Select your language
Nuer (Sudan/South-Sudan)
Tshiluba (DR Congo)

Leaven Leavening the Lump

William John Hocking

Some Remarks upon the Scriptural Figure of Leaven and its Bearing upon Assembly Discipline

'Do ye not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a lump, according as ye are unleavened.' (1 Cor. 5:6,7. N.Tr.).

In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul introduces an allusion to the characteristic property of leaven in connection with that assembly's responsibility to put out from their company the person who was guilty of gross immorality. In order to ascertain so far as possible the special force of the figure used in this injunction, it is proposed to examine the context carefully as well as the phrase itself.

The Spiritual State of the Assembly at Corinth

The exceptional case of guilt existing at Corinth had become well known in adjacent localities (v. 1), and news of it had reached the apostle himself at Ephesus. The Corinthian saints themselves, however, were strangely indifferent to the presence of open immorality in their midst. They were, in fact, puffed up with pride an self-satisfaction instead of all being humbled and ashamed before God. They ought rather to have been mourning because of such wickedness among them, and to have been seeking that the offender might be removed from them (v. 2).

The apostle then states what, in his own judgment, should be done with regard to the man who had done the sinful deed. Paul declared that he himself would not come to them and exercise in their midst that disciplinary authority which, as an apostle of the Lord, he possessed to deal directly and personally with such offences. Thus the assembly was left to act in this matter according to its own responsibility to the Lord, while at the same time it received the infallible guidance of the apostle by this Epistle.

In this circumstance, we cannot fail to observe the overruling wisdom of God towards the saints generally. The instructions concerning the case at Corinth form a most valuable precedent for church procedure, everywhere and always. Though oral apostolic ruling in a given case is not possible today, assemblies are enabled to act in matters calling for similar discipline in the light of this recorded apostolic instruction. He tells them what he would do if he where there, but he does not act for them.

The offence at Corinth was heinous even when compared with heathen morals, and the fact of its occurrence was apparently not disputed. It seems as if the man were still living with his stepmother, when Paul wrote. The apostle declared that if he were present at their assembly meeting on the question, the judgment would be to deliver the evildoer to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (vv. 3-5, R.V., N.Tr.). Delivering to Satan was the prerogative of an apostle only (1 Tim. 1:20), and is nowhere attributed to any other. Here at Corinth, their responsibility was to put away from among themselves that wicked person, and this is emphatically laid upon them as a command by the apostle (v. 13).

The Exclusion of Leaven at the Passover

Having thus expressed his own judgment with regard to the case, and all who were spiritual would at once acknowledge this decision to be the Lord's commandment to them (1 Cor. 14:37), the apostle expatiates upon the importance and urgency of this duty. Purity and freedom from all that is defiling are invariably presented in scripture as distinguishing marks of a profession of godliness. On this ground they must act.

In this connection, Paul reminds of the practice instituted in Egypt for God's earthly people in connection with the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread. The Israelites were solemnly enjoined to exercise, both then and afterwards, the most scrupulous care during the period of this feast to free themselves and their houses from every trace of leaven. Thorough and systematic search was to be made in every household, and any found was immediately to be put away out of their houses (Ex. 12:15), so that not a particle might be seen in any of their borders (Ex. 13:7; Deut. 16:4). To mark its cardinal importance in the eye of God, this prohibition was accompanied by the seven days of the feast. Anyone eating anything leavened during that time should be cut off (Ex. 12:15, 19).

This paschal restriction, rigidly enforced from the days of the Exodus, is typical in its significance, and has its present application to believers in Christ with respect to association with evil, as the apostle here shows with remarkable distinctness. The nation of Israel, in connection with the slaying of the Passover lamb annually, kept a cycle of seven days free from all leaven, neither eating it in their food, nor suffering its presence in their houses; in like manner, the assembly of God, throughout the whole cycle of its sojourn in the world, is here said to be responsible to keep itself free from the leavening influence of malice and wickedness and from all admixture of evil in its corporate associations. Clearly, this high standard of holiness cannot be maintained in the assembly if any 'leaven' is allowed in the company; for even a morsel of leaven will permeate the whole mass, and is defiling to the whole.

