Pastor James J. Barker

Text: I CORINTHIANS 5:1-13


1.     Pastors like to preach special messages on special days.  Today is Palm Sunday; therefore many pastors will be preaching about our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion.

2.     Our Lord came in sitting upon an ass and the people “cut down branches from the trees and strawed them in the way” (Matthew 21:8).

3.     Matthew 21:9 says, “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”

4.     But in a few days they would be shouting, “Let him be crucified” (Matt. 27:22).

5.     Also, today is April Fool’s Day.  Undoubtedly some pastors will be preaching special April Fool’s Day messages.  Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

6.     But I am not going to preach a Palm Sunday message or an April Fool’s Day message.  I am going to speak about another big event.

7.     The Jewish Passover begins tomorrow (Monday) night.  The Passover was an annual Hebrew festival, commemorating the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt (cf. Exodus 12:12, 13, 43).

8.     I want to stress that while the Passover celebration is very precious to the Jews, it is even more precious to Christians because we understand that all those sacrificial lambs pointed to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

9.     The Israelites were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, but we have been delivered from the bondage of sin.  Our Lord said in John 8:34, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”  And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

10. Are you free?  The hymnwriter said, “Would you be free from the burden of sin?  There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you over evil a victory win?  There’s wonderful power in the blood.”

11. The LORD said in Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”  We have been reconciled to God by the blood of the cross. 



1.     One of the most wonderful statements in the Bible is found in First Corinthians 5:7.  “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”

2.     It is interesting that this verse is right in the middle of a chapter that deals with the problem of sexual immorality, and how the church must deal with immorality, i.e. church discipline (I Cor. 5:1-5, 10-13).

3.     Sometimes I wish we could just skip this unpleasant topic but here it is and it must be addressed.  Corinth was a very wicked city.  The Greeks had a word for living a wicked and immoral life, “korinthiazein” – it meant to live like a Corinthian.  It meant a person was lascivious, immoral, promiscuous, adulterous, etc.

4.     The culture in Corinth was very pagan and idolatrous. They worshipped many different gods. There was a big temple for the worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, pleasure, and beauty, where approximately 1,000 priestesses and prostitutes lived. At night, they would come down from the temple and sell themselves to various travelers and visitors.

5.     Many of the members of the church at Corinth came out of this wicked, immoral lifestyle (cf. I Cor. 6:9-11).

6.     But unfortunately some church members fell back into sin (I Cor. 5:1-5).

7.     New York is not much different from Corinth or Rome or Ephesus or any of the other wicked cities the apostle Paul ministered in.  In fact, our whole country is sinking deeper and deeper into sin.

8.     Things that used to shock and disgust Christians a generation ago are now commonplace on television. Movies are getting filthier and filthier.  Popular music (rap, rock, etc.) is lewd and sensual.

9.     As Christians we have to be very careful – what we listen to, what we watch, what we say, what we read, what we look at, what we think, what we wear, etc. (cf. Matthew 5:27-30).

10. Summer is coming.  Let’s dress right and keep our minds clean.

11. This is the context of First Corinthians 5.



1.     Some people think leaven (yeast) in the Bible can symbolize things that are good. For example, they teach that the leaven in Matthew 13:33 represents the Gospel.

2.     They refer to the so-called “leaven of the Gospel” spreading quietly all over the world and permeating mankind until at last the whole world is converted to Christ.  But the Bible teaches no such thing, and the Gospel is never likened to leaven.

3.     I do not understand how can anyone take this interpretation seriously. After nearly 2,000 years of Gospel preaching we are not anywhere near getting the world converted to Christ.  We cannot even get America and Great Britain converted, never mind the billions of pagans in India, China, Japan, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and so on.  Europe will soon be taken over by the Muslims.   The leaven is growing but it is not the Gospel.

4.     Leaven in the Bible always represents sin, corruption, and false doctrine. There are no exceptions.

5.     The first mention of leaven in the Bible is found in Genesis 19:3. Notice that Lot would not serve these visiting angels leavened bread. Why?  Because in Scripture, leaven represents sin.

