The following is an excerpt from session 3, “Building Our Faith,” in the Fall 2016 issue of Explore the Bible: Adults. Explore the Bible is a book-by-book group Bible study that encourages participants to let the Word dwell in them and challenges them to live it out in their own context. Preview one month free at lifeway.com/explorethebible.
SPIRITUAL MILK (1 PET. 2:1-3)
1 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Peter was more concerned with helping believers endure their trials than with explaining their trials. Therefore, he first encouraged the persecuted Christians to rid themselves of attitudes and actions unbecoming of believers.
First, they were to rid themselves of all malice. Peter had previously encouraged the Christians to be known by their sincere love (1:22), and this could not happen if they held malice in their hearts. Malice is an attitude that resembles hatred and desires to reach out to inflict pain on others. The Christians could have easily developed this attitude toward those who were persecuting them, but maturity demanded a stronger response to their suffering.
Second, Christians were to avoid deceit. This refers to deliberate dishonesty. Christians who took a stand for Christ were persecuted, and the temptation probably was strong for them to deceive those who were persecuting them. Hypocrisy also threatened the Christian community. Originally the word hypocrisy referred to an actor who played a part but concealed his real identity. In that day actors would often wear a mask, concealing their true identities. Peter did not want Christians cowering under the threat of persecution. He wanted people who would live honestly and openly for Christ.
Peter also encouraged them to avoid envy and slander. Perhaps the Christians were tempted to be envious of the power exhibited by their persecutors. Slander is cutting down others in speech. Perhaps the believers slandered those who persecuted them.
How do the attitudes and actions listed by Peter get in the way of spiritual growth?
Some people may think Peter’s reference to newborn infants indicates the Christians in Asia Minor were immature Christians. This is not necessarily the case. The point of Peter’s metaphor was that all Christians need pure spiritual milk that allows them to grow. Whether mature or immature, the Christian needs the same food source. The word desire is a strong word that could also be translated “crave.” It denotes an intense personal desire. Anyone who has ever seen a newborn baby longing for milk knows the intensity of that desire.
People desire many things—some things that are good for them and some that are bad for them. Peter encouraged believers to desire milk, but not just any milk. He described this milk in two ways. First, it is pure milk. This is a milk free from impurities. Contaminated milk will not produce maturity in the believer. Watered-down milk falls short of the nourishment needed to grow. The milk also needs to be spiritual. Usually in Greek literature this word (logikos) meant “what is rational or reasonable.” It comes from the same word used for the Word of God and Jesus the living Word (logos). This is an indication that the pure milk believers should desire is the Word of God.
Peter alluded to Psalm 34:8 in this verse. He reminded believers that they had tasted that the Lord is good. One taste of the Lord will create a yearning for more. The theme of Psalm 34 was the suffering of the righteous, which may indicate why Peter alluded to this particular psalm. Peter used the Word of God to encourage persecuted believers in Asia Minor to long for the pure, unadulterated Word of God.
What may have appeared in verse 1 of this chapter to be mere moralism changes in verses 2-3. The believers were to rid themselves of bad attitudes and actions not simply to fulfill some requirement. They had tasted the goodness of God and were now to live in light of that goodness. They needed to continue nourishing themselves with the Word of God so they could press on to maturity and fulfill their purpose in suffering.
How would you explain the importance of proper spiritual nourishment? What would you include as a balanced spiritual diet for the believer?
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.