God’s Word for You
1 Peter 2:1-3 pure spiritual milk
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 7, 2022
Crave Pure Spiritual Milk
2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
Midway through chapter 1, Peter began to urge his readers and us to live a life of self-control, not conforming to evil desires. He quoted Moses (who was quoting God): “Be holy.” This led to a reminder of the imperishable, enduring word of God. Now he describes the two-pronged life of a Christian once again: We put our faith in God and we love our neighbor. The order is reversed in these verses, but the message is the same.
Peter describes an important part of the believer’s life. Just as most of us would frantically clean the house before a guest arrives, so also the Christian wants to clean up his life in anticipation of Judgment Day and in anticipation of interacting with anyone in the world, friend or stranger, spouse or enemy.
Peter lists five sins in particular, four of which are also listed by Jesus as coming from within to make a man unclean (Mark 7:20-21). Paul has similar lists (Romans 1:29-31; Ephesians 4:21; Colossians 3:8-9 and Titus 3:3).
Malice is a hatred, often a baseless hatred, that can be planned or concealed by deception (Proverbs 26:26) but which is a hostility or ill-will that eventually will turn up in the words and actions (Psalm 50:19). It is the sin of the bully who yearns for the death of the weak or innocent (Psalm 41:5), a hideous ugliness in the heart.
Deceit or treachery is simply lying, but with the goal of destruction and murder (Psalm 52:2). Sometimes the phrase “no deceit” is a parallel expression to “no sin” (John 1:47; 1 Peter 2:22; Isaiah 53:9 ), just as practicing deceit is parallel to sinning (Psalm 101:7; Job 15:35, 27:4). Deceit is the sin of a coward who covets and imagines himself to be more worthy than others.
Hypocrisy is itself a Greek word, a holdover from the Greek theater, meaning “one who hides behind a mask” (that is, the way Greek actors used hand held masks when performing). It is someone who pretends to be one thing while in fact being someone entirely different. Hypocrites are often unaware of their sin because they have deceived themselves into thinking that everyone acts in such a way.
Envy or jealousy is sin that can lie shallow or deep in the heart. It is a desire for someone, for something, or even for position or ability. Paul knew that “some preach Christ out of envy” (Philippians 1:15), that is, envy for the fame he had and the following of disciples. There was also envy for his power, the way that Simon Bar-Jesus craved the power of his Apostles (Acts 8:18-19). There is good advice about envy in the Apocrypha: “Do not envy the honor of a sinner” (Sirach 9:11), and a true warning: “Through the devil’s envy, death entered the world” (Wisdom of Solomon, 2:24). Envy is like a spider that weaves a sinful web, a web that can only be burned away with repentance.
Slander is an Eighth Commandment sin related to gossip; in Peter’s time there was no legal distinction between slander and libel (written vs. spoken) as there is today. The warning is simple: “Keep your tongue from slander.” It is evil speech or defamation, as we see in the confession during the bronze serpent incident: “We sinned when we spoke against (slandered) the Lord and you” (Numbers 21:7; also Psalm 78:19; Hosea 7:13). Do not slander God, and do not slander God’s precious creatures or creation.
Were these things special temptations for the Galatians and the other Christians of Asia Minor? Hopefully we can make the jump from Peter’s time to our own. If we want to begin to get along with one another and make it our ambition to live a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11), we begin with honoring God’s name above all others, and then honoring one another, especially in the things we say. But this also involves our attitudes about one another. The way we think will come out in the way we talk, so ask God to help you change your mind about others.
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Peter is quoting Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” No matter how mature a Christian is, it is a mistake to think that one no longer needs to hear and review the basic teachings of the Bible. No one is able to truly master the Commandments, the Creed, or the Lord’s Prayer in a lifetime. A child can learn the words quickly, but the meaning, the application, and the ramifications of these simple statements are like the leaves on the twigs of boughs of branches of mighty trees in a deep forest. How can one ever explore them all?
On the edge of my bed at night, I find myself hovering over a petition, a commandment, or an article of faith as I recite them. Just lately I find myself pondering the comfort of the way the Creed comes to its end with its final three statements: “The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” What is more basic to our faith than those three? This is pure spiritual milk that makes us strong in our faith and builds us up in faith and godly wisdom.
When we teach our children, we begin with Bible stories, certain passages, and the Catechism. These things help them to participate in worship and to know the will of God and the love of Christ. Later on we can teach other things, more solid food laid on that good foundation, for “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
This is also why we want to rid ourselves of malice, deceit, and the other things Peter began this chapter with, so that we can ponder the wonders of God with a pure, clean and repentant heart, not striving in a useless or meaningless way (Ecclesiastes 2:22), but striving to put the word of God into action in our lives and trusting in his gracious promise: “I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:38-39). Return often to the basic teachings of God’s Holy Word. Review your Catechism. Practice reciting the Commandments and the explanations to the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Making this your regular habit will strengthen your faith and help you when doctrines come along that are not taught in a single verse, but require a faith that can bring many passages together, such as Christ’s descent into hell, the doctrine of election, the ministry of the church, fellowship in the church, the roles of men and women, and so on. As you seek to understand all of these things, crave pure spiritual milk, and you will be ready for more solid food.
Pastor Timothy Smith