Got milk?

Posted: December 27, 2009 in 1 Peter

1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3, “Got milk?”
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At some point, probably everyone has asked themselves the question: “If you were lost on a deserted island & could only bring 3 things, what would they be?” (Aside a satellite phone, batteries, and a GPS locator! 🙂 ) What the question boils down to is: what’s really important in your life – what is it that you need to survive? For babies, the answer is easy: clean diapers & milk. LOTS of milk as any parent of a newborn can attest (and lots of diapers, too, but that’s another story 🙂 ). What is it for the Christian? What does a Christian need in his/her life that is absolutely essential to survive, thrive, and grow? As Peter makes plain, it’s the word of God.

Remember that Peter is writing to a church that is starting to suffer much persecution & other various trials. Peter was no stranger to suffering himself – and he’s encouraging the church to ‘keep on keeping on in Christ Jesus.’ He reminded the church that they were elect of God & they had a coming inheritance, kept secure for them in heaven. Because of this inheritance, they (and we) could have a different perspective in the midst of trials, knowing that our sovereign God was doing a marvelous work in our lives, proving our faith & shaping us into the character of Christ. The proper perspective then, is that we are to rest our hope fully upon Jesus Christ. He is the spotless Lamb of God who redeemed us through His blood & gives us faith & hope…and He alone can take us through our suffering & trials in this present time.

With that in mind, how does a Christian go about doing that practically? What can we do to keep our focus upon Christ & what He would have us to do? Take in the word of God!

1 Peter 1:22-2:3 (NKJV)
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,

A. “Purified your souls”? Keep our context in mind – Peter is referring to holiness. Our proper response to the amazing grace we have been shown by Jesus Christ & our salvation is to be holy as God is holy (vs. 16). To be pure & set apart for His use… Did we purify ourselves? No, but there’s an aspect of this to which we can say “yes.” Spiritually speaking, in the eyes of God we were MADE pure by Christ Jesus. We were in utter need of it, as we could not purify ourselves in the slightest…our sin gets in the way & even our attempts at righteousness outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Jesus is the one who makes us holy in God’s sight. But now that we are IN Christ, we are to continue in that – not give ourselves over to the world all over again, but walk in the holiness Jesus gives us. Thus we purify ourselves… But only after we have already been made pure & have been born of God into His grace.

B. How do we go about purifying ourselves? 2 ways listed here:
__a. “Obeying the truth”: Personal holiness doesn’t come from osmosis. 🙂 Sometimes, we actually have to DO something. Instead of ignoring what the word of God has to say about a matter, we actually get up & DO it. Like James wrote, we need to “be doers of the word” (Jas 1:22)… For example, when someone hears the truth of the gospel, they respond by repenting from sin & trusting Christ – that is to obey the truth. For a believer, we actually DO forgive one another & love one another…these are things Christ calls us to & by acting upon them, we’re obeying the truth.
__b. “Through the Spirit”: So essential! We are to obey the truth, but obeying God’s truth is virtually impossible in our flesh – our selfish bodies & carnal nature simply rebels against the things of God. So what do we do? We cannot wallow in our sin; nor can we ‘rev’ ourselves up to do the work. The solution? We obey the truth not in OUR power (we have none), but in GOD’s power. We do it “through the Spirit.” …
___i. Not every Bible translation has this clause – it’s not found in some of the older Greek manuscripts, but it IS found in the Majority Text & TR. No matter where you fall in the textual criticism debate, there’s no question whether or not the idea here is Biblical! Christians can only do the work of God through the empowerment of the Spirit of God – that was the whole point of why Jesus told the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until Pentecost. They already knew the basics of the gospel – they had seen Jesus crucified & risen from the grave – but they still needed one more thing: the power of God. Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [] This is where so many Christians get off track & discouraged – they keep trying to do the work of God in their flesh…and it’s no wonder why we fail when we do that! We are dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit…

