For people who keep Easter it might come as a shock to learn that Paul, the apostle sent to the Gentiles, to a mostly Gentile church gave direct instructions to keep festivals that this world regards as Jewish and not for Christians.
In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Paul wrote: “For also Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast; not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Paul shows the christian symbolism of the Passover in the death of Christ being the symbol (like the blood of the Passover lamb) for God to pass over our many sins in this life.
He then goes onto to say “therefore” or because of this sacrifice that Jesus made that we should go on and keep the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. In other words, because He paid the ultimate high price of a brutal, painful death; being our substitute to pay for our personal sins, that we should turn from our old sinful way of life and live a new, more godly way of life that is symbolised by the next feast he tells us to keep.
Most people have some familiarity with the Passover from the story of the Exodus particularly if they have seen Cecil B. De Mille’s version of the Ten Commandments. Most people are not so familiar with the next Jewish festival that follows straight after it which is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days God commanded that leaven (products with rising agents such as yeast) were to be purged and that bread made without rising or leavening agents was to be eaten instead (Exodus 12:15).
Leaven is a rising agent that puffs up like our own ego and pride. When we become full of our own importance and focused far too much on what we want above the needs of others, we begin to go down the path of sin – “the leaven of malice and wickedness” as Paul puts it. The ritual of putting out leaven for seven days symbolises doing our best with God’s help to put out those wrong habits of ours that hurt others and hurt ourselves and are against God’s law.
Putting out leaven is only half the process. For each day of the feast for seven days the command for the feast is to eat unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15). It symbolises not only putting out what is bad in our lives but replacing it with what is good! Bad habits must be rooted out of our lives but nature abhors a vacuum. Good habits must be developed in their place in our lives. Paul tells us to eat the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.
Paul uses two key descriptors to symbolise God’s character which we must develop in our lives that will have a great impact on ourselves, our families and other people we interact with. What are sincerity and truth and what is the importance of them? Why are they so fundamental to us building God’s character in our lives?
Let’s, first of all, look at SINCERITY. The meaning of the Greek word eilikrinia translated “sincerity” is “purity.” Our English word sincere comes from two Latin words, sin-e and cere. Sin-e simply means without, and cere means wax. So sincere can mean literally “without wax”.
Corinth was famous in its day for its fine pottery. If a vessel were cracked, some deceitful potters would melt wax and carefully wedge it between the cracks. They would then skillfully paint over the flaw so it couldn’t be noticed by an unsuspecting customer. Careful shoppers found they could expose the cracks by holding the pottery up to bright sunlight. They could see the flaws under the paint. An honest merchant in the ancient city of Corinth when presenting his product to a buyer might say that it was a sincere piece of pottery.
Another deception by builders of the day was to use wax to get around the time-consuming process of polishing marble surfaces. They would give a pillar or a marble floor a rough polish and then rub wax into the cracks. It looked like expensive work — until heat would later expose the cracks. The light of God’s word and and the heat of trials in our life can easily expose the imperfections in our character which we should aim to correct.
Sincerity means purity of motive and heart. God is actively searching and testing our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10) and is looking to purify our hearts – our motives as it is our motives that ultimately drive our actions and our behaviour. Sincerity is fundamental as it addresses why we do what we do. Even if we do good actions our character can be corrupted if those are done with impure motives.
The second key descriptor of God’s character is TRUTH. Most people sincerely believe what they believe in but while you can be sincere about what you believe in you can also be sincerely deceived. We need more than just sincere motives. We also need the truth and Jesus mentions this over in John 4:24 where we read: “God is a spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
We need to have a well educated conscience and study to correctly understand God’s truth, His law and His way of life which tells us what works in life and what doesn’t. We might believe in our minds that sin is not good for us but do we believe it deep down in our hearts or do we believe that the benefits of certain sins will outweigh the hurt it will produce to us and to others? When we are tempted what are our choices telling us about whether we believe a certain sin is good for us or not?
We need to call on God’s help to see through the lie that our wrong actions are good for us and call on His help to be more and more convicted that ONLY His way is the right way to go when we are sorely tempted to try it our own way instead of God’s way.
We shouldn’t just superficially examine our actions but go much deeper and examine our motives and why we do what we do and truly have a sincerity of heart. We should also expose the lies of sin in our lives and truly live by God’s truth which will set us free.
For more information about God’s Holy Days I recommend reading the United Church of God booklet “God’s Holy Day Plan”.