have a bone of its body broken. Now nothing but crucifixion can answer all these three things. Crucifixion has in it the shedding of blood--the hands and feet were pierced. It has in it the idea of roasting, which signifies a long torment. Moreover, not a bone was broken, which could not have been the case with any other punishment.
II. How we derive benefit from Him.
1. By having His blood sprinkled on us for our redemption. Note that the blood of the paschal lamb was not sprinkled on the threshold, but on the top of the door, on the side-post, for woe unto him who trampleth under foot the blood of the Son of God! tits blood must be on our right hand to be our constant guard, and on our left to be our continual support. It is not alone the blood of Christ poured out on Calvary that saves a sinner; it is that blood sprinkled on the heart. It is not enough to say “He loved the world, and gave His Son”; you must say, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” There is an hour coming when God will say, “Angel of death, thou knowest thy prey. Unsheath thy sword.” If we have the blood on us, when we see the angel coming, we shall smile at him. “Bold shall I stand in that great day,” &c.
2. Christ is not only a Saviour for sinners, but He is food for them after they are saved. We must live on Christ as well as by Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ our passover
I. A lesson of safety.
1. Emerson says, “Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass. It seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word. You cannot wipe out the foot-track. You cannot draw up the ladder so as to leave no inlet or clue.” That is no news. “Be sure your sin will find you out” is written in the Bible of the moral nature and in the Scriptures.
2. But man wants to know something more than Emerson’s philosophy can teach him. This is man’s passionate question--Is there nothing which can come between himself and the doom of sin? The passover was God’s answer in type; Christ is God’s answer in reality. There was one hindrance on that fatal night that the death-angel could not pass--the blood of the lamb on the door-posts. The barrier which wards off the penalties for sin is the blood of Christ.
3. Only there must be personal appropriation of the atonement. It was not simply the lamb slain in general sacrifice that brought safety. And this involved faith in what God had said, and obedience correspondent to the faith. The application is evident.
II. A lesson of strength
1. Look at those Israelites. Their staffs are in their hands; their loins are girded, &c. Before them an exhausting march, behind them a sleepless night. But God has provided that they be strengthened. The slain lamb must be eaten. The Christian life is a pilgrimage. It is under burdens; it must meet conflict. But Christ is our passover for strength; we must subsist on Him. Thus in Christ shall there be strength for us. (Hom. Monthly.)
Christ our passover
I. Trace the allusion. Note--
1. The victim.
(1) It was a lamb--the most gentle of creatures of the type.
(2) “A male of the first year”--that is, in its highest state of physical perfection. And Jesus was led to the altar in the flower of His age.
(3) “Without blemish” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
(4) The paschal lamb was previously selected and set apart four days before it was slain. The service required forethought and preparation, which suggests that the Lamb of God “verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world,” and actually entered Jerusalem four days before He suffered.
(3) The point of dissimilarity is that the lamb was unconscious of its approaching fate. But Jests saw the end from the beginning. Yet He pressed forward with unbending resolution until He could say, “It is finished.”
2. The appropriation of the blood.
(1) The means of protection to Israel was the blood. Without this they had been equally exposed with the Egyptians. And what is it that affords security to the sinner against the more fearful judgments of the Almighty but the blood of the heavenly Lamb which was shed upon the Cross?
(2) But the blood of the paschal victim afforded no protection till it was sprinkled with a bunch of hyssop. And here we are reminded of the necessity of a believing application of the gospel remedy.
(3) The blood sprinkled answered the end of its application because of the Divine ordination. If the sacrifice of the Cross were merely the device of man, it would possess no virtue, but because it is of Divine origin and appointment it will ever prove “the wisdom of God and the power of God.”
(4) The blood of the victim was not to be cast upon the threshold, to be trodden under feet as a thing of nought. And beware how you treat the gospel remedy (Hebrews 10:28-29).
3. The ceremony of eating it.
(1) The flesh of the lamb was designed for food. And what says Christ? (John 6:53-57.)
(2) The whole lamb was to be eaten. And Christ must be received in all the extent of His official character and relations.
(3) It was to be eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The benefits of Christ’s redemption can only be enjoyed in connection with the exercise of that “godly sorrow which worketh repentance.” And “the old leaven of malice and wickedness” must be purged out, that we may “keep the” gospel “feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
(4) It ,was also to be eaten in haste and in a departing posture. Christians, this is not your rest. Ye are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Stand, therefore, having your loins girded about with truth, &c.
II. Examine the fact. Christ our passover is sacrificed for us--is slain not merely for our good--that we might have the benefit of His example and the confidence arising from His testimony--but in our room and place.
1. This principle characterised the paschal sacrifice. The lamb was virtually and in effect, if not strictly, a substitutionary victim. There was life for life. Herein is typified the death of Christ, by which a way has been opened for our escape from the doom to which we are exposed and our enjoyment of everlasting life. Hence the death of Christ is uniformly represented as the meritorious cause of our redemption. All the blessings of the gospel are ascribed to this as the means of their procurement--the reason of their bestowment--and the consecrated medium through which they flow. Pardon (Ephesians 1:7). Justification (Romans 5:9). Purity (Hebrews 9:13-14). Access to God (Hebrews 9:19). Victory over Satan (Revelation 12:10-11). Peace and joy (Romans 5:1-2; Romans 5:11). Final introduction into the presence of God in heaven (Revelation 7:14-15).
2. The fact, then, is one of no common character or trifling consequence. For if Christ was not “sacrificed for us,” I am left without a refuge, with no ground of confidence or of hope when anticipating the transactions of the last great day. But I cannot thus surrender my hope. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
The Christian passover
I. The sacrifice of Christ is--
1. Deprecatory, or designed to ward off threatened judgment. Of this nature was the paschal sacrifice, by which the Israelites were protected from the destroying angel.
2. Expiatory, in which the innocent died for the guilty, and thus offered satisfaction for the sins of the world. On this ground God can justify the ungodly without relaxing the strictness of His law, infringing the truth of His word, or degrading the dignity of His throne.
3. Precatory. Such sacrifices were offered to secure the restoration of forfeited benefits, Hence the sacrifice of Christ is a “redemption” which not only delivers from merited punishment, but recovers every forfeited good.
4. Vicarious. Christ endured death not merely for our instruction, or that He might seal the truth of His doctrine with blood, and set us an example of the spirit with which we should suffer. No! If He suffered, it was for our sins, the just for the unjust.
5. Eucharistic. In sacrifices of this class the victim was eaten with thanksgivings. Of this kind was the passover; and Christ is the true paschal lamb, who has not only sacrificed His life, but now offers Himself in every promise and ordinance, to be received by penitent faith, as the living bread. This is particularly represented in His last supper.
II. The sacrifice of Christ a passover. Observe the correspondence between the type and antitype more particularly in--
1. The sprinkling of the blood. As the Israelites sprinkled the blood outside the door, it ought to appear that we are inwardly pure by our being outwardly holy.
2. The eating of the lamb, by which the bodies of the people were nourished and supported. The teachings of Christ’s Spirit satisfy the desire for spiritual knowledge; the joys and consolations of His love satiate the hungry desires after happiness; and the fulness of His spotless mind breathed into our souls meets the vast capacity of our nature; we are strengthened with all the might of God, and grow up into Him in all things.
3. The consequent deliverance.
III. The manner in which we must celebrate the Christian passover. Let there be--
1. Purity. “Purge out the old leaven.” Every one who would receive Christ as his Saviour, and receive worthily His supper, should put away the “old leaven.” The leaven of the Sadducees was error, that of the Pharisees was hypocrisy; these must be purged out; so must the old leaven of every besetment and sin.
2. Compunction, typified by the bitter herbs with which the paschal lamb was to be eaten, and which fitly describe the sorrow of a broken spirit. Without eating these bitter herbs we shall never feel the appetite of strong desire which hungers after Christ, nor taste the sweetness of His salvation.