C. What are we to do as a result of being purified? “Love one another…” Part of being holy is to “love one another.” Someone cannot claim to be obedient to the truth if he/she is harboring hatred in his/her heart towards a fellow believer in Christ…John goes so far as to call that person a liar (1 Jn 4:20). Instead, because of the transforming love of God & grace that we have experienced, through the power of the Spirit we are to love one another abundantly, selflessly, and as brothers together in the Lord. (Peter uses 2 words for love: agape & phileo.) How are we to love?
__a. Sincerely: literally, the Greek is “not a hypocrite.” Early on, to be a “hypocrite” referred to an actor – someone who’s true persona was disguised on stage. … Later, the term came to be used for someone who’d deceivingly act one way when they’d really be acting another way. That’s the opposite of how we ought to act with one another as believers in Christ! We’re to be unfeigned & undisguised with one another – act in sincerity towards one another. IOW, we don’t claim to love our brother in Christ & then go stab him in the back. We don’t tell a sister we love her & then go tell all her business to someone else… Our love is to be sincere!
__b. Fervently: Interestingly enough, the original root word actually means “to stretch out the hand” – an intense action, stretching forth. That’s somewhat the idea here. Just as if we’re reaching out for something, we’re to love each other with that same intensity. IOW, we’re not to be passive when it comes to loving one another (just sitting back waiting for something to happen); we’re to be active!
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23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,

A. This isn’t the 1st time the NT speaks about being born again. Jesus had a famous conversation with Nicodemus about the same topic. [] We MUST be born again – of the water & the spirit – if we’re to ever see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Why? Because outside of Christ, all mankind is spiritually dead… When Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they died – not physically (that was to come later as a ramification of their sin, as they were exiled from the Garden), but they died spiritually immediately. Just as God had said, “In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:17) The moment they rebelled against God at the temptation of the Serpent, they spiritually died, and that death was passed on to every single human being that followed. The glorious good news of the gospel is that through Jesus’ death & resurrection, we are given life! We are born anew of the spirit – we partake of Christ Jesus who is the resurrection & the life, and though we die yet will we live because all those who believe in Him as Lord received a 2nd birth!

B. What are we born of? “incorruptible/imperishable” seed…none other than “the word of God…” Peter here seems to go back to Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mark 4)… In the parable, Jesus very specifically says that the seed is the word of God – it’s sown into the life of a person (represented by various soil/ground) & takes root. Peter takes the same idea & shows that it is by the seed of the word that we are born again. When we heard the proclamation of the gospel – that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins & rose again from the grave in victory…that He is Lord & offers life to all who repent & trust Him – then the word of God took root in our heart & gave life to we who were once completely dead.
__a. The point? WE didn’t make ourselves alive – we were completely dependent upon God working through His word & His promises to do that. If we’re dependent upon the word of God for THAT, surely we’re dependent upon the word of God for much more as well. (Peter will get to that in a minute. )

C. The word of God never fails! The word of God endures – it “lives and abides forever…” We don’t often think about the word of God being alive, but that’s exactly how the Scripture describes it. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [] Begs the question: how can the written or spoken word be alive? Simple – it’s given by the living God! When God spoke, the universe came into existence. When we receive the word God has given, we are going to be affected if for no other reason simply because it is the word of God! God’s word has power because of the One who spoke it.

D. Since the written word abides forever, it underscores the importance of it in the life of the born-again believer. We don’t build our lives upon passing fads or upon uncertain truths; we build our lives upon the solid rock of the word of God!
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24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

A. Quoting Isaiah 40:6-8. Isaiah had just prophesied of John the Baptist who was to be the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” (Isa 40:3). In Isaiah’s prophecy, the voice was to cry out that all flesh is as grass & show the contrast between the things of man & the things of God. Obviously, that was John the Baptist’s message – his was a call to repentance because there was One coming after him who would baptize people with fire…he cried out for people to be prepared for the everlasting God.

