(Part 1) 2020 Holy Week Message:
Christ the Passover Lamb: The Motivation
for a Holy Life
By Pastor Robbie Casas
How many us often struggle with sin? (Pride, lust, impatience, temper, doubt, covetousness, laziness, failure in a commitment/promise, lying, seeking men’s approval/fear of man, vanity, not waiting on God, envy, etc.) Or better yet, when was the last time you struggled with sin? How frequently does this struggle happen in your life? How often do you lose in the struggle so that sin prevails over you? As we celebrate Holy Week, we are given by the Lord another opportunity to commemorate His great and
gracious sacrifice on the cross for us and His glorious victory over sin and death through His resurrection.
But in our remembering these, I believe He means also for us to use this remembrance to impact our spiritual walk in terms of our pursuit of holiness. This is what I seek to help us see as we briefly study a verse from 1 Corinthians:“For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (5:7). May it help us in our struggles against sin.
Paul most likely wrote this epistle in the first half of A.D. 55 from Ephesus (16:8, 9, 19) while he was on his third missionary journey.
Corinth was one of the major urban centers of the ancient Mediterranean and was one of the most culturally diverse cities in the empire. It was the capital of Achaea (which made up most of ancient Greece). Its location made it a prosperous commercial and business community.
This brought the presence of foreign religions into Corinth which, in turn, may have worsened the level of sexual promiscuity in that society, although promiscuity was already characteristic of Greek male culture in general. Unfortunately, Corinth was not only known for its prosperity, but also for the proverbial sexual looseness that characterized that city, even until the time the Romans took control of the city. Some commentators mention that even by the pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. To “corinthianize” came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery.
The church in Corinth was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1ff.). Because of the culture that surrounded it, the Corinthian church struggled to fully break with that culture and its values. Because of this, conflict and disunity characterized this church. It was a church that was carnal and immature.
That is why although this church was very gifted, it was also the most problematic church Paul handled. There was disunity and division among its members (Chs. 1-4). Scandalous immorality was left unchecked in the church (Chs. 5-6). There were issues of marriage and divorce (Ch. 7) and of Christian liberty (Chs. 8-10) that needed correction. Even their worship – particularly their observance of the Lord’s Supper – was affected by their carnality (Chs. 11-14). All these Paul had to address.
But the most serious problem of the Corinthian church was worldliness because of its unwillingness to cut from the culture around them. (Isn’t this the same problem with many professing believers today?) Most of the believers could not consistently separate themselves from their old, selfish, immoral, and pagan ways. Paul, therefore, had to write to correct this. In addition to this, in 1 Corinthians 5 (where we would find the passage for our study), Paul also had to command the church not only to break fellowship with the disobedient and unrepentant members, but to put them out of the church (5:9-13).
The major thrust of this epistle is the correcting of sinful behavior more than the establishment of doctrine (especially when compared to Paul’s letters to the Romans, Ephesians and Colossians). But nonetheless, Paul still gives groundbreaking teaching on many doctrines that dealt with the issues of sin and righteousness. (Chapter 15 is still the classic New Testament chapter on Christ’s resurrection.) This indicates to us that IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, WRONG LIVING ALWAYS STEMS FROM WRONG BELIEVING; WRONG DOCTRINE, WRONG LIFE.
III. CHRIST OUR PASSOVER: OUR MOTIVATION FOR HOLINESS
Read 1Cor 5:7b: “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
When you look at the verse’s immediate context, you will see that this statement was prompted by an immoral situation that was allowed unchecked in the church: someone was having sexual relations with most likely his own stepmother.
In vv. 1-6, Paul unleashes a scathing rebuke and a sobering warning: “1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?”
In v. 7a comes the command: “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.” Then the motivation for the command in v. 7b: “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
A. UNDERSTANDING THE OT ALLUSION
Here in v. 7 Paul was clearly alluding to one of the most important events in the life of Israel, which later led to one of her most important (if not altogether the most important) feasts of the Jews. This event is none other than the Passover.
The familiar story begins in Exodus 3 when the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush to call him to be His instrument of deliverance for His people Israel who were subjected to hard labor by the latest pharaoh who no longer knew of Joseph and what he did for Egypt during his time (Ex 2:23-25).
In Exodus 5, Moses confronts Pharaoh to convey God’s message: “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness” (v. 1). Pharaoh would not grant the request, later leading to God unleashing 10 plagues upon Egypt. Pharaoh stubbornly refused for the first 9 plagues (Exodus 7-10). However, for the 10th plague, where Pharaoh finally yields, God mentioned how He would strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt (Exodus 11). It was this 10th plague that brought about the Passover meal which was later on celebrated as the Passover Feast and that was immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
In Exodus 12, God formally institutes the Passover which involved the killing of a lamb and the putting of some its blood “on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses” of the Israelites (Ex 12:1-7). This was so that when God saw the blood on the doorposts and lintel, He would pass over that home and spare the household from the 10th plague (vv. 12-13).
In vv. 8-11, God gave instructions on how the Israelites would eat the lamb, which included eating it with unleavened bread – bread without yeast, conveying their need to leave in haste (Ex 12:11, 39; Deut 16:3), giving them no time to leaven their bread.
In vv. 14-20, 24-28, God institutes this as a feast that the Jews were to observe as a permanent ordinance to commemorate this event. This includes the thorough removal of leaven from their homes for seven days in the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which would remind them of God’s deliverance from His judgment through the angel of death.
As we will see over the next posts, this was pointing to a timeless truth that would extend to New Testament believers.