3. Sincerity. We must embrace Christ, not merely that we may escape from future condemnation, but with sincere desire to enjoy Him savingly, to know Him experimentally, to love Him supremely, to submit to Him cheerfully, and devote ourselves to Him entirely.
4. Unreservedness, i.e., Christ must be taken wholly. Every family, under the law, was required to sacrifice a lamb, and that family must use or burn it; not even a bone was to be broken. So every soul needs a full Christ for himself--all His power to save; all His merit to cleanse; all His wisdom to guide; all His grace to invigorate; and all His sacred presence to fill the soul and constitute its heaven.
5. Promptitude. The Israelites partook of the passover in haste, their shoes on their feet, and their staves in their hands. Now, as everything depends on the present moment, receive Christ in haste. Just now, “What thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”
6. Joy. The Jews kept their passover as a season of great joy, because instituted in memory of their greatest deliverance. So should the Christian commemorate the death of his Lord as the greatest deliverance earth ever saw or heaven ever witnessed. (W. Atherton.)
Christ our passover
I propose to present some of the shapes in which this destroying angel appears, and, by Christ our Redeemer, is dismissed. But, first, I must meet one or two objections. Some may think this passing over, by the destroying angel, of a part of the world--that part, namely, visited by the light and salvation of the gospel--seems partial and unequal. To this I can only answer, God proceeds in His revelation as He does in all His providence. We feel God’s goodness; and for His equity our inmost conviction and highest intuition stands voucher. We might ask why God has made one of His creatures an angel, and another a worm; why He has caused one to dwell under the tropic line, and another at the frozen pole; why He has ordained one to be born of a poor, and another of a prosperous parentage; why, for thousands of years, He delayed discoveries so important to darkened and suffering humanity, such as the press, the compass, the bright sky-marks of a trackless voyage, or the ether-breath under which the piercing knife is painless. Enough that, at length, we have these passovers of the Divine mercy. Enough, above all, that we have in Christ the chief passover of the keenest agonies of the human heart. But this doctrine of the passover, marvelled at by the sceptical, is resented by the proud, fancying they are unwilling to receive such gratuity. They would emancipate themselves from the miseries that assail human life; they would slay the monsters of danger for themselves; nor superfluously accept a heaven they have not earned. Ah! poor pride, empty claim of independence, infatuated denial of that grace of God which is the source of all we have or enjoy! Truly, we should have begun sooner to sign off and separate, if we meant to complain of the free grace and unmerited favour of God. It is too late. We are baptized in goodness and immersed in love from our infancy. For all things, temporal or spiritual, we are beggars, dependent on God. But it is important to observe that this passover is no Contradiction or exemption of true morality. It is no passover for our exertions of virtuous fidelity. It only modifies the character of our virtue to exalt and refine it. For that show of wisdom in will-worship, which the apostle rebukes, it substitutes the at once gentler and holier virtue of that devotion to God, to right and duty, which Christ the passover inspires. Indeed there is nothing immoral or dangerous to character in the doctrine of the text. The passover, at Christ’s bidding, of the destroying angel, is for no license, but for our sanctity. For the contemplation of that sacrifice, producing this passover, stirs affections in the breast from which flow sweeter virtues and more winning charms of spontaneous worth than all the self-confidence of sages and all the austerities of the stoic. Christ our passover, by His Spirit, stimulates us to leave the bondage of our oppressive sins. Thus, seeing the idea of Christ the passover, not as a mere figure of rhetoric, but, beyond all objections, resting on a foundation of eternal truth, we may consider its practical applications: for we, as much as captive Jew or old Gentile, need the Divine passover. The destroying angel comes in many ways to close in a struggle with our safety and peace.
1. As we meditate in solitude or muse by the wayside he often springs upon us. Sometimes, a gigantic spectre of doubt, he fearfully overhangs our thoughts and duskily obscures our path. He darkly queries with us whether all these spiritual things which we, in our words of fine discourse, make such account of, are not mere imagination and surmise. The shining mansions above fade away into mist and vacuity; and temples and closets, songs and supplications, turn to a vain pretence or a hypocritical mockery. But Christ the passover comes through His Spirit to make the heavenly glory shine again on the world, and gleam through our thoughts by His truth.
2. Again, in the gloomy and menacing shape of remorse, comes the destroying angel. He arrays before us all our wrong-doings and omissions of duty. He throws in our face all the shortcomings of the past, He stings our memory into the recollection of unworthiness we had forgotten. He lifts his ghostly, resistless hand, to cast us down into hopeless dejection over the remaining sin that clings to our nature, and into utter despair of the mercy of God. But Christ appears with His look of kindness; He speaks the pardoning love of God, and the destroying angel’s condemnation is silenced.
3. In the shape of a mourner, too, as well as a doubter and accuser, comes the destroying angel. He sits by the fireside, at the table, and the grave, when dear objects have gone, and raises a miserable cry that all comfort and joy and reciprocity of affection are gone and lost with them. But Christ comes, and the destroying angel passes over. The Cross of Christ rises in sight. The sepulchre of Christ discloses its broken door. Now grief may do its worst. We are superior to it. It can lay waste the earth, and commit havoc in the abodes of men; but all its desolations are more than repaired. Christ is our passover, for He presents God as our Father. Now no father wishes his children to die; least of all the real Father, the Father of spirits, who hath power to give His children life. Therefore death, the huge but hollow semblance, must pass over. Christ hath taught us that we can love God, and how to love Him. But love is a bond of endurance according to all the ability of both its subject and object; with God it is a bond of immortality. Therefore death, with his mere masque and presumption of tyranny, must pass over. Matter ceases to be all. Knowledge, love, will, becomes all. The vast creation becomes but the theatre, wherein the intelligences which the Great Parent for ever inspires act out their thoughts and affections. (C. A. Bartol.)
The Christian passover
“Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” The human mind is never more elevated with joy than in the case of those who have just escaped some great danger. Almost all our strong feelings and perceptions are due to strong contrasts; light is never so bright as when it arises out of darkness; health never so sweet as when it follows upon sickness; and safety never so precious as when realised in the presence of danger. Conceive the children of Israel on the night when the first passover was kept, standing with their staves in their hands and their shoes upon their feet, eating their last meal in the house of bondage. Who was there that did not feel, as on no previous occasion, the blessed security of being in covenant with God? Would not the consciousness of the awful danger that was abroad deepen and solemnise that sense of security? We say, “Let us keep the feast.” We understand this to be something more than an exhortation. It was a command to the Israelites of the most positive kind. God intended to distinguish them by an act of special mercy from the Egyptians; but this distinction was all made to hinge upon their compliance with the directions about the paschal lamb. If it be possible to conceive an Israelite so infatuated as to neglect those directions, we need not tell you what the consequences would have been. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Oh! beware, I earnestly beseech you, beware of trifling in a case like this! Recollect, “it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life”; it is the life of your souls. Shall we put this matter to the proof? We have described the feelings of the Jewish family while keeping the passover: there were mingled feelings--fear of the danger which they knew to be so near, gratitude to God who had spread the shield of His protection over them, and reverence for that mysterious blood which God had appointed as the distinguishing mark between those whom He would protect and those whom He would destroy. Now on this great day of the feast does your state of mind resemble theirs? Have you a sense of the nearness of appalling danger? No one can estimate the greatness of the deliverance wrought who has not felt, personally and deeply, the greatness and the nearness of the danger incurred. What was it that made the feast of the passover, at its first celebration, so intensely interesting to the Israelites? what, but the knowledge that the angel of death was at their very doors? They never kept the passover so heartily afterwards; they never afterwards had such a sense of deliverance from actual and imminent danger. (J. E. Hankinson, M. A.)
I. Our passover sacrifice. The death of the paschal lamb saved at least one life in the household, and was the security of them all. Because it died, the firstborn did not die. The blood sheltered and preserved; and the angel passed over the household whose posts were tinctured with the ruby pledge of safety. And so, distinctly and clearly in the apostle’s mind here, the one conception of Christ’s death which answers to this metaphor is that which sees in Christ’s death a death of expiation; though not so distinctly as in other instances, a death of substitution. Because He dies, the destruction and punishment does not fall on the man who is housed behind the shelter of His blood.
