Practical Salvation, Part 3a: Personal Growth – 1 Peter 2:1-3

Therefore, putting off every malice and all deceit and hypocrisies and envies and all slanders, as newborn babies, earnestly crave the rational undeceitful milk, so that by it you might grow resulting in salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.


Peter begins this section by once again setting the scene. What some English translations render as an imperative (“put away” – ESV; “rid yourselves” - NIV) is a participle (“putting aside” - NASB; “laying aside” – NKJV/LSB) that explains what must happen before Peter’s readers can obey the coming imperative in v. 2. As always, Peter is a careful shepherd that always explains the how before demanding the what. The emphasis of these three verses revolves around the need for Christian growth. As Peter demands that his readers mature in their faith, there are three things that every Christian must know in respect to their personal spiritual growth.


Growth is Connection to Love (v. 1)

Therefore, putting off every malice and all deceit and hypocrisies and envies and all slanders


Peter begins a new topic here, though not an entirely independent topic. The English “therefore” reflects the Greek οὖν, a conjunction that makes an inference from what has already been stated. Peter is about to address his readers with another imperative, but the coming command is linked with what comes before it.


The command to love the brethren (1:22-25) is an impossible command unless one first puts off all attitudes and actions that are inherently self-serving and malicious toward others. The aorist participle αποθέμενοι suggests a definitive and final action of casting off or removing all the things contained within the following list. As we examine this list the connection to the previous command to love becomes clearer.


Peter arranges this list of selfish and self-serving attitudes into three parts, each beginning with “all” or “every” (πᾶς). This list begins with a hostile attitude for all people, then Peter reveals the selfish mind behind this hostility, and concludes with the violent result of such a mindset. The first vice stands alone, for all the rest flow from it.


Put off Hostility – “Every malice” (πᾶσαν κακίαν) could be translated more generally as “every baseness” or “every evil.” The context however is more specific and turns the general term for wickedness/evil into an attitude of vindictiveness or malice.


Put off Selfishness The next grouping (deceit, hypocrisies, and envies) flow from this malevolent attitude. “Deceit” (δόλος) describes the “selfish, two-faced attitude that deceives and hurts others.”[1] This same term is used to describe the craft of catching a fish with a baited hook. All trickery must be put away. All schemes to manipulate people to bend to our will must be cast off. The next term flows in this same vein. “Hypocrisy” (ὑπόκρισις) we have already mentioned in our discussion of the sincere love or the unhypocritical love of the brethren (1:22). This vice hides behind a mask, never allowing one’s true colors or feelings to be seen. The hypocrite hides his intentions in the shadows while only allowing part of his face, the part that will convince you to do his bidding, to be visible. To this Peter adds envies (φθόνος), the desire for things belonging to others. The envious man cannot be happy for those who have prospered. Worse than this, he feels great displeasure when others obtain an advantage or receive a blessing.


Put off Violence – The final term, like the first, stands alone. “All slanders” (πάσας καταλαλιάς) describes any words spoken against another’s character or nature. “Character assassination” is closer to the idea. This is the speech that runs others down and deliberately attacks their person, usually behind their back. This is the first attitude that has now turned into action. All the other vices on this list might be contained to the heart, but here we see their fruit. If we are to love the brethren, we must therefore repent of all these things for the two cannot co-exist. Likewise, if we are to crave the pure milk of the word, we must first cast off these attitudes and actions like a filthy garment.


Growth is Commanded of all Believers (v. 2)


As is his custom, Peter buries the single imperative in this verse. His desire is to provide his readers with everything they need to fully comprehend his meaning before delivering the strong command. He begins with a picture that cannot be misunderstood. His desire is for his readers to crave the spiritual nourishment that they need. What better picture of pure craving than that of a nursing baby.


A Picture of Growth (v. 2a) – “as newborn babies, earnestly crave the rational undeceitful milk


It is vital that we refrain from inserting foreign ideas into this text. He does not refer to his readers as infants in the faith nor make any claims as to their spiritual adolescence. He does not write to new Christians, for many of these churches have been well established for three decades. His only intention is to command them to desire spiritual nourishment in the same manner that a baby craves physical nourishment.


