June 21, 2020
Jason Meyer (Downtown 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
Main Point: Born again believers must long for the pure milk of the word in order to grow up into salvation—they become what they are.
We are back to our series on 1 Peter this week after a three-week mini series on lament and what to say, where to look, and what to do when suffering is great.
It is important to set the context. Peter explained that this letter is the true grace of God and his readers are to stand firm upon it (1 Peter 5:12). There is both an indicative and an imperative structure to this verse. Stand (imperative) on what God has given (indicative).
The opening of the letter has the same amazing theological structure. Verses 3–12 of chapter 1 and verses 4–10 of chapter 2 are the indicative of what God has done. First Peter 1:13–2:3 is the five-fold imperative of what believers are supposed to do.
1 Peter 1:3-12
Because you are the saved people of God who have an imperishable hope (1:3–5), an inexpressible joy (1:6–9), and a profound sense of privilege (1:10–12) …
1 Peter 1:13–2:3
Therefore, live like the saved children of God: 1. Hope fully (v. 13), 2. Be holy (vv. 14–16), 3. Fear God (vv. 17–21), 4. Love one another (vv. 22–25), and 5. Long for the milk of the Word to grow up into salvation (2:1–3).
1 Peter 2:4–10
Because you are the saved people of God, a spiritual house of priests proclaiming the excellencies of the one who saved you …
The commands move from our vertical relationship with God (hope, be holy, fear our Father) to the horizontal relationship with fellow children of God (love one another). Now he builds to a climax in which we are called to grow up into the salvation we have received, which will come as a result of drinking deeply of the word of God.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
Peter begins with a participle for “putting off” followed by five vices that fill out the content of what should be laid aside or put off. The participle “putting away” or “laying aside” is a word picture for believers putting off the sins of their old lives as if they were dirty, stained, soiled garments.
But isn’t it interesting what sins Peter highlights? He does not go after sins like sexual immorality and drunkenness. Instead, Peter goes after five specific sins: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
Why? There are two answers. First, sexual immorality and drunkenness are obviously wrong and would not be tolerated in the Christian community. Everyone would already agree that they were wrong. They had stopped doing those things, and they were being slandered by those whom they used to do those things with …
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.—1 Peter 4:3–5
Therefore, Peter sets his sights on sins that believers may overlook or tolerate or take less seriously.
The second answer as to why Peter highlights these sins is because they are especially good at killing love. This connection comes from the force of Peter’s logic. Notice that verse one begins with “so” or “therefore.” He is making a logical inference from the previous paragraph to this one. The previous command was to love one another with “sincere” family or brotherly love (1 Peter 1:22). Now he begins to highlight the opposite of sincere love—the opposite of sincerity is the term “insincerity” or “hypocrisy” (1 Peter 2:1). If malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander saturate the soil of the church’s garden, love will never grow. Let us do a brief survey of what these five terms mean, and then we can see how they often appear together.
The first term, translated “malice,” is a more general term for evil that takes on a specific nuance in relational contexts. Rather than fundamentally being “for” others and seeking to build them up (i.e., love), malice is the disposition to turn against others and want to tear them down. It is a state of the heart that looks upon someone else as an opponent, not a teammate. How sad that someone would look at another blood-bought child of God and see him as an opponent instead of a family member. A house divided against itself will not stand.
The next term “deceit,” focuses on words or actions that are not honest and truthful. These words or actions knowingly fall short of full truth because these words or actions have the ulterior motive of malice moving them forward. This deceit is ultimately part of a plot against someone.
The third term, “hypocrisy,” is also an inconsistency between an inward thought and an outward word or action. In other words, it is hypocritical to pretend these people are really for their brothers and sisters, when they are really working against them and sowing rivalry, discord, and dissension.
Jesus often accused the Pharisees of religious hypocrisy—they pretended they were devoted to God, but they actually were doing religious deeds for personal motives (personal honor and attention). How sad that this inconsistency or pretending would be at work in the Christian community. Love is supposed to be happening, and so others act loving toward them, even while doing deceptive things to undermine them.
The fourth term, “envy,” also is a prominent sin that features an attitude that is against someone else. It is a term of rivalry. You see a person like this as an opponent or adversary, and so you weep when they succeed and cheer when they fail.
The fifth term, “slander,” is often the overflow of malice. It is the attempt to tear someone else down—a verbal assault on someone else’s character in untrue and unfair ways.