II. Our passover feast. The slaying of the lamb provided in the old ritual the material for the feast; and, says Paul, in effect, so it is with us. The Christ who has died as a sacrament is the nourishment and food of our souls. We live on the sacrifice; “let us keep the feast.” What Paul is thinking about here is the whole Christian life which he compares to that passover feast. And his exhortation, “Let us keep the feast,” is, in fact, first of all, this--Do you Christian men and women see to it that your whole life be a participation in the sacrifice of the slain Lamb. “Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you.” And how are we to feed upon a slain Christ? By faith, by meditation, by continual carrying in grateful hearts, in vivid memories, and in obedient wills, the great sacrifice on which our hopes build. Let your minds feed upon His truth, and your love feed upon His love; let your wills feed upon His commandment; let your consciences feed upon His great cleansing sacrifice; let your whole hopes fasten on His faithful promise; and bring your spirits in all their parts into contact with His Spirit, and the life will pass from Him to you. As our Christian life should be all a feast of continual participation in Christ, so it should be all a memorial of Him. The passover was the perpetual calling to mind year by year of that great deliverance. What tenacity of national memory is shown in that continual observance of it till this very day! So should we ever carry in our remembrance the dying of the Lord Jesus, and whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all in memory of Him, moulding all our lives by the pattern and for the sake of His dying love.
III. Our Christian purifying. “Purge out the old leaven.” Think of the scrupulous Jewish householder the night before the passover, with his lighted candle, searching through every corner of his house, where there was any chance of a bit of leavened matter being concealed. That is the sort of thing we have to do. Better cultivate a conscience that is over-scrupulous than one that is over-indulgent. And, mind, it is you that have to do it. God will do it if you ask Him; God will help you to do it if you will let Him; but God cannot do it without you, and you cannot do it without God. Therefore, two things, a large part of our cleansing must be our submitting ourselves to His cleansing and cultivating the faith which unites us to the cleansing power. Second, a part of our cleansing must be in reliance upon His Divine help, ourselves taking the brush into our hands, and ourselves scrubbing vigorously till we get rid of the pollution. And, beyond that, remember further, that this self-purifying is an absolutely indispensable condition of your keeping the feast. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” is but the same teaching as that of my text: “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may keep the feast.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Christ our passover
1. God’s greatest mercies to His Church are attended with the greatest plagues upon their enemies. The passover was the salvation of Israel and ruin of Egypt.
2. God provides for the security of His people, before He lays His wrathful hand upon their adversaries.
I. Christ is our passover. Christ is only designated in the New Testament as a Lamb, as being significant of the innocence of His person, the meekness of His nature, His sufficiency for His people.
1. The design of the passover was to set forth Christ. All the sacrifices which were appointed by God as parts of worship, were designed to keep up the acknowledgment of the fail of man, and to support his faith in the promised Redeemer. Christ is the real accomplishment of all; He is our mystical, spiritual, heavenly, perfect Passover. And, indeed, if we consider all the circumstances in the institution, they seem not worthy of the wisdom of God if they be not referred to some other mystery: and what can that be but the Redeemer of the world represented thereby? Why should so much care be in the choice and separation of a lamb? How can we think God should appoint so many ceremonies in it, lay such a charge for the strict observation of them, if He designed it not as a prop to their faith, a ground to expect a higher and spiritual deliverance by the blood of the Messiah, as well as a trial of their obedience, a memorial of their temporal deliverance, and a sign for the direction of the angel in the execution of his commission?
2. The believers in that time regarded it as a type of the Messiah (Hebrews 11:28).
3. The paschal lamb was the fittest to represent Christ. It was a sacrifice and a feast--a sacrifice in the killing it and sprinkling the blood, a feast in their feeding upon it. It represents Christ as a victim satisfying God, as a feast refreshing us; He was offered to God for the expiation of our sins, He is offered to us for application to our souls. The truth of this proposition will appear--
(1) In the resemblance between the paschal lamb and the Redeemer.
(a) A lamb is a meek creature. It hurts none; it hangs not back when it is led to the slaughter--no greater emblem of patience to be found among irrational creatures. How strange was our Saviour’s humility in entering into such a life! How much more stupendous in submitting to such a death, as shameful as His life was miserable! From this paschal lamb typifying the Redeemer the Jews might have learned, not to expect a Messiah wading through the world in blood and slaughter, and flourishing with temporal victories and prosperity, but one meek, humble, and lowly, suiting the temper of the lamb which represented Him in the passover.
(b) It was to be a lamb without blemish (Exodus 12:5). It was to be entire in all its parts, sound, without bruise, scab, or maim; and the reason why it was separated four days before the killing of it was that they might have time to understand whether it had any spot or defect in it. So is the Lamb of God; He was holy in the production of His nature as well as in the actions of His life. From the first moment of His conception He was filled with all supernatural grace according to the capacity of His humanity; His union with the Divine nature secured Him against the sinful infirmities of our nature, and made all supernatural perfections due to Him, whereby He might be fitted for all holy operations. As He was “that holy thing” in His birth (Luke 1:35), so He was righteous to the last moment of His life. The law of God was within His heart, signified by the tables of the law laid up in the ark.
(c) The lamb was to be chosen, and set apart three days, and killed the fourth in the evening (Exodus 12:6). Our Saviour was separate from men, manifested Himself in the work of His prophetical office three years and upwards, before He was offered up as a sacrifice in the fourth year, after He had been solemnly inaugurated in the exercise of His office. It was ordered by God to he killed in the evening, to signify the sacrifice of the Messiah in the evening of the world. He was crucified at the end of the second age of the world, the age of the law, and the beginning of the third age, that of the gospel, which is called in Scripture the “last times “ (Hebrews 1:2).
(d) The lamb was roasted with fire whole (Exodus 12:4; Exodus 12:8-9), not sodden. To put them in mind of the hardship they endured in the brick-kilns of Egypt, and as a type of the scorching sufferings of the Redeemer. Probably alluding to this roasting of the paschal lamb. He bore the wrath of that God who is a consuming fire, without any water, any mitigation or comfort in His torments. It may note also the gradual rising of the suffering of Christ. As His exaltation was not all at one time, but by degrees, so were His sufferings, by outward wounds, cutting reproaches, and inward agonies.
(e) Not a bone of the paschal lamb was to be broken (Exodus 12:46). This was fulfilled in our Saviour (John 19:36). Death had not a full power over Him, He was not broken to pieces by the greatness of His sufferings.
(2) There is a resemblance in the effects or consequents of the passover.
(a) The diverting the destroying angel by the sprinkling of the blood upon the posts, to be a mark to the angel to spare the firstborn of such houses, was the main end in the institution (Exodus 12:12-13). It is only under the warrant of this blood that we can be safe. The Redeemer’s blood shed for us, and sprinkled on us, preserves our souls to eternal life. As the destroying sword did not touch the Israelites, so condemning wrath shall not strike those that are under the protection of it: death shall have no power over them.
(b) Upon this succeeded that liberty God had designed for them (Exodus 12:31). As it secured them from death, so it was the earnest of their deliverance, and broke the chains of their slavery. The death of Christ is the foundation of the full deliverance of His people, and the earnest of the fruition of the purchased and promised inheritance. This was the conquest of Pharaoh, upon which soon after followed his destruction. The Israelites’ slavery ended when their sacrifices were finished; the efficacy of this Divine passover delivers men from a spiritual captivity.
(c) After this passover they do not enjoy their liberty, but begin their march to Canaan, the promised and delightful land. So by the merit of the sacrifice of Christ the true Israelite turns his face from earth to heaven, from a world that lies in wickedness to an inheritance of the saints in light, and travels towards Canaan. Is Christ called our passover? Then--
1. The study of the Old Testament is advantageous. The Old Testament delivers the types, the New interprets them: the Old presents them like money in a bag, the New spreads them and discovers the value of the coin; the Israelites in the Old felt the weight of the ceremonies, believers in the New enjoy the riches of them.
