"A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENETH 
THE WHOLE LUMP"
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 THERE ARE statements found in 1 Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9 that are identical. "A little leaven leaventh the whole lump." Evidently this was a familiar proverb in circulation in the first century, and Paul makes good use of the saying in each of the situations where he applies it. The Lord, likewise, had used this mode of speech in warning his disciples about false teachers. Let us notice their applications and find lessons for us today.
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Sin in the Church
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 The church at Corinth was a Gentile church beset by sin. It seems they had been converted from raw heathenism, and it was easy for them to fall back into their old unrestrained way of living. The epistle of 1 Corinthians highlights many of their sins. Sexual immorality stands out among these sins, and one case in particular startled the apostle Paulóand especially how the church was reacting to it (or rather, not reacting). Read the 5th chapter. It seems that a man was living incestuously with his stepmother. Not only were they in such an unthinkable relationship, in church circles they were unabashedly appearing together. No one was calling their hand, as the church was too preoccupied with other fleshly matters ("puffed up"). It was in such a context that the apostle Paul asked the prodding question, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" Actually this was only one of the more obnoxious cases among many (1 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 12:21). Obviously the church was taking a very tolerant view toward all of this. It was not being dealt with. And furthermore, like the writer James said, "For where envying and strife is [like at Corinth], there is confusion and every evil work" (James 3:16).
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Erroneous Teaching in the Church
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 The other reference having to do with the proverbial statement involved the churches in Galatia. These churches likewise were Gentile churches. Their situation was a little different from the Corinthians. They were beset by Judaizers, teachers who were trying to take them back under the Law of Moses. We find the Galatians looking to the law for justification, circumcision being introduced and Jewish days being observed. Read this epistle. Unwisely, these erroneous teachers had been given an audience to vent their erroneous views. By going back under the Law for justification, and not looking to Christ, they were putting themselves back under condemnation (for no one could ever be saved by law, Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:10; Romans 8:1). Consequently, Paul said, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4). He probingly continues with a question and a statement, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?ÖA little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (5:7,9).
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 In leaven we get the picture of something small, like yeast or such an agent in dough, gradually, but surely, spreading and, undetected or unobstructed, with time permeating the whole. This is how the apostle Paul looked upon the sin problem in the church at Corinth and the false teaching in the churches of Galatia. Even small irregularities, unchecked, in time will manifest themselves in full-blown apostasy. If we tolerate wrong, and learn to live with compromise, the next step is to accept it. With the floodgates open, the tidal waves canít help but come in. Once the devil gets into a church it is hard to get him out.
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The Leaven of the Pharisees, 
Sadducees and Herodians
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 Jesus made use of this figure of leaven in warning his disciples about the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians. He urged them to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6). At another place he added the Herodians to this list of those to be careful about (Mark 8:15; 3:6; 12:13). In Matthew 16:12, when his disciples pondered what Jesus meant by leaven, he told them that he was talking about "the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." At another time Jesus said, "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1). A personís doctrine, or belief, is manifest in the way that he lives. The 23rd chapter of Matthew tells us about the hypocritical "righteousness" of the scribes and Pharisees. And its leavening impact could be seen in their converts. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" said Jesus, "For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (23:15). Unbelief and the worldly political slant in a religious context characterized the leaven of the Sadducees and Herodians. Such subtle outworking of ill is manifest in religious circles and at every turn in society (whether in ancient times or today).
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Instructions to Purge
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 The apostle Paul, having asked the prodding question, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" with thoughts of the unleavened bread of the Passover in mind, gives instructions to the Corinthians about dealing with the sin problem in the church. "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore 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" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Initially this involved repentance and them getting back on track with Christ (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). In purging out glaring cases of old leaven, disfellowship was to be practiced (Read 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and 2 Corinthians 2:6-9). And Paul gives expanded thought in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that is applicable to the situation at hand, "Be not deceived: evil communications [companionships] corrupt good manners [morals]" (Read the context). Of the false teachers among the Galatian churches, Paul said, "I would they were even cut off which trouble you" (Galatians 5:12). 
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 As we pointed out, the Lord Jesus had warned His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." In Matthew 15:14, He further had said, "Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matthew 15:14). Although Jesus reached out to and ate with regular sinners, he had little patience with apostates guised as religious leaders. He had some especially strong things to say to them and about them. And others should always remember, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

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