June 21, 2020
Steven Lee (North Campus) | 1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.—1 Peter 2:1–3
For the birth of our first child, Noelle, we spent seven days in the hospital because she had difficult feeding. We didn’t know—as first-time parents—that every little drop of milk was important for her growth and development. Getting a newborn back to their birth weight is the first of many small milestones parents celebrate. Nearly everything you do—with little sleep and a recovering body—is to get sufficient physical nourishment to your baby so that he/she grow. This tiny human—weighting less than the average house cat—needs every drop of milk it can possibly get.
As a parent, I was hypersensitive about our baby getting enough milk and avoiding anything that would stunt or impair her growth: filtered water, testing for lead paint, boiling dropped pacifiers, and using organic plant-based detergents. We all know that this stops after the first child, but the first one, we take all the extra necessary precautions. Why? Because we want our child to grow up healthy, to develop completely, and to reach full potential.
In the same way, Peter writes because he wants his readers to grow up spiritually healthy, to develop fully and to—not “reach their potential”—but to “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Peter is concerned for their spiritual nourishment, and he is specifically concerned with two things that threaten to stunt the believer’s spiritual growth: (1) spiritual poison, and (2) insufficient spiritual nourishment. Both of these things threaten the growth and maturity of believers in order that they might obtain salvation.
Peter continues the previous metaphor where they have been born again, “not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). But Peter is also concerned for his readers to grow, to mature, and to ultimately obtain salvation.
Peter’s main point in our passage is that believers are to continually put away all poisonous attitudes to love, and instead drink eagerly and deeply from God’s word. Stay away from things that will stunt your growth, stunt your love, and stunt the community of faith. Instead, have the spiritual attitude of a thirsty and hungry infant. Peter’s aim is to call his readers to stay thirsty for God’s word and an experience of his goodness.
There are two main halves to this text.
What we want to notice first is the “so” or “therefore” in 2:1, which functions as a logical inference from what immediately preceded in 1 Peter 1:22–25. In that passage, the main command was to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” Believers are to love each other in the body, why? Because we have been born again by the living and abiding word of God—this word is what remains forever.
Dandelions don’t grow from tomato seeds, and in the same way, malice, deceit, and hypocrisy don’t spring up from imperishable seeds of the gospel. Gospel seeds grow gracious and loving people. Satan plants weeds that sprout discord and dissension.
So this opening participle to “put away” or “rid yourselves” is a picture of stripping off filthy clothes. If you’re a medical worker working among COVID-19 patients, the image is stripping off all the potentially infected and exposed clothing and scrubs before you go home to hug your family. This word “rid yourselves” is often used for putting off sin. Colossians 3:8 says, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (cf. Ephesians 4:25; James 1:21).
There is an active setting aside or ridding oneself of sinful snares that would compromise the believer. This would be like calling the addict to rid himself of whatever substance it is that ensnares him. The list that Peter provides includes not the things that might characterize pagans, but rather actions and attitudes that destroy the love and tenderness within a Christian community.
I think Peter lists these things specifically, not just because they are sin but because these are the types of attitudes and actions that give birth to division, discord, and disunity. They pull and strain the fabric of Christian love. Engaging in malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or slander undoes the soil for Christian love to grow up in. It’s like mixing in rocks into your garden bed; it prevents the cultivation of love among believers and prevents our own personal growth in holiness.
These attitudes and actions could also be likened to pouring a poison into the shared well of a Christian community. All come to that well to draw water to drink, to cook, and to give to their animals. But to harbor malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or slander is to poison this shared well so that what was once a source of life has now become toxic, giving rise to illness, sickness, and division. It takes time, but once enough enters the system, its effects are deadly to the church. Have you ever heard of a church split over tiny insignificant issues like the color of the carpet?
This is a sobering reality because it means that Christians—who are theologically likeminded, who go to the same church, who live in the same area, who all love Jesus— can still be tempted to poison the shared community well by their attitudes and actions. It may not be intentional, and is perhaps even unintentional, but it does not make it any less deadly to brotherly love within the community of faith.
Going back to the seed metaphor of the previous passage, we see that having been born of God’s living and abiding word, we still need to continually weed the garden, protect against critters and animals, bugs and pesticides, and other threats to the growth of this shared and sincere brotherly love.
How do these things sprout up within the church? We gossip or whisper about the things we’ve heard. We wonder aloud, instead of asking someone who can address our question. If you have concerns about something, I welcome you to ask one of your elders or any of the leaders. What we don’t want is anyone sowing seeds of discord, judging uncharitably, and cultivating suspicion. Instead, come right out and ask what you want to ask.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, and to judge charitably. This is a challenge today. It’s never been easier to slander—-to destroy someone’s reputation, or your own for that matter—with a single post, a single tweet, or a single conversation. It’s easy to write off people because of something you’ve seen them post or overhear what they say. Instead, we’re called to love one another earnestly, and often that means having conversations in order to understand each other.
