In another article (041) we appealed to 1 Corinthians 5:8: "Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (NASB). We did this because we are considering the prophetic foundation of Christianity in the feasts of Israel. This verse is a reference to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The apostle Paul says that it signifies a prophecy of the Christ in which the impact of His fulfillment of the Passover Feast (the death of an innocent lamb as a satisfaction of justice for the sins of the offerer) will be upon the lifestyle of the one who believes in Him.
The believer in the Messiah (Christ) will live in a way that is symbolized by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In the past two studies we have considered the apostle's focus upon the words "not with old leaven". Those words signified that the believer in Christ was to make a clear break with the behavior that he once engaged in to make his existence worth while. He ate the old bread.
Eating bread is the way to sustain our lives. There was, before we trusted in Christ, a method to our lives that we thought would enrich our experience. Paul calls that eating bread because the symbolism is that just as bread sustains our physical lives, behavior impacts our spiritual lives. Jesus, when He was here, did the same thing when He told people that they had to eat the heavenly manna in order to live. Thus, eating bread is equivalent to acting in certain ways.
The verse before us posits three ways to act. We can act in ways that are symbolically an eating of old leaven. We can act in ways that are equivalent to eating the leaven of malice and wickedness. And we can act in ways that are equivalent to eating the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Now, religious people who have no real relationship to God, and irreligious people who claim no relationship with God, have no options. They must do the best they can to make life as good as they can make it. Paul calls this eating old leaven, or worse, eating the leaven of malice and wickedness. The differences here are these: the old leaven is religion without reality of relationship. It is exemplified by many who are being subjected to the drastic floods of the Mississippi River who are calling upon God to stop the rain--but didn't bother to call upon Him to stop their hypocrisy before the rains. In other words, old leaven is jailhouse religion: call upon God when in trouble, but ignore Him the rest of the time. The Jews of Jesus' day were classic examples of religious people who turn to God only hypocritically: they did not want relationship, they simply want a provider/protector who will keep His distance except when disaster comes. We have many today just like them. The other way of eating (the leaven of malice and wickedness) we will consider in the next article.