These sins are community killers. Think about some of the ways that these sins can kill community. Deceit can be conducted in one’s presence—one speaks in kind terms to someone’s face, but because of envy and malice within, this hypocrisy will come out when the deceiver criticizes that person or complains about that people when they are absent and not there to defend themselves. In Christian communities, this deceit can be cloaked as “concern” or even a “prayer request.” (See Peter David’s commentary, p. 81.)
So believers must put away or lay aside the things that kill community. But it is never enough to put away something without taking something else in. The only surefire way to get rid of deceit (adolon) is to drink in something pure—the unadulterated (dolon) word of God.
2) Long for the Pure Milk (1 Peter 2:2)
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk
This verse has the main point—“long for the pure spiritual milk.” The main verb is a command (imperative): “long for” or “crave,” or “desire strongly.” We should not be surprised that God can command a desire. This may strike you as strange. You think, I cannot just “long for something”—I cannot just turn on and turn off my longings like a light switch.
But consider the first part of the verse: “Like newborn infants.” Peter is returning to the indicative truth of what God has already done. He has caused them to be born again. Now he uses imagery drawn from birth. Newborn babies long for their mother’s milk. They demand it, cry out for it, and will not settle for anything less. In the same way, born-again believers are begotten by God (indeed begotten by the very seed of God’s word). Born again believers will long for the milk of the word.
Peter calls the word “spiritual” milk so that the metaphor will become clear—he is not talking about literal milk. But it is also called “pure.” This is exactly the opposite word that shows up in verse 1. Peter calls us to put off forms of “deceit” (dolon), and he calls us to drink deeply of the “pure” (adolon) Word. God’s word is truth unmixed with error or deceit or impurity.
The word of God is pure food from our Father—his word is absolutely essential for our holiness. Jesus prayed this very same way: “Sanctify them in your truth— your word is truth” (John 17:17). If we are truly going to love one another in ways that accord with the holiness of our God, then we need to do two things: (1) put away the things that poison love and (2) drink deeply of what will cause love to flourish.
Notice also that the specific focus of this word is the gospel. Peter said that “this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25). Do we hunger for the gospel of Jesus this way? The word of God is not just an invitation to learn propositions but to know a Person.
3) So You Will Grow Up (1 Peter 2:2)
That by it you may grow up into salvation.
Peter continues the imagery and metaphor of new birth. Newborn infants who drink milk will grow. It would be the most unnatural thing in the world for a baby to never grow up. As they eat and drink, their bodies grow. In the same way, Christians should grow and mature as they drink deeply of God’s word.
Main Point: Born again believers must long for the pure milk of the Word in order to grow up into salvation (become what they are).
God’s word should shape the way you think and feel and talk and act. Your actions and words become biblically saturated. This was the highest compliment that Spurgeon could give the Puritan John Bunyan, “his blood flowed bib-line.” If we are poked anywhere, we will bleed Bible because it is the single most decisive influence in our lives. But why should the Bible fill us and saturate us? Is it because we are just so disciplined? Peter gives the answer: The new birth consists of new taste buds that find the word of the Lord to be irresistible and delicious.
4) If You Have Tasted the Goodness (1 Peter 2:3)
“… If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
The logic here is important. It is a conditional sentence using “if” that assumes the answer is, “Yes, they have.” Peter uses the word if not in order to sow seeds of doubt in their minds, but he also does not say, “You all have tasted that the Lord is good.” He uses “if” so that his readers will be forced to consider whether or not they have tasted the Lord’s kindness and goodness. If they have tasted the Lord’s goodness, then they will certainly long for more.
This verse is an allusion to Psalm 34:8.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Peter did not just haphazardly quote this psalm out of context. In fact, he quotes Psalm 34:13–16 later in the letter (1 Peter 3:10–12). The entire Psalm profoundly applies to Peter’s readers. The theme of the Psalm is that the righteous can be confident that God will deliver them even when they are afflicted and suffering. They are to set their hope in God (Psalm 33:9, 23; 1 Peter 1:13) and are to fear the Lord (Psalm 33:10, 12; 1 Peter 1:17). In fact, there is a powerful connection in the Greek version of Psalm 34:4 to the context and setting of 1 Peter.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears [Septuagint, “all my sojournings”].
