Faith which saves is not an unproductive faith, but is always a faith which produces good works and abounds in holiness. Salvation in sin is not possible, it always must be salvation from sin. Grace and holiness are as inseparable as light and heat in the sun. True faith in Jesus in every case leads to an abhorrence of every false way, and to a perseverance in the paths of holiness even unto the end. The apostle Paul while he was showing the Corinthians how wrong they were to tolerate an incestuous person in their midst, compared the spirit of uncleanness to an evil leaven.
Leaven is used in Scripture, we believe in every case, as the emblem of sin. This arises partly from its sourness. Sin, which for a while may seem pleasant, will soon be nauseous even to the sinner; but the very least degree of sin is obnoxious to God. We cannot tell how much God hates sin. With the entire intensity of His infinite nature He loathes it; He cannot look upon iniquity.
Leaven is, moreover, the offspring of a sort of corruption, and tends towards further corruption. Sin is a corruption, it dissolves the very fabric of society, it dissolves the constitution of man, wherever it gets into our nature it puts it out of order, disjoints it, destroys its excellence, and poisons its purity. Leaven is also very spreading. No matter how great the measure of flour, the leaven will work its way. There is no saying, “Hitherto shalt thou go, but no farther,” a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Even thus it is with sin.
Now, according to the apostle, if the leaven of evil is permitted in a church, it will work its way through the whole of it. In the Christian church a little false doctrine is sure to pave the way for greater departures from truth, so that no one can predict the end and result of the first false teaching. The leaven of evil living, too, is equally obnoxious in the church; tolerated in one it will soon be excused in another, and a lower tone of thought with regard to sin will rule the church. The toleration of sin in the church soon leads to the excusing of it, and that to the free indulgence of it, and to the bringing in of other sins yet more foul. So, if you permit one sin or false doctrine in a church knowingly and wittingly, none can tell the extent to which that evil may ultimately go. The church, therefore, is to be purged of practical and doctrinal evil as diligently as possible. That sour and corrupting thing which God abhors must be purged out, and it is to be the business of the Christian minister, and of all his fellow helpers, to keep the church free from it.
We will, however, view the text as relating to ourselves, and let me remark that the apostle had in his mind’s eye the custom of the Jews at the passover. In consequence of the command that they should purge out the leaven at the passover, the head of the household among the Jews in the olden times, 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. It was generally done in the evening with a candle, and the servants and others would accompany the good man of the house to search for every crumb. Clothes were shaken, cupboards were emptied, drawers were opened, and if a mouse ran across the room and might be supposed to carry a crumb of bread into its hole, they trembled lest a curse should rest on the home. So strict did they become that our Saviour might have rebuked them as straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel. With as scrupulous a care as the Israelite purged out the leaven from his house we are to purge out all sin from ourselves, our conduct, and our conversation. Here is a task set before you, then, my brethren. Note well, we do not urge you to purge out sin in order that you may save yourselves, for Christ our passover is slain , and our salvation is secured. But that being done, in order that we may keep the feast and unbrokenly possess the joy of salvation, we are to purge out the leaven of sin.
The whole house was searched. A Christian man may feel that he has got rid of all the leaven from his shop, he is upright, and honest himself, and his system of business is just; yet it may be there is leaven in his private house, for the children are uncorrected, the Sabbath is disregarded, or the servants’ souls are neglected. Perhaps however the home is right, and then there may be leaven in the bed-chamber. Your conversation with yourself and your God may be in a sad condition. Prayer may be restrained. Suppose you have purged out the leaven of hypocrisy and are sincere, are you also free from the leaven of anger? May you not still be slow to forgive? Are you clear of the leaven of pride, or of covetousness? Every part of our nature needs searching, the reins, the heart, the judgment, all must be cleansed. Purge out the old leaven wherever it has penetrated; it must come away or else, though we are safe beneath the blood, we shall not know and enjoy our safety. The feast cannot be kept while the old leaven is wilfully left within us.
To purge out the old leaven many sweepings of the house will be wanted; one certainly will not suffice. You must search, and search, and search on, until you get to heaven. For, mark you, you are sure to leave some leaven, and if you leave a little it will work and spread. Sin has evermore a swelling tendency, and until the Holy Spirit has cut up the last root of sin, evil will grow up again in the heart, at the scent of water it will bud and put forth once again its shoots. Here is work for all time, enough to keep us busy till we land in eternity.
Search me, O God; try me, and know my ways. Thine eyes can see what mine cannot. May the great Purifier put forth from us every crumb of the old leaven of our natural corruption.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “Purging Out the Leaven” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8) by CH Spurgeon dated 11 December 1870. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/purging-out-the-leaven/#flipbook/