1 Peter 2:1-3

1 Peter 2:1‑3  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
If the plague of leprosy were healed in the leper, however this might be (for it was beyond man), it was required that he should be pronounced clean by the blood of a bird slain over running water sprinkled on him, and a living bird dipped in it let go into the open field. Thereon he that was to be cleansed had to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe himself in water. Only so should he be clean. So it is here. The believer knows, feels, and owns his own nature corrupt, withered, and fallen, as grass under the blast of Jehovah, but has a new nature given which is as incorruptible as its divine seed by His word living and abiding forever. On this he is called to act.
“Putting away therefore all malice and all guile and hypocrisies and envyings and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes long for the guileless intelligent milk that by it ye may grow unto salvation, if indeed ye tasted that the Lord is good” (vers. 1-3).
It is well that the English reader or any other unacquainted with the original should bear in mind the force of the opening word; which means an act done once for all, as the aorist implies, the tense of what may be called factness, not of gradual process. Again, it is not in the active, but the middle voice, which in transitive verbs refers back the action to the agent, giving this emphasis variously according to each word. We may compare James 1:2121Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21): “Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, accept with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.” They are indeed exhortations of marked agreement, in substance of united practical aim, yet characteristic of each writer, and both of them distinct from the apostle Paul's way of dealing with the great principle of the case in Christ's death and our death with Him. They are equally given of God and equally needed by His children.
First, our apostle calls on the saints to have put away, if one may so phrase it, “all malice.” That the word, though sometimes meaning “wickedness” in general, here refers to that special root of evil is evident from the other forms of iniquity with which it is joined. It appropriately begins the list as the opposite of love, the fervent love, which he had been enjoining on them as became brethren. Every kind of malice is unworthy of those born again, born of God Who is love; for it may hide its spirit of hatred, and assume many a disguise to accomplish its nefarious ends. What a complete contrast with Christ, and how close the resemblance to his enemy the devil, whose occupation is to tempt, and to persecute, as well as to accuse Next, “guile” follows with no less moral truth, and “all guile” because of its manifold aim, and the desire with which men shun its discovery. For however much addicted to deceive others, they are inwardly ashamed of a habit so base. “Guile” naturally succeeds “malice” in order to do the man deadly mischief, and withal escape detection. It is the reverse of that transparent truthfulness to which we are called as representing Him Who is the truth, just as Satan is a liar and its father.
This opens the Way for “hypocrisies,” the pretenses to be what we are not, and not to be what we are. Hypocrisy is opposed to sincerity, and is simply playing a part in that which is mere fable it be not the most solemn of realities as well as the most precious. How awful to make the truth of God a game of man for a little while “Envyings” are the other side and in the next place. For as hypocrisy has its spring in claiming to have the good we lack, envy seeks to deny and defame the real good of others. God be praised that He fails not to work here and there in ways of love, devotedness, patient grace, zeal for the truth, delight in His glory, compassion for the wretched and the unworthy. There is ample scope for detraction among such as manifest no such qualities, and are vexed to find others credited with what is so excellent. Here the believer must beware lest he yield an ear to this evil spirit and get defiled by it.
Lastly, and fittingly therefore, comes the warning against “all evil speakings,” for what a variety of shapes this wears! And how readily it cheats many a one under the plea of care for the Lord's honor and just censure of what is wrong? As “envyings” utterly misbecome those who are blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, so “all slanders” are a deep offense in His eyes and can but please the great adversary of souls. Let us set our face against both and avoid the very suspicion of either.
Then we hear the positive exhortation: “as new-born babes long for the guileless (or, pure) intelligent milk, that by it ye may grow unto salvation.” No one can doubt that it is the milk of the word that nourishes the believer. It was the word of God whereby he was born again; it is the same word whereby he is fed. There is no contrast here as in 1 Cor. 3 and in Heb. 5 between milk for the immature and solid food for the adult, blame being put on those who did not profit by the word, rising from elements to higher truths. Here the Spirit of God dwells on the suitability of the food provided for the babe when born; and all are encouraged to desire earnestly the pure nourishment which God supplies so liberally. It is milk for the saints' intelligence; as a mother's breast yields nourishment to her babe physically, so God's word is to our spiritual understanding.