What is this pure spiritual milk that Peter has in view? It is none other than the word of God. Believers are to hunger and obsess over God’s word.
We should notice that the word translated spiritual is not the typical word used to convey the Holy Spirit (pneuma) or spiritual in 1 Peter 2:5 (“you … are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices”), but rather a different word (logikon), which could be translated “rational” or “reasonable,” but also is connected to word logos. This milk is reasonable and rational like God’s word. It is not mystical (e.g., some society with secret codes, different levels, incense burning, and chanting), but it is rational, communicating the connection between the logikon and logos.
We can see from the passage that the milk of God’s word causes Christians to “grow up into salvation.” It’s like the old milk commercials with the tagline, “It does the body good.” The same can be said of God’s word; it does the body (both individual and corporate body) good. This milk is “pure,” without contamination. Mothers know that even their diet can affect the acidity or taste of their milk. But this milk is pure.
Believers are to “long for the pure spiritual milk.” Notice with me a number of things that can help us to understand what Peter means by this command. First, notice that he Peter continues this birthing theme from the previous passage because we are to be “like newborn infants.” The born again are now infants, beloved children of God. This ought not to be missed. We are God’s children, adopted into his family. We are to be infants in our hunger and longing for milk.
Elsewhere in the Bible—particularly in 1 Corinthians and Hebrews—milk is contrasted with solid food. Milk is used to describe something for spiritual babies and for the spiritually immature; it conveyed spiritual immaturity and elementary teaching (1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12–13).
But Peter doesn’t have that connotation in mind when he calls his readers to long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word. Instead, we are to be like babies who eagerly crave and desire this milk as our sole and complete source of spiritual nourishment. It is the pathway of growth, it is the source of life, and it is how babies grow and mature. So the image is complete and total dependence upon God and his word. In the same way that a baby is completely dependent and sustained by its mother’s milk, we are to “grow up into salvation” by longing for and drinking of God’s word.
I remember in those early days, when feedings were timed and naps were on a schedule, and my wife would sometimes go out to run an errand. But she would need to return home in time for the next feeding. And there would be those times, when the baby wakes early, is desperately obsessed with milk, and mom is nowhere to be seen. This is a terrible feeling; screaming, crying, and sweating. If this baby were strong enough, it would hurt you to get its milk. It’s obsessed and single-minded in its desire for milk. You get the idea. This is an insatiable craving for its mother’s milk. We are to obsess over God’s word. It is our source of life and spiritual nourishment. Are we like that with God’s word? Or do we take an “I can take it or leave it” attitude with reading God’s word, corporate worship, and listening to preaching?
We should notice that in verse 3 that Peter cites Psalm 34:8, which reads, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Peter likely has Psalm 34 on the mind, since he cites it later in 1 Peter 2:10–12 (quoting Psalm 34:13–16). The theme of the Psalm is that when the righteous are experiencing trials and suffering—much like the setting of 1 Peter—they can be confident in God’s deliverance. It is in many ways the perfect Psalm for Peter’s audience, a reminder to hope in God who “saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). This Psalm reinforces Peter’s call to crave God’s word, because his readers already tasted of God’s goodness.
The point of verse 3 is to remind his readers that if they have in fact experienced and tasted of the goodness of God, they only want more of it. The call for longing for the pure spiritual milk of God’s word is not a call to choke down something you hate. Instead, it’s a call to savor the sweetness of a single taste of a perfectly baked cheesecake, with a perfect drizzle of salted caramel and fresh whipped cream. Once you taste of its goodness, the longing and desire is not merely of duty or discipline, but rather a deep longing informed by a pleasant experience of God’s goodness, kindness, and love. We want more of God when we have seen and experienced and tasted of his goodness.
The purpose of this pure spiritual milk is that it will grow us up into salvation. This is not the first instance where Peter describes salvation as something that Christians grow up into or obtain at a later time. Peter describes our salvation as “being guarded through faith … ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5). For believers, their salvation is already and not yet. Spiritual growth and maturity is essential to final, end-time salvation for the believer. To be born of God and born again is to increasingly long for God and his word.
Salvation is not a ticket—you either have it or you don’t—but rather a trajectory of ongoing spiritual growth and maturity until the final consummation of our journey. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian does not read the Bible and then transport to the Celestial City, but he undertakes a journey to the Celestial City. So for believers, we can to put off the things that would stunt our personal growth and poison the brotherly love of the Christian community. Instead, we long for the pure spiritual milk of God’s word.