Remember the superscription of the Psalm:
Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
David is a sojourner away from the Promised Land and having to turn to the Lord during this time of sojourn.
But even in hostile settings that will cause fears to rise, the sweetness and goodness of the Lord is food for the soul. The word for goodness is a word used for God’s very nature—the Lord is good. It follows that his word partakes of his very character or nature. It is good.
Our growth does not come from some raw act of disinterested devotion, but through delight. Our born-again taste buds long for the Word because it is delicious to us—it is a delight. Just like a baby cries for his or her mother’s milk, so someone born of God cries for the word of God and will not be satisfied with anything else.
Those who pursue more of the beauty, kindness, and goodness of the Lord are those who have already tasted those things and so delight in them that they are hungry for more.
I read a quote from a commentator that I found striking this week: “Peter is explaining in this letter how social alienation that the Christian experiences from society is to be remedied by the genuine fellowship found within the community of believers” (Jobes, 1 Peter). In other words, when Christians feel that the world is against them because they are exiles on earth, they should find refreshing fellowship with other citizens of heaven. How devilish then, to have citizens of heaven so join in allegiance to earthly political systems that they experience alienation not from the world, but from each other.
When Peter also says that the Christian community as citizens of heaven will not flourish as a fellowship of believers who are exiles on this earth unless they are all eating and drinking and growing from the same source: the pure milk of the Word. In other words, the fellowship of believers has to be a biblical fellowship. It cannot be conformed to the patterns of this world, but it must be transformed by the renewing of our minds biblically. Therefore, we must not allow the world’s categories to define the lines of our fellowship. We must beware of drawing the lines politically or ideologically. The lines must be drawn up biblically.
So here is my fear. We are in constant danger of growing in conformity to the patterns of this world if we drink a worldly formula rather than pure biblical milk. In our current climate, Christians often drink something that seems like milk, but it is formula from a worldly can, not the Divine Book. We often have people formed by political formulas rather than biblical milk (it is true whether the formula is Fox News or CNN).
Think about some of the formula that Christians are being fed.
Critical race theory is secular system of thought that divides people according to categories of power. It teaches that there are hierarchies of power—white men, white women, black men, black women—and black transgender women may be the most oppressed because they experience multiple levels of oppression.
I have seen people use Critical Race Theory for its descriptive categories and for cultural analysis, but its assumptions and solutions are often unbiblical. Take one of its central definitions of racism—prejudice plus power equals racism. They say that black people cannot be racist. But this is a false, unbiblical category. Prejudice or partiality is first a matter of the heart (James 2), and it is something that all sinners can commit. When it comes to categories of power, it is true that racism in the hands of white people in this country caused catastrophic destruction and oppression for 400 years, but we must also reckon with modern power categories. Imagine an African-American accusing a white man of being a racist. It could so destroy his reputation that he gets fired. That is power. The claim could be true or false—so the firing could be just or unjust—but the fact that power is at work is undeniable.
Blacks Lives Matter as a phrase is totally a biblical truth that says people made in the image of God have value and worth. The sentence as part of an organization “Black Lives Matter” is laced with all kinds of secular agenda and unbiblical assumptions that go against Scriptural truth. If you read their documents and their platform, they really do want to deconstruct what we could call biblical morality and the biblical framework of the Christian home. That is why some African-American pastors are having a hard time preaching the gospel, because some organizations see preaching the gospel as judgmental against LGBTQ policies and politics.
We are citizens of heaven and therefore exiles on earth. We are also political exiles, and only political exiles can speak prophetically to both political parties to hold them to account to Jesus who rules over all of them—he puts his finger on everything and says “mine.”
If someone hesitates to call a political party to account for unbiblical positions, then we are putting politics above the Bible. For example, there is a reticence to call the current president to account for divisive, hurtful rhetoric. Make America Great Again is a slogan that can be so offensive and damaging. Or when he talks about other countries in reprehensible terminology. Some people do not want to say anything critical of the president, or they may be labeled a democrat. That is putting an allegiance to a person and a political party above God and the word of God. If someone is reticent to oppose abortion, they may worry about being labeled a Republican—then you have put a person, a party, and a platform above God and his word. You can engage in politics without trusting in politics. The kingdom of God does not arrive on Air Force One.
