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Commentary On Corinthians Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

6. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

6. Non est bona gloriatio vestra: an nescitis, quod exiguum fermentum totam massam fermentat?

7. 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.

7. Expurgate ergo vetus fermentum, ut sitis nova conspersio, sicut estis azymi: nam Pascha nostrum pro nobis immolatum est, Christus.

8. 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.

8. Proinde epulemur non in fermento veteri, neque in fermento malitiae et pravitatis, sed in azymis sinceritatis veritatis.

6. Your glorying is not good. He condemns their glorying, not simply because they extolled themselves beyond what is lawful for man, but because they delighted themselves in their faults. He had previously stripped mankind of all glory; for he had shown that, as they have nothing of their own, whatever excellence they may have, they owe the entire praise of it to God alone. (1 Corinthians 4:7.) What he treats of here, however, is not that, God is defrauded of his right, when mortals arrogate to themselves the praise of their excellences, but that the Corinthians are guilty of arrant folly in extolling themselves without any just ground. For they proudly gloried as if everything had been in a golden style among them, while in the meantime there was so much among them that was wicked and disgraceful.

Know ye not That they might not think that it was a matter of little or no importance that they gave encouragement to so great an evil, he shows the destructive tendency of indulgence and dissimulation in such a case. He makes use of a proverbial saying, by which he intimates that a whole multitude is infected by the contagion of a single individual. For this proverb has in this passage the same meaning as in those expressions of Juvenal: |A whole herd of swine falls down in the fields through disease in one of their number, and one discolored grape infects another.| I have said in this passage, because Paul, as we shall see, makes use of it elsewhere (Galatians 5:9) in another sense.

7. Purge out therefore Having borrowed a similitude from leaven, he pursues it farther, though he makes a transition from a particular point to a general doctrine. For he is no longer speaking of the case of incest, but exhorts them generally to purity of life, on the ground that we cannot remain in Christ if we are not cleansed. He is accustomed to do this not infrequently. When he has made a particular statement, he takes occasion to pass on to general exhortations. He had made mention of leaven on another account, as we have seen. As this same metaphor suited the general doctrine which he now subjoins, he extends it farther.

Our Passover Before coming to the subject-matter, I shall say a few words in reference to the words. Old leaven receives that name on the same principle as the old man, (Romans 6:6,) for the corruption of nature takes the precedence in us, previously to our being renewed in Christ. That, therefore, is said to be old which we bring with us from the womb, and must perish when we are renewed by the grace of the Spirit. The verb etuthe, which occurs between the name Christ and the term which denotes a sacrifice, may refer to either. I have taken it as referring to the sacrifice, though this is of no great importance, as the meaning is not affected. The verb heortazomen, which Erasmus rendered |Let us celebrate the feast,| signifies also to partake of the solemn feast which was observed after the sacrifice had been offered up. This interpretation appeared to suit better with the passage before us. I have, accordingly, followed the Vulgate in preference to Erasmus, as this rendering is more in accordance with the mystery of which Paul treats.

We come now to the subject-matter. Paul, having it in view to exhort the Corinthians to holiness, shows that what was of old figuratively represented in the passover, ought to be at this day accomplished in us, and explains the correspondence which exists between the figure and the reality. In the first place, as the passover consisted of two parts -- a sacrifice and a sacred feast -- he makes mention of both. For although some do not reckon the paschal lamb to have been a sacrifice, yet reason shows that it was properly a sacrifice, for in that rite the people were reconciled to God by the sprinkling of blood. Now there is no reconciliation without a sacrifice; and, besides, the Apostle now expressly confirms if, for he makes use of the word thuesthai, which is applicable to sacrifices, and in other respects, too, the context would not correspond. The lamb, then, was sacrificed yearly; then followed a feast, the celebration of which lasted for seven successive days. Christ, says Paul, is our Passover He was sacrificed once, and on this condition, that the efficacy of that one oblation should be everlasting. What remains now is, that we eat, not once a-year, but continually.

8. Now, in the solemnity of this sacred feast we must abstain from leaven, as God commanded the fathers to abstain. But from what leaven? As the outward passover was to them a figure of the true passover, so its appendages were figures of the reality which we at this day possess. If, therefore, we would wish to feed on Christ's flesh and blood, let us bring to this feast sincerity and truth Let these be our loaves of unleavened bread Away with all malice and wickedness, for it is unlawful to mix up leaven with the passover In fine, he declares that we shall be members of Christ only when we shall have renounced malice and deceit. In the meantime we must carefully observe this passage, as showing that the ancient passover was not merely mnemosunon, a memorial of a past benefit, but also a sacrament, representing Christ who was to come, from whom we have this privilege, that we pass from death to life. Otherwise, it would not hold good, that in Christ is the body of the legal shadows. (Colossians 2:17.) This passage will also be of service for setting aside the sacrilege of the Papal mass. For Paul does not teach that Christ is offered daily, but that the sacrifice having been offered up once for all, it remains that the spiritual feast be celebrated during our whole life.

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