B. The point here with Peter? Everything of man is passing away. Whether the things of man, or life itself… It’s all going to fade away (or burn up, as Peter will write later). But not the word of the Lord! Everything of flesh will fail, but the word of God will last & last! Even if every single Bible & quotation of Scripture were thrown into a fire & burned, God would still ensure that His spoken revealed word would endure. (As with Jeremiah, He’d probably just inspire it to be written all over again! Jer 36.) And beyond the word’s existence, the effects of the word of God will last for eternity…evidenced by the fact that people will BE there!
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…Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

A. How important is the word of God? That is how Christ is proclaimed to the world! Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17).
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2:1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,

A. Going back to the idea of holiness & of the Christian purifying him/herself. These are the various traits of the world from which the Christian ought to lay aside & be pure from…
__a. “Malice”: General term for evil & wickedness. A kind of catch-all for anything Peter may have left out with the other terms…
__b. “Deceit”: KJV “guile” – good translation! Speaking of a crafty deception. Just as a fisherman uses the right kind of bait on the hook, the deceitful guile-full person attempts to bait someone else. That’s what Satan did in the garden with Eve; it’s not something any Christian should have anything to do with!
__c. “Hypocrisy”: Already saw this word – this is the opposite of the sincere love Christians ought to have for one another.
__d. “Envy”: Self-explanatory – speaking about jealousy. Why shouldn’t Christians be jealous? (1) We’re not supposed to covet, per the 10th Commandment… (2) We ought to find our contentment in what God gives us. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6).
__e. “Evil speaking”: defaming, slandering…i.e. this involves bearing false witness against others (7th Commandment). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) – His disciples ought to reflect His truth in all things…

B. Needless to say, these are NOT Christian traits! Yet sometimes this is exactly what supposed “Christians” are known for… Something is terribly wrong with this picture! [] So what do you do if you can describe yourself by these traits in verse 1? Lay them aside…repent! Like a garment that is defiled & dirty, cast it off & get rid of it. These were the things Jesus cleansed us from – we’re not to go back to them any longer. Now, we’re to desire something completely different – see vs. 2…
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2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

A. Desire the word! Deeply long for & desire the spiritual word of God! That through which we learn of Jesus Christ – that which is living & active – that which purifies & sanctifies us…desire it. The word of God is not an optional addition for the Christian – it’s not just something to throw into our spiritual ‘toolbox’ of stuff every now & again…it’s absolutely essential to us, and we are to long for it! Jesus made the same point in His temptation – “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4, c.f. Deut 8:3)
__a. It’s “pure” – the same word translated “deceit/guile” (vs 1) is reversed here. There’s nothing deceptive within the word of God…it’s trustworthy!
__b. It’s necessary for our spiritual growth…like nourishment to our spirit, we require a healthy diet of it to grow & mature in our relationship with God.

B. Is this a conflict with Hebrews, in that the author of Hebrews told us to get past the point of needing milk? Hebrews 5:12-13 (12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (13) For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. [] … Is this a contradiction in the Scripture? Not at all! There are certain foundational doctrines that we shouldn’t need to lay & re-lay over & over again – we ought to be able to grow mature in our faith (as Peter agrees). But that doesn’t mean we ever LEAVE those foundational doctrines! When building a house, after the foundation is laid it isn’t re-poured again – but neither is the house moved away from the foundation! It’s rooted right there… It’s the same way with the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith (Jesus is LORD, the Son of God, crucified for sins & resurrected from the dead…essential; foundational!).

