COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"2:1Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."KJV (1 Pet 2:1-3)
The Apostolic writings are set within the context of spiritual warfare. The Holy Spirit moved holy men to write to those engaged in a profound spiritual battle, whether the recipients were aware of it or not. If Eve had to contend with the devil while she was in a state of moral perfection, and in the undefiled Garden of Eden, you may be sure we will not be excluded from confronting him. If our ancient parents were not insulated against Satan's influence, what would lead any thinking person to assume we are. The "holy Scriptures" assume the presence of two competing influences, and the necessity of yielding to one while rejecting the other. From the standpoint of their nature, the influences are good and evil. Viewed from the perspective of their origin, they are the Holy Spirit and our adversary the devil. No word from God to men in this world fails to take this circumstance into consideration. For example, sin is never addressed as though there was no righteousness. And, righteousness is never spoken of as though there was no contention with sin. These are seen with refreshing clarity in the text set before us.
RID YOURSELVES OF THESE THINGS
" Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings."KJV Even though we have been born again, as powerfully stated in the first chapter (1:3,23), we still must contend with the remnants of our fallen nature. This is a point heavily debated in the religious world. Men tend to adopt extreme positions on this matter, thereby oversimplifying our condition. Some assume that once we are in Christ, we have nothing to fear from sin. Such assume we are safely locked into salvation, with no danger of ever departing from it. Others, supposing the whole situation is hopeless, see no reason to extend themselves to avoid sin. They imagine we must sin, and can in no way avoid involvements in it. Both views are distorted, and neither have their origin in the Word of God. Further, they both encourage men to minimize sin.
The situation of those who are born again is much like that of Israel coming into Canaan. The land belonged to them by Divine appointment. Yet, when they arrived, people were found in the land that were hostile to the Israelites. These enemies were not willing to let Israel have the land, and thus fought against them. Of this situation the Lord said, "And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it . . . But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell" (Num 33:53-55).
The Spirit mentions five unacceptable expressions that are to be discarded. (1) Malice. This is the desire to hurt or harm someone, and proceeds from spiritual malignancy. It involves an "I'll get you back" attitude, where self interests are sought above those of God. Synonyms for "malice" include ill-will, wickedness, dislike, hatefulness, and depravity. (2) Guile. This is deceitfulness, trickery, craft, and subtlety. Misrepresentation and fraud are part of guile. (3) Hypocrisies. This is pretension, acting contrary to one's real character. In Scripture, hypocrisy involves keeping wickedness within while pretending to be righteous on the outside. (4) Envies. This is fleshly jealousy that covets what another has, and is discontent with what God has given. This causes dissatisfaction over the good fortune of another, wanting all of the glory for self. (5) Evil speakings. This is backbiting, or defaming the character of another. It is causing reproach, or encouraging one person to despise another one. It is an evil report, slander, and disparagement.
No child of God is exempt from these dreadful traits. They are a part of the "old man," that is to be "put off" (Eph 4:22; Col 3:8-9). These are inherent to "the flesh," the part of us that came from Adam. They cannot be cultured away, or put off by religious discipline. Further, the exhortation to put them off does not imply they were having free expression in the believers. This is not a rebuke, but an exhortation. The picture is of hostile forces trying to gain the upper hand. We put them off by rejecting their advancement, and refusing to allow them to penetrate our hearts. When these transgressions are committed, they are to be confessed and abandoned (1 John 1:9). They are put off when, like a spiritual leech, they attempt to fasten themselves upon our hearts and minds. It is when we are tempted with them that we are to put them off-all of them.
The list presented is not as thorough as that of Galatians 5:19-21. But it is enough to confirm to our hearts the tremendous aggregation of uncleanness that proceeds from the flesh. Lest we be lulled to sleep by the world's philosophy, we are to consider that "no good thing" dwells in our "flesh"-the natural part of us (Rom 7:18). In salvation, no part of the "natural man" is salvaged. We are given a new nature-a new basic part. It is completely incompatible with the old nature, with which we struggle while we remain in the body. It is only to the degree that we "put off all these," that the advantages of salvation are experienced. Just as Israel could not occupy portions of the land still dominated by the enemy, so the segment of our persons still ruled by the flesh cannot be controlled by the Spirit. Putting off these things is not accomplished casually, or with minimal effort. But wherever a hearty attempt of faith is expended, God will make sure it is accomplished.
CONDUCTING OURSELVES AS NEWBORN BABES
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."KJV The manner of spiritual life is declared in this admonition. In nature, newborn life deteriorates, finally concluding in death. But this is not the case with spiritual life. The "newness of life" does not wane, but actually increases. This is the meaning of being changed "from glory unto glory" (2 Cor 3:18), going from "strength to strength" (Psa 84:7), and being "renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created" us (Col 3:10). We are not only saved by the "washing of regeneration," but the "renewing of the Holy Spirit" as well (Tit 3:5). Where spiritual sensitivity and commitment are lacking, it is not because ones life in Christ is waning or diminishing. It is because it is leaving, unable to reside where faith is not maintained. Spiritual life without spiritual food is impossible.
The term "as newborn babes" does not suggest a return to infantile spiritual life. God forbid the entertainment of such an absurdity. Rather, it speaks of a trait acquired when we were born again-an insatiable appetite for the Word of God. When a person in Christ for some time is dominated by the same type of appetite obtained when they first came into Christ, it will be stronger, more sustained, and more productive. Just as surely as an adult with an aggressive appetite consumes larger portions of food than a newborn infant, so the mature in Christ ingest larger portions of truth than at the beginning. Suffice it to say, this type of appetite is exceedingly rare. But such a condition ought not to be. It is wrong!