6.     The next reference to leaven is found in Exodus 12:8 (cf. 12:15, 17, 20).  There was to be no leaven during the Passover.  In like manner, today we only use unleavened bread for the Lord’s Supper.

7.     “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven” (Ex. 34:25).

8.     When we come to the NT, we see that leaven always represents something evil.  In Matthew 16:6, our Lord said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

9.     In Mark 8:15, our Lord also warned of “the leaven of Herod.”

10.  In Luke 12:1, Jesus said, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (This leaven often gets into Baptist churches.)

11. The Bible teaches that leaven slowly and invisibly permeates churches, until eventually the whole church is corrupted (I Cor. 5:6-8).  “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9).

12. Unleavened bread reminds us that God is holy, and we are to be holy (I Cor. 5:7).   Exodus 12:15 says, “Ye shall put away leaven out of your houses.”  Exodus 12:20 says, “Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.”

13. And First Corinthians 5:7 says, “Purge out therefore the old leaven…”



1.     The Passover was followed by, and closely connected with, the seven days’ feast of unleavened bread (cf. Lev. 23:4-6; I Cor. 5:7).

2.     Strictly speaking, “the feast of unleavened bread” was distinct from “the Passover” (Lev. 23:5, 6; cf. Numbers 28:16, 17).

3.     However the two events occurred together and are often regarded as the same festival (cf. Luke 22:1).

4.     I would like to share three important lessons of the Passover:

(A)   God’s judgment had been pronounced.  The LORD told Moses that all the firstborn of Egypt were going to die, “from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts” (Exodus 11:5).

(B)   God’s substitute was provided. God in His infinite mercy and grace provided a substitute.  And this substitute was a lamb.  Not just any lamb – this lamb had to be perfect.  God’s holiness and God’s justice and God’s righteousness demanded a perfect substitute (Ex. 12:5).

(C)   God’s substitute must be appropriated.  The Israelites had to “take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts..” (Ex. 12:7).  They had to appropriate the substitution that God was providing to appease His wrath.

5.     Now let me try and wrap this up by applying this to “Christ our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7).

6.     God’s judgment has been pronounced upon this sin-loving world.  Ezekiel 18:4 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

7.     Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

8.     Yes, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord – “our Passover” – “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”

9.     God’s substitute has been provided. The Passover lamb was a picture and type of the Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect substitute (cf. I Peter 1:18, 19; 2:24; 3:18).

10. God’s substitute had to be perfect. Only Christ, our sinless Saviour could be God’s perfect substitute. And the substitute had to be slain (cf. Ex. 12:6; Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22; Rev. 5:11, 12).

11. The Lord Jesus Christ is called “the Lamb” 26 times in the book of Revelation. 

12. Let me emphasize that though Jesus Christ died for your sins, you can still die and go to hell if you do not receive Him as your Lord and Saviour.  God’s substitute must be appropriated.

13. The Israelites had to “take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts..” (Ex. 12:7).  They had to appropriate the substitution that God was providing to appease His wrath.

14. Note the progress in the first Passover story: “a lamb” (Ex. 12:3), “the lamb” (12:4), and then “your lamb” (12:5).  Perhaps you know that Jesus is a Saviour, and maybe even that He is the Saviour.  But is He your Saviour?


CONCLUSION: “A Hebrew’s Search for the Blood of Atonement” (from Random Reminiscences by HA Ironside, pp. 171-176).


In the spring of 1898 I was holding some gospel meetings in San Francisco, and several times addressed the Jews attending a “Mission to Israel.”  On one occasion, having concluded my discourse, the meeting was thrown open for discussion with any Hebrews who desired to ask questions or state difficulties, or also for any who had been brought to Christ to relate their conversion.


The experience of one old Jew interested me greatly, and as nearly as I can I give his remarks in his own words, though not attempting to preserve the inimitable Hebrew-English dialect.