The general sense is quite plain. The only question is how to represent best the language of the apostle. That which in the A. V. is translated “of the word” occurs only in one other passage of the N. T., Rom. 12:11I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1); and there it is rendered “reasonable,” as it is frequently employed by ordinary writers of the Greek tongue. “Intelligent” seems well to express its force in both texts, a better word than “rational.” Why Beza who held this as to the text in the Epistle to the Romans changed it to “sermonic” (of the word) here does not appear, as he regarded them both as alike in sense. The Peschito Syriac has here “of the word “; the Harclean S. “rational,” as both give “rational” in Rom. 12:11I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1). But it is hard to understand on what principle it can bear both meanings together.1
This we may leave, as it is merely the delicate point of a rendering, where the substantial truth remains untouched. The call is of all moment. God puts the highest honor on His word, not only for its quickening power in the hand of His Spirit, but for the constant refreshment and strengthening of the new nature that He imparts.
To put baptism in place of the one, or the Lord's Supper in place of the other, is a daring departure from what is here clearly revealed. The aim of those precious institutions is, one for initiatory confession, the other for the constant communion of the saints. But to turn baptism into the means of being born of God is to falsify the truth, to contradict scripture, and to efface the nature of Christianity. “Ye are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you,” says the Lord in John 15:33Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3). “In Christ Jesus I begot you through the gospel,” says the apostle in 1 Cor. 4:1515For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15)—the same Epistle in which he thanks God that he baptized none of them save a few individuals! So James tells us (1:12) that the Father “of his own will begot us by the word of truth, that we should be a certain first-fruits of his creatures.” We have no earthly mother, more than the Lord had an earthly father save legally.
The sacramental system sins against the Trinity in usurping the divine prerogative. Nor does our apostle differ from the rest (1 Peter 3:2020Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:20)). Baptism signifies not life-giving but Christ's death unto which we were baptized; and His death as not only salvation to those that believe, but the privilege of being identified with His death. Thus died we to sin and no longer live in it. Nor is it by the Eucharist, blessed as it is, that the new life is sustained but in Him Who died for us to Whom the Eucharist points. It is of Him coming down from heaven, the Incarnate Word, of Him dying and giving life to the world, and ascending where He was before, that John 6 speaks, in no way of His Supper. Peter does not go beyond salvation's sign in baptism.
The teaching here is that as through the word of God, not baptism, we have been born again, so by it, not the Lord's Supper, we “grow unto salvation.” To be born again on the one hand is as strictly individual as growth is. Each has to do with God directly in believing and profiting by His word, whoever or whatever may be the channel. Without faith neither can be; and the essence is that one receives the testimony immediately on God's own word for one's own soul. Hence “he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself “; whereas “he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the witness which God hath witnessed concerning His Son” (1 John 5:1010He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. (1 John 5:10)). On the other hand in the Lord's Supper it is a question of communion when individual want has been settled between the soul and God; and we are there together to enjoy His grace and presence. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not communion of the body of Christ? Because we, many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16, 1716The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16‑17)).
But a strange omission has prevailed since the Complutensian Edition and that of Erasmus, followed by Beza, Stephens, the Elzevirs, and Mill, to say nothing of others. Colinaeus (1534) is the only one of the early editors who adheres to the great body of the oldest and best MSS., versions, and Patristic quotations, and reads (εἰς σωτηρίαν). It may have been drop either as a supposed scholastic addition or by those jealous of trenching on sovereign grace toward sinners. But here it is a question of saints growing in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to the terms of the Second Epistle (3:18). Certain it is that any difficulty, in receiving the words so fully attested, is solely due to ignorance of our apostle's doctrine. For though he does speak of “salvation of souls” (1:9) as a present privilege, and symbolized in baptism (3:21), he still more frequently regards salvation as a complete whole for body as well as soul, and therefore to be revealed in the last time, even in the revelation of our Lord for whom we wait. Compare 1:5, 7, 13, 4:13.
Verse 3 furnishes a weighty proviso: “if indeed ye tasted that the Lord is good.” It is a reference evidently to Psa. 34 (33) 8 where there is a most touching call from the inspired writer that others might share his joy in Jehovah. “O taste and see that Jehovah is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Here it is to the Christian so much the sweeter, in that the apostle identifies the Lord Jesus with Jehovah, as it is the truth. To have proved it for and in our inmost soul is the condition of growth in the word; but it is a condition that is assuredly verified in all who believe on Him. Yes, they can and do say in their hearts, that the Lord is good. They have tasted it in the word all through.