Likening the frightful immorality in the assembly at Corinth to leaven and its effects, the apostle imposes their duty upon them, 'Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump even as ye are unleavened. For our Passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ: wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth' (vv. 6-8, R.V.).

The Fourfold Truth about Leaven Applied

It will be observed that there are two very clearly defined sections in this passage, the division being marked by the change from the second personal pronoun ('ye') to the first ('our'). The former (v. 7), is addressed to the saints at Corinth with regard to their immediate duty; the latter (v. 7, latter part, and 8), is a general exhortation applicable to all Christians everywhere and at all times. Corinth must purge out the leaven, and all must keep the unleavened character proper to the feast, in both their individual and their collective relationships.

In the first part of this passage, then, the Jewish practice of eliminating all leaven from their borders at Passover-time is applied by figurative analogy to the case of incest harboured at Corinth. In so doing, the apostle sets before the assembly four distinct but closely connected statements about leaven in order to awaken their dulled consciences.

(1) Their defilement as a company through the presence of leaven: 'Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?'

(2) Their responsibility to get rid of the leaven: 'Purge out the old leaven.'

(3) The result to them when freed from it: 'that ye may be a new lump.'

(4) The contrast between their defiled state and their normal unleavened character: 'as ye are unleavened.'

Let us consider each of these four points a little further:

(1) In the first place, Paul reminds them of what is common knowledge, even apart from the scriptures: 'Know ye not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?' The nature of leaven is such that when a small particle of it is added to a mass of pure dough, its special character is invariably imparted to the whole lump. This diffusive action of leaven is automatic, and requires no human aid. Silently and imperceptibly, the subtle influence is exercised until the secret process of pervasion and amalgamation is completed, and the final result is visible. Hence the baker, after kneading his dough, waits until it is leavened before making up his oven fire for the baking (Hos. 7:4, R.V.). There is no need that he should assist the leaven in its work of leavening the dough, though its action is more rapid and effective when screened from the light.

In scriptural usage, leaven uniformly represents evil, and especially evil in its insidiously defiling character rather than in its violent aspect. Sin may act either by subtlety or by force; hence corruption and violence are the two great classes of sin (Gen. 6:11). Of the two corruption is more easily concealed in its working than violence, and is, therefore, fitly represented by leaven, which is corruptive of what, apart from its presence, is good and wholesome. Corinth was taught that even the presence of a little evil exerted a polluting influence upon the whole assembly.

(2) Accordingly, the Corinthians were next directed to 'purge out the old leaven.' In order that an unleavened character might be maintained for the whole lump, they were to cleanse themselves by removing the old leaven. Later in the chapter Paul says, in non-figurative language, that they must put away from themselves that wicked person (v. 13). From this latter passage we learn that the depraved person is figuratively described in verse 7 as 'the old leaven.'

In domestic custom, 'leaven' usually consisted of a piece of leavened dough set aside to be used when another batch of loaves should be required. This practice of using sour dough for the production of leavened bread explains the meaning of 'old' as applied to leaven in the text. What was 'old' had appeared at Corinth among what was
new and of God. The sin of the incestuous person was connected with what was of the 'old man', corrupt according to its deceitful lusts
(Eph. 4:22), which for the believer was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). The fallen man had forgotten that he was purged from his 'old sins' (2 Pet. 1:9). He was, therefore, to be removed from their midst, lest the deadly poison of his unhallowed deeds should spread itself throughout the whole assembly.  He was the 'old leaven.'

In passing, it should be noted that the word 'therefore', following 'purge out' in the Authorised Version is omitted in the New Translation and the Revised Version. The instruction is sufficiently emphatic, binding, and urgent without this conjunction.

(3) Further, the apostle made it clear what was the immediate object of the act of discipline he was enjoining upon them; the purging was in order that 'ye may be a new lump.' By the expulsion of the evildoer the assembly would correct its then compromised condition. The wicked person being removed, it would become collectively what it was not at the moment of the apostle's writing. Then the 'whole lump' would be converted into a 'new lump', that is, one no longer defiled but newly purged. The presence of the old leaven had in measure defiled them corporately, but their normal, pure, unleavened character would be renewed or restored by its removal.