He said: “This is Passover week among you, my Jewish brethren, and as I sat here, I was thinking how you will be observing it. You will have to put away all leaven from your houses; you will eat the ‘motsah’ (unleavened wafers) and the roasted Lamb. You will attend the synagogue services, and carry out the ritual and directions of the Talmud; but you forget, my brethren, that you have everything but that which Jehovah requires first of all. He did not say, ‘When I see the leaven put away, or when I see you eat the motsah, or the lamb, or go to the synagogue,’ but His word was, ‘When I see the blood I will pass over you.’ Ah, my brethren, you can substitute nothing for this. You must have blood, BLOOD, BLOOD!"


As he reiterated this word with ever-increasing emphasis, his black eyes flashed warningly, and his Jewish hearers quailed before him.


“Blood!”  It is an awful word, that, for one who reveres the ancient oracle, and yet has no sacrifice. Turn where he will in the Book, the blood meets him; but let him seek as he may, he cannot find it in the Judaism of the present.


After a moment’s pause, the patriarchal old man went on somewhat as follows: “I was born in Palestine, nearly seventy years ago. As a child I was taught to read the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. I early attended the synagogue and learned Hebrew from the rabbis. At first I believed what I was told, that ours was the true and only religion, but as I grew older and studied the Law more intently, I was struck by the place the blood had in all the ceremonies outlined there, and equally struck by its utter absence in the ritual in which I was brought up.


“Again and again I read Exodus 12 and Leviticus 16 and 17, and the latter chapters especially made me tremble, as I thought of the great Day of Atonement and the place the blood had there. Day and night one verse would ring in my ears. ‘It is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul!’ I knew I had broken the law. I needed atonement. Year after year, on that day, I beat my breast as I confessed my need of it; but it was to be made by blood, and there was no Blood!


“In my distress, at last, I opened my heart to a learned and venerable rabbi. He told me that God was angry with His people. Jerusalem was in the hands of the Gentiles, the temple was destroyed, and a Mohammedan mosque was reared in its place. The only spot on earth where we dare shed the blood of sacrifice, in accordance with Deuteronomy 12 and Leviticus 17, was desecrated, and our nation scattered. That was why there was no blood. God had Himself closed the way to carry out the solemn service of the great Day of Atonement. Now, we must turn to the Talmud, and rest on its instruction, and trust in the mercy of God and the merits of the fathers.


“I tried to be satisfied, but could not. Something seemed to say that the law was unaltered, even though our temple was destroyed. Nothing else but the blood could atone for the soul. We dare not shed blood for atonement elsewhere than in the place the Lord had chosen. Then we were left without an atonement at all!


“This thought filled me with horror. In my distress I consulted many other rabbis. I had but one great question, Where can I find the blood of atonement?


“I was over thirty years of age when I left Palestine and came to Constantinople, with my still unanswered question ever before my mind, and my soul exceedingly troubled about my sins.


“One night I was walking down one of the narrow streets of that city, when I saw a sign telling of a meeting for Jews. Curiosity led me to open the door and go in. Just as I took a seat I heard a man say: ‘The Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ It was my first introduction to Christianity, but I listened breathlessly as the speaker told how God had declared that ‘Without shedding of blood is no remission,’ but that He had given His only begotten Son, the Lamb of God, to die, and all who trusted in His Blood were forgiven all their iniquities. This was the Messiah of the fifty-third of Isaiah: this was the Sufferer of Psalm 22. Ah, my brethren, I had found the blood atonement at last! I trusted it, and now I love to read the New Testament and see how all the shadows of the law are fulfilled in Jesus. His Blood has been shed for sinners.  It has satisfied God, and it is the only means of salvation for either Jew or Gentile."


Reader, have you yet found the Blood of atonement?  “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Are you trusting in God’s smitten Lamb? – the sacrifice of God?


The above incident has often been reprinted as a gospel tract.  Some years after it was first published, I was the speaker at a Hebrew Christian Conference in San Francisco, when the elderly Jew whose testimony it gives, came up to me and exclaimed, “Ah, my brother, I am so glad to see you.  You wrote my story and gave it to the world.  I have heard of many Jews saved through reading it.  I can only speak to a few, but that printed story is going to many, many thousands.”  We rejoiced together.  Sometime later I heard he had entered in through the gates into the city of God, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, his Saviour and Messiah.

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