Application & Conclusion
We need to be aware of the poisonous worldly philosophies that lace the good spiritual milk of the God’s word—whether it’s the godless philosophies that are trying to advance anarchy, chaos, or ignite a race war. There are those who are trying to tear apart the fabric of our society, undermining the framework of the Christian home, and advancing radical LGBTQ agendas. We have those who are marshaling anti-government, anti-police, anti-logic or reason, and anti-STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) agendas. There are those who are undoing the very notion of male and female.
We must be aware that the world’s ideas are creeping into the church, and then Christians are buying into these philosophies. Then we divide along lines and allow malice, deceit, and other poisonous attitudes to fester, undermining Christian love and charity. We cannot allow it to happen. How do we combat this? We need to return to our first love. We need to hold God’s word above all other slogans, ideologies, and movements. We must continually allow the word of God to inform, shape, and mold our attitudes, thoughts, actions, and instincts.
The taste that we have received—for those who are believers—is the sweetness of the goodness of Jesus Christ. For those who have not tasted yet of God’s goodness—who have never trusted in Jesus—come this morning and taste. Come and see how good God is in providing a way of escape for sinners who have no other way. This is God’s kindness and mercy on display. He gives hope to the hopeless, brings calm to inner chaos, and salvation despite their sins. Come and taste that the Lord is good. How? I would suggest reading the Gospel of John. It was written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and in believing you might have life in his name.
It is somewhat tempting to now apply this by teaching on or reminding you of the spiritual discipline of knowing God’s word through reading it, listening to it, meditating on it, memorizing it, and praying it. And that would be all well and good. But as I was pondering this, a quote from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life came to mind and seemed fitting. He writes about this prayer: “Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on prayer, not on God.” I wonder how many of us struggle to learn, to treasure, and to read and meditate on God’s word because we’re focused on checking the box and accomplishing the discipline, rather than tasting and drinking deeply from God’s fountain of endless grace.
Come and commune with God in his word and prayer. Find your soul’s satisfaction from God and his word by knowing him more, meditating on his commands, basking in his promises, receiving his forgiveness, and marveling at his power and sovereignty. O, remember how good and sweet he is. O, remember how kind and mercy he is. O, recall how great his forgiveness continues to be despite our sins.
For the children and young people this morning, put your faith and trust in Jesus. Even if church feels stuffy at times, sometimes you don’t know what the pastor is saying up front, Mom or Dad make mistakes, you don’t know if Jesus is going to let you down, maybe you’ve been hurt or had some hard things happen in your family, or maybe you’ve just grown up at church and you don’t know if you really believe these things or if it’s just the only world you’ve known. Let me encourage you to come and taste that the Lord is good!
We are also called, as God’s people, to share and preach this good news. It calls to mind the children’s book Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss. Sam is relentless in getting his friend to taste green eggs and ham:
You do not like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
Could you, would you, with a goat?
I would not, could not, with a goat.
Would you, could you, on a boat?
I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I will not eat them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them ANYWHERE!
I do not like green eggs and ham!
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
You do not like them.
So you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.
Sam! If you will let me be,
I will try them. You will see.
I like green eggs and ham!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!
We are to be like Sam-I-am in calling our friends, coworkers, and neighbors to consider tasting of the goodness of God. He is sufficient to carry your burdens. He is trustworthy in trials. He is faithful when all else fails. He is sovereign in a world of chaos.
Finally, as God’s people, we have a great and sure confidence of where we are headed. Christ died to purchase for himself a bride of infinite cost. Jesus will not let anarchy, worldly philosophies, wars, division, suspicion, or even evil itself destroy his bride. Christ died for her, and he is now at work bringing each and every person to maturity and completeness. As we submit to Jesus, as we saturate ourselves and satisfy ourselves with his word, he grows us up into salvation. Those who he predestined, he justified, and those whom he justified, he will also surely glorify. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, renew your heart as you come to him, and drink deeply and eagerly from his word, enjoying his goodness, and trusting his provision.
Main Point: Believers are to continually put away all poisonous attitudes to love, and instead drink eagerly and deeply from God’s word.
Praise God for giving us his word, allowing us to taste of his goodness, and for growing us up toward salvation. Confess any sins of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or slander—or any other attitudes or actions that divide rather than build up the body of Christ. Thank God for his forgiveness and for causing us to be born again through his living and abiding word. Ask God for a greater longing, hunger, and desire for him and for his word, so that we would continually grow up into salvation.