2. Upon what a slender thread doth the doctrine of transubstantiation hang! Christ is here called the passover--was the paschal lamb therefore substantially the body of Christ?
3. The ancient Jews were under a covenant of grace. Christ was the end, the spirit, the life of their sacrifices. The passover, rock, sacrifices, manna, were the swaddling-bands wherein He was wrapped. They had the sun under a cloud, we the Sun at noon-day in His glory.
4. In the security Christ procures. The destroying angel was not to enter into any sprinkled house, no passage was afforded to him. The wrath of God, or the malice of the devil can have no power over them that are sprinkled with the blood of Christ. In the efficacy. The blood of the lamb was but a sign of that deliverance of the Israelites, but could not purge their defiled consciences; but the blood of our Lamb hath merited our salvation, can cleanse our consciences from dead and condemning works to serve the living God. This comfort is the greater by how much the tyrant we are delivered from is more dreadful that Pharaoh, whose design is not only like his to afflict our bodies but tumble our souls and bodies into the same hell with himself. It is from the wrath of God our passover hath delivered us; and what is the anger of Pharaoh to the fury of an offended Deity? It is true deliverance is yet but begun; it is not yet perfect; miseries and spiritual contests arc to be expected.
Pharaoh will pursue, but shall not overtake; death shall not swallow up those who are sprinkled with this holy blood.
1. Thankfully remember this passover.
2. Inquire whether He be our passover. He is a passover, but is He a lamb eaten by us, owned by us? He is ours by the gift of God, but is He ours by the acceptation of our souls? This Lamb is ours in the liberty, life, glory, and rest He hath purchased, when we are like Him, when we learn of Him.
3. Have faith in the blood of Christ. The killing the lamb signified the death of Christ, the sprinkling the blood signified the application of it by faith. It was not the blood contained in the veins of the lamb or shed upon the ground, that was the mark of deliverance, but sprinkled upon the posts: nor is it the blood of Christ circulating in His body or shed upon the Cross, which solely delivers us, but as applied by faith to the heart. That was sprinkled upon every house that desired safety, and this upon every soul that desires happiness. Had an Israelite’s family neglected this it had felt the edge of the angel’s sword; the lamb had not availed him, not by a defect of the sacrifice, but by their own negligence or contempt of the condition. Or had they used any other mark, they had not diverted the stroke: no work, no blood but the blood and sufferings of the Redeemer, can take away the sin of the world.
4. Let us leave the service of sin. The Israelites after this passover did no more work at the brick-kilns of Egypt. They ceased to be Pharaoh’s slaves, and began to be the Lord’s freemen.
II. Christ is a sacrifice. I shall lay down some propositions for the illustrating of this doctrine.
1. Sacrifices were instituted as types of Christ.
(1) They were instituted by God.
(2) No other reason can be rendered of the institution of them, but as typical of the great sacrifice of the Redeemer.
(3) Christ did really answer to these types.
2. The sacrifices thus instituted were of themselves insufficient, and could not expiate sin; they must, therefore, receive their accomplishment in some other. But being shadows by their institution, they could make nothing perfect (Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 10:11).
(1) It was not consistent with the honour of God to be contented with the blood of a beast for an expiation of sin. How could there be in it a discovery of the severity of His justice, the purity of His holiness, or the grandeurs of His grace?
(2) They have no proportion to the sin of man. The sin of a rational creature is too foul to be expiated by the blood of an irrational creature.
(3) The reiteration of them shows their insufficiency. They were rather a commemoration of sin, and confessions of it, than expiations of any--rather accusers than atoners.
(4) God had often spoke slightingly of them. He resembles them to the cutting off a dog’s neck, when done with an unholy heart (Isaiah 66:3). He professeth He had no delight in them (Psalms 40:6). And what is said of this may be said of all our duties and performances, the staves upon which men naturally lean for acceptation of their persons.
3. Such a sacrifice, therefore, is necessary for a sinful creature. No creature can be such a sacrifice. As the apostle argues, “If righteousness be by the law, then was Christ dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21).
(1) What is a sacrifice for sin must be pure and sinless. God will not accept a defiled offering.
(2) An infinite sacrifice is necessary for a sin in some respects infinite, for every sin entrencheth upon the honour of an infinite God.
(3) Necessary in regard of the justice of God, which is an immutable and infinite perfection of the Divine essence.
4. Christ only was fit to be this sacrifice.
5. It was necessary in regard of His office of priesthood, that He should be a sacrifice.
6. Jesus Christ, then, was a sacrifice in His human nature.
7. That whereby this sacrifice was sanctified, was the Divine nature. Every sacrifice was sanctified by the altar (Matthew 23:19).
8. Upon the sacrifice of Christ all His other sacerdotal acts depend, and from thence they receive their validity for us.
(1) This was the ground of His ascension and entrance into heaven as a priest. The high priest was not to enter within the veil without blood.
(2) This is the foundation of His intercession. There are two functions of Christ’s priesthood--oblation and intercession.
(3) This is the foundation of all the grace any have. The conveyance of all the gracious love of God is through this channel. In redemption by His blood the riches of the grace of God abounded, and that with the marks of the highest wisdom (Ephesians 1:7-8).
III. Christ was sacrificed for us--ὑπὲρ when joined with suffering for another, always signifies in another’s stead and place; it is so used Romans 5:7. This will be cleared if we consider--
1. That Christ could not be a sacrifice for Himself. The Messiah was to be cut off, but not for Himself (Daniel 9:26). He needed no sacrifice for Himself.
2. Sacrifices implied this. They had a relation to the offerer, and were substituted in his place.
3. The whole economy of Christ is expressed in the whole Scripture to have a relation to us. All things preparatory to His sufferings were for us.
4. Our sins were imputed to Him as to a sacrifice. Christ the just is put in the place of the unjust to suffer for them (1 Peter 3:18). Christ is said to bear sin as a sacrifice bears sin (Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12). His soul was made an offering for it.
(1) It cannot be understood of the infection of sin. The filth of our nature was not transmitted to Him.
(2) But that our sin was the meritorious cause of His punishment. All those phrases that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), and was delivered to death for our offences (Romans 4:23), clearly import sin to be the meritorious cause of the punishment Christ endured: sin cannot be said to be the cause of punishment but by way of merit. If Christ bad not been just He had not been capable of suffering for us.
(3) Our sins were charged upon Him in regard of their guilt. Our sins are so imputed to Him as that they are not imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:19), and not imputed to us, because He was made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).
(a) The apostle distinguishes His second coming from His first by this (Hebrews 9:28), “He shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
(b) He cannot be well supposed to suffer for our sins, if our sins in regard of their guilt be not supposed to be charged upon Him. How could He die, if He were not a reputed sinner?
5. The sufferings of this sacrifice are imputed unto us. He took our sins upon Himself, as if He had sinned, and gave us the benefit of His sufferings, as if we had actually suffered.
The redounding of these sufferings to us, ariseth--
1. From the dignity of the person undertaking to be a sacrifice for us, and the union of our nature with his.
2. From union with this infinite Person by faith. All believers have a communion with Him in His death (2 Corinthians 5:14).
If Christ be a sacrifice--
1. We may see the miserable blindness of the Jews in expecting the Messiah as a temporal conqueror.
2. If Christ be a sacrifice, it shows the necessity of a satisfaction to the justice of God, and a higher satisfaction than men could perform.
3. Christ as sacrificed, is the true and immediate object of faith.
4. It is no true opinion that Christ died only for an example.
5. Comfort to every true believer. He was sacrificed for us. God counted Him a sinner for our sakes, that He might count us righteous for His sake.
(1) As Christ hath been sacrificed for them, so He has been accepted for them.
