Sanctification — its basis
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes to ‘the church of God … to those sanctified [not “who will be sanctified”] in Christ Jesus … enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge’ (1:2,5).
We know that there were problems in Corinth, divisions caused by childish attitudes (everyone had their favourite preacher), pride in spiritual gifts and a lack of discernment (appalling sin was being tolerated). Despite all this, the apostle still refers to these people as a church, a local gathering of the people of God.
As Paul contends against the tolerance of sin in the midst of this church, he reminds them of what is the very essence of the Christian life, using the symbol of the Passover.
‘Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are. For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; cf. Exodus 12:1-20).
So Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. This truth is at the centre of Paul’s argument. The Passover was the main annual feast of the people of Israel, established by God to remind them of their deliverance from Egypt.
As a result of the famine in Canaan, Jacob and all his family had gone to join Joseph in Egypt, and Pharaoh had welcomed them. However, successive Egyptian rulers over 400 years had reduced the Israelites to slavery, until God raised up his servant Moses.
The Lord had not forgotten the covenant he made with their forefathers. After judging Egypt with ten plagues, he freed his people. The tenth plague brought their deliverance. The angel of destruction put to death the firstborn in every Egyptian family, but spared — ‘passed over’ — the Israelites.
Why? Because the Lord had declared that the means of their salvation should be the blood of a male lamb without defect, painted on the doorposts and lintel of every Israelite house.
Wherever there was no blood, there was death and destruction within a household, but, wherever the blood had been spread, there was salvation and deliverance from slavery.
The lamb had to be perfect, without defect, taken from the midst of the flock and put to death violently. Its blood had to be painted on the doorposts and its flesh eaten. It was by this blood that the people were delivered from Egypt(Exodus 12).
Egypt is a picture of the world — an idolatrous world, turning away from the one true God to serve what its own hands have made. But God condemns this world, where man is the slave of his own sinful nature and of his natural inclination to turn away from God and never seek his face (Exodus 12:12).
The Bible says that there is no one righteous — not even one. No one seeks God; all have sinned (Romans 3).
Deliverance is the salvation that God has accomplished in Jesus Christ. Christ is the Lamb of God and the apostle underlines this by calling him ‘Christ, our Passover lamb’.
He was pure, perfect and without sin. Being conceived by the Holy Spirit, he did not inherit our sinful nature. He was like a lamb taken from the midst of the flock, coming into the world as a man. Born under the moral law as we all are, he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet was without sin.
He was put to death, crucified. He suffered a violent death in order to free those who are slaves to sin. How do we obtain deliverance from sin? Through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Israelites put their trust in the blood of the sacrifice ordained by God. Each family had to do this for themselves. It is only ‘in Christ’, united to him by faith, that we are liberated from the slavery and dominion of sin, and freed from all condemnation (Romans 8:1).
Paul expresses this in the words ‘our Passover lamb’. Christ is not just ‘the Passover lamb’ but ‘our Passover lamb’. A personal relationship unites the believer with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Exodus 12:15 we read that all yeast had to be removed from their houses. In those days, women used to keep a small part of fermented dough to add to the new dough, this added yeast being enough to make the whole new loaf rise.
However, this use of yeast (figuratively speaking) all came to an end with the deliverance of the Israelites fromEgypt, for the Passover was the start of something completely new. The yeast represented their old life of slavery; the new dough speaks of their life of freedom.
This is a picture of the life of the believer. The one who belongs to Christ is not content just to turn over a new leaf. He is not a corpse dressed in new clothes, but a new creation! He is not simply reformed, but transformed!
All this is based solely and entirely on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The blood painted on the doorposts saved the Israelites from judgement and death, and they were freed by means of faith in this sacrifice.
The believer is saved from condemnation and freed from slavery to sin by the blood of Jesus Christ shed atGolgotha. This is what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 5:7. We are to be ‘without yeast … for Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed’.
Those who believe in Jesus Christ are new dough, a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. They are born of God and possess the life of Christ. ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).
Paul has already said, in 1 Corinthians 1:2, that you are ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus’. You are holy, for Christ has been made our righteousness. You are free, no longer slaves to sin. And you no longer have to fear condemnation, for Christ, our Passover lamb (with whom you have a personal relationship), has been sacrificed.
Christ frees the believer from slavery, by paying the ransom for our sin and crushing the head of the serpent who held us in bondage. The believer has been made not partially but fully free.
There is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ, because Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath down to the last drop. Our new status of holiness before God is solely dependent on Christ and his work. He is our sanctification.