A little leaven leavens the whole lump

“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.  And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. … Your glorying is not good.  Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.  But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. … Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6, 9-11, 13b)

As the church of the living God, Christians are called to be holy because God is holy.  God loves us so much and wants what is best for us as individuals and as a body.  However, if we allow sin to go unchecked in our assemblies we are hindering some of the blessings God has for us.  This is why church discipline is so important.

The Corinthian church was very proud and gloried in the fact that God blessed them with all the spiritual gifts being manifested in their church.  Nevertheless, there was a big blemish in their midst.  There was a man who called himself a Christian and was openly in an incestuous sexual relationship with his stepmother.  Paul admonished them to take immediate action by excommunicating him from their midst so his fleshly nature could be destroyed by Satan in order for his spirit man to be saved. 

Why was such harsh action necessary?  Paul, like God, loved the church so much that he did not want anyone to perish (including the man committing such a sin) for eternity as a result of this ungodliness.  You see, Paul knew that if this man were to get away with his sin, others in the church who were spiritually weak would say to themselves, “Well, if he’s allowed to sleep with his stepmother, then I might as well go and give in to this temptation I’ve been fighting for so long.”  And before you know it, there would be a thief in the church over here doing his dirt, an idolater over there worshipping Buddha or Allah, or a drunkard in that corner of the congregation getting high from his Southern Comfort.  In other words, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”

Although many churchgoers are in denial about this simple spiritual fact, one person’s sin can have a negative affect on the whole congregation.  There are several examples of this in the Bible (see Joshua 7, for example).  This is why church discipline is of the utmost importance.  Our Lord gave us clear steps on handling church offenders in Matthew 18.  The one who sees an offense should go to the person one-on-one first to confront the sin.  Then if the offender refuses to listen, the witness should take one or two more church members to confront the person.  If they still refuse to listen, the whole congregation should confront them, and if they still harden their heart, they should be excommunicated.  We see in Corinthians that Paul explained in more detail what Christ had already spoken about.

But, unfortunately, this rarely happens in today’s congregations.  Why?  There are several reasons.  For starters, it could be we have become very comfortable with sin and don’t see it as being wrong.  Maybe it’s that we fear men more than we fear God.  Perhaps we are afraid to turn anyone off since the church has bills to pay and we need as many people as possible contributing to the church’s bank account.  Then again, it could be that the offender is related to, or has close ties with influential people in the community and they can exact their revenge at a moment’s notice.

Whatever the excuses are, they should be null and void in comparison to God’s commands.  It’s no wonder the church is in such sad spiritual shape in spite of the fact we, like the church at Corinth, boast about all the wonderful things God is doing in our churches.  Like Paul said, our glorying is not good if sin goes unchecked in our midst.  It’s time to wake up and listen to the Holy Spirit.  If God is blessing us corporately in spite of sin in our churches, then how much more are we missing out on because we refuse to confront the adulterer, or the fornicator, or the liar?  And how long are we going to get by with it before God himself takes action because we refuse to?  Christ is coming back for a church without spot or wrinkle, so it would be better for us to cooperate now than to later have to face the terror of falling into the hands of the living God.

–Harry A. Gaylord–

4 thoughts on “A little leaven leavens the whole lump

Add yours

  1. I think your article is so important for today. I was wondering how you feel about Christians going to the Casino’s. I felt I was to confront a person I have had relationship with for a few years for doing this on the basis of Eph.5:11.
    She did not even feel she was doing anything wrong. She felt she was showing her family love and going with them was her chance to minister to them. The thought of confronting them or setting a standard was a great threat to her.
    She doesn’t understand what the big deal is about and my stand is foolish to her.


  2. Sandie,

    I’ve never personally done a study on gambling. It’s something I stay away from because it seems like it’s based on greed. However, I remember hearing John MacArthur talk about it in a series a couple of years ago. I went to his website and found the transcripts. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.


  3. you are not dividing the word of god correctly. A little leaven leavens the lump is about doctrine read matthew 16:12 again.
    pure doctrine is a glass of water, put a drop of poison in it (alittle bad doctrine) and you have ruined the whole glass of water. get it


  4. Denise,

    I have divided the word of God correctly here. A person’s lifestyle is, in fact, doctrine according to God’s word. A person’s actions can either teach others truth or falsehood. One example of this is in Galatians 2 where Paul gives an account of how he had to rebuke Peter because Peter snubbed Gentile believers when Jewish believers arrived at Antioch. Peter’s actions falsely taught that people are justified by the works of Mosaic law instead of by faith in Christ, so Paul corrected his false doctrine. So I didn’t make a mistake in the application of a “little leaven leavening the whole lump.”


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