(2) This sacrifice unites all the attributes of God together for a believer’s interest.
(3) This sacrifice is of eternal virtue.
(4) The effects of this sacrifice, therefore, are perfect, glorious, and eternal.
6. We must then lay hold on this sacrifice.
7. We must be enemies to sin, since Christ was a sacrifice for it. Unless sin die in us, we cannot have an evidence that this sacrifice was slain for us. (Thomas Hacket.)
The Christian passover
It is remarkable that this is Paul’s only allusion to the Jewish Passover. Paul has been commanding the Corinthian Christians to cast out from their midst a grossly profligate person. He then desires to enjoin upon them to get rid of corruption in themselves as well as in others, and corruption suggests the thought of leaven, secretly, silently, victoriously spreading through the mass. And leaven suggests--in his way of going off at a tangent--the thought of the scrupulous search of the Jewish householder for it in his house in preparation for the paschal feast; and that suggests the paschal feast itself. And so without explanation, and quite incidentally, he drops, as it were by the way, this great thought.
I. First, then, paul thought of Christ’s work as a sacrifice. It was a sacrifice, though of a very singular kind. The passover lamb was slain by the head of each household. It was offered upon no altar; it was prepared by no priest, but for all that it was a sacrifice, and that of an expiatory character. You may call it a gross, low, infantile conception. Be it so! It is the conception of the rite at all events. Paul lays his hand upon that sacrifice, and he says it meant Jesus Christ. So he implies two things, both of which are gravely contested by many to-day: the one that, whatsoever the date of these Jewish sacrifices, they had not only a symbolical but a prophetic aspect; and the other that the centre-point of their prophetic message in reference to Jesus Christ was His death, wherein and whereby men were free from the penal consequences of death in its sternest sense. Is there any theory about Christ and His death which warrants the application of these words “our passover” to Him, except one which frankly and fully recognises the sacrificial and atoning aspect of His death? Paul may have been right or he may have been wrong. That is what he believed, at any rate. But I have yet another step to take. Paul’s Master took precisely the same point of view. I claim Christ as the first who taught us that He was our passover. And I point to the rite that He established as the great standing token that His conception of His work was the same as the apostle’s. Now I do not want to pin you down to any doctrine of an atonement, but I do want to lay upon your hearts this, which I for one believe with all my heart, that no conception of Christ, His nature, His work, His life and death, is full toned and in accordance with His own teaching which does not proclaim Christ is our passover. And I ask you, Is that the Christ that you know and the Christ that you trust?
II. If Christ is our passover our lives will be a feast. If He indeed has, as our passover, secured for us safety and liberty, then, of course, all life will take a new aspect. And if we recognise the fact that the Lamb slain is the Lamb in the midst of the throne, administering Providence and guiding the world and the Church, and ever present with each of us, if we trust Him, to bless and keep us, then a flush of gladness will be diffused over all life. Just as when the year turns, and the sunshine begins to gather power, even a grim landscape undergoes a subtle change, and is a prophet of the coming summer, so we, if Christ is our passover, will be possessed, in the fact and in the recognition of the fact, of a charm which, if it does not annihilate, at least modifies all burdens and troubles, and which will bring into any life that is true to it a deep, quiet, calm joy far more real, noble, blessed, and the ally of great thoughts and deeds, than the surface ripple of laughter and of mirth which men baptize by that great name. But, brethren, remember that the words are a commandment, and that implies that the realisation of this gladness, which is the natural fruit of the conception of Christ’s death of which I have been speaking, depends very largely upon ourselves. I do not think Christian people as a whole realise as much as they ought to do the sin of sorrow and the duty of rejoicing. But that is not all which is conveyed in this thought of the feast which life becomes when Christ’s death is recognised as our expiation. There is further involved the duty of participating in the flesh of the sacrifice. You have to feed upon the Christ who is sacrificed for you, or the sacrifice is of no avail. What Christ is it that nourishes a man? The Christ that taught great and wonderful things? Yes, in some degree. The Christ that walked before men, the sweet Example of all duty, and the sum of whatsoever things were lovely and of good report? Yes, in some degree, but I believe that the Christ who feeds the whole man, and who, being partaken of, gives immortal life to the man who feeds on Him, is the Christ who died and gave His flesh and His blood for the life of the world. Physiologists will tell you that it is possible to feed a man on foods which have so little power of supplying all the constituents necessary for the human body that he may eat them and be starved. And there is a version of the Christ which, if men live upon, they will live a very feeble life, and, as I believe, will come near starving.
III. Lastly, if we feed upon Christ our passover we shall be pure. There is no way of getting thoroughly rid of the old leaven except the one way of taking Christ for the food of our souls. If He is our bread as well as our sacrifice, then we are bound to serve Him in righteousness. What did He die to deliver us from? Sin. What did He die to make us? Pure and righteous. There is no reason for any man believing that Jesus Christ is his passover unless He is that man’s purity. The obligation, the inclination, and the ability to cleanse our- selves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit are inseparably wrapped up with the conception of His death as the means of our life and safety. The Jew had first to cast out the leaven, then to partake of the passover. We have a better and an easier task; first to partake of the passover and then to cast out the leaven. Do not put the cart before the horse, as some of you do, and try to make yourselves better, in order that you may have a right to a share in Christ. Begin with eating the bread, and then in the strength of that meat, rejoice all your days, and purge yourselves from all iniquity. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Christ our passover
The Rev. Dr. Bowman, of the Church Missionary Society, was enabled to erect a place of worship in connection with the Calcutta Leper Asylum, and an aged woman, over eighty-two years old, was there led by the preacher to the Divine Healer. A sceptic asked her if the many gods and goddesses of her own religion would not suffice, but she had an answer ready for him: “None of them died for me.”
Christ’s sacrifice a quickening truth
The sacrifice of innocence for guilt is the profoundest truth which God has ever exemplified in a human life. Yet not mere truth, but duty, not theology, but practice, is the end of revelation. Truth is not revealed or offered by prophets, Saviour, or apostles for truth’s sake, but always for upbuilding in righteousness. There is no more dangerous falsehood abroad than the assertion that truth should be sought for its own sake. Yet a vast deal of this truth-seeking and hearing is an intellectual voluptuousness, a spiritual self-gratification, a selfish indulgence of pleasurable emotions, just as deadly to the soul as bodily sensualism. It is as truly immoral to seek truth out of mere love of knowing it as it is to seek money out of love to gain. It is an idolatry--setting of the worship of abstractions and generalities in the place of the living God. Truth is valuable to the degree that it makes us true. Truth that is not utilised as the Divine energy of one’s being, that is not converted into aggressive goodness, is a smiting curse. Truths not taken into the soul, as fuel for the Spirit of God to kindle into a burning enthusiasm for service, are as virtueless in character-building and spiritual empowering qualities as so many bricks. Further, it is ruinous to have our good impulses quickened by truth, as it is manifested in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus, and then allow those impulses to die without being wrought out in Divine being and doing. The knowledge that Christ sacrificed Himself on our behalf will rise up in judgment as our condemnation if we evade sacrificing ourselves for the same end for which He offered up His life.
Let us keep the feast
Contemplate the paschal feast--
I. In its relation to the Lord’s Supper. I do not suppose that the apostle was actually referring to this, but he was speaking of that experience, to the necessity and importance of which our sacramental feast bears witness.
1. The word suggests--
(1) The idea of a sacred season, and thus the old distinction is no longer to be drawn in our lives between things secular and things sacred: all is to be sanctified.
(2) Enjoyment. Our life is to be a season of continuous festivity. In both these senses our lives are to be festal, and this holy ordinance has been appointed to keep ever before our minds the true idea of what our lives are to be.