In fact, the Bible is able to address America’s complicated history. If we ever want to act like it was all good or all bad, we are buying into secular agendas. The Bible does not do this. Some Psalms can tell the positive side of Israel’s history (God’s intervention and the good that he did, like Psalm 136). But other psalms can tell the chilling story of Israel’s disobedience and rebellion (e.g., Psalm 78). Both are true. The same holds true of America. If political agendas force you into extreme polarization, you are not being honest like the Bible is (hold fast to what is good; abhor what is evil).
We must beware formula that masquerades as a substitute for biblical truth by co-opting biblical words and telling us that they are bad through the proliferation of misleading labels. What labels do I have in mind?
When we lob labels at each other like “Social justice warrior,” or “woke,” or “white supremacist,” or “cultural Marxist,” I find that these do not lead to further clarity and conversation. All they do is throw another log on the fire of conflict and confusion and opposition.
My experience with these terms is that they often lack definition or nuance, and they tend to be applied hastily in a rush to label people and put them into opposing camps. But true blood-bought children of God ought to oppose campiness and divisiveness. There ought not to be campiness in the kingdom of God. We use labels that divide us and train our taste away from biblical words and concepts.
Some want to say “just preach the gospel” and do not address “justice” issues. I find that this discussion is almost inevitably political.
The gospel addresses all justice issues: racism, abortion, sex-trafficking, religious liberty. Racism is not a liberal issue; it is a biblical issue. Abortion is not a conservative issue; it is a biblical issue. Sex-trafficking is not a liberal issue, it is a biblical issue. Religious liberty is not a conservative issue; it is a biblical issue.
The very attempt to decry calls for justice are confusing, because justice is an attribute of God—part of his very character. And righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). Entire sections of the Psalms call upon the Lord for justice for the widow, the sojourner, the orphan, and the poor (Psalm 94:1–7). We are called to plead the cause of the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17) and live a life for justice (Isaiah 58).
I have been reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell entitled Talking to Strangers. He talks about a certain test that people can take in which you have to fill in the blanks and come up with certain words. You can have gl_ _. Some people put “glad,” while others put “glum.” Or, tou _ _. Some people put “touch,” while others say “tough.” He said that he was surprised by the words he chose. One of them was glum. He said that is not an accurate reflection of me; everyone knows me as an upbeat person. He did the same thing with other words he chose. Many other people that took the test said the same thing about their answers. A simple exercise like that cannot limit people. We are more sophisticated and nuanced than the exercise. And yet, when people saw the words that other people chose, they immediately jumped to conclusions about what type of people they are. This person must be an athlete—look they chose, “goal” and “winner.”
The startling truth is that it is easy to see ourselves as sophisticated and nuanced, while we can look at others as predictable and simplistic. We jump to conclusions all the time. If you say this phrase, then you must be the type of person who thinks this and this and this. If you voted for Trump, then you must be the type of person who does this and thinks this. We are all guilty of it. And it is a serious thing to be quick to divide the body of Christ by making rash assumptions about our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The world’s system will always feature false saviors. But secular systems cannot save because there is only One who can save. Jesus was the only person to ever be completely true all of the time. He never was duplicitous. He never operated with malice or deceit. He never had envy. His heart was completely given over to the will of his Father. He is the very word of God incarnate.
Jesus was not only perfectly free in his own life from these sins, but he was constantly attacked and assaulted with them. He was slandered as a son of the devil. He was maligned and rejected. His own family thought he was crazy; the religious leaders thought he had a demon. Jesus was delivered over to Pilate because of envy (Mark 15:10). He was reviled and slandered (1 Peter 2:22–23). But no deceit was found in his mouth. He did not revile in return. He bore our sins in his body on the cross so we that would die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). His wounds were for our healing (1 Peter 2:24).
A few years back, our former Pastor for Youth, Pastor Kempton Turner, had a great illustration: Imagine if we put a fish in the middle of the room. We all know what a fish without water is like. As the fish is flopping around, what if we gave it a new iPhone or an Instagram account? What if we gave it a lot of money? All of these things would not come close to meeting its real need. In the same way, there is a lot of good that we can do for people through political policies and practical help, but it will not meet the main need: our eternal need to be saved from the wrath of God through the Son of God taking our sin on the cross.
Main Point: Born again believers must long for the pure milk of the word in order to grow up into salvation—they become what they are.
Pray for a grace from the Lord to drink deeply of his word because you have tasted his goodness and want more and more.