The imperative comes here. Ἐπιποθήσατε describes a strong desire, a deep longing, or an intense craving for something. The same aorist tense that commanded these readers to hope (1:13), be holy (1:15), fear (1:17) and love (1:22) is used here as well. Peter’s reference to a newborn baby picks up his consistent reference to Christians as those who have been begotten by God (1:3, 23). A baby does not need to be commanded to crave milk. He is programed to live and thus his body calls out for life sustaining sustenance. Yet Peter does not have physical food in mind. He commands his readers to yearn for spiritual sustenance.


The translators are offered a cruel choice when they come across the phrase τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα. Peter is obviously urging his readers to crave for metaphorical milk (τὸ γάλα) as a baby cries out for physical milk. But how to translate the two adjectives that describe this milk in such a way as to grasp Peter’s intention while not leaving the English speaker in the dark? The trouble comes down to the adjective λογικὸν.


This adjective only appears one other time in the New Testament in Romans 12:1 where it is translated as “spiritual.” The adjective is based upon the noun λόγος (word) and was used in secular Greek to mean rational or logical (as that which is based upon words or rhetoric). The idea that Peter is making a connection back to the living word (λόγου ζῶντος) of 1:23 seems obvious. The problem is how to show that in English when we have no adjective that shares a common root with “word.” Do we sacrifice the meaning for the connection (crave the undeceitful milk of the word) or make the meaning clear without an obvious connection (crave the rational and undeceitful milk)? In the end, it is probably best to make sure the reader understands that Peter intended to point to God’s living and enduring Word as the source of spiritual nourishment.


This spiritual milk is also called undeceitful or pure. The term used here (ἄδολον) points directly to one of the vices (“deceit” – δόλον) from the previous verse. The word of God is rational in that it first invades the mind. But this invasion is truth entering a mind clouded with lies, light entering darkness, and life breathed into a corpse. The whole Word of God is without deception and without guile. The Scripture is no baited hook waiting for some unsuspecting sucker to take a bite. This is the source of nourishment that every Christian is hereby commanded to long for. There is no source of spiritual food other than God’s most holy Word. A baby deprived of milk will wither and die. A Christian without the Word of God will fair no better. This is made clear by the next phrase.


The Means of Growth (v. 2b) – “so that by it you might grow


The goal and purpose of milk is not the milk itself. A baby cries for milk so that he might live and grow. A Christian does not crave the Scriptures to fill his head but so that he might grow in the knowledge of and obedience to his God. Peter speaks to new converts and seasoned veterans alike. This is not an exhortation directed at immature novices, but a command that is immediately applicable to all Christians everywhere. It is necessary that we take in nourishment for the purpose of growing in Christlikeness and holiness. Because a lack of growth indicates something is terribly, terribly wrong.


The Results of Growth (v. 2c) – “resulting in salvation


There is only one small comment to make about this final phrase. We must remember that Peter has consistently used the term “salvation” (σωτηρία) in a wholistic and final sense (1:5, 9, 10). He is not suggesting that craving Scripture and growing in holiness earns our salvation. What he does say is that complete salvation at the end will be the result of our growth now. In other words, if there is no growth now, then there is no life now. If there is no life now, then there will be no life to come. The result of our growth is our final salvation upon Christ’s return to rule and reign. But that growth presupposes that we belong to Him. If there is no growth, how can we make that claim? Peter presses this point home in the form of a loving challenge to His readers.


Growth is a Challenge of Salvation (v. 3)

if you have tasted that the Lord is good


By beginning this line with “if” Peter is not expressing doubt but frames this statement in the form of a conditional clause. The Greek first-class condition assumes that the statement is true. We might insert an affirmation after the condition: “If you have tasted that the Lord is good [and you have].” But we would be doing Peter a disservice by meddling with the translation (“now that you have tasted…” – NIV). While Peter does not doubt that his readers have indeed tasted the goodness of the Lord, he frames this statement to force his audience to take a solemn and sober examination of themselves. Have they tasted the goodness of the Lord? What does this even mean?