2. Observe that--
(1) The Jewish passover was a continuous commemoration of a deliverance wrought out for Israel. So the Holy Communion is designed to be a perpetual remembrance of that wonderful deliverance wrought out for us on the Cross of Calvary. Human gratitude is apt to be short-lived, and only too many of us get out of the sight of the Cross. This feast was instituted by one who knew our human frailty, so that should we forget how much we owe to His dying love we may straightway be brought back again full in view of His Cross, and obtain deeper and clearer apprehensions of the benefits that redemption brings within our reach.
(2) The paschal feast was furnished by the very lamb whose blood secured the safety of the household. So Jesus, the victim, is Himself the feast.
(a) If the only object of the Holy Communion had been a commemoration, it would have been enough that the bread should be broken and the wine should be poured forth; for there was nothing in the fact of our Lord’s crucifixion to answer to the eating and the drinking. The lesson, then, is that as our physical bodies are continuously dependent upon the material world, so the new life of the human spirit is constantly dependent upon a Divine Supply.
(b) But in order to receive real benefit something more is needed than the mere partaking of the consecrated elements. The outward act is designed to bring your faith to bear upon the thought that God is then and there through Christ communicating the Divine life to you; and as you bring your faith to bear upon that act of God’s love towards you, you will be indeed a communicant.
(c) But the question may occur, What is meant by the words, “This is My body, and this is My blood”? The words must be used in a spiritual sense. For if we could have partaken of Christ’s material body and blood at the time of the crucifixion that would have produced no spiritual change. The substance so received would have simply assimilated itself to our bodily tissues in the usual way. Similarly, if a supernatural act of transubstantiation were to transpire at that holy table the mere reception of these would leave us, so far as our spiritual condition is concerned, just where we were before.
II. As an emblem of the Christian life. It was--
1. The feast of safety. The destroying angel was passing through the land, but the Israelites feasted in safety, because they knew that they were safe under the blood-stained lintel. They did not hope or think about it; they knew they were safe, because they had God’s word for it. And if your life is to be a festal life you need a similar consciousness. Many religious people seem much more like keeping a funeral than a feast. They are always complaining of their doubts and fears. They are not quite clear as to whether they have sprinkled the blood, or, if they have done so, they do not take to themselves the full comfort which belongs to those who have; they don’t rest upon the distinct declaration of eternal truth--“I will pass over”; “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life.” We must thank ourselves for our miseries if we insist on doubting the Divine faithfulness.
2. A feast of deliverance. They were happy not only because they were safe, but because they were free. They were in the “house of bondage” still; but they felt the throbbings of national life, and their anticipations told them that, in spite of appearances, they were free. And it is even so with us. Romans 6:1-23. is just as true as Romans 5:1-21. The latter tells us about our justification; the former about our deliverance from the tyranny of sin. I don’t say that you are to have no more temptation. The Israelites had not done with enemies when they crossed the sea. Indeed, they had hardly got out of Egypt before Amalek attacked them; and yon will not have gone very far along your spiritual journey before temptation will attack you. But it is a very different thing to be attacked by Amalek and to be kept in the slavery of Pharaoh. From the hand of Amalek they had to be delivered by the same God that had delivered them out of the power of Pharaoh. And even so now you are free in Christ you will have to guard your liberties by employing the same Divine power that set you free to defend you.
3. The feast of separation. The Egyptians were not allowed to keep it. Up to that time the Egyptians and the Israelites had lived as neighbours, but now there was a line of separation between them. If you have not sprinkled the paschal blood you have no right at the table of the Lord. Nor can you participate in that feast of life which the Christian is privileged to keep; for you belong to the world, and the world has no part in the paschal feast. And Christians cannot properly enjoy it unless they are content to be separate from the world. I meet with not a few Christians from whose life all happiness seems to have departed just for this reason. They are not willing to be separated, and so they cannot keep the feast.
4. The feast of purification. “Not with the old leaven,” &c. Careful search was to be made, and all that was leavened was to be excluded from their habitations. And here is a very important lesson. We may be delivered from the tyranny of sin, and yet how much of latent evil may still lurk within! But there is a Holy Spirit of burning who can and will consume the dross if we are only willing to be cleansed.
5. The feast of wayfaring men. They were to eat it in haste, with shoes on their feet, &c. And if you want to enjoy the passover you must realise that you are a wayfaring man, and shape your life accordingly. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
The Christian feast
The text is justly supposed to have some reference to the institution, which has the same place under the gospel which the passover had under the law. The Lord’s Supper was intended--
I. As a memorial of the sufferings of Christ for His people. This we learn from the words of Jesus at its first institution, and that we are to “remember” Him particularly as suffering for our sins is evident from “This is My body which is broken for you,” &c. “Show forth the Lord’s death till He come.” It is to be looked upon, therefore, as a token of love, or memorial left by a friend at parting among his friends, that whenever they see it they may remember him. This remembrance of a suffering Saviour must be attended with--
1. Suitable affections.
2. Self-examination. “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread,” &c.
II. As a badge of our Christian profession. Baptism is appointed for our initiation into the Christian Church at our first assuming that profession; and by partaking of this ordinance we declare our constancy in it, and that we do not repent of our choice nor desire to change our Master.
III. As a seal of the covenant of grace, both upon God’s part and upon ours.
1. It is a standing evidence, obvious to our senses, that God is unchangeably willing to stand to the articles on His part; that He is ready to give His Son and all His blessings to such as believe, as He is to give bread and wine as signs and seals of them.
2. As to our part in receiving these elements, we signify our hearty consent to the covenant of grace, and, as it were, set our seal to it to confirm it.
IV. As a communion of saints. Our sitting down at the same table, partaking of the same elements, and commemorating the same Lord, are very expressive of this communion, and have a natural tendency to cherish it. In such a posture we look like children of one family, fed at the same table upon the same spiritual provisions. Hence this ordinance has been frequently and justly called the communion (chap. 10:16, 17).
V. As a fellowship with god (1 John 1:3). This communion consists--
1. In that intercourse which is carried on between God and His people.
2. In the community of property.
3. In the interchange of property. (S. Davies, A. M.)
The feast of joy
What is “joy”? The firstborn of love and the parent of peace--“love, joy, peace.” And what was the far end of all our Redeemer’s work on earth? “That your joy may be full.” And how can the Church reach to its deep things of privilege unless it takes the right vessel to the cistern and “draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation”? Let us ask, Why ought we to be happy in the resurrection of Christ? Because--
I. Our Lord is happy. From the moment of His rising neither His body nor His mind appear to have been subject to, or even capable of, pain. When He said, “It is finished!” His sufferings were over. Now in proportion as our sympathy is with Him, our heart will always make the tone of our mind. Be glad, then, because your Lord is glad. Jesus is not “a Man of sorrows” now. He is a Man of joys.
II. Truth has been vindicated. To a well-ordered mind it is a great satisfaction to see any truth thoroughly established. The resurrection of Christ must stand or fall on revelation. In the Old Testament it is involved in the types and prophecies. Our Lord’s own teaching showed it, and it was the mainspring of His whole life. And the apostles are emphatic--“If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain,” &c. So that it is the end of all Divine truth; and the evidence is most exact and clear. The Bible is verified and the truth of Christianity placed beyond doubt.
III. The father has accepted the sacrifice of His Son. Christ was “justified in the Spirit,” which “quickened” Him. And in that He was justified, His atoning work is justified, and in that His atoning work is justified I am justified, and God Himself is justified to forgive me.
IV. Honour is put on the body. Some Christians, wishing to avoid the extreme into which they once ran, now disparage the body too much. But what is this body? The broken mirror of God, to be recast presently into a counterpart of the form of Jesus as He is now in glory--the temple walls of the Holy Ghost. This reflection is full of comfort. If the next world were to be peopled only with spirits, we might be called upon in vain to believe in the communion of saints. It would be almost impossible to realise anything so abstract; but now “in our flesh we shall see God.”