(4) Finally, the apostle presented to the Corinthian assembly the great reason why they should exercise this drastic discipline. As so frequently in the Epistles, he bases their practical conduct upon their standing in Christ. They were bound to preserve an unblemished reputation in the world since they were representatives of God's holiness. Accordingly he bids them, 'Purge out the old leaven . as ye are unleavened'. As to standing, they were unleavened. They were 'sanctified in Christ Jesus', holy ones by calling (1 Cor. 1:2). How inconsistent and unholy to suffer such flagrant evil among them!

It is striking and instructive to observe the apostle's mode of address at this juncture. In spite of their callous indifference concerning the one whose presence defiled the whole assembly, Paul reminded them, 'ye are unleavened'. The status given them through grace was unchanged. They were a 'holy temple in the Lord.'

But because the apostle mentions here that they were unleavened as the ground for his exhortation, this is no basis for the false inference that some have drawn that the assembly was not defiled inasmuch as the saints themselves were not guilty of the sin committed. This wrong conclusion could only have been made through ignoring or overlooking the earlier part of the same sentence. There it is stated, though no degree of guilt is specified, that when they had excommunicated the wicked man, they could then be described as a new lump. As long as the old leaven was present, they stood in need of purging or cleansing. Though not individually guilty of the same crime, they were corporately defiled by its unjudged presence.

Summary of the Preceding Remarks

The following seems to be a short summary of the general force of the passage under consideration (vv. 6-8). The apostle reproved them for their unseemly boasting or glorying, which was not 'good', seeing that this case of exceptional wickedness had occurred among them, and the culprit was allowed to fraternize with them as before. Were they not aware that unjudged sin invariably worked in polluting the whole community? Did not they know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

On this account, they must at once cast out the old leaven, in order that they might become a new lump (fresh dough), freed from the defiling presence of this leaven. Their failure to exercise discipline showed grave inconsistency with their calling to holiness. Since they were regarded by God as 'unleavened', they must cleanse themselves from the old leaven, and keep a perpetual feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, unmixed with any foreign element of leaven.

How Leaven Leavens

Having sought to ascertain the general line of the apostle's argument, we proceed to consider the special bearing upon it of the words, 'A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.' Something has already been said upon this point, but a little more may provide additional help. What is the precise meaning of these words? It has been held by some that the meaning of the sentence is that a little leaven, if allowed to remain, will eventually leaven the whole lump. They, therefore, deny that Corinth, when the apostle wrote, was considered to be actually defiled by the presence of the fornicator.

But such a conclusion from the text is unwarranted, and, indeed, is subversive of the very truth upon which the apostolic injunction is made. They are exhorted to purge themselves by putting away the man. They needed cleansing. What is the meaning of their becoming a new lump by purging out the old leaven, if its existence among them had not in any way affected their practical purity as a lump? By still companying with the fornicator their spiritual relations as an assembly had become contaminated, and they must now clear themselves, as indeed they subsequently did (2 Cor. 7:11). They had not all copied the man's immorality, but they were tolerating his society. Though in profession as an assembly of Christ, they were an unleavened association.  This negligence in purging out the leaven constituted their corporate failure.

It is, of course, necessarily true that if they failed to heed the apostle's directions, their impure spiritual condition would 'wax worse and worse', since it is the nature of leaven to continue to work until it assimilates the entire mass to itself. But the worst had not yet come; hence the apostle refrains from describing the Corinthian assembly as 'a leavened lump'. We shall be wise if we also avoid doing the same and thus going beyond scripture.

Nevertheless, they were tainted or infected, and they were required to cleanse away the leaven of evil that affected the whole assembly. They were not to wait until the morals of all those composing the assembly were utterly debased before removing the unclean person whose presence had already defiled them corporately. In other words, an infectious disease is regarded and described as such in its earliest stage as well as when it is fully developed in the patient.

If a single case of plague occurs on board ship, the whole of the passengers and crew are treated as possible carriers of the disease and are, therefore, placed in quarantine. By general maritime law it is a punishable offence for any person to come ashore until the ship is granted a clean bill of health by the proper authority. In the eyes of national health interests, the single case of plague 'leavens' the whole of the ship's company, though all but one are immune from the disease, showing none of its symptoms. Is the assembly to be less concerned about the spreading of spiritual disease than the nation about physical disease?

The existing confusion on this head probably arose through a failure to observe that the sentence about leaven (a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump) is in the from of an aphorism, expressing its character in a general way. Leavening the entire mass is said to be the effect of leaven, without stating whether that effect is present of future, or both; or whether that effect is partial or complete.