Peter is quoting from Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that Yhwh is good! How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Peter seems to be quite fond of Psalm 34 as he will quote vv. 12-16 later in 3:10-12. In fact, it seems that the theme and flow of David’s psalm after feigning madness in Gath (1 Sam. 21:10-15) impacted Peter in no small way. When comparing the LXX (Greek translation of the Old Testament) of Psalm 34[2] to Peter’s epistle, we notice several striking similarities in the word choice of both Peter and David:[3]


· They both begin with exclamations of blessings (Ps. 34:1 “Εὐλογήσω”; 1 Peter 1:3 “Εὐλογητὸς”)

· Both are written from the perspective of sojourners (Ps. 34:4 “τῶν παροιλιῶν”; 1 Peter 1:17 “τῆς παροικίας”; 2:11 “παροίκους”)

· Both David and Peter emphasize the need to fear God (Ps. 34:9 “φοβήθητε τὸν κύριον”, 11 “φόβον κυρίου”; 1 Peter 1:17 “ἐν φόβῳ τὸν τῆς παροικίας ὑμῶν χρόνον ἀναστράφητε”


The similarities extend past word choice (which proves Peter’s intention) to include larger thematic similarities:[4]


· Calls for hope in God amid troubles (Ps. 34:8-10, 19-22; 1 Pet. 1:6-9)

· Assurance of God’s deliverance (Ps. 34:4-7; 1 Pet. 1:3-5)

· Calls for repentance and purity (Ps. 34:13-14; 1 Pet. 2:1)

· Confidence in deliverance contrasted by those who do not trust in God’s salvation (Ps. 34:15-16, 21; 1 Pet. 2:6-10)


While these connections are fascinating, we have not yet answered the question of Peter’s immediate intention. What does it mean to taste that the Lord is good? It is interesting that Peter chooses to use the analogy of tasting in reference to experiential knowledge of Yhwh’s goodness. He mingles his metaphor of a baby’s nourishment with David’s psalm to pose the rhetorical question: have you experienced Yhwh’s salvation? If you have personally experienced God’s goodness and grace (and you have), then it is imperative that you crave His nourishment. But first your appetite must become acquainted with holiness. Put off the bitterness and hatred that turns your stomach so that you can crave and long for the Scripture that will produce life, growth, and endurance.


Conclusion


What a sad commentary it is upon the church when those who claim to be God’s people seek nourishment from any and every source other than from God’s revealed word and will. It is easy to read these verses with pride in our hearts, for surely, we are not like the worldly “Christians” who crave the base and useless things of this age. But are we any better? Random quotations from dead men are put on T-shirts and coffee mugs as if they have the power to save and sanctify. Men can quote verbatim Luther’s famous testimony at Worms yet cannot recite more than a handful of verses from God’s holy writ. The melody of Christianized songs flow through our minds, yet the song book of God’s psalter is mostly unfamiliar to us. And we wonder why the church is malnourished and anemic.


A necessary distinction must be made. It has already been stated that this longing and craving for the Word of God does not end in an intellectual quest for knowledge. The goal of Bible study is not to be knowledgeable of the Bible, but to know the One whom the Bible reveals. To hunger and thirst after God’s Word is to hunger and thirst after God Himself. He is the goal of Bible study. God is the purpose of our voluminous consumption of His Word. We sit under the preaching of His Word, read the Scriptures, and study our Bible because we are in hot pursuit of Him.


How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart” – Ps. 119:2.


May it ever and always be for His people to seek Him.


Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1984), p. 121-2. [2] The LXX does not reflect the chapter and verse numbers of our English translations throughout the Psalms. What we refer to as Ps. 34 is found in Ps. 33 of the LXX. Verse numbers also vary due to the superscription counted as 33:1. To illustrate, when we say that Peter is quoting from Ps. 34:8, this same verse will be found as Ps. 33:9 in the LXX. To avoid any confusion, we will utilize the English chapter and verse numbers at this juncture. [3] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 101-2. [4] Ibid, p. 102.