V. A warrant is given of a glorious resurrection. Where the Head is, there must the members be. The tomb is not dark now, for Jesus left a light; not degrading, for it has been dignified by fellowship with Him; not final, for it is open the other end. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. Its nature--a feast, because of--
1. The fellowship it affords.
2. The feelings it inspires.
3. The strength which it imparts.
II. Its requisites.
1. Love to man.
2. Sincerity and truth before God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The obligation of Christians to observe the Lord’s Supper
Let us keep this feast because--
I. Its obligation rests on the Redeemer’s dying command. An injunction is always rendered more binding--
1. When it comes from the lips of one we love, and who has shown a deep interest in our welfare. We naturally pay a respectful deference to the request of a neighbour or acquaintance; but what is this in comparison with the command of a parent? The observance of the Lord’s Supper is the solemn injunction of One who has proved Himself to be infinitely more than the best and fondest on earth.
2. When it is conveyed at some exceptionally solemn or momentous season. Surely if there be a time more sacred or impressive than another it is at the hour of death. “Do this in remembrance of Me” was as much Christ’s dying legacy as the “Peace I leave with you.”
II. It is a befitting public declaration of our Christian profession. Beautiful must have been the spectacle when Israel assembled to give public testimony on the slopes of Ebal and Gerizim. More solemn and interesting still when, year by year, they went to celebrate the appointed feasts. The Psalmist puts special emphasis on paying his vows “in the presence of all God’s people” (Psalms 116:14; Psalms 116:19). Let none of us be guilty of false shame in shrinking from an open declaration of the infinite debt of gratitude we owe to redeeming love. Even the soldiers of pagan Rome gloried in ascending the steps of the Capitol to the Temple of Victory, with their votive offerings, swearing by the gods allegiance to their imperial master. And shall we Christians be found cowards to Christ? “Whosoever is ashamed of Me,” &c.
III. By not keeping it we incur spiritual loss. We never can be careful enough in discarding the unscriptural idea that there is any peculiar grace or virtue in the Sacrament. All grace flows from Christ (Zechariah 4:12). But we must not undervalue the ordinance as a means of grace. It is doubtless one of the Divine channels for the conveyance of spiritual good. God works by instrumentalities; and if we neglect those of His own express appointment we cannot expect otherwise than to suffer spiritually. Conclusion: You object, We are not warranted to approach the table of Communion, because--
1. We are not prepared for it. My answer is, The same reason which makes you unfit for the Communion renders you unmeet for death. Is it not because we are sinners, and unworthy, that we are invited to come to the feast, and there to celebrate the infinite worthiness of “the Lamb that was slain”?
2. Some venture who have no right to be there. But your duty is independent of any such intruders. You are not responsible for the sin and presumption of others. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
The celebration of the Lord’s Supper a Christian duty
I. That Christ crucified is the true passover, of which the Jewish was a type.
1. The passover was of Divine appointment. It did not originate with Moses and Aaron, or any of the elders or people of Israel. It was not the offspring of human policy, but of God.
2. The passover was appointed for the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage and death.
3. The passover would benefit none unless the blood were applied.
4. The passover was not only to be slain, and its blood sprinkled, but it was also to be eaten.
II. That as the feast of the passover was to be celebrated by the Jews so the eucharist or Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated by Christians. The Jews were to celebrate it--all the Jews and proselytes (Exodus 12:47-48)--but none else (verse 43); it was to be celebrated as long as their dispensation should continue (verse 24); as a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt (verse 27). So the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated by all Christians. All Christians ought to celebrate it.
1. Because Christ has commanded it (Luke 22:19). Whatever He has commanded must be implicitly obeyed.
2. Because it keeps alive the important doctrine of salvation through the death of Christ.
3. Because it eminently tends to excite holy affections. Godly sorrow, arising from a conviction, that our sins, in common with those of others, occasioned the sufferings and death of Christ. Ardent love to Christ. Grateful obedience.
III. That in order to its acceptable celebration several things demand attention.
1. We should have correct views of its nature.
2. We should not ascribe an efficiency to it which it does not possess. Many substitute it in the place of regeneration.
3. We should celebrate it with suitable dispositions. Not with malice. Not with wickedness. But with sincerity and truth, with purity of intention, and with an agreement between our principles and outward profession.
Conclude by answering a few objections.
1. I dare not keep the feast, for it is a solemn ordinance. For the same reason you should neither pray, read the Scriptures, sing God’s praises, nor hear His gospel preached; for they are solemn.
2. I am not prepared to receive it.
3. I have kept the feast formerly, but since then I have relapsed into sin. (Sketches of Sermons.)
Let us keep the feast
I. It is to be kept for the great and general purpose of commemorating Christ’s love.
II. For the more especial purpose of holding in remembrance His death.
III. For the purpose of making a public profession of our belief in Christ, and our devotion to His service. When the Christian kneels at the table of the Redeemer, he virtually, in the view of God, of angels, and the Church, declares that he believes in the mysterious constitution of the Saviour’s person, and that he confides on Him, and on Him only, for deliverance from hell and elevation to bliss. He attaches himself to the standard of the Leader of the Faithful; he engages to fight against the powers of darkness, and in the interest of heaven. (W. Craig.)
Sincerity and truth.--
I. The nature of gospel-sincerity.
1. A single intention and aim to please God, and approve ourselves to Him through our whole course.
2. An impartial inquiry into our duty.
3. An entire and universal application to the practice of duty, as far as it is known, without stated and allowed reserves and exceptions.
4. A correspondence and harmony between inward sentiments and the words and actions.
II. Of what importance it is that this qualification should attend us in all the exercises of the Christian temper and duty.
1. It is expressly required by Divine precept in the several branches of our duty. The new man in general, which Christianity teaches us to put on, is, “after God created in true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). The first and great commandment of godliness is thus prescribed (Matthew 22:37).
2. It is indispensably necessary to our acceptance with God. How can that be expected to meet with a favourable regard from God, which was not in intention done to Him?
3. This qualification alone can minister solid satisfaction to ourselves upon reflection. One man may possibly reach his ends with another by disguise; but how low and empty a satisfaction will that produce, if he cannot be satisfied from himself? So the truly good man alone is (Proverbs 14:14).
4. Sincerity will be the easiest method of conduct. What art and pains are needful to wear a disguise tolerably!
5. Herein we shall copy after the most illustrious and excellent examples. Insincerity, on the other hand, is most directly the image of the devil, that false and lying spirit, who, from his craft and deceitfulness, is called “the old serpent,” and represented as assuming all shapes and disguises to carry on his designs.
This subject may very fitly be applied various ways.
1. As a subject of sorrow for the evident violations of sincerity among those who wear the name of Christians.
2. As a measure of judging ourselves, whether we are in a state of acceptance with God.
3. As a ground of humiliation to the best for the defects in their sincerity, as well as in every particular branch of goodness.
4. As an engagement to cultivate and advance in this excellent qualification. (J. Evans, D. D.)
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.
Avoid the company of sinners
I. Is this practicable?
1. Not absolutely: we must have intercourse with the world.
2. Yet practically: we need have no fellowship or familiarity with them.
II. Is it necessary?
1. Not indispensably, in reference to the world, whom we may not judge, but must leave to the judgment of God.
2. Yet positively in reference to false professors, who must be exposed and excluded. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The company of sinners to be avoided
When a man is known to suffer from a sadly contagious disease none of his friends will come near the house. There is little need to warn them off, they are all too alarmed to come near. Why is it men are not so much afraid of the contagion of vice? How dare they run risks for themselves and children by allowing evil companions to frequent their house? Sin is as infectious and far more deadly than the small-pox or fever. Flee, then, from every one who might lead you into it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Christian law of association with evil
I. Common, everyday associations with evil have to be maintained in--
3. Society. Yet in all these the earnest Christian need never find it difficult to make a firm witness for truth, righteousness, and charity.
II. Special relations with evil we may not make.
1. For our own sake.
2. For our friends’ sake.
3. For the sake of others who may observe our friendship.
4. For Christ’s sake, who said through His servant, “Come out from among them,” &c. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
The limits of fellowship
“No man liveth unto himself.” Attempts have been made to build a science of human nature and a scheme of human life on individualism, but they have failed. Man is born into, lives in, and is inexplicable apart from society. For good or for evil we are with one another.
