By Christopher VanDusen
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have been spiritually born into God’s family by learning the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, so they now have new hearts, desires, and affections. But they still have sinful tendencies, due to living in evil bodies that are bent toward evil. Therefore, they simply can’t remain as they are. Although they’re new people, they’re only new in a limited sense, and have room for improvement and growth. So, how do they grow, and become more like the One who gave them new, spiritual, life? The apostle Peter answers this question in 1 Peter 2:1-3.
1 Peter is a letter that Peter wrote to Jewish Christians who were suffering from increasing persecution. Because he knew of this persecution, and that these believers still needed further instruction and teaching on how to live the Christian life, he wrote 1 Peter to encourage them and help them to think and live righteously. In chapter 1, he introduces himself as an apostle, or “sent one”, of Jesus Christ, and his audience as God’s chosen exiles, or aliens, who have been removed from their homeland of Israel, and placed by God among unbelieving Gentiles. Then, he describes the wonderful blessings of the salvation that God has given them. God has saved them, is saving them, and will completely save them from their sins, and from this world, when the Lord comes back to give them new, sinless, and perfect, bodies. In the meantime, Peter says, it’s necessary that they suffer various trials, so that God can prove that their faith in Christ is genuine, and receive more glory when they come to the end of their lives with their faith and faithfulness even stronger than when they began. Next, he remarks that the salvation they have was long anticipated by the Old Testament prophets, so they should rejoice even more in it. After all this teaching, he commands them to live in light of their salvation by being hopeful, holy, and reverent toward God. Finally, he explains how and why they are to love one another to close the chapter. The last thing he says is that they’ve been “born again” through God’s Word, or the gospel, which is eternal, and living within them. Based on this fact, he writes this in the first three verses of chapter 2:
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (ESV)
In this passage, he calls them to do three things in order to become more like their heavenly Father, by becoming more like Christ:
- Lay Aside Malice and Wickedness (v. 1)
- Long for the Milk of the Word (v. 2)
- Look at the Master’s Wholesomeness (v. 3)
Lay Aside Malice and Wickedness
The first command Peter gives the “aliens” is this:
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
He begins this command with the word “so” or “therefore” to show that he’s basing this command on what he’s just said. What he’s just said is that the eternal and living Word of God that caused them to be born again is the same Word that was preached to them as good news. Because of these facts, they are now to get rid of sinful character traits and behavior in their lives.
How are they to get rid of these sins? By putting them “away”. The Greek word that’s translated “put away” could also be translated “lay aside”, as if someone’s taking off clothing. The first thing they’re to lay aside is “all malice”. The word “malice” means “evil intent” or “desire to harm another”. But Peter encompasses all forms of this desire by using the word “all”. That is, there’s to be no desire to harm one another at all, since he’s just commanded them to love one another. Second, they’re to lay aside “all deceit”. The Greek word translated “deceit” literally means “bait”, or that which is used to trick someone to do something. So, what Peter means by “deceit” is “falsehood” or “trickery”. Again, he says that all forms of falsehood must be put away. Third, he commands them to lay aside “hypocrisy”. The Greek word translated “hypocrisy” was used in ancient times to refer to actors who often wore masks in their plays. Other words that mean the same thing are “pretending” or “acting”. Fourth, the aliens are to lay aside “envy”. This refers to angry jealousy of others’ situations. Finally, Peter commands them to put away “all slander”. The word “slander” means speech that’s intended to ruin another’s reputation, usually by lying about him. And once again, Peter says that “all” forms of slander must be put away.
Long for the Milk of the Word
The second command that Peter gives the aliens in verse 2 of this passage is to long for the milk of the Word:
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation . . .”
He first tells them how they are to obey this command. He says that they’re to be “like newborn infants”. Then, he gives them the command itself, which the ESV translates as “long for the pure spiritual milk”. This is actually an inaccurate translation, since the Greek word translated “spiritual” is logikon. This is a form of the word logos, from which we get “logic”. So, logikon literally means “logical” or “wordy”, and is describing the type of “milk” that Peter’s talking about. The milk that the aliens are to “long for” like “newborn infants” is “logical”, or takes the form of the “Word”. Since Peter’s just been talking about the “Word”, or logos, of God, that’s what he’s referring to here. Further, he calls it the pure milk, in contrast to the impure behavior that he’s just told them to put away. Therefore, he’s commanding the aliens to crave “the pure milk of the Word” like newborn babies.
Next, he gives the purpose of obeying this command by saying it’s so they “may grow up into salvation”. Since Peter has often reminded them of God’s promise to completely and finally save them in chapter 1, now he’s telling them what they must do to obtain — not earn — that salvation. In order to be saved at the end of their lives, they must grow in their salvation now. The implication is that, as they long for God’s Word, learn it, and put it into practice, they’ll do the opposite of what he’s just told them to “put away”. Instead of having the desire to harm others, they’ll increasingly desire to benefit others. Instead of trying to deceive others, they’ll be more honest and sincere with others. Instead of pretending to be people they’re not, they’ll act as they truly are. Instead of being angrily jealous of others’ good situations, they’ll rejoice because of them. And instead of slandering others, they’ll promote and praise what’s good about others. In this way, they’ll “grow up into salvation”.
Look at the Master’s Wholesomeness
To conclude this passage, Peter calls the aliens to remember the wholesomeness of their Lord by giving them this reason to long for the milk of the Word:
“. . . if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
By using the word “if”, Peter’s not implying that the aliens haven’t “tasted that the Lord is good”, but he’s deliberately getting them to think about their experience of Him. If they remember that they have tasted that the Lord is good, then they’ll be motivated to long for the milk of the Word, since the “Word”, or “message”, of God is about Him.
But what does he mean by “good”? The Greek word translated “good” literally means “useful” or “beneficial”. Since it’s applied to “the Lord”, or Supreme Ruler — Jesus — it refers to His goodness, or kindness, toward them. Since they’ve “tasted”, or experienced that He is good, they ought to long — like newborn babies longing for milk — to learn more about Him by longing for God’s Word. By doing so, they’ll experience more of His goodness.
Hate Sin, Love the Word, and Grow Up
So, if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, how does this passage apply to you?
First, have you stopped desiring others’ harm?
Second, have you stopped trying to deceive others?
Third, have you stopped pretending to be someone you’re not?
Fourth, have you stopped envying others?
Fifth, have you stopped slandering others?
Sixth, do you long for the milk of God’s Word like a newborn infant, so you can grow up into your salvation?
Finally, haven’t you tasted that the Lord is good?
If you’re a malicious person, a deceitful person, a hypocritical person, an envious person, or a slanderous person, and you have no longing for God’s Word, since you haven’t tasted that the Lord is good, then you’re still an enemy of God, and rebelling against Him who will eventually judge you by what you’ve done. The good news is that he sent His eternal and divine Son to earth to become a man, Jesus, to live the perfect life, to suffer and die on a Roman cross to take the punishment we deserve from God, to rise from the dead, and to go into heaven as our King. He commands everyone to change their minds about Jesus and trust in Him as their Savior and King to receive His forgiveness, since He’s going to judge everyone perfectly through Jesus, and punish His enemies forever in a place of torment. Please make sure you’ve repented of your rebellion, and are trusting only in Jesus as your Savior from sin and God’s wrath, and your King to have God’s forgiveness, mercy, and peace. If you’ve done this, you need to be baptized by another believer as an appeal to God for a good conscience, and your profession of faith to the church.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the:
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.