1Pe 2:1-5 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, (2) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (3) If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (4) To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, (5) Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Life demands growth! And spiritual life demands spiritual growth, growth toward God’s designed purpose of the new life. That is the theme of our section, and it actually begins in chapter 1. Peter uses two pictures or analogies of the spiritual life and its growth. First, there the life of a person. We are born-again by the instrument of the word and then feed by that Word of God. It demands that we depart from the old life and grow in holiness. Second, there is the remarkable figure of the Living Stone, Christ, giving life to us so that we become living stones and are built up into a temple for spiritual service as priests. A remarkable picture!
Now, having said, this, we must realize that Peter is encouraging us to grow. So whether we focus on the growth through the Word or the growth to become useful living stones, the emphasis of this passage is spiritual life. I will limit myself to the image of growth as a person through the Word. With that in mind, let us consider,
The Aim of Growth
As we consider the passage, we should first and foremost take note of the great end to be sought after. It is found in these words—“That ye may grow.” The imagery here is that we have been given new life, and this life is to develop. As Christians we are those who been born again. That is the fundamental truth about the Christian; he is regenerated by God’s Spirit. God has infused a principle of new life within us, and this new life has the capacity of growth. And that should be our aim.
Now, we must ask an important question: in what is it the Christian is to grow? As you look at other translations, you will see ‘into salvation’ or ‘unto salvation.’ Christians are already in a state of salvation, but they must ‘grow in grace’ in order that God’s work in them may be completed. If we are to accept those words of the text, then we must understand the word ‘salvation’ here “the full extent of salvation that God desires every Christian to experience” (Constable).
Well, what does that mean? It means that you and I grow in all that constitutes the new nature which he has received of God. This means at least three things. First, this involves a growth of real, experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ. “The foundation of the Christian life is laid in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Alexander). By knowing God and Christ, we have eternal life (John 17:1-2). But we are to grow in that knowledge. In 2 Pet. 3:18, Peter says, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
That is not head-knowledge, but it is a real, experimental knowledge of Christ. When America was first discovered, there were many things that were still unexplored. Our forefathers did not know about the coal, the natural gas, and many of their other natural resources that were under their feet. So it is with the Christian and Christ. There are many resources in Christ that we must come to know, even we are sure to come to know our need of them. Paul says, “That I may know Him.” And Paul prays that that Ephesians may “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19).
Second, when we say that we are to grow in all that constitutes the new life, we are saying that we must grow the virtues that are connected with the new life. On the negative side, this means that we get rid of the old life. That is what Peter means, when he says, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings.”
The “wherefore” goes back to the fact of the new life imparted (1 Pet. 1:23), and argues in these verses 1-3 that therefore a new kind of experience is demanded of the believer. In view of the fact that divine life has been imparted to the believer, we are to be “laying aside.” The believer is commanded to separate himself from sin.
But, on the positive side, we are to put on moral virtues. Peter is emphatic on this point. He say in 2 Peter 1:4-8: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This statement in 2 Peter underscores the necessity of spiritual growth. Please notice the themes that we have already observed about growth. In verse 4, we find that is based the new life in Christ. In verse 8, it involves the knowledge of Christ. In verse 4, this growth involves departing from the old life. But we also find this additional element of adding these virtues to our life.
Now, this is vitally important to understand. Peter is saying that we must continue to grow in these qualities. Failure to do so will make us barren, that is to say “useless” or “ineffective” and “unfruitful.” This is so even though we have received everything necessary for godly living through the knowledge of Christ (2 1:3). There is no way that we can be effective and fruitful as Christians without this growth. Warren Wiersbe rightly said:
Some of the most effective Christians I have known are people without dramatic talents and special abilities, or even exciting personalities; yet God has used them in a marvelous way. Why? Because they are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. They have the kind of character and conduct that God can trust with blessing. They are fruitful because they are faithful; they are effective because they are growing in their Christian experience.
Third, spiritual growth involves service. Notice this in 1 Peter 2:4-5: “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” The imagery has changed, but the idea continues. We find our life in Christ, the living Stone, and are now living stones ourselves. And we are to build ourselves up as a temple so that we may “be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (ESV).
Now, this threefold aspect of spiritual growth is a gradual process. We all advance at varying speeds. We must be prepared for fluctuations and deviations in our spiritual condition. And we must be patient when we see it in others.
However, we must add something here to correct any temptation to idleness. Whenever this growth takes place it will be discernible. Not directly, or in itself. A child grows without being in the least degree sensible of it. Nor can even the keenest onlooker see the child grow. The fact that it has grown is discovered from the comparison of what it is now and what it had been at some period more or less distant in the past. Even so it is with Christian growth. J. C. Ryle speaks on this:
We are all naturally blind and ignorant in the matters which concern our souls. Conversion is an illumination, a change from darkness to light, from blindness to seeing the kingdom of God. Yet few converted people see things distinctly at first. The nature and proportion of doctrines, practices, and ordinances of the Gospel are dimly seen by them, and imperfectly understood. They are like the man before us, who at first saw men as trees walking. Their vision is dazzled and unaccustomed to the new world into which they have been introduced. It is not till the work of the Spirit has become deeper and their experience been somewhat matured, that they see all things clearly, and give to each part of religion its proper place. This is the history of thousands of God’s children. They begin with seeing men as trees walking—they end with seeing all clearly. Happy is he who has learned this lesson well, and is humble and distrustful of his own judgment.