I. Christians are not limited to the society of their fellow-Christians. Paul was full of “sanctified common sense.” He saw clearly that if a man eschewed all intercourse with those who differed from him he would have to “go out of the world.”
1. The example of Christ and His apostles sanctions intercourse with general society.
2. The assumption of superior sanctity repels, while such intercourse may lead to a desire for the gospel.
3. Opportunities occur in social intercourse for introducing directly or indirectly the truths of religion. “A word spoken in season,” &c.
II. Christians are restrained people free intercourse with unworthy fellow professors.
1. It must not be supposed that we are confined to the fellowship of those whose character is mature and blameless. This would be to set up in the Church an aristocracy of the worst kind.
2. Those whose company is forbidden are such as by their violation of the moral law prove their insincerity.
3. The reasons for this prohibition are obvious. Intimacy with such would--
(1) Be injurious to our own moral nature.
(2) Be interpreted by the world as a condonation of sin.
(3) Encourage the sinner in his sin. (Prof. J. R. Thomson.)
Converse with the ungodly
I. In our ordinary life we must associate more or less with the ungodly. Our legitimate business and our duties as citizens leads us amongst such. If we kept ourselves apart we should have “to go out of the world.”
1. Christianity is not designed to drive us out of the world. We are to live among men righteously. Here we have an argument against monasticism.
2. Christ mixed freely among men.
3. We have many opportunities for witnessing for Christ in the world. Private Christians may thus become missionaries, and reach classes beyond the ordinary means. Still any association with the ungodly has its perils, and we must not shut our eyes to them. When we go into the world we should go armed, and never without Christ.
II. We are not to associate with a professor who walks disorderly.
1. The case is here altered. Those outside are strangers, though we mix with them; this one we know and have been identified with. Those outside are left to the judgment of God; but we have jurisdiction in the case of our offending brother (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). If this were not so--
(1) The force of Church discipline would be seriously weakened.
(2) The effect upon the offender would be lessened. Church discipline does not lose sight of his welfare: it is directed towards his recovery.
(3) It would seem as though the evil were lightly esteemed, which would bring great scandal and contempt on Christianity.
(4) There would be much peril to the other members of the Church--
(a) In the association. There is often more peril in the society of a false professor than in that of an open evildoer.
(b) In the conviction that they could sin with comparative impunity so far as the Church was concerned.
III. What kinds of sin involve separation. The apostle gives a list of transgressors.
1. Fornicators. The unclean: professing purity, practising impurity.
2. The covetous. Those who made a god of the things of sense. Heart idolatry.
3. Idolaters. Those who, being professing Christians, compromised like Naaman, and like those who now pay homage to “the god of this world.”
4. Railers or revilers. Those who say they have a clean heart, but keep a foul mouth.
6. Extortioners. Greedy souls who overreach others, but overreach themselves pre-eminently. We may not company with such, but we may pray and labour for them. (W. E. Hurndall, M. A.)
The snare of worldly conformity
There is something ominous in the good terms on which Christians are now able to live with their worldly neighbours, when they are not only tolerated in worldly circles, but can make bosom companions of, and even be united in marriage to, those who, knowing nothing of spiritual life, and being habitually and ostentatiously regardless of unseen realities, are still of the world, in the truest and strongest sense of these words. The cause of these amicable relations is not that the world has changed its character essentially; for that it will never do until it ceases to be the world, by being born of God. And must it not be, therefore, that in the Christians who live with it on such intimate terms, there is little or nothing of the spirit of Christ? I would utter no sweeping assertion. But there is in this new bearing of the world to the Church enough to awaken the gravest inquiry in all who are really disciples of Christ, and jealous for the honour of their Lord. Nor is it evident that such inquiry honestly conducted would not lead to the conclusion, that while Christian principles have somewhat influenced the world, the spirit of the world has far more powerfully influenced the Church; and that we have secured the world’s favour, by compromising our Christian character in compliance with the world’s demands. Good John Bunyan, were he now to visit Vanity Fair, would find it very different from what it was when he conducted his pilgrims through it, and described the cruel treatment they received. He would find its hostility to the pilgrims wonderfully abated, but he would also find the spirit of the pilgrims wonderfully changed; and that the truce between the two has been procured, not by the concessions of Vanity Fair only, but by the concessions of the pilgrims as well. He would find that while the inhabitants of Vanity Fair have little objection to going to church as the best place for displaying their vanities, many of the pilgrims have become much less like travellers through the town, than residents in it; that some of them do a very flourishing trade there, and can scarcely be distinguished from other traders except from their occasional use of a religious phraseology, not at all from the principles on which their trade is conducted; that they patronise their places of amusement, scarcely avoiding even the most disreputable, and appear there in the attire common to those who frequent them; that they build their villas and mansions there, and enjoy the good things of the place, and altogether seem more likely to spend their days in Vanity Fair, than to induce the inhabitants of Vanity Fair to accompany them in their journey to the celestial city. And though he might find it difficult to say how far the pilgrims ought or ought not to avail themselves of the altered feeling, and take their share of the good things which the place supplies, I fear he would not think the present an unqualified improvement on the time which he so graphically described. (W. Landels, D. D.)
Danger of worldly intercourse
None can pretend to say how far you may intermix in worldly company, says the Rev. R. Cecil, and get no stain or soil. Situation, circumstances, &c., must all be taken into consideration. But this may be said, that he only mixes with the world with safety who does it not from inclination, but necessity. As to amusements, and what are called recreations, a really awakened Christian will neither find taste nor leisure for them. Religion furnishes the mind with objects sufficient to fill up every vacancy. Yet as you name them I would have you mark carefully everything that disposes or indisposes the mind to holy pursuits. Persons of tender health are very careful to avoid whatever is hurtful, such as damps, infectious rooms, blighting winds. They attend to the injunctions of their physicians, the cautions of their friends, &c. If people were but as careful about their spiritual health as they are of their bodily health, we should see much stronger and taller Christians.
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
For what have I to do to Judge them also that are without?
Without and within
I. Those without.
1. Have no share in Church privileges.
2. Are exempt from Church jurisdiction.
3. Are liable to the judgment of God.
II. Those within.
1. May be unworthy of fellowship.
2. Are subject to discipline.
3. Must be excluded when their wickedness is proven. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The judgment of God and the judgment of the Church
1. The one is limited, the other universal.
2. The one is partial, the other absolute.
3. The one is disciplinary, the other infallible.
4. The one is provisional, the other will be final.
5. The effects of the one are temporary, of the other eternal. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Limitations of apostolic discipline
1. Even in that age of Divine intuitions and preternatural visitations Paul limits the subjects of expulsion from the Christian society to gross and definite vices. No encouragement is given to pry into the secret state of the heart and conscience, or to denounce mere errors of opinion or judgment.
2. Even when insisting most strongly on entire separation from heathen vices, he still allows unrestricted social intercourse with the heathen. He forbears to push his principle to an utopian extravagance: he acknowledges the impracticability of entire separation as a decisive reason against it, and regards the ultimate solution of the problem as belonging not to man, but to God.
3. Whilst strongly condemning the Christian quarrels as in themselves unchristian (chap 6.) he yet does not leave them without a remedy, and so drive them to the objectionable course of going before heathen judges. He recognises the fact, and appeals to their own self- respect to induce them to appoint judges of their own, thus giving the first apostolic sanction to Christian courts of law; in other words, departing from the highest ideal of a Christian Church in order to secure the purity of its actual condition.
4. He lays down the general truth that between all other outward acts and the sin of sensuality there is an essential difference; that the liberty which Christianity concedes to the former, it altogether withholds from the latter; that those sins are utterly inconsistent not merely with any particular relation existing between Christianity and heathenism, but with the very idea of Christianity itself. (Dean Stanley.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Corinthians 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30