C. Beyond those foundational doctrines, Peter is writing of a different context altogether from the author of Hebrews. Peter isn’t saying that we need to stay babies – but rather we need to be as dependent on the word of God in the same ways babies are dependent upon pure milk. How dependent are babies? They’re dependent at 1am, 3am, 5am… 🙂 And they’ll let you know if they need it! That milk is their life sustenance (they don’t even eat anything else), and they keep coming back to it over & over. [] Are you dependent upon the word of God? Do you desire it as pure milk?
__a. What this looks like is probably different for every believer (and we need to be careful about imposing a legalistic standard upon someone else) – but we can be sure there are certain things it does NOT look like. Someone who never seeks Biblical counsel (whether through talking to a mature Christian friend or in the pages of Scripture itself) is not dependent upon the word of God. Someone who uses their Bible solely as a ‘prop’ for Sunday morning is not dependent upon the word of God. Someone who never seeks the Lord in prayer is obviously not dependent upon the word of God. There are many things we can do culturally (especially here in the Bible belt) where people will look at us & say, “That’s a good Christian thing to do!” that really have nothing to do with being dependent upon the word of God as pure milk. Being a nice person is good – but atheists can be nice (some atheists are nicer than some supposed ‘Christians’ I’ve met!). Christians are to be dependent upon the milk of the word of God, which nourishes us & changes us.
__b. This is another phrase that can be translated differently, depending upon your Bible translations. Some render this as “spiritual milk.” The Greek word is pretty plainly based upon the term for “word” (logos) – but the translation could go either way. In any case, it’s pretty apparent what Peter thought that the Christian’s spiritual milk is: the word of God!

D. What are we growing up into? Our salvation (ESV, NIV, NASB make this clear). The idea isn’t that the Christian never knows if he/she is truly saved; the idea is one of completion. As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we are to mature continually until the day we see the Lord Jesus face-to-face. At that point, we truly see the fruit of our salvation as we experience it in the full glory God intended…
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3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

A. Interesting “if” here! The suggestion is that IF you’re a true Christian, then you’re naturally going to desire the word of God more than the things of the world. Peter was assuming that the people he was writing to had indeed already tasted – but it’s still a good cross-check. Do you desire the word more than the world? I.e. do you yearn after the true promises of God – or are you engaged in deceit? Or malice, slander, etc. A person’s priorities are much more easily seen in his/her actions rather than his/her words. Words are important, but words can be cheap. What a person is actually engaged in is a good indication of where his/her heart is. Hopefully our heart longs after the word of God & we know from experience that the Lord is gracious!
__a. What happens if you don’t? It’s probably a pretty good indication you need to get on your knees before God (even before this service ends today) & re-examine your relationship with Him!

B. Have you tasted of the Lord? He is gracious! Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! [] Oh how good the Lord is to those who trust Him! He gives promises of life – of forgiveness – of adoption – of peace – of inheritance, and much more. We who have tasted of the Lord are truly blessed!

Conclusion:
Christians are utterly dependent upon the word of God. We first heard the gospel through the word… We are born again into incorruptible new life because of the promises in the word… We grow in Christ through the wonderful doctrine found in the word… We learn to love one another fervently & sincerely because of how we’re changed through the word… Get into the word!

One ‘word’ of caution here: we don’t learn the word just to get a bunch of knowledge. We aren’t dependent upon it merely to fill our heads with Bible trivia & have a quasi-manual for life scenarios. We’re dependent upon the word because the word always leads us to the Living Word, Jesus Christ! If in your study of the Scripture you haven’t been led to Christ, you likely haven’t gone far enough…the whole Bible is ALL about HIM. The very reason we’re so dependent upon the word of God is because it comes from GOD, and it helps us know HIM more & grow in our relationship with Jesus. As Peter wrote in Ch 1:13, we are to rest our hope fully upon Him – and one of the ways we do that is by knowing what Jesus has to say to us through the Scripture.

So are you dependent upon the word of God? Do you desire it like pure milk – or have you found yourself going back to the ways & character traits of the world? Christian, there are no better truths to build our lives upon than the word of God…because it is the very revelation of Jesus Christ Himself. Through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the word of God, you will find yourself loving one another fervently – purifying your souls in holiness – and casting all your cares upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

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