There are other sentences in scripture similar in construction, such as 'Evil communications corrupt good manners'; 'the tongue . defileth the whole body'; 'the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin' (1 Cor. 15:33; Jas. 3:6; 1 John 1:7). They teach that the corrupting, the defiling, the cleansing, are true now and always of evil communications, of the tongue, of the blood of Jesus Christ. The first two are solemn warnings, and the third God's gracious provision, ever efficacious against defilement.

Even in ordinary talk, we say, 'A little sugar sweetens the whole cup', wishing thus to convey the truth that sugar when added imparts its own flavour to the whole cup, without taking into account in the statement whether the sugar has or has not had time to be dissolved and thoroughly mingled with the contents. A person asking for a cup of sweetened tea is satisfied that his request has been granted if the sugar has been added; the stirring is a separate affair.

Thus leaven leavens the lump, and the assembly is defiled by the presence of open and unjudged sin in the individual. The army of Israel was defeated at Ai because one man had transgressed the word of the Lord. Jehovah said, 'Israel hath sinned'; 'they have taken of the accursed thing'; 'they have stolen and dissembled'; though the spoils of Jericho were only found in the tent of Achan (Josh. 7). He was the 'little leaven' leavening the whole camp, and the valley of Achor is the witness of his removal in judgment.

The degree to which leaven may have spread in an assembly is evidently not a point relevant to the matter on which the apostle delivers his judgment in 1 Cor. 5. The fact that leaven was there at all was the ground of the apostle's exhortation. Both the man with a leprous spot and the man 'full of leprosy', like he who came to our Lord, were alike ceremonially unclean, and to be excluded from the camp of Israel. Discipline was always compulsory, even though it was the king himself who was defiled, as in the case of Uzziah (2 Chr. 26:21). The presence of a leper was a menace to all.

Similarly, the presence of a little leaven among those who were as to status unleavened was an abnormal condition of affairs. The apostle instructs them to put an end to this anomalous state by purging out the old leaven, and so become a new lump. Neither leavened bread nor leaven itself was to be seen in all the borders of the Israelites during the feast (Exod. 13:7).

The Three Measures of Meal

There is a wide distinction to be noted between the use of leaven as a figure in the Lord's parable and in the apostle's doctrine. In both cases leaven is used to be illustrate the phenomenal and insidious manner in which evil spreads itself, but, while Paul urges its immediate removal, our Lord utters no word to support such action, but in His explanation of the kindred parable of the tares deprecates any such effort.

Clearly, the two occasions differ widely, and they must not be confused. The Lord's parable of the woman hiding leaven in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened (Matt. 13:33) was not a similitude of the church or assembly, but of the kingdom of the heavens, as the verse declares. It concerns, therefore, Christendom, or the whole mass of nominal Christian profession. In this it agrees with the companion parables of the field and the tree, in both of which there are foreign elements also (the tares and the birds), even as here the leaven is seen concealed in the meal.  The Lord in these few words portrays the mixed condition of those who avow allegiance to Himself during the period when He is absent from the earth and in the heavens.

In His interpretation of the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Lord definitely forbids the rooting up of the tares; they were to grow together with the wheat until the harvest at the end of the age, when the Son of man Himself by His angels will gather out of His kingdom all 'them which do iniquity'. Thus the procedure for the kingdom is in contrast with what is advocated for the church in 1 Cor. 5. The Son of man will, by-and-by, do in His kingdom what His servants are told to do now in the assembly.  In the Gospel leaven is allowed to remain and spread, but in the Epistle it is dealt with if its presence is known.

The subjects of the two scriptures are quite distinct and unrelated, except that leaven is used figuratively in both instances. In Matthew, leaven illustrates the spread of evil in nominal Christianity, a process of diffusion which will continue until the whole becomes a uniformly corrupted mass.  It has no connection with what is set out in the Epistles as the proper and prescribed behaviour of the church of the living God with regard to impenitent evildoers in its midst.  Nor can this parable of our Lord be with any justice quoted to excuse negligence in obeying the apostolic injunction to purge out the old leaven.

