1 Peter 2:1-3, “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
The conjunction, “so” in today’s passage is a big deal. It is such a big deal that if you miss it, you miss the entire logic and strategy behind the Apostle Peter’s letter to the exiles he’s writing to. Peter has just spent a whole chapter reminding these suffering Christians of a few things.
He’s reminded them:
- Salvation is the sovereign work of our Triune God (1 Peter 1:2-3).
- Salvation is imperishable (1 Peter 1:4-5).
- Salvation makes grief temporary (1 Peter 1:6).
- Salvation makes suffering purposeful (1 Peter 1:7).
- Salvation is historic. In other words, believers are in the company of the Prophets of the Old Testament (1 Peter 1:10-12).
- Salvation makes it possible to presently hope (1 Peter 1:13).
- Salvation makes it possible to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-15).
- Salvation makes one grateful for the gift more precious than silver or gold (1 Peter 1:18-21).
The conjunction, “so” has behind it all the weight of the first chapter. And in our passage today, Peter tells these suffering believers that repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.
In other words, to express faith in Christ one must also “put away” sinful desires. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander are expressions of sinful desires that are not characteristic of believers.
This begs the question, “How do we know when a desire is sinful?”
We know a desire is sinful when we:
(a) desire that which God forbids
(b) desire a good thing too much
I am going to guess these believers Peter challenged fall into the category of desiring a good thing too much. . These believers were dispersed and being persecuted for their faith. It is very possible that in the midst of the persecution they began to respond sinfully because they wanted to go home. Maybe these believers desired the persecution to be over, the suffering to come to an end.
These aren’t wrong desires in and of themselves. But somewhere along the way, they began to desire home, an end to persecution, and an end to suffering too much. They began to desire it more than they desired the God who created them and provided salvation for them in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This I believe is what caused the sinful expressions of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. When we desire good things too much, we sin to get them, and we sin when we don’t get them.
James warns us of this in James 4:1-3 when he states, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
James is concerned about what is causing fights and quarrels. Sinful desires cause these external sins, and as Peter reminds us, they must be “put away.”
Now, what is Peter’s remedy to put away sinful desire and behavior? It is too long for the “pure spiritual milk” so that believers may “grow up into salvation.” Peter is saying, “take in the testimony of the Apostles. Renew your minds by God’s Word. Be sanctified! Be transformed!”
Interestingly enough, the Greek word for milk (gala) indicates that Peter isn’t commending Bible scholarship to these believers. He is telling them to get back to the pure and simple message of the gospel, not because it is shallow, but because it is rich, accessible, and will conform you more into the image of Jesus.
Believer, feast on Christ.
Joey Tomlinson (DMin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, and pastor at a local church in Newport News, Virginia. He blogs regularly on broadoakpiety.org and hosts a weekly podcast called The Broad Oak Piety Podcast with another local pastor in the community.