The word "desire," as you might expect, is by no means casual or relaxed. It means yearn for, greatly desire, intensely crave, and long after. It is the same desire as expressed by our Lord in the words "hunger and thirst" (Matt 5:6). This is a desire that refuses to be ignored, and does not go away. It demands satisfaction, and like a squalling hungry baby, refuses to be put off with miserable substitutes. It is the type of desire expressed in the 119th Psalm: "Behold, I have longed after thy precepts" (v 40).
And what is it that we are to desire with the aggressiveness of a "newborn babe?" It is the "sincere milk of the Word." Other versions read "the pure milk of the Word"NKJV, and "pure spiritual milk."NIV,RSV The idea is that of undiluted milk-not watered down. This is NOT about spiritual rudiments, as though some parts of the Word were "milk," and others were "meat"-a misconception altogether too common in the churches. The Word is itself the "milk," not some portion of it. When the Scriptures speak of "milk" and "meat," they are not referring to the Scriptures themselves, or to doctrines contained in them. In both instances where this language is used (1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12), the point is not the use of certain portions of Scripture. Rather, "milk" has to do with conduct, while "meat" has to do with understanding and perceiving the implications of the Word-i.e., being able to reason upon the basis of what the Word affirms (Heb 5:13-14).
It is remarkable how few professed believers are able to reason upon the Scriptures. They have been fed a diet of diluted milk. What they know of the Word has been mixed with human opinion and religious tradition, thereby neutralizing the effectiveness of Scripture. I cannot overemphasize the importance of anchoring our thinking to a "thus saith the Lord." If God does not say it like men say it, it is simply not to be said.
The reason for craving the pure Word of God is that this is the Divinely appointed means of sustaining spiritual life: "that ye may grow thereby." Moses said it, and Jesus confirmed it: "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Deut 8:3; Lk 4:4). Those who are fundamentally ignorant of God's Word, and lack a hearty appetite for it, are almost dead, if not dead altogether. There is no such thing as spiritual life without a hearty appetite for God's Word that refuses to be denied.
We begin our life in Christ with this type of appetite, but it must be sustained by our faith. A religion that allows for the neglect of, and a lack of acquaintance with, the good Word of God, is the enemy of the soul. It is the offspring of hell, and is nurtured by doctrines of demons. There is no way to state the case too strongly.
IF YOU REALLY HAVE TASTED
"If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."KJV It is the manner of the Spirit to make us responsible for examining ourselves, to see whether we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). There is no suggestion that the readers have NOT tasted that the Lord is gracious. Rather, the people are called into active involvement with the Lord, for there is where true benefit is realized (1 Cor 1:9). The Lord will not allow us to assume all of the points upon which our salvation depends. Our condition must be confirmed by our faith.
The word "taste" is a strong and central word in Scripture. It does not mean to merely sample, but to experience or partake of the reality "tasted." Such tasting is actually an aspect of spiritual knowledge, whereby familiarity and acquaintance with the Lord are realized. It includes the idea of perception, enjoyment, and certainty-knowing the Lord. Just as Jonathan's eyes were "enlightened" when he tasted the wilderness honey (1 Sam 14:27), so we are refreshed and renewed when we taste that the Lord is gracious.
Down through the ages, the clarion call has been sounded: "O taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psa 34:8). See if He is not everything He is declared to be! "Put Me to the test," God cried to Israel (Mal 3:10). Now that a redemption price has been satisfactorily paid, the only way to "taste" or experience the Lord is through Jesus Christ. There is no experience of God apart from Him.
But note the particular subject of taste: "the Lord is gracious." The familiarity with God produced by fellowship with Christ yields a prevailing conviction that God is gracious! That is what make His words "sweeter than honey" to our mouths (Psa 119:103). "Gracious" is also an exceedingly large word. Included in it are excellence, easy, pleasant, superior, and suitable.Strongs This means great satisfaction is realized in the experience of Divine blessing and fellowship. We "never thirst" again (John 4:14), looking elsewhere for gratification. It also means His demands upon us do not chaff against our souls, or weaken us in the way. Thus Jesus said, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt 11:30). None of the Lord's dealings with His children are inconsiderate. No requirement given by Him puts us at a disadvantage. There is nothing about Divine affiliation that is unpleasant, creating reluctance and making life tedious. He is "gracious."
Admittedly, there are imaginations extant among professed believers that do not present the Lord in this way. For this reason, men do not give themselves fully to the pursuit of knowing Him (Phil 3:7-14). Regardless of their profession, they are not convinced such aggressiveness is worth the effort, and therefore they do not throw themselves into it. That is the reason why religious men are casual, disinterested, and uninvolved. They have not "tasted that the Lord is gracious." That is why they are so easily diverted from spiritual pursuits. It is why sin has such a grip upon them.
No person will be able to put off the vices of the flesh or desire the pure milk of the Word until they have "tasted that the Lord is gracious." If anyone finds it too difficult to deny worldly lusts, or pursue spiritual life, then they must eat the bread of life again! Let them run to the fountain of the water of life and drink again! Let them come to Jesus again, and take His yoke upon them. They will soon find themselves able to do what our text requires. Their taste of the Lord, and their perception of His graciousness, will impart "health" to their spiritual body and "nourishment" to their spiritual bones (Prov 3:8). And, if they have, indeed, "tasted that the Lord is gracious," let them maintain the sweetness of Divine affiliation in their hearts. Let them nourish a hearty appetite for the Word of the Lord, feeding upon its rich morsels, and delighting themselves in Him. Thus will their Lord grant them the desires of their heart (Psa 37:4).