The Leaven of Corrupt Teaching

In the Epistle to the Galatians, the words, 'A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump', also occur, although in this instance, the figure of leaven is not developed to the same extent as in Corinthians. Nevertheless, its passage also is of the utmost value as a guide in matters of assembly discipline, and of equal importance being a supplement of the one just considered. Here leaven has reference to evil doctrine introduced into the assemblies in the district of Galatia, so that a number of companies were all concerned in this instance, while only one company was directly responsible in the case at Corinth.

The outstanding lesson to be learned from the Galatian passage is that evil teaching is leaven, and is, therefore, to be regarded as destructive of the purity of the assembly equally with evil practice. Consequently, the responsibility enforced upon the assembly at Corinth to purge out the old leaven was also binding upon the assemblies in the province of Galatia.

From the Epistle it appears there were teachers in Galatia who sought to bind again the yoke of legal bondage about the necks of the disciples, compelling even the Gentiles to live according to the works prescribed by the law of Moses.  In their fleshy zeal they constrained believers in Christ to be circumcised (6:12,13). But to those who were thus perverted by the advocates of the legal system, the apostle says with solemn warning, 'Christ shall profit you nothing' (5:2-4).  He goes on to say further, 'Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump' (v. 7-9).

Evidently the normal growth of the Galatian believers through obeying the truth of the gospel was frustrated by these instructors who were preaching circumcision and undermining the foundations of the Christian liberty secured through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. The saints were thereby hindered from running well. This unsound doctrine introduced a corrupting element which would vitiate the whole system of the Spirit's teaching. 'A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,' said Paul. Its presence debased the character of the entire Christian faith as held by the assemblies, and the influence of the corrupt 'word' would spread as a gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17).

Thus, while malice and wickedness are described as leaven in the former epistle (1 Cor. 5:8), so the same metaphor is here applied to evil teaching. Heterodoxy is the corruption or defilement of the truth, and it spreads with the facility of leaven in pure dough. Hence the need for special precautions also to be taken against this subtle agent of corruption working among the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt. 16:6,11,12), and it is noteworthy that his warning immediately preceded the intimation of the founding of His church. He knew what corruption would be brought about among the saints by men; who would arise 'speaking perverse things' and teaching 'contrary of the doctrine they had learned' (Acts 20:30; Rom. 16:17).

Leaven a Figure of Immorality and Erroneous Teaching

By these two scriptures in 1 Corinthians 5 and Galatians 5 we are taught that immoral living and evil teaching are to be regarded as defiling a whole assembly, and not only those in the assembly who are personally guilty of the evil practice or doctrine.  In such an event, the assembly is responsible to the Lord to put out, after due and deliberate examination, the wicked person from among themselves. This is the appointed means of corporate purging.

Should there be failure on the part of the company through indifference to purge out the old leaven, it forfeits its character as an assembly of God. It disobeys the word of God and dishonours the name of the Lord. It reaches that disorderly condition described in 2 Timothy 2:20-22, from which those who are faithful are called to purge themselves. If the assembly will not cleanse itself by excommunicating the evildoer, the individual must act for the honour of the Lord by departing from what is content to remain in a state of defilement.

It is significant that the Greek word used for intensive and thorough cleansing, ekkathairo, only occurs twice in the New Testament, once as an act enjoined upon the assembly, and once upon the individual. To the former the address is, 'Purge out the old leaven'; to the latter, 'If, therefore, one shall have purged himself from these (the vessel to dishonour) in separating himself from them, he shall be a vessel to honour' (2 Tim. 2:21, N.Tr.).  The injunction is plain: 'to obey is better than sacrifice'.

Leaven after Baking

Some have sought to justify their evasion of discipline in the assembly on the ground that sin must necessarily exist in all Christian companies in accordance with the apostle's word: 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us' (1 John 1:8). It being an impossible thing to find an assembly where sin or leaven is entirely absent, they claim to be exonerated from any responsibility in this respect.

It would be sufficient to reply that all excuses must be unavailing in the face of the direct injunctions we have been considering, but the figure of leaven itself supplies its own answer to the plea for laxity. Leaven is a portion of moistened flour or dough in which putrefactive agencies are actively at work. As an old writer says, 'Leaven both arises from corruption, and itself corrupts the mass in which it is mixed'. This activity of the leaven in disseminating its own qualities is arrested when placed in a heated oven. Leaven spreads, but not leavened bread. A piece of sour dough will leaven and puff up a whole lump of dough, but a piece of a baked leavened loaf will have no such effect.