Having considered the aim of our new life, let us now consider,
The Means of Growth
The means by which this goal of growth is achieved is the Word of God. The Word of God is the instrument by which God imparts new life into the soul by the Spirit, and the truth of God is revealed to us as being adapted to nourish the life of God in the soul. Notice how Peter speaks of this Word. He speaks of it as sincere milk of the word. A couple of things warrant our notice here. First, the word “milk” causes people to think of meat verses milk, as Paul says in another place. However, Peter is not making contrast here between milk and strong food; rather, it includes all that is necessary for our sustenance, when renewed. The Word had before been represented as the instrument of the new birth; it is now spoken of as the food for the new life. When Peter says, “milk of the Word,” he means the milk is the Word. Second, he calls this milk “sincere.” By that He means that it is pure, unadulterated, unmixed with anything toxic. If we are to grow, we do not need the opinions of men, but we need the pure Word of God, which is food for the soul. We do not need the Word of God and the traditions of men; we simple need the Scriptures.
Now, why do the Scriptures feed us? Well, go back to what we noted about the nature of this growth. It is a growth in the knowledge of Christ? Where else can we learn about the Lord? And the Scriptures show us the motive for living holy lives, the parameters of a whole life, and what the old life is that we should shed off. The Spirit impresses us with the truths of Scripture as humbly receive the Word. Donald Whitney speaks of the connection of Bible-intake and growth:
No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God—intimately.
But this all depends upon an appetite for this Word. We are to desire God’s Word in order that we may grow thereby. Sadly, there are many professing Christians who neglect their Bibles. Donald Whitney also stated,
However, many who yawn with familiarity and nod in agreement to these statements spend no more time with God’s Word in an average day than do those with no Bible at all. My pastoral experience bears witness to the validity of surveys that frequently reveal that great numbers of professing Christians know little more about the Bible than Third-World Christians who possess not even a shred of Scripture.
Some wag remarked that the worst dust storm in history would happen if all church members who were neglecting their Bibles dusted them off simultaneously.
So even though we honor God’s Word with our lips, we must confess that our hearts—as well as our hands, ears, eyes, and minds—are often far from it. Regardless of how busy we become with all things Christian, we must remember that the most transforming practice available to us is the disciplined intake of Scripture.
There are many who state that they do not have the time to read the Bible; however, they find time to do the most trivial of things. A lack of appetite is highly suggestive of disease or death. The Rev. Walker of Muthil, Scotland was preaching in a neighboring church. On the next day he was met by one of the resident landowners, who explained to him that he had not heard him preach as he felt he could not digest more than one sermon. “I rather think,” said Walker, “the appetite is more at fault than the digestion.” And so it is with thousands. They do not digest because they have no appetite; and they have no appetitive because they have no life.
Yet, it is very possible to desire Divine truth for other reasons and other ends than growth. It is quite possible to desire to read Holy Scripture because we have been accustomed to do so, or because we have to do it, or to defend our religion, etc. Archibald Alexander gives us some good advice here:
Be much in the perusal of the Holy Scriptures, and strive to obtain clear and consistent views of the plan of redemption. Learn to contemplate the truth in its true nature, simply, devoutly, and long at a time, that you may receive on your soul the impression which it is calculated to make. Avoid curious and abstruse speculations respecting things unrevealed; and do not indulge a spirit of controversy. Many lose the benefit of the good impression which the truth is calculated to make, because they do not view it simply in its own nature, but as related to some dispute, or as bearing on some other point. As when a man would receive the genuine impression which a beautiful landscape is adapted to make, he must not be turned aside by minute inquiries respecting the botanical character of the plants, the value of the timber or the fertility of the soil; but he must place his mind in the attitude of receiving the impression which the combined view of the objects before him, will naturally produce on the taste. In such cases the effect is not produced by any exertion of the intellect; all such active striving is unfavorable, except in bringing the mind to its proper state. When the impression is most perfect, we feel as if we were mere passive recipients of the effect. To this there is a striking analogy in the way in which the mind is impressed with divine truth. It is not the critic, the speculative or polemic theologian, who is most likely to receive the right impression, but the humble, simple-hearted, contemplative Christian. It is necessary to study the Scriptures critically, and to defend the truth against opposers; but the most learned critic and the most profound theologian must learn to sit at the feet of Jesus in the spirit of a child, or they are not likely to be edified by their studies.
So, as we come to a conclusion let us focus our attention on two things. First, let us make sure that begin where we should – at regeneration. Have we any right to call ourselves babes in Christ, children of God, born again? If not, then simply we cannot grow. Dead things, stones, cannot grow. All must begin here! Can you satisfactorily answer that most fundamental question? Are you born again?
Second, do we desire to grow by the Word of God? Ought not the necessity of growing to be more deeply felt, and the duty on which it depends to be more faithfully discharged? If not, then why not? Is it because the Word is not profitable? I would say what Richard Baxter says,
If, by this means, thou dost not find an increase of all thy graces, and dost not grow beyond the stature of common Christians, and art not made more serviceable in thy place, and more precious in the eyes of all discerning persons; if thy soul enjoy not more communion with God, and thy life be not fuller of comfort, and hast it not readier by thee at a dying hour: then cast away these directions, and exclaim against me for ever as a deceiver.
If you have the desire but seem to fall short, then what are the hindrances that you and I must get rid of? Are there duties that we must determine to do, like start reading our Bibles more systematically? Consider the truth found in J. I. Packer’s statement:
If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges, and man traps, to frighten people off. . . . At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.
Let us determine that we will allow nothing to hinder us as we desire the sincere milk of the Word that we may grow thereby, and may the Lord enable us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.