Now we find that provision was made for this distinction between unbaked and baked leaven in the typical ceremonies of the law. Leaven could never be offered to Jehovah (Lev. 2:11), but baked leavened bread was permitted on certain occasion. For instance, at the feast of weeks or Pentecost, the Israelites might offer two wave-loaves, 'baken with leaven'. This was called a 'new' meal-offering, for it was exceptional, the ordinary meal-offering consisting of unleavened loaves or cakes exclusively (Lev. 23:16,17). The unleavened meal-offering was a shadow of Christ, while the two leavened wave-loaves typified the church formed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In the former there 'is no sin' (1 John 3:5), but in the latter there is 'sin in the flesh', yet 'baken' with fire, being judged in Christ Himself, the sin-offering (Rom. 8:3,4).

Further, according to the regulations for the peace-offering, which prefigured the communion of God with His people, it was permissible for the offerer to bring both unleavened cakes and leavened bread to Jehovah (Lev. 7:12,13). The former set out Christ in His Perfect spotless purity, the latter the worshipper who possessed an evil nature which had in the sacrifice and death of Christ passed under the fire of God's judgment. Both were accepted.

Thus, leaven in a baked form loses the power of transmitting its fermenting qualities. It is then a recognised figure of the believer in whom sin as a thing judged of God is present, but by that judgment which fell upon Christ as a sacrifice is rendered inoperative and innocuous. It is when a believer fails to maintain this character of holiness that sin works in his members. Should he fail to confess his sins and be cleansed from all unrighteousness, he becomes what scripture calls 'old leaven', an active agent for propagating evil among his brethren.  He is then amenable to the discipline of the assembly in which he is found, and is to be put away.

In the instruction to 'purge out the old leaven', the minute accuracy of scriptural language may be marked, for the obvious allusion is to the original command to the Israelites in Egypt that on the first day of the Feast of unleavened bread they were to 'put away leaven' out of their houses (Exod. 12:15). But if it had been mingled with moistened flour and fermentation had begun, the leaven could not be removed, whatever stage the process had reached.  In such a case the Israelite must destroy the whole mass affected, treating it all as leaven. It could not be transformed into a new lump (Ex. 12:34, 39; 13:7).

Clearly, the apostle's admonition in 1 Corinthians 5 has reference to the preliminary ceremony at the Passover season of clearing away leaven from the houses in order that they might observe the seven days' feast of unleavened bread in the prescribed manner.  This view is confirmed by his coupling the purging out the leaven with their keeping the feast (vs. 7,8).

General Summary

From the above consideration of the important passages in question, it appears, amongst other matters of moment, that scripture teaches that

(1)     normally the assembly of God is unleavened (1 Cor. 5:7), and is so described although an evil nature is present, speaking figuratively, as baked leaven in each of the persons forming that assembly;

(2)     the presence of cases of moral or doctrinal evil adversely affects that. In order to maintain its rightful status of holiness, the assembly is corporately responsible to the Lord to 'purge out the old leaven';1

(3)     the effect of this purging out is that the assembly becomes a new lump, a description that cannot be applied to it so long as the old leaven is allowed to remain;

(4)     as leaven during the feast of unleavened bread was ceremonially defiling to the Israelite, whether it was found in the dough or in the house (Exod. 13:7), so active moral or doctrinal evil in an assembly leavens or defiles both by its permeating action and its very presence in the company

(5)     when an assembly evades its responsibility in the exercise of the rightful discipline of purging out the old leaven and resolves to tolerate its continued presence it becomes fully leavened or corrupt. Then the path of faithfulness to God and His word is to purge oneself out in accordance with the directions of 2 Timothy 2:20-22.

1 There seems no ground for the hasty conclusion that, because of the presence of the evil person, all intercourse with the assembly at Corinth was to be suspended until they had acted in discipline.  Paul himself hoped to come (1 Cor. 16:5-7) and possibly winter with them. He speaks also of the proposed visit of Timothy, and also of Apollos (16:10-12), while he presses them to co-operate in the general collection for the saints